poetry and prose about place

harvesting colour – the poems

with 10 comments

After six months of work, I am nearing the ‘end’ of my project ‘harvesting colour’.  Although the main product of all my work sometimes seems to be my basket of hand-dyed and hand-spun wool, the actual goal of my plant dyeing adventures is a manuscript of poems.


in background, alum-treated wool dyed with rose hips; in the foreground, spun wool dyed with lichen, beet leaves and alder bark

in background, alum-treated wool dyed with rose hips; in the foreground, spun wool dyed with lichen, beet leaves and alder bark



I have not shared many of these poems here, since I want to publish as many as possible in literary magazines.  This will increase my chances of publishing a book of poems.  Most publishers consider poems presented on-line to be already published and will not consider them for their magazines.


wool simmering in the orange alder water - looks like sky and clouds are in there too!

wool simmering in dyestuff of alder bark


At this point I have completed enough poems to be considered a ‘manuscript’.  Although I may write more in the coming month, the core of my manuscript will be these 58 poems (60 pages).  The poems are included in four sections:

  • the imprint of toadflax – 11 poems about the stains left in our lives: the red of cranberries on the tablecloth, grass stains on children’s knees
  • take comfort in brown – 12 poems about specific plants and their use as dyestuff
  • simmer, never boil – 10 poems about the home-dyeing process: mordanting, dyestuff simmering in the pot, the chemistry of dyeing.
  • all the colours of columbines – 10 poems about how the colour of plants intersects with our daily lives – the colour of petals in a bouquet, the relationship between mothers and daughters, unexpected outcomes.  In this set are two poems dedicated to my Great-aunt who made her living as a seamstress and my Great-grandmother who used home-dyed fabrics in her hooked rugs.
  • the twist travels the line – 15 poems about dyers, spinners and weavers who use natural plant dyes.  Some of the poems are about dyers I have met through their blogs.


pink wool dyed with blackberries is front and center ... other wools are dyed with (clockwise) oak, meadowsweet, bugleweed, tansy, lily-of-the-valley, beet root, and in the center, carrot tops

pink wool dyed with blackberries is front and center … other wools are dyed with (clockwise) oak, meadowsweet, bugleweed, tansy, lily-of-the-valley, beet root, and in the center, carrot tops



One of the purposes of making this manuscript is certainly to improve my writing and my poems.  I have deliberately tried to do two things with these poems:

1. pay attention to line lengths.  In most of the poems, I have counted the syllables, using this as a method of improving the rhythm and suggesting new ways of ordering words.  I have also considered various ways of ending lines, looking for ways to emphasise the multiple meanings of some words.

2. make the ideas understandable.  I have a background in science and I love to use the words of chemistry and biology in poems.  Sometimes this makes the poems hard to understand.  I am trying to reconcile the two poets within me – one who wants to explore the technical and the other who wants to understand the everyday.


I hope I have been able to accomplish these objectives in my poems.  The poems are full of gathering and boiling and simmering and I hope these poems feel familiar to dyers and craftspeople, and honor their work.  I also want the poems to to be relevant and healing for those who have never stirred a pot of dyestuff.



olfactory memory


wool from the drying rack pale, new

lifted from the vat, well water

and blackberries, dim burgundy


the draft of the fibre, the twist

of the spindle, release scent

from the berry patch, the curved space


beneath the bend of primocane

floricane drowsy with berries

black and thorn, crisp calyx and leaves


drenched bramble, sweet notes and a lilt

dark against palate, the scramble

for a berry, dropped between stems


barbed, at the rim

of purple














Copyright  2014   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

October 8, 2014 at 7:04 am

10 Responses

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  1. Excellent news, Jane- best of luck with your manuscripts!


    Watching Seasons

    October 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

  2. I cant wait to read your poetry book. The different sections of the book sound awesome and the descriptions made me smile! The colours and texture of your wool, and the basket of balls is beautiful. Keep up the good work.



    October 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    • Hi Lee. I am progressing well, working on the order of the poems within the manuscript this week. By the time I get it published we will both be old and grey! Jane


      jane tims

      October 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm

  3. I always enjoy your poems. Best wishes on publishing in literary magazines and as a book.



    October 9, 2014 at 1:02 am

  4. I really admire how focused you are, Jane. I don’t think I could ever explain, at least not nearly as well, why I do the things I do when it comes to my photography. I wish I could manage such strong objectives and explanations.

    The poem is beautiful. I’ve read it a couple times, and it brings to mind lovely visuals of dyeing. The balls of wool you ended up with are beautiful, too.



    October 8, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    • Hi Robin. Thanks for your praise. I have enjoyed this project and I am even liking the revision work. Jane


      jane tims

      October 9, 2014 at 10:53 am

  5. The poem is gorgeous, full of smell and sound and colour. Best wishes with your manuscript. I look forward to reading your poetry book.


    Carol Steel

    October 8, 2014 at 9:26 am

    • Hi Carol. Once I finish my project, I am going to concentrate on getting a publisher. I have four manuscripts of poetry now – easy to see I like the writing better than the administrative side! Jane


      jane tims

      October 9, 2014 at 10:51 am

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