nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘dyestuff

harvesting colour – the vegetable stand

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Gardens are bursting with fresh produce and we have gone to the farmer’s vegetable stand every couple of days to get our fill of locally grown food.  We usually look for new potatoes, yellow wax beans, beets, carrots, green onions and zucchini.

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vegetables at the farmer's stand

vegetables at the farmer’s stand

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This year, as a result of my ‘harvesting colour’ project, I am more anxious than ever to collect those carrot tops and the abundant leaves of beet and radish.  Cooking these leaves in my dyeing ‘cauldron’ fills the air with the savory smell of vegetable soup, and makes me wonder what colour will emerge from the dye pot.

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beet leaves and stems ready for the boil

beet leaves and stems ready for the boil

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Orange carrots, red beets and scarlet radishes … I am sad to say my expectations were low.  I was certain every batch of leaves would yield yet another shade of brown. For radishes and beets, I was correct.  Beautiful browns.

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my hand-spun balls of wool from radish and beet leaves ... the pink is from my earlier tests with pickled beets

my hand-spun balls of wool from radish and beet leaves … the pink is from my earlier tests with pickled beets

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Imagine my delight when the carrot leaves yielded a bright celery green!

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dye and wool roving from a boil of carrot tops

dye and wool roving from a boil of carrot tops

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I tried to repeat the colour on a second length of wool roving, but the second simmering gave me a gold shade of brown.   The dyestuff had offered up all its green colour in the first boil!

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colours of wool obtained from the first and second boil in a dyestuff of carrot tops

colours of wool obtained from the first and second boil in a dyestuff of carrot tops

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vegetable bin

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most look for

vitamins and

anti-oxidants

seek the colourful plate

look at the farmer’s display and see

carrot orange

radish red

spinach green

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a dyer looks

for juicy leaves

and the possibility of yet

another shade

of brown

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims   

Written by jane tims

August 13, 2014 at 7:13 am

lichens on the snow

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As you may know, we are still under a blanket of snow here in New Brunswick.  And later today a Nor’easter is predicted to bring another 30 cm.  Not the best place for collecting plants as dyestuff.  But, as I always find – nature provides!

Our windy weather this past week has dropped lots of Old Man’s Beard lichen (Usnea subfloridana) along our driveway.  These lichens grow in the maple and spruce trees on our property but usually they grow too high to reach.  I was able to collect quite a handful.

And now my experiment begins.

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Usnea subfloridana on the snow

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Lichens have been used for centuries as a source of dye.  The Roccella species, for example, makes a purple dye called orchil.  I may not get purple from my Usnea lichens, but I am ‘dyeing’ to try!

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lichens ... will they make a dye?

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The typical extraction process for lichens is called ‘ammonia fermentation’ – soaking the lichens in ammonia for two or three weeks.  Lichens also yield dye with boiling.  I have decided to try the ammonia method first, although I will not use urine as was traditionally done!

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lichens in a jar ... plus a little ammonia

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So I stuffed the Usnea lichens into a canning jar, added water and a tablespoon of ammonia, labelled the jar and put it on the shelf.

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now we wait

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And now we wait.  I’ll let you know what, if any, colour develops.  I feel like a housewife of old, wanting some dyestuff to add colour to my life, willing to make do with what is available.

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

March 26, 2014 at 7:05 am

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