nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘plant dye

harvesting colour – the orange of alder bark

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Last week we went out to our cabin lot to collect some material for my dyeing experiments.  We are constantly battling the alders which move in quickly after any clearing.  I think my husband was quite agreeable to cutting some alder sticks for me to use as dyestuff.  Our alder is Alnus rugosa (Du Roi) Spreng, the speckled alder.

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our harvest of alder stems

our harvest of alder stems

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Yesterday, I sat on our deck to peel the bark from the alder sticks.  I was acclimatized to the orange dye I expected from the alders by the leavings of last autumn – the piles of dry maple leaves still on the deck and the bright sienna of my terra cotta pots.

The alders peel easily, revealing a bright green inner bark.  The green quickly oxidizes to a bright orange, due to the presence of the chemical oregonin.  By the end of the debarking session, my jean were stained dark orange and my palms of my hands were covered in the colour of tangerines.

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my hand, bright orange after peeling the alders

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I was glad to have moved my dyeing adventures out to the back deck because the smell was quite acrid.   As I boiled the bark, the water became a dark orange.

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orange colour resulting from boiling the alder bark

orange colour resulting from boiling the alder bark

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I simmered my length of alum-treated wool roving in the liquid for about an hour.

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

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

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Although it is not orange, the colour is a pleasing yellowish-brown, similar to but more yellow than the colour obtained from Old Man’s Beard lichen.

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wool dyed with ( left to right) alder bark, lichen and beets

wool dyed with ( left to right) alder bark, lichen and beets

 

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Now that the warm weather is here, I am looking forward to more hours on the deck, watching over my concoctions and seeing more colours emerge!!!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims 

 

Written by jane tims

May 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

beet red

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For my next dyeing project, I want to use beets as dyestuff.  Although my writing project is called ‘harvesting colour’, there no beets in my garden and none in the store where I shop.  So I have decided to see what commercially available pickled beets will contribute to my experience of dyeing.

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My eagerness to use beets for dyeing is due to the encouragement of a friend of mine.  When I asked her to do an evaluation of my project for artsnb she wrote about how she loves the colour of the water after she cooks beets.  She also said how much fun it would be to keep the ‘ruby red water’ on the windowsill in a jar.  I hope to be able to capture an experience like this in my poetry.

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First, I bought a jar of pickled beets.  I read the label carefully, just to make sure there is no artificial colour added to the jar.

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Eating the beets is a side-benefit of this project.  The taste reminds me of my Mom’s pickled beets.  I remember her showing me how to boil the beets and how easy it was to slip the skins from the boiled roots.

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The beet juice is a bright rosy-red, clear and jewel-like …

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For this project, I used a length of my alum-treated wool … I have learned these mechanically-carded lengths of wool are called ‘roving’ …

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I had a scary moment when I realised adding the wool to the juice was not the best idea – danger of overflow!!!  Fortunately, the wool absorbed the juice and I had to top it up with water.

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Now, again, I have to wait to see the results.  I expect the beet juice to turn the wool red or even pink.  But who knows what colour will emerge?  I will show you the results in about one week’s time.

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I spent a while today working on drafts of a poem to accompany my beet-dyed wool.  First, I thought about my friend’s comment about how wasteful it seems to pour the beautiful beet colour down the drain.  Then, I focused on identifying a real-life experience to fit the metaphor.

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Since I have been working on my family history lately, I know about lost and wasted memories … I wish so much I had paid better attention when my Mom told me stories about her family.  Sometimes I can remember a snippet, or a name, but the story never seems complete.  Because I didn’t listen carefully to her stories, I wasted her words the way the colour is wasted as it pours down the drain.

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Once I think about what I want to express in the poem, I explore the ideas in a rapid-write.  With this first step, I often find the poem begins to take form.  I hand-write several drafts (usually six or seven), refining the poem’s structure and ideas.  After the third or fourth draft, I begin to vary my word choices and ‘press’ on certain words to make them work harder in the poem.  At some point, the form and words of the poem have become clear to me and at that time, I type the draft into the computer.  Once the keyboard takes over from the pen, I concentrate on line length and punctuation.

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If this all sounds very mechanical, I will say that I believe the poem found its life in my head, before it ever reached the pen and paper stage.

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It will be while before I finish the poem and feel like it is ready to publish.  Like the chemistry occurring in the mason jar of beet juice and wool, my poem will take time and patience.

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Copyright  2014   Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

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