Category Archives: garden dye plants

string theory in the hollyhock bed

In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings. It describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other. Here’s my version ๐Ÿ™‚ Let’s see how one dimensional my threads are after they propagate with dyes, mordants and modifiers, and how they interact with a needle and cloth!

I’ve collected hollyhock blooms ever since i realized they could be used to dye with (2010). “Amassing” is not really a word i’d apply to this practice though: in the beginning i had huge swathes of them growing beside the house, but as the years went by, rust disease and aphids took their toll.

Above, this is what it looked like when we moved into this house in 2009.

And now……

very sad in comparison, but there is hope, because last year it looked like this:


These were the darkest i’ve had before:

I have maybe 8 plants now, only 4 of which are any good for dyeing with. One of my summer morning rituals is to go with coffee in hand, and collect the finished blooms from all the dark flowering specimens. The pale pinks give barely any results, and anything in any other colour family yields nothing. Each plant gives up maybe 30-50 blooms each *over the season*, so there’s not a lot of frenzied picking activity! Patience and anticipation are the key words ๐Ÿ™‚

This year i have this beauty in the side bed:

Darker than any i’ve had before, and with a huge bloom, i’m keeping them separate from the others, curious to see if there is a difference.

These are the wool threads i did with the smaller blooms collected from previous years:

I’ll have to wait probably until the end of August to have enough of the new darker blooms to work with though!

I have a fermentation hollyhock bath going as well, and will decant that when i can stand waiting no longer.



Posted by on August 2, 2017 in garden dye plants, hollyhock


nothin’ like the smell of senescent soymilk in the morning

GAG. You know that garbagey, something’s-dead-and-liquescing smell that tells you there is something rotten in the State of Denmark?ย  I searched the entire house yesterday, thinking i’d find a decaying apple, a bag of decomposing rose leaves or an ancient pizza crust maybe that the DogFaced Girl had stashed. Turns out it was the soymilk i had made up for mordanting fabrics. GAG. Into the basement with that! I have one more dip to do tonight and then that crud is getting flushed!!!!!! GAG. Fortunately too, the Dye Dungeon is quite cool, the basement of a 107 year old house after all, and nothing is wafting up through the air vents!

While i was down there, i also poked the old indigo vat. I started it in the summer of 2011, managed to revive it even after it being outside and FREEZING through 3 Calgary winters, but Long Live the Indigo Vat, the Indigo Vat is dead………….

BUT Great Excitement abounds also! While the henna experiments failed as a dye, it’s working in a 123 indigo vat!!!!!! This is the stock solution below, and i’m hoping to get some indigo dyeing/shibori in this coming weekend.

Also started a conventional “chemical” vat, because i wasn’t going to hedge my bets that the 123 would work. That being said, i can now compare the two to see if i get the greener turquoisey results from the 123 i noticed while in a Yoshiko Wada workshop a couple of years ago.

And my threads arrived yesterday from my favourite supplier 123Stitch:

AND this weekend i am going with Susan to the UjaamaGramma’s sale, which means no doubt that some sad eyed puppy of a bag of thread or two, and sundry other heart-wrenchingly abandoned bits will follow me home. Good thing i donated too, so there’s room ๐Ÿ˜‰



“dyeing when hell freezes over”

I ordered madder seeds from Salt Spring Island (BC), and casting around, found little info on growing in a colder clime. Fortunately, the natural dye group on FB has some experienced growers, and some of those are in zones similar to mine–or tougher!

I suppose buying these seeds and hoping that in three years i can harvest my own reds might be a bit delusional. Calgary has a shorter growing season, colder nights (even in the summer) and hard winters, but for the price of 6.00 (including shipping), what the hell. Never know until you try. The first step will be to germinate in the Dye Dungeon, under lights, and in sand. Hoofies crossed that the seeds are viable! Though i have yet to get a true red from any commercial madder i’ve used, i keep trying!)

I also have to find my woad seeds–i did grow some the year before the flood, but alas, after the move to the shithole, the pot froze under a roof run off and the poor things didn’t survive. Specifically grown for cold zones by Sarah of Joybilee Farms in BC, i put the darn remaining seeds somewhere “safe” and haven’t found them yet. (I don’t think she sells them anymore either…)

The old indigo pot remains downstairs in the Dye Dungeon also—haven’t used it in a year, but i’m not only hoping to revive it, but to start a more “organic” vat as well. And ordering seeds for these as well…) Picking up a load of calx, henna and other assorted dye goodies tomorrow, including some proper mordants in the form of gallnut and soy!

Hope springs eternal this first day of March!


place your hexes

Subject to change without notification, but i am betting this will be the most likely configuration.

from behind the mirror a CAnd i’m having a terrible time photographing things this last week–the weather has been strange with dark moody skies and then a burst of blinding sun, and then thundercracks and lightening!

Doing some natural dye experimenting as well. I gathered dock (Rumex) seed stalks, after seeing the results someone else did in a REPUTABLE, SCIENTIFIC, FACT BASED FB group. Currently these are in various vessels with different modifiers and mordants.

fresh dock seedsFresh above, dried and drying below.

dry and drying dock seedThough someone else with 40 years of natural dye experience got a range of colours from yellow green and brown to red and orange, i’m getting some glorious shades ofย ย ย  ————————— ——————— ย  yellow again………..but i like yellow now, and the more threads i have in the arsenal, and to over dye, the better my thread stash looks. Could be the season, could be the weather, could be the soil, could be the stage of growth, everyone gets different results with some things. My rhubarb root dye pot gave me the most luminescent glowing gold threads that i had to try these, and there were good results from burdock as well, but i can find no roots due to recent “herbicide” spraydowns. The bastards.

And why am i harping on PROVEN DYE methods again???? Because this kind of crap is still around:

gag me with a spoon full of stoopidThere’s a whole chunk of “dyes” listed for various colours (some are REALLY dumb…), but ANY site that immediately tells me i can use SALT and VINEGAR as a MORDANT or “fixative”, is IMMEDIATELY scoffed at by true natural dyers. Do a little research. (For one thing, vinegar is a MODIFIER, (and a Ph adjuster)not a mordant. Go look up the definition of mordant, you idiots.) Just because this is “Pioneer Thinking” doesn’t mean it’s true. “Pioneer thinking” also includes a hell of a lot of old wives’ tales. There are SO many good books, fantastic teachers and methodology sites, there’s no excuse for this ignorance. Stop perpetuating it, UNexperts……………

Back to regularly scheduled stitching again while things stew and rest.



hope Springs for the dye garden

gallium boreale 2016 startI haven’t given up on that, in fact have been keeping a close eye on what’s up already. The Gallium boreale planted last year in those damn cheap Chinese peat pots grew all of 2″ total last summer. I’m guessing the stoopid pots have finally broken down and this year already, those dinky little babies are 6″ tall. They’re being contained in one pot because they spread like crazy, but finding the roots is near impossible, due to the hairlike consistency of them., so maybe corralling the wild beasts will help! I plan on using these for ecoprinting, rather than as a dyestuff–pretty sure i’d have to harvest ACRES to extract enough dye. I have seen some marvellous bundling results with madder root, so it’s worth a shot with these as well.

madder root ecoprint Michela PasiniFor the record, the photo above is work by Michela Pasini, and the link to her blog is highlighted in the paragraph above. I can HOPE to get results, probably paled in comparison, but you never know until you try. And obviously, it’s not going to be until the end of the summer, so that i have enough.