Archive for the 'yellow' Category



The Woad that is actually (Dyers) Weld

This is embarrassing. It’s what happens when you grow a plant that you have never actually observed from seed to dye pot. The Woad I thought I was growing is really Dyer’s Weld. Yellow not blue. More yellow. A really good, clear Lemon yellow but still more yellow.

Dyer's Weld

Before it began to bloom it could have been either.

Weld (not Woad) with Bee

However, as it blossomed it became obvious that the plant I had was not what I thought it was.  Checked every image I could find including the Druid Plant Oracle and I definitely was not growing Woad.

Weld

So I’ve got Weld, Dyer’s Weld. Nice looking plant. The bees seem to like it. Works on wool (protine fibers – so not cotton).

First Wood Sorrel/Oxalis of the season

My standard yellow dye plants are Fennel (for wool) and Oxalis (cotton, wool, soy silk).

DSC_0484_ladybugs Oxalis_DSC_0482

The first Oxalis opened up a few days ago. Locally the Fennel produces through most through what would be our Summer months (Pacific, southwest USA), starts to dry and dies out around Autumn. Following that the Wood Sorrel/Oxalis starts up, runs rampant through the Winter into Spring and dies out towards summer when the Fennel starts up again.

This being southern California the seasons are hot and dry, and really hot and dry punctuated by a furious rain storm or two. In fact, left to itself I am guessing much this area would be more desert like. (In case one forgets this idea, having a car breakdown in the San Fernando Valley, in July, around high noon, is a heck of a wakeup call…) Most of the years I grew up here the weather was at least consistant with itself but lately has gotten incresingly volitile (and just plain wierd).

Otherwise, the cotton is still opening and some smaller (cotton) plants have been started for next year.

woad and fennel

Yard fennel, summer 2008Yard fennel close-up, summer 2008

Around the time that the Oxalis was dying off the Fennel seemed to take off. It looks like I won’t be scavenging the Smart-&-Final parking lot or sides of freeways for Fennel this year. The backyard stand – now too large to be called a shrub – is producing enough to keep me in dye and local insects in food.

Woad early June 2008Woad early June, 2008Woad late June, 2008Woad late June, 2008

Also here, my first attempt at growing Woad. There are 2 plants, still in pots. One seems to have some Sweet Basil growing along side – probably from some other planting. They are about 6” across right now. I’m not sure how fast these grow but it is unlikely there will be blue dye until next season.

Beginners Luck and Fennel

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

(Note: for the best search results use ‘foeniculum vulgare’.)

Part of the plant used for dye: flower heads

fiber: wool (It could be me but I can’t get this to work on cotton)

Proportions: 1:4 (fiber:plant)

The first dye plant that I ever tried working with was Fennel. A lucky choice since Fennel (unlike the Avocado pits from hell) has always given me a fairly consistent yellow and provided a pretty good first-time experience with plant/vegetable dyes.

Fennel is one of those wonderful multi-use herbal/dye plants that are often bad-rapped as noxious weeds prone to taking over a garden, city block, etc. In my tiny corner of Southern California (Los Angeles) this doesn’t seem to be the case and my own transplanted fennel plants are quite well-behaved.


I have gathered from the local Smart-and-Final parking lot, Topanga canyon, and patches next to the freeways (public areas) and eventually transfered some smaller plants to my garden.




Nature’s Colors (Ida Grae) describes using Fennel fresh, 4:1. It also appears to work dried.
That is another thing I’ve found about working with dye plants vs synthetic dye. You work on the plant’s schedule not your own. When its ready you had better be there with properly soaked fiber and not the next day at which point it may be past the point of giving up good dye, have been stepped on or eaten. The only way around this is to try drying and saving. Fennel
seems to work.

The amount of mordant to use is calculated by the weight of the fiber. A wonderful booklet published by Las Aranas Spinners and Weavers Guild, Dyeing with natural materials has an excellent chart and information about safety (the poisonous stuff) and disposal.

My other standard reference is always Nature’s Colors by Ida Grae. (<- I believe this one is out-of-print but findable places like abebooks or amazon used.)