It is funny to be working on such a long term project and yet feel like you are running out of time.  In my case, running out of sunshine for solar dyeing and flowers and fruits dropping off the trees at alarming rates means that I need to make some decisions, quick time.

When I last left you I was looking for an iron pot to redo my dyeing with peppermint tree branches (Agonis Flexuosa) in the hope of getting a grey.  Well, I found a cast iron griddle to pop in the bottom of pot and set about over dyeing  a neatly tied skien (ha!) using the leaves only this time.

natural dyeing progress

Well, it’s darker, but it’s not grey.  If you look closely, you’ll see that the hemp rope I used to tie it up has gone the colour I was hoping for! The handspun wool seems to be pretty resistant to the dye, possibly due to the lanolin content?  I did scour the wool by soaking it in a warm mild dishwashing detergent bath for a couple of hours, and I loathe to do much more to such a precious commodity.

natural dyeing progress

So yes, the brown is lovely, and I will still use this skein for another part of my outfit …. But ….given that I could get naturally coloured wool or alpaca in this colour I am determined to look a little harder for this garment. So I am setting about using this dye pot for something else (see above) and I am thinking about alternatives for my #1year1outfit wool.

On a walk around the neighbourhood I gathered together all the local dye plants that I could use:

From top left here’s my thoughts so far:

– Bouganvillia – is dropping its blooms in a range of colours around the neighbourhood.  I have a solar dyeing jar going and the colour is slowly seeping out as a pink but I am unsure if it will be colourfast.

– Peppermint tree – plentiful and can get a soft caramel without the use of iron. ie stick with what I got from the first round of dyeing and dye the remaining skeins the same way.

– Bottlebrush – dyed linen and alpaca successfully and used in my kimono dress to achieve a pink but large amounts of blossoms are needed. Could be supplemented by Bouganvillia if that works.

– Hibiscus – a variety of colours around the neighbourhood but I have had the best results from the green hibiscus (yellow flower). It gave green on the linen and cotton samples used in my kimono dress after washing. I’m not sure I would get a green on the wool, but have set up a solar dye bottle to test. Time is running out for these as they fall off the trees rapidly at this time of year, so I would need to hurry if this is a goer.

– Wattle – branches and leaves.  I am not sure what to expect here but I am guessing Browns or greys – any advice on this one?

– Sunflower – a local house has over a hundred blooms coming to the end of their lives. My first attempt at solar dyeing with them was a fail, as I only had a tiny amount to work with.  But as I left it longer in the dye pot things did look promising and with a higher concentration, word on the street is that they work. Again, I’m not sure what to expect on this wool and would need to experiment a little before launching in.

– Various fallen eucalypt branches – again likely to yield a brownish colour but in plentiful supply.

– Olives – trees in the neighbourhood are currently laden with ripe olives.  I’ve done a simmer test with a small amount of handspun  which is soaking overnight to check out the result. Again, I have no experience with olives so any advice would be great.

I have tried to use limit my use of mordants to seawater, iron and dairy solution which are all local but I guess I could relax a little in that respect if one of these will work better with some Alum.

So there you have it, 3 experiments on the go at once to try and work out next steps!  Any advice on any of my options is very welcome.
natural dyeing progressnatural dyeing progress

The hibiscus pot is good and dark, but what colour will it yeild?