Friday, July 15, 2011

Dye plants

The madder patch

I am kind of nervous walking around this patch.  The plants are very protective and have little needle like hairs all up and down the stems.  The stems are square like mint stems.  The blooms are tiny and not very pretty, but they give way to dark blue berries that also have dye in them.  The needles on the stems turn my skin itchy and red so I have to avoid them.  I guess the birds eat the berries because I have "extra" plants coming up everywhere.  

The madder plants are a very ancient red dyeplant, it's the roots that are the source of the red.  The plants grow in the Persian deserts and are very hardy, so were used for the gorgeous variegated reds in carpets.  When using the roots, the first dyebath is usually coral colored due to the yellows in the outside of the roots.  The roots can be peeled, but I am thinking that's a huge bother.  Usually the dyebath can be used many times and will yield the deep burgundy reds in an alkaline environment.

I have harvested the roots once but have never used them.  The roots right now are probably around 10 years old.  Commercially the 3 year roots are harvested.  They are dug when the tops have died back and that means early, early spring around here.  Hopefully, I can remember this year to get that done and have my fingers crossed for huge roots.

For over 10 years, I did/consulted use off,  the dyebaths at our annual Park City Spinners Retreat.  But, I gave that up so that I could actually retreat too with all my friends instead of working the whole weekend.  :>)  I have more time now to do the personal dyeing that I have wanted to do.  It's magic to get stuff out of your garden and dye fabric, fiber or whatever else is around that's white.  Not many things stay white at my house especially the fibers that I spin.

I have lawns to mow today, so the madder will be trimmed.  I will then don long sleeves and heavy gloves to pull the vines from my air conditioner and trim the plants that around in places that I don't really want them.

Knitting report:  I am moving right along on the navy blue sweater.  I don't know why this color turns up from my camera, I will have to spend more time in Photoshop to correct that.

This sweater has shaping around the waist and sides using the natural drawn in that working cables gives.  These cables don't require the use of cable needles, just a knitting technique.  The only problem I have had with them is remembering to do twists on the reverse side.  duh  There is a lot of grumbling and talking to myself going on when I am working that side.

The "red" lily is blooming today.  I don't know if the color will deepen or not.  I was hoping for red, but this dark salmon pink is nice.  I have some red ones in the front garden that need more sunlight, so will get them moved this fall.

Well, the garden calls...

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