Saturday, June 09, 2007



I am a lucky woman in that we have six acres in New Jersey and I can grow whatever I want. However, sometimes your eyes are bigger than your brain, or whatever that saying is. My first foray into gardening on our 'farm' was to have a friend with a rototiller throw it into the back of his pick up and come to my new house to dig up a huge portion of grass along the 150 foot driveway. That was ok, except we didn't know at the time that a little weed called maybe sheep sorrel would grow like wildfire if the little pieces of it's roots were chopped up......that was about 12 years ago, when I was younger, healthier, and a regular five day a week job. Back then, a 20'X150' garden seemed small. I dreamed about digging up all six acres and becoming a perennial plant grower. Now, after hip replacement, opening a store, getting tired and middle aged, I can just barely cut the thing down in the fall. A landscaper suggested we dig up the plants we wanted and let him bulldoz the rest of down. I just can't. Now, I may be the luckiest woman alive because I have the opportunity to do some real natural dyeing and some of the things in the garden will make wonderful dye plants. These pictures are of dyer's coreopsis gone rampant, two kinds of lycinis that are just pretty but may not yield color, about 100 square feet of black eyed susans, invasive rosa rugosa that are covered with bright pink flowers, acres of bea balm, Russian sage, artemesia, joe pye weed, St. John's Wort, day lilies galore, nettles, poke berries, black berries, Japanese willow, wild cherry, wild yarrow,sassafras and sumac. Most of the stuff can be used as dyes and rest smells nice. I think the sorrel may also be a dye plant.

I'll post pictures of our First Annual Dye Day which is happening Monday. Tomorrow, I plan on mordanting all the yarns we've skeined. We are trying to be good stewards of the planet and will use just alum, cream of tartar, and the liquid from a copper pipe I soaked in ammonia for six months as the mordants for wool and the sumac leaves chopped up and soaked as the mordant for the cotton yarns. The sumac leaves contain tannin. I'm going to try to get to the farmer's market in the morning to get some rhubarb so we can use the leaves, which contain oxalic acid, as an additional mordant.

In the meantime, some of the issues I'm researching are ways to recycle the water I use in dyeing. Anyone have any ideas, let us know. Leave a comment, for crying out loud!

3 comments:

Deb said...

Lovely lovely. You are lucky to live where if you want to grow weeds- you can do that too.

woolbearers said...

Thank you and you are so right. By the way, the nettles yielded a lovely, soft yellow.

jill said...

very pretty weeds. much prettier than mine - although I do have plenty. I don't know all the names of mine however.