Monday, August 18, 2014


It is Sunday this time. I checked.

Right after morning chores, Piper and I headed to the pond.
Our trip had three purposes.
The first was, of course, Piper Entertainment.

By the way, it is really difficult to get pictures of Piper lately.
She deliberately avoids the camera.
As soon as she sees it, she swiftly ducks her head
and looks at me reproachfully from the corner of her eye.

Like this:

It's truly bizarre.
All I can think of is she has started her own blog
and resents my use of her images on this one.
Secondly, our trip was part of the new
Cloud Harvest Cashmere Capture and Release Program.
Specifically, I am live-trapping chipmunks and mice in the goat barn,
and releasing them in a lovely location with natural shelter,
abundant food sources, running water,
and a lack of human habitation for miles in all directions.

I wouldn't do this when wild food sources are not available,
so it is important to do it now, well before Winter.
Plenty of time for the critters to make cozy nests
and gather up supplies to replace the oats
they've been stealing from the goats all day, every day.

Piper hasn't made the connection yet,
but every time the little traps close,
she gets to go to the pond!
Yesterday we went three times.
I will not be surprised if we do the same today.
Current tally: Mice 3, Chipmunks 4
The third reason for our trip this morning was to collect goldenrod.
Dyepot time!
I only took about 20 stems, because the flowers were being
enjoyed by thousands of tiny mystery insects.
Any entymologists here?
The bugs were thin, less than 1/2 inch long,
with orange heads and dark grey bodies. Very stylish.
They did not wish to leave the flowers.
I had to touch each one gently so it would fly to another flowerhead.
Back at home, google failed(!) to identify the bugs.
I am just hoping they do not destroy vegetables,
because despite my careful efforts
I'm sure I brought a few hundred home.

Since I took so few goldenrods,
I added a bit of Queen Anne's Lace
and a little yarrow.
(It's an experiment. It's ALL an experiment.)

Then I took every whole, clean leaf from each goldenrod stalk.
For some stalks, this meant nearly every leaf.
For others, it meant almost none.
When I was finished, Piper checked my work:

The clean leaves went into a quart jar
and boiling water was added.

I recently read that goldenrod leaves make a nice tea,
so I'll try it and report back.

The dyepot simmered gently all afternoon,
and is now cooling.
It smells nice.
At least, I think so.
But I've heard people complain about a black walnut dyebath,
and I think that smells nice, too.

If this was a scratch-and-sniff picture,
you could all weigh in!

When I first tried botanical dyeing, I intended to keep detailed records:
weights of plants and fiber, temperatures and times, and so on.
And keep samples of all results: fiber, fabric, other.
(Because I have that sciencey mind, you know.)
However, that approach soon seemed pointless. And joyless.
Because the variables are many, and some are uncontrollable.
Replication is, in a word, unlikely.

Now I approach each dyeing experiment
as a potentially lovely surprise.
And some have especially sweet associations:
plant materials collected for me by a forester I used to work with,
or the dye made with leaves and twigs of a tree that meant a lot to me,
and which is now sadly gone.
(Piper killed it - on purpose - but we don't talk about that.)

I don't plan to use today's dye immediately,
but when I do I will post about it.

Have you ever dyed with plants?
I'm sure some of you are far more experienced than I am.
I'd love it if you would share your thoughts - 
or even a link to your favorite dyeing blogpost? - 
in the comments!



  1. I had to smile, my dog lays on everything and anything that I'm trying to work on. Anytime I want to lay fabric out on the floor and I have to shut her out of the room!

  2. Yes, I've done a bit of dyeing with plants, and I tend to agree with the people who don't like the smell of the black walnut process. But it does make a great ink. And a permanent dye anywhere you happen to spill it, ask me how I know this...

    You're reminding me what fun it is. I also dye with coffee and with tea. Turmeric works, too, if I'm hanging around the kitchen.

  3. I've never dyed anything except my hair and that was never permanent. I think having fun should be the main goal of your experiments. :) Piper is just like Jingles who hates to have her picture taken. Have a great week. Tammy

  4. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! Piper pictures! Sounds like a fun outing. I threw orange head and green body bug into my search engine and came up with a photo of a "Soldier Beetle" (the body looks grey/green)... Maybe this is it. In any case, Happy Monday - look forward to seeing what you are dying!

  5. Another page -

    "They are usually spotted on flowers, ESPECIALLY GOLDENRODS and Hydrangeas"

    1. Oh, good try! But not quite the bug I recall. I can't think why I didn't take a picture. If I see them again I certainly will.

  6. Oh, the look on Piper's face! Priceless! Funny how animals are about a camera. I had one cat that would always come running when I got out the camera and pose.

    I think I agree about natural dying. There are always variations in the results, but that's the fun of it.

    1. Piper has been very happy to be photographed, until just recently. I have no idea what caused this change, but it's pretty dramatic. Do you think she's just remembered she's in the Witness Protection Program?

  7. I somehow missed this post. As you know I do quite a bit of botanical dyeing. Even more than normal at the moment as my doc has banned me from knitting just now.

    I find that if I don't write down what went into the dye pot I can't remember when I'm asked or want to blog about it. That aside I'm like you ... it's all one happy experiment


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