Some dyed samples

Shades of Rosemary.

Discovering textile possibilities.

Subtle shades on linen

Mallow flower dye test, on some silk and linen.
It’s holding its colour after washing.
So far…
But I will test it again and again to be sure.
Fingers crossed.
The colour mauve is named after the french name for the plant species.

Fresh fallen flowers versus dried flowers of Crocosmia and a small dyed linen sample.
As I wrote before, I only harvest flowers which are ready to fall on the ground to not disturb the forming of seeds.
The alternative name is Montbretia. The genus name is derived from the Greek word ‘krokos’, meaning ‘saffron’ and ‘osme’ meaning ‘odor’, from the dried leaves emiting a strong smell like that of saffron when immersed in water (wikipedia).
The leaves can also be used in basketry,

Again, dyed with Crocosmia. Shades of gold.
On a cold and stormy day, I let the sunshine in.

The sun shine in-in.

Some shades of pink, yellow and orange

Testing some of my ‘inks’ on linen to see if they ‘hold’ . Washed with soap and dried in the sun. So far so good.
Made with flowers, fruit, barks or root only.
I’m seing new possibilities here, like ‘painting’ on plant-fiber textiles for instance.
I will tell more about it later.

I dyed some linen samples black and white. I know, it’s not really dark black and why should you dye white linen white and is that even possible?
I was inspired by the renowned quilt artist, Yoshiko Jinzenji (please google her if you don’t know her work). She discovered this special dye technique using green bamboo to dye cloth in a shiny white shade. She says: “the white color produced from natural plants features a sence of depth and weight that is unlike any white color produced from chemical dyes.”
So I experimented with some green bamboo from my garden and I can definitely say that the white color obtained is different from the white of the linen cloth. Interesting isn’t it? I will certainly try it again and this time I will not leave the cloth in the bamboo soup and forget about it for a month, that’s why there are some mould spots on it. I’m going to try it with natural colored linen too.
The ‘black’ color is from the gypsywort also called European bugleweed – Lycopus europaeus.

No mordants or metallic modifiers were used during the making of these dyes.

Plantdyes from my former garden

Harvesting flowers for inkmaking or dyes


Flowering gorse, with it’s golden flowers and it’s coconut/vanilla smell, make quite an impression on the landscape of Brittany, especially in early spring.

The breton word is ‘lann’. In the old days, the sails of the fishing boats were dyed yellow with gorse flowers.

Oh, but what about the thorns?

Harvesting gorse flowers is a labour of love.

I’m harvesting the gorse flowers. A couple of handfuls every other day, until I have enough for a dye-vat., a small one, just for my own use, I hardly use big vats.

This beautiful yellow iris root sacrificed herself for the sake of the science of ancient dyes.
In return, I will scatter her seeds all over.

The result will be a bluish-gray shade after fermentation of the plant material.

Soon to bloom woad growing next to my front door.
Isn’t that convenient.

Woad is my preferred plant for her blues.

While foraging for dye-materials I stumbled upon this cute slowworm, who apparently was practising her celtic knot pose, also known as serpentine-yoga.

Coffee table still life.

With woad flowers and some embroidery yarn dyed with madder root

Harvesting small pieces of delightfulness.

a few woad seeds and dried daylily flowers waiting for a dye test

In my former garden there was this liquidambar tree with amazing autumnal red leaves. The linen sample and the paper yarn in the middle were dyed with these leaves.

Shades of silk, mohair and merino yarns. All plant dyed with a fermentation method.

Ready to be woven into small stories

My dyeworks takes at least three seasons before I have any results. It takes a lot of work, sowing seeds, feeding, caring, harvesting, drying, fermenting plant material and finally dyeing.
These 20 shades were obtained by a fermentation process where no metallic mordants were used and no boiling whatsoever. Neither did I use iron or other metals to alter the colours in the end. It’s the true shades of plants.The way I work is the result of my own experiments from the past 10 years, it’s based on my experience with herbs in general and the way fermentation was done in the old days in ancient Europe.
I mostly use plants from my own garden. The yarn presented here is undyed merino d’Arles – 25 grams for each colour. I need to dye another 20 samples before I will use them by knitting or crochet some garment with it.

See you soon…

a fresh new start

I want to give this blog a second chance. I’m starting over after an absence of a couple of years. I´ve had some health issues (I´m fine now), a couple of french lockdowns and a 1000 km far move. (from Brittany France to Wallonia Belgium). I left fb (the best thing I did this year) so I have now more time to do some blogging again.


Making dyes from plants is still a big passion, but because of my move I also lost my dye garden. At my new place I need to start my garden all over again and give every plant a new place. I collected lots of seeds from my old place but it will take months before I can harvest some materials. In the meantime, I will post some pictures from the last couple of years (mostly from my instagram). It will just be some impressions, a kind of photo book of the stuff that inspired me back then and it will not really be technical or with much explanation, that will come later.

Some dyeplants from my former garden…

Dyer’s chamomile. The first harvest of summer. The brightness of the flowers is simply amazing.

Colours in the garden

Sweet coneflowers (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) with tiny white spider. The flowers give an orange-yellow dye and the leaves and stems should give an olive green dye. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough plant material to test them. So I’m hoping for lots of seeds. I’ll have to wait another year. The flowers are truly beautiful. Pure gold.

Soon…
sunflowers Hopi black dye
Helianthus annuus


These are Hopi black dye sunflowers.
This traditional variety has been used by the Hopi Native American people for dyeing cotton and wool and other fibers used to make their basketry. Colors derived include maroon-red, deep maroon, dark purple, deep lavender, medium blue and black. The yellow petals were transformed to make a body paint for use in ceremonies including women’s basket dances which are usualy associated with the initiation of fourteen-year-old girls into their own women’s societies.

Eerie bedeguar emerging from the eglantine bush.


A bedeguar, from french bédégar – from persian bād-āwar meaning ‘rose-wind-blow’, is a gall made by a little wasp called Diplolepis rosea. It grows on roses.
This gall contains lots of tannins, which is why it was used to stop bleeding. A dark brown ink was made with it, adding some iron sulfate to it’s juice. It was also called ‘sleep apple’ in France, because it had a reputation of helping to sleep better and to have foretelling dreams. Hydrolate or distilled water made from the bedeguar gall was used to heal eye diseases.
It’s a young one, it will turn red in time.
Eglantine or sweet briar is a apple-like fragance species of rose native to Europe. From french ‘églantier’. Rosa rubiginosa.

Drying flowers from my garden. For ink or dye or maybe for herbal tea. Sometimes I use them as food coloring as well, to be more precise, as mead coloring, especially with the purple ones (yep purple mead). I prefer to dry them first as the colours are more concentrated this way.

And it’s a test, because if they loose colour while drying they will not be very colourfast either when used as dyes.

Freshly picked evening-primrose floers
a pale yellow dye can be made with them

Rose is a rose, is also a colour, a fragance, a romance.


I gather the petals only when they are ready to fall. I try to do that with all the flowers I gather for colour or smell. So that they can live their life cycle in peace.
I suddenly realise that one of the ways to communicate with plants is trough smell. And if I can smell Rose, she can smell me too. We tell each other things. Important things, funny things. If she don’t like how I smell, she will not speak to me. And she will not offer me her colour. It’s as simple as that.

See you soon…

Shades of plants…

Update with photos of my work as a dyer using a fermentation technique.

Work in progress…

Shades of Bluebell flowers

Shades of Bluebell flowers

I do love these dye tests I’m doing right now. The final results will be less colourful but the whole fermentation process is intriguing and it still amazes me …

The ivy berries dyevat

The ivy berries dyevat with soaking fibers. So exciting…

liquidamber fermented dye

Results of some Liquidambar autumn leaves fermented dye.
Clockwise: linen cloth and thread, BFL lace yarn, alpaca-silk yarn, paper yarn

avocado pits and skins dye vat

Enough avocado pits and skins to start a dyevat. Both skins and pits are completely dry

avocado pits and skins

Avocado skins and pits dye on different fibers. Also the paper was painted with avocado based watercolour paint

Some of my dyevats

Some of my dyevats. So far so good…

One shade of hawthorn and four shades of madder

One shade of hawthorn berries and four shades of madder roots

The first five colours of a new project with at least fifty different colours. Quite an ambitious plan maybe, but hey, that’s only forty five left…

 common bugle flowers dyebad

The common bugle flowers dyebad after 2 days

My guess is it will give a light blue dye. Not sure though ! We’ll have to wait and see…

mysterious grey

Whoohoo ! Look at this mysterious grey…

20170407_130241

Work in process…

my knitcrochet project…

recto-folk-sweater

recto

Done! Here’s my new knitcrochet project !

I’ve always loved folkloric motifs, I wanted to design something like this for years. Though it was a challenging and quite complex project, using 2,5 mm needles and sock yarn (seven colours) to make a sweater. Mixing knitted stripes, colourwork and crochet motifs which was really fun but also challenging to do. Started in august of last year, I’m happy it’s finally finished! I’m quite pleased with the result too.

new-crochet-design

European textile traditions are so rich in using all kinds of geometrical motifs, Estonian, Scandinavian, Russian, Sami, Fair isle, Irish knitting, embroidery and lace motifs, knitting and crochet motifs and weaving patterns from all European countries. Similar symbols are also found on ancient pottery and on several megalithic stone structures. These can be found in every tradition, with some variations, all around the world and are still in use by indigenous people wherever the old traditions are kept alive. These universal symbols were used everywhere with the same result in mind. They are not just for decorative purposes. Geometric motifs and signs are sacred symbols. Used on clothing, objects and houses for millennia, made by craftspeople, mostly women, with the intention to protect themselves and their homes and to promote fertility of the land. It was part of their rituals and religious beliefs.

work-in-progress-take-ii

When wearing clothes adorned with symbols, or tattooed on the skin, people could stay connected to their deities and spirits, often honouring ancient Goddesses. They protected the person who wore them, from negative entities and energies. Because these ritual folk-art motifs vibrate and thus resonate with powerful energy fields to the same frequency. Think of drawn symbols as amplifiers to resonate with the energy fields, as boosters to reinforce and project the hidden patterns. When drawn (or embroidered, knitted, weaved) they mirror and activate these energies. They are the rights tools to use in all sorts of rituals but also in daily life. Acknowledging that rituals also reinforces the power of symbols, the ancients knew the meaning of each symbol and what power they represented. These symbols are truly universal and when you decide to use them in your own work, you undeniably will feel their power. Their vibrations, their rhythms, will move you and change you for the best.

the-sleeves-are-nearly-finished

I truly believe in the powers of these symbols and I want to use them in all my work. The more these symbols and patterns are used, the more powerful they become. And we all could use some magic now, don’t you agree? I’ve added knotted fringes because knots are very powerful tools of protection too, every medieval “witch” knew that. Before actually wearing this sweater I will smudge it first with locally harvested incense plants and place it outside during the full moon to give it extra moonpower. Rituals are very important and we should be paying more attention to them because our world is lacking the right kind of power right now !

verso-folk-sweater

verso

I’ve made it an oversized/cropped sweater because I wanted to keep the design simple. It’s kind of trendy and also I love the feel of it, it gives freedom to move, drum and dance all around the place (and do rituals when needed). To be worn on top of a long and simple dress or any neutral background. It’s made with organic Merino d’Arles yarn dyed with plant-based dyes from Renaissance Dyeing. I sure do hope knitters, crocheters and embroiderers will start to use more and more yarn and fabric dyed with plant based dyes. Dye plants are organic and healthy and even medicinal in the sense that when you wear your garment, your skin absorb the substances from the dyes. Most of the plants we use to dye with are also medicinal plants. I never use toxic plants to dye my yarn with. I know these plants well because I’m also trained as an herbalist and I have worked with wild plants for over thirty years now. I respect and honour Nature. I know the importance of feeling healthy and having a body full of energy. When you wear synthetics and/or textiles dyed with synthetic dyes you are poisoning yourself, slowly but surely. Also the waste of these textiles are very bad for the environment. Please bear that in mind whenever you buy or make clothing.

verso-folk-sweater-detail

Maybe, some will ask for a written pattern, I’m sorry to say that I won’t write it down. Because I decided some time ago, not to be a knitdesigner again. It’s just not who I am anymore. I’m working on other projects which are very important for me right now and I need to give them all the necessary time and attention. Life is so short ! Also, I do love the idea of making OAK knit and crochet clothing. I consider knit and crochet work as a media, worth to be considered wearable art on the same basis as any other fiber art, wearable or not.

recto-folk-sweater-detail

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed this post.
Back to my dyevats now, my writings and a new knitcrochet project.

Marylene

folk-sweater

the true shades of plants…

As promised, some pictures of my dye adventure of the last weeks

coreopsis-tinctoria

dyed with coreopsis flowers Coreopsis tinctoria

iris-pseudacacorus-dye-and-illustration

dyed with yellow flag, yellow iris root Iris pseudacorus

grey on merino and alpaca silk, more like silver really, but pink-goldish on silk

liriodedron-tulipifera

dyed with tulip tree leaves Liriodendron tulipifera

sambucus-ebulus-daneberry

dyed with danewort or dwarf elder berries Sambucus ebulus

drying-skeins-natural-dyes

some drying skeins…

All these colours are the result of a fermentation technique, that is to say, it involves a long process where no additional heating is involved, no metal salts and no chemicals are added. All you need really are plants and patience. And a passion for botanics and colours of course. The results are not what most people are used to, no flashing but vibrant colours. It’s the original shades of plants. It’s a whole new approach to dyes but at the same time it’s very ancient. And it’s a very feminine path too if I may say so…

More soon…

About testing dye plants and cranberry honey wine…

last-yellows-and-orange-dyes-of-the-season-autumn-2016

The last yellows and orange dyes of the autumn season 2016

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything here, that’s because I’ve been working very hard this last few months with all kinds of dyeplants, experimenting a lot, working with a new/old fascinating fermentation technique, it is a different but similar workprocess than the way I used to dye, but with better results. In the process I’m writing all my dye-recipes down, making lots of notes, taking pictures and so on. I will post pictures very soon, to give my readers an idea on what I’m up to. In the meantime you can visit my  Instagram page. I will make all the results available as soon as I can, maybe in the form of an ebook or something else, I don’t know yet.  My idea is to work with plants all year long. I have the ambition to create some 50 different shades on wool and silk. So please be patient with me, as I want it to be as complete as it can be, I will write it down in English, which is not my native language, so that too will take longuer in the end.

one-yellow-and-two-oranges

One lemon and two oranges…

In the meantime I will post some other stuff, like this cranberry honey wine recipe for instance I always make a week or two before Christmas/Yule

cranberry-honing-wijn

the ingredients:

one bottle (75 cl) of a good red wine – I use a homemade fermented fruit wine from elderberries and blackberries but a nice French wine is fine too.

The cranberry or large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a non-native plant in Europe, but they occur in the Netherlands on the Frisian Islands, also known as the Wadden Islands and in some other places in Friesland and Drenthe. Mostly found on Terschelling Island. They grow there because once upon a time, a barrel of cranberries washed up on the beach after a shipwreck around 1845. The Terschelling Cranberry Honey Wine is quite a popular recipe. (Terschellinger Cranberry honingwijn).

edit:  there are cranberries in Europa too (Vaccinium oxycoccos) It is known by the common names: small cranberry, bog cranberry or swamp cranberry. It is widespread throughout the cool temperate northern hemisphere, including northern Europe, northern Asia and northern North America . But the one I’m using in this particular recipe is the large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon): the American cranberry, it is a North American species of cranberry. These are the ones who washed up on an Frisian island in the 19th century. I’m sure you can use the small cranberry too in this recipe, if you can find them in the wild, why not?

1 handful dried cranberries

2 tablespoons local honey

1 teaspoon gluhwein spices

you can make some yourself with a blend of grated orange peel and/or lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, black cardamom, cloves and vanilla bean for instance …

Bring the wine gently to the boil with the cranberries and the spices, simmer ten minutes until the berries pop open.

Let the mixture cool down at around 40 degrees C°, filter the wine in a mesh strainer and cloth, press the cranberries, add the honey, mix well and leave to cool.

Pour this very tasty and medicinal wine into a bottle and use within two weeks

Cheers…

and see you soon…

In the meantime…

coreopsis flowers

It’s coreopsis time! I’m harvesting lots of flowers, like hundred every day now. Leaving enough for the solitary bees to collect nectar and pollen. Having so much flowers I’m going to dry some too to dye with them, just to see if there is a difference in color with the fresh flowers. For now, I’ve prepared a dye vat to let the flowers ferment in their juice, placing the vat outside as we’re having warm days.

I’ve only just begun with harvesting dyeplants and I’m starting a few dye vats. So many other things to do. I will post more about it very soon.

In the meantime you can now find me and my plants on Instagram too

See you here and there

Marylene

too cold to dye

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted something here. That’s partly because Spring has been too cold to start any dyevat. I really need sunlight to dye and my studio is not heated. I also realised that I have a lot of dyed yarn waiting to be transformed in pieces of art first 🙂

to dye or not to dye, that's the question

From the left: dyed from leftover winter vats with dahlia flowers (a yellowy-orange), ivy leaves and berries (a yelllowy-green), tagetes minuta leaves and flowers (which actually gave a very nice bright yellow) and yellow Iris roots (which was a disapointment because it didn’t dye that lovely grey color it gave the first time I used it). To dye or not to dye, that’s my question right now ! To tell the truth, I’m a bit bored with all the yellows and beiges.

 

work in proces -work in proces

I’ve started some fiber art projects and I will share some pictures on this blog soon…

Anyway, I’ve sowed a lot of dye plants including japanese indigo, amaranthus red dye, poppies, orange cosmos, coreopsis, woad, mullein and others. They need to grow now, hopefully the rain will stop and sunshine will appear, we all need it…

In the meantime I’ve started making some incense which is something completely different from dyeing, it’s also with plants but it smells much better !

I just love it…

preparing incense Urdkyphi - preparationKyphi - ingredients - shades of lynxkyphi cubes dryinga batch of Kyphi, from an ancient Egyptian recipe

I’ve also started experimenting with local plants to make watercolors or aquarel and inks which is something I really want to learn more about.

 

c'est pret !nos oeuvres d'art

Always collecting, harvesting or drying some herbal stuff
I’m a harvester-gatherer that’s what I am …

pine pollenpine pollen, great medicine !

harvesting magical stuffharvesting magical stuff (here some mistletoe berries)

appel flower bud tea harvestapple blossom flowers for tea

Calendula officinalis dryed flowersdried Calendula flowers for dyes, medicine and incense

and… there’s always something brewing in the kitchen

brewing elderflower wine

brewing Elderflower wine

So I guess this year this blog will be about all the things I do with plants and not so much about dyeing, but you never know. See you soon 🙂

 

The dyeing season starts again…

…slowly but surely

 

My friend gave me a Gunnera tinctoria dried flowerstalk with a lot of seeds in it. I’m told Gunnera tinctoria roots should dye black but I don’t seem to find a lot about it on the Internet. It’s worth a try but I need some full grown plants first, that will take a while, for sure. I found a few oaks galls in my garden which will come in handy at some point and I’ve started a fermentation vat with Ivy berries and leaves (Hedera helix). I’ve never tried dyeing with them and I’m very curious if it will give me the famous green I’m hoping for. Another smaller vat is filled with fermented juice of some rose hips I’ve collected in the Fall, the color is a very promising dark red but my guess is it will give pink on yarn. And in the smaller vat I’m testing oak moss (Evernia prunastri). It’s looks very promising so far, this lichen is very famous for it’s purplish dye. All fermented dyes of course!

More about this soon…

Ah! Spring is in the air !