summer dyes – part one

There comes a time when autumn asks,
what have you been doing all summer ?

summer dyes 2015 shades of lynx

Dyer’s chamomile – Anthémis des teinturières – BFL
Coreopsis – silk
Tulip tree leaves – tulipier de Virginie feuilles – BFL
Dyer’s broom – Genêt des teinturières – silk
Poppy flowers – pivot fleurs – kidsilk mohair
Eucalyptus – BFL
Goldenrod – solidage – kidsilk mohair

Eucalyptus – silk
Woad – pastel – kidsilk
Goldenrod – solidage – silk
Goldenrod – solidage – BFL lace
Coreopsis – BFL
Queen Anne’s lace – carotte sauvage – kidsilk mohiair
Woad – pastel – BFL lace

Shades were obtained by fermentation
no mordants (except for the Eucalyptus :symplocos)
only lemon juice and/or lye water modifiers


a summer of madder…

Irish sheep farmers still feed their sheep Rose Madder plant to tint the wool. (It’s so much easier than dying it!) And Rose Madder naturally turns the teeth and bones of animals who eat the plant a reddish color, which became a gift to 19th century scientists for studying bone growth and development.

I expected to dye a lot with woad this year but for some strange reason my woad plants didn’t grow that well, so…

my summer was madder shades of lynx

My summer was kind of madder

shades of madder on alpaca-silk hanging to dry

Alpaca/silk mordanted with Symplocos – dyed with madder – using lemon juice and washing soda as modifiers

I’m going to knit a oversized sweater with this yarn  🙂

The beauty of native plants

“To be native to a place we must learn to speak its language.”
― Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants

wilde peen

one of the most beautiful flowers to look at and the most photogenic

wild carrot, bird’s nest, bishop’s lace, Queen Anne’s lace

yesterday's wild harvest - life at Urd ar Brunnr

On my walk yesterday I found: Queen Anne’s lace, still blooming, wild plum twigs with lichen, St. John’s wort flowering for a second time, Blackthorn berries. All are great dye materials


These common roll-rim mushrooms grow in my garden (Paxilus involutus). I want to try and see if it’s a good dye mushroom, probably it will give some yellow.

harvesting alder inner bark - shades of lynx

End of summer is a good time to harvest barks, there are plenty of alder trees here and one or two branches will give me enough material to dye with.

The magic colour of the Alder inner bark:

When you cut an alder branch and remove the inner bark the wood is white first, but very quickly it turns to a bright reddish orange.
To the ancients, the Alder was particularly revered, for it appeared to bleed like humans.

I usually let the bark soak for many months before I use it as a dye (without modifiers: dark yellow on wool and rusty brown on cotton)

alder, aulne, els, erle, aliso
(Alnus glutinosa)

“Of course, it’s always been known (especially amongst the old-ones) that alder trees in the most primeval, remote and wild sites, have fairy or elf doors in their trunks just above the water line, and these are entrances into faere kingdoms, gateways into the Underworld.”

harvesting Amaranthus hopi red dye

The last of the dye plants in the garden are being harvested too, like these Amaranthus Hopi red dye

preparing fermented dyes

But I still have a lot of fermented plant juices waiting for some yarn to be dyed with, I will show the results of my last dyes of summer soon

Red Red Wine

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.

Henry David Thoreau

Fermenting plant juice is not only good to obtain dyes…

I’m brewing elderberries and blackberries to make yummy red wine,

taste a bit like Bordeaux…

harvesting Elderberries Urd ar Brunnr

harvesting elderberries

picking blackberries

and blackberries…

elderberries of the stem

one kilo ripe black elderberries taken off their stems

elderberries and blackberries wine

the mixed berry juices are now fermenting in a demijohn

Both berries are well known for their medicinal use and their antioxidant activity

Elderberry & Blackberry wine,

my red wine recipe:

For approximately  9, 5 litres wine, you will need:

one kilo ripe black elderberries (Sambuscus nigra) all taken off the stem (not the green ones as they are slightly toxic)

one kilo ripe blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

6 litre high quality water

1700 grams of sugar

2 teaspoons wine yeast (don’t use bread yeast)

2 teaspoons tartaric acid, 2 teaspoons pectic enzyme, 2 teaspoons citric acid or the juice of two lemons

You will also need a fermenter (demijohn / dame-jeanne) and an airlock

Wash the elderberries under cold running water, put in a pan, add one litre water, bring to the boil and simmer without cover for approx 4 min (to neutralise sambunigrine in the seed which will evaporate)

Let the juice cool down, I usually let it cool well covered overnight and then proceed in the morning

Press the berries through a cloth and strainer, press really well to get all the juice out, put the strained juice into a pan and add 2 litre water and 850 grams of sugar. Mix well till all the sugar is dissolved, no need to heat the juice.

Do the same with the blackberries but bring it just below a full boil then let it cool down, press and add the same amount of water and sugar

Put both juices in the fermenter. The temperature should be like room temperature. Now add the yeast and place the airlock on top of the fermenter. The airlock allows carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation while not allowing air to enter the fermenter, thus avoiding oxidation. Cover the fermenter with a dark cloth, fermenting works better in darkness. Yeast will take a day or so to get rolling, but by the next day you should see it bubbling. The ideal room temperature is 21°  Celsius, beneath 17° C the fermentation will slow down or stop. Add the teaspoons tartaric acid, pectic enzyme and citric acid after a day or two.

That’s it, now you just have to wait, allow fermentation to continue for two to three months, depending on room temperature

When all the bubbling has stopped and all the yeastly sediment is on the bottom, it’s time to siphon the wine in one or more glass jars and let the wine sit in a cooler place. After a few weeks you can siphon again and bottle the wine, now let them age for a while


elderberries art

I won’t throw what’s left of it away but I will test it to see if there’s any dye stuff in it, you never know !

and with the remaining pulp I will prepare a pinkish dye

I’m a dyer and I love it

growing dye plants

Here some Japanese Indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) which I won’t harvest this year I just let them grow to get seeds, I hope there will be many.

outdoor dye vats

These strange objects are my dye vats which I cover with black plastic to enhance temperature which is important if you want the dye liquid to ferment

testing all kinds of dye plants

Smaller fermentation vats with all sorts of strange plants, testing, always testing…

preparing the goldenrod dye vat

Starting a Goldenrod dye vat (Solidago virgaurea)

collecting seeds

Another one of my passions is to collect seeds, not only dye plant seeds but also wild plants, medicinal herbs and vegetables seeds