Digging for madder…

madder roots

Madder roots 

It’s been a while since I posted something here. That’s because it’s winter and during winter I hibernate. Which means I don’t dye anything or harvest any plants, I just read and knit and read and knit and once in a while I write a bit too.

But basically, I’m waiting for the return of spring…

freshly dugged madder roots

freshly dug madder roots

But yesterday the weather was nice, the sun was shining and it felt like spring! So I decided it was a good day to harvest some madder roots.
It is said that the minimum age for harvesting madder is three years, but the best age should be five years. I have three madder plants, all of them three years old, so I dug one out, leaving some of the roots in the soil for new plants and I harvested about 300 grams of roots. I put them in a bucket full of water to loosen the soil and let it soak overnight.

Because madder root is hard to cut when dry I cut mine fresh in small pieces using a pair of secateurs after I have washed them thoroughly several times.

washed fresh madder roots

Now I will let them dry in a warm place before I use them, later in summer.
The colour of the roots is quite red as you can see. 300 grams of fresh washed roots should be around 45 grams of dried madder. That’s not much and to be honest I expected more, but I guess I will have to be patient and wait another two years to dig out the rest.

chopped fresh madder roots

chopped and ready to dry

Conclusion:  I will have to plant a LOT more plants if I want to dye with my own madder…

I went into the woods today

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

I wanted to share a few pictures of a beautiful magical forest close to my place here in Brittany.

The forest of Huelgoat is the vestige of the ancient forest that once covered inland Brittany. Huelgoat is a breton word  – huel=high and goat=forest – “the wood from above” Lots of mythical legends are born from this fascinating natural setting.

magical forest - foret d'Huelgoat

hairy rocks - foret d'Huelgoat

In this magical forest the rocks are very old,  with hair-like vegetation growing on top


shamanic mushroom foret d'Huelgoat

lots of shamanic mushrooms can be found here

mare aux sangliers - Foret d'Huelgoat

Springs and small streams are everywhere

la grotte d'Artus - King Arthur's grotto - foret d'Huelgoat

King Arthur himself visited this forest on a regular basis, here a cave named after him

la grotte d'Artus - foret d'Huelgoat

the tree on the rocks - foret d'Huelgoat

This oak is trying to split the rock which it grows upon

Do you see the gnome who’s trying to scare us away?

I really need to come and walk here more often, it’s such a peaceful place

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.

http://www.belltowndesign.com/red-pink-paint-color/

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

Cantharellus

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.”
http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/myogham_alderpage.html

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