Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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Dyeing socks with acorns

pile of plant dyed socks

Dyeing wool socks is one of the easiest plant dye experiments you can do. The wool is a protein fibre so the dye sticks to it more easily than it would a cellulose plant fibre, the socks are a manageable size, you don't need a massive pan and they don't get tangled up like skeins of wool.

I dye alpaca socks - soft and fluffy house socks - because I love the way that the soft colours of plant dyes look on the slightly fluffy wool. They are also the cosiest socks I know. You can buy the natural alpaca UK made socks here, but if you have any natural coloured 100% wool socks they will work fine.

You need.

  • Pair of 100% wool socks (a little bit of elastane in the cuffs won't matter)
  • Alum sulphate mordant - 10% of the weight of the dry socks
  • Plant material (I'm using acorns here) - as much as you can get your hands on that will fit in the pan, the more you have the stronger your colour will be.
  • Large stainless steel pan.

Wash your socks in eco detergent - preferably by hand, but a low temperature wool wash in a machine is fine - rinse well.

Boil a kettle and dissolve your alum sulphate in a cup full of boiling water, then add to a bowl of tepid water.

Add the socks to the bowl and leave to soak overnight.

Meanwhile make your dye pot. To make an acorn dye I hammered the acorns to split them and then simmered them for an hour in a stainless steel pan. I left them to steep overnight which is when the colour seems to come out. The water in the pan should be dark and full of pigment - ideally so full of pigment that you can't see a spoon under the water. You can leave the acorns steeping for a few days and the colour will darken and grey slightly.

Strain the dye into another pan and put the plant matter on the compost heap.

Add the wet socks to the pan and gently and slowly bring it to a point just before simmering. You don't want the socks to get a temperature shock or they can felt up.

With dyes made from collected plants the colour goes into the wool gradually. You might have seen dye pots on Instagram or Pinterest where the colour change is immediate, this is because the dyeing is being done with bought dye extracts, still plants but ones which have been made into a concentrated form which can be added straight to the pan just before you add your wool, very much like a conventional dye. So don't be worried when that doesn't happen - instead take it as slowly as possible and you will see the colour gradually develop.

Hold the dye pot at a point less than a simmer for an hour and then let it cool naturally. For browns and olively greens I let the socks stay in the pan overnight as I like the dulled colours that creates, if I want a pale yellow from gorse I would let the pan cool and then take the socks out immediately.

Rinse the socks until the water is clear and then dry.

Ideally leave the socks somewhere dark for a few weeks for the colour to firmly attach to the fibres - I have mine in a cardboard box - before washing with an eco detergent.

This is the socks and mordant that I use

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Words matter.  Words matter so much. ⁠⠀
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Yesterday I walked around a new local community garden that I am to be involved in.  I walked the site with Lauren @herbal_homestead (who looks after @katgoldin ‘s market garden at the Gartur Farm School) who is the permaculture consultant for the project.⁠⠀
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The words at the top of this post were the words that were tumbling about as we walked along the stream that edges the plot and discussed the contours and what the potential is for this new space.⁠⠀
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I have missed those words a lot.⁠⠀
Elderberry vinegar, a brilliant natural immunity booster and treatment for sore throats, is steeping in my cupboard at the moment - the colour is so vibrant it is obvious that it MUST be good for you.⁠⠀
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It is one of the things you learn to make in the Simple Herbal Apothecary course in the Studio Club. ⁠⠀
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It is really funny how having a Pay What You Can option for membership has made me feel that I can talk about what you get in the Studio Club without feeling all 'exclusive' (I hate that word because, when you think about it, it actually means that some people are excluded and that we are fine with that).⁠⠀
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The Pay What You Can option has been really popular - second only to the Full Membership - which makes me very happy. ⁠⠀
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I've had a lot of emails from people who had been looking at joining the Studio Club for a while but couldn't justify the cost - because unemployment or illness or caring for others restricts their budget - but who have now been able to join.  So if that sounds like you the details are all on the front page of the website - snapdragonlife.com.⁠⠀
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Time.⁠⠀
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Yesterday I asked a question about luxury and the thing that came up again and again in answers was 'time'.⁠⠀
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Time to just be.  Time to do things for ourselves. Time to be creative or read. Time to focus.⁠⠀
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It made me think - that if we see time is our greatest luxury, why do we squander it so?  I know I do.  I scroll.  I dither. I catch myself almost deliberately doing nonsensical things that waste time to the point that it completely disappears.⁠⠀
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Give me an unexpectedly free evening and my natural tendency is to waste half of it deciding what I want to do MOST.⁠⠀
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What is your idea of luxury?⁠⠀
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I stumbled across a discussion about luxury on a post the other day. It was about whether you could crave luxury in your life if you were also set in “overthrowing the capitalist systems our world is based on”.⠀
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In some ways it was hilarious, and shows what a muddle we get into, but It really made me think about what I count as luxuries in my life  They certainly aren’t what the commenters on the original post defined as luxury - the fancy sports car, the designer brand names, expensive toiletries. ⁠⠀
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Rather, my idea of luxuries are things I want in my everyday life.  Proper coffee, clean sheets for the weekend, tomatoes still warm from the sun - perhaps most importantly, the luxury of time to do nothing more than stare upwards through bright leaves . . .⁠⠀
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What about you?⁠ what are your luxuries?⠀
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Messy edges.⁠⠀
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Pretty much everything in the House Garden and Studio Meadow will stand until Spring now.⁠ I will leave it alone. ⠀
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For in my head I'm not really growing teasels, I'm growing gold finches. 
Yesterday, as I headed down through the meadow to light the studio stove, were dozens feeeling atop the teasel heads.
It is the time of the year to embrace the beauty in decay.⁠⠀
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To look at the soil regenerating.⁠⠀
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The appreciate the beauty of a good compost heap -even when it is composting the cosmos that you had hoped would bloom for a couple of more weeks.
Yesterday the doors of the Studio Club opened up to new members again. ⠀
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If you want to engage more with the natural world, live a more seasonal life, learn how to grow things, make things and also hear good news about inspirational people making a positive difference to the world - then this is the Club for you! ⠀
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There are now three ways of becoming a member - a Full Membership which includes physical products, a Digital Membership and a Pay What You Can Membership. You can find out more about them by clicking though my profile or at Snapdragonlife.com. ⠀
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In less than 24 hours over half the Full Memberships sold out - so if you are thinking of signing up for one of those then I would do it sooner than later. ⠀
Nettles and docks and tansy and meadowsweet. ⁠⠀
Heather and willow and onion skins.⁠⠀
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The journey through plant colours this year is coming to fruition.  Out of frame is a striped jumper on my needles.⁠⠀
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I am hoping to have enough yarn to make something for a newly arrived baby - all the energy of the Scottish hills in something to wear.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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