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Dyeing with flag iris root

Dyeing with Iris pseudacorus

There are some dye stuffs that carry a little bit of legend with them, an inbuilt reminder of respect. Where we all happily pile on in collecting onion skins and picking nettles, we rightly hesitate when it involves digging up things.

Particularly native plants - we remember the Countryside Code and step aside - but always left with a little bit of wondering.

A long time ago, back when I was a costume historian, I read about how the roots of yellow flag iris (Iris pseudacorus) could give a black dye - I think initially it was in a history of tartans and tweeds and I've subsequently seen it alluded to in other Scottish dye books - and I have always had it on my list as something to try.

Indeed I'd talked about it to my friend Kat at Gartur Stitch Farm whose old vegetable beds were infested with flag iris, but somehow those conversations were always over a cup of coffee in her warm Studio and never quite made it to slipping around in the mud digging up roots.

Then, last month I stayed for a few nights at the garden designer Arne Maynard's house Allt y Bela where the gardeners were busy digging out flag iris from the stream that borders the drive. The iris clumps had outgrown their space and needed to go. I spotted a chance and struck up conversation, a conversation that was rewarded with a great clump to take home in a compost bag and experiment with.

chopping up the roots

Step 1

I cut off the leaves and the fine wiggly roots the the top of the crown and then rinsed and chopped the thicker roots - making them into chunks about an inch cubed.

Step 2

I put the roots into a cheesecloth bag and then soaked the whole thing in a pan of water for a week. I was busy with other things so happy to have them just sitting on the hearth.

Step 3

I very gently simmered them for a couple of hours, and then heated the water gently and allowed it to cool over the next few days. My hope was to get the dye chemicals out of the root as gently as possible.

dyeing with flag iris root

You can see that the liquid is really not obviously full of dye.

Step 4

I added in a couple of pieces of linen which had been scoured and then mordanted with aluminium acetate. Left overnight it turned the palest of pale greys - you can see it as the top sample in my dye record book. The initial linen was a white so there is some colour change, but not much.

dyeing with Iris pseudacorus

Step 5.

The magic. I rinsed the linen and put one piece into an iron solution - a small amount of iron crystals in water in a jar, less than 2%. After about ten to fifteen minutes it had changed to a beautiful dark purplish navy.

I am not doing light fast samples - it certainly seems to be wash fast. I shall report back.

I'm currently dyeing larger bits - not very big as I now have my pans indoors and I'm not a neat person, but big enough to make some embroidered buttons in cream on navy.

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My Friday letter today is about trying to balance gardening and guardianship here - and about why I registered the land here as an ARK (Acts of Restorative Kindness) as a formal commitment.⁠⁠
It is also about why I need the kitchen garden and community garden as an outlet for my obsessive growing of seedlings . . . .⁠⁠
Smoking chimney and fireweed with a halo of haws - November studio.⁠⁠
Teasel is the boss of the house. ⁠⁠
I said that I was looking for a scruffy, badly behaved, short legged dog, and that is exactly what I found.⁠⁠
He stamps in temper when I won't let him do whatever it is he has been stopped from doing.  He runs around manically, he torments poor patient Dixie until she plays and then, exhausted, he crawls up onto my knee for a cuddle and that wonderful soft puppy shudder of contentment.⁠⁠
Off to the vet for jags today.

#yorkshireterriersofinstagram #yorkielove #yorkshireterrier #yorkshireterrierpuppy #takeyourdogtowork #studiodog #puppylove
It has been weirdly warm.⁠⁠
Poppies and cornflowers are trying to bloom raggedly in the meadow and outside our bedroom window this rose has come to life again with heavy perfumed flowers.⁠⁠
They seem smaller and deeper in colour than they were in June.⁠⁠
Is anyone else finding unseasonal blooms at the moment?

#wildforflowers #awhisperedbeauty #cornersofmyworld #lifelivedbeautifully #raw_flowers #livesimple #simpleandstill #shared-joy #atmine #myeverydaymagic #slowfloralstyle #seekmoments #cornersofmygarden
One of things I chatted with @eva_nemeth about in Yorkshire a few weeks ago was mess and light.⁠⁠
I said that I wanted to be able to show beauty without worrying about tidying up around it. Life is messy, time is short . . . .⁠⁠
Eva said that all I needed to do was look for the light and the mess would be transformed.⁠⁠
She was right, this was the kitchen a couple of mornings ago, coffee on the stove, light hitting the washing up and defrosting milk.⁠⁠
Everyday beauty.

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #mystoryoflight #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #mystoryofautumn #slowfloralstyle #everydaybeauty #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow  #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife
Next year the vegetable garden will be free of hens - I'm determined of that because it is a complete waste of time to grow things when they break in and eat it all - but I think that this winter I shall let them wander.  I'm reframing it as slug patrol and fertilising.⁠⁠
Though I shall harvest all the remaining sprouts first as, from the shredded state of some plants, they seem to be a favourite.

#myquietbeauty_autumn #upandautumn #simpleandseasonal #natureandnourish #shiftingseasons #quietinthewild #simplejoys #aseasonalway #snapdragonlife #calmversation #rurallifestrong #simplethings #growyourown #growyourownflowers #aseasonalshift #bantamsofinstagram #vegetablegarden
A couple of weeks ago I tried, and failed, to convince a friend that dahlias are often at their best when part frosted and on the way out.⁠⁠
They stand bedraggled and desaturated, capturing perfectly that slightly melancholy mood of autumn.⁠⁠
This year I have seen people who have previously loved autumn best, talking about how difficult they are finding it this year. ⁠⁠
I think it may be that we are not in the mood for more melancholy. It is difficult to embrace the cosy slide into darkness when, for many, there hasn't been much light.

I know that I’ve been choosing more upbeat music to keep me company in the Studio. Steering away from the heartbreak and sadness. Seeking the light. 

#myquietbeauty_autumn #upandautumn #simpleandseasonal #natureandnourish #shiftingseasons #quietinthewild #simplejoys #aseasonalway #snapdragonlife #calmversation #rurallifestrong #simplethings  #aseasonalshift #flowersandotherstories #scotlandsgardens #simplethingsmadebeautiful #daysofsmallthings
Planting tulips in the vegetable garden - 12 of each in close rows so that I don’t feel guilty about picking them - and discovering that Yorkshire terriers come pre-programmed to dig. 

#yorkshireterrier #yorkie #yorkshireterriersofinstagram #yorkshireterrierpuppy
The hornbeam arch that leads through to the vegetable garden is always a thing of two halves. 

At this time of year half is bright autumn leaves, half bare imploring branches. 

Spent vegetables and fallen leaves, hens and hazel supports. 

November garden. It’s where you will find me today. 

#slowlived #hashtagauthentic #aseasonalway #gatherandcurate #mygarden #kitchengarden #distractionsandinspirations #stillswithstories #calmversation #novembergarden #cherishandrelish #aquietstyle #growyourown #searchwondercollect #alliseeispretty #seekinspirecreate #ofsimplethings #natureandnourish #myalmanacmoment

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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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