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Journal

Natural dyeing: Sweet Cicely

dyeing wool yarn with sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata

Using foraged plants to create natural dyes is always a bit of an experiment. The soil, the weather, the time of year, even the water collected for the dye pot, all make a difference to the end colour.

However my quest to get good colour from Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) was more of an experiment than normal.

Sweet Cicely is one of the thugs in my garden - a self seeder that spread from three plants to cover every bit of blank soil in the Spring. Using it up in recipes and to dye yarn seemed like a good way to put a positive spin on a plant that was becoming a pernicious weed.

But last year - though the linen dyed to a good zingy lime green, the wool was a very uninspiring pale yellow (left hand skein in photo) - it didn't fade, but that was just about the best thing that you could say about it.

My elder daughter had requested a stripy jumper made from wool dyed with the plants that grow here - the dull yellow brought down all the other colours, so I determined to try again with a different technique.

Getting lime green from Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata)

I had a hunch that the colour - or lack of it - on the wool was something to do with pH. You can't put wool directly into an alkali solution or it changes in texture and becomes like wire wool. So I experimented with creating an alkali dye bath and then modifying that to neutral before I added the wool.

It is very important that you do this step and don't start enthusiastically adding your yarn to the pan and frizzling it.

It also means that you need some way of measuring the pH. I use paper indicator strips which are inexpensive to buy.

You need

  • As many Sweet Cicely leaves as you can get - this is a dye which benefits from lots of dye material.
  • Non reactive dye pan (stainless steel works well)
  • Indicator strips
  • Washing soda
  • White vinegar
  • Colander
  • Bowl or second pan
  • Stove
  • Mordanted yarn (I use alum at 8%) soaked and drained
  • Rainwater (if you have to use tap water leave it for a couple of hours to settle)

Method

  • Add enough washing soda to your pan of water to modify the pH to 9. This is likely to be 1-2 tablespoons but obviously depends on the amount of water.
  • Add the sweet Cicely leaves to the pan and heat the water to just below a simmer and keep it bubbling gently for half an hour. Allow the liquid to cool naturally and drain through a colander into another pan or bowl.
  • Measure the pH of the dye in the pan and gradually add enough vinegar to bring it back to neutral. Do this step outside as the chemical reaction causes fizzing and fumes.
  • Add the yarn, gently heat to hand hot and then allow pan to cool naturally.
  • Rinse the yarn and hang to dry.
  • When completely dry put yarn somewhere dark for 2-3 weeks for all the dye pigments to settle.
  • Wash yarn in a pH neutral detergent and dry.

PDF how to make dye with sweet Cicely plants

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I wrote about this rose - which is outside our bedroom - in today’s newsletter. 

About how it took over a decade to bloom. About late bloomers and a song I love. 

If you fancy reading it (or listening to it) you can sign up here https://www.snapdragonlife.com/Friday_Letters/ or via my profile. 

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #floralstories #allthingsbotanical #underthefloralspell #slowfloralstyle #petalsandprops #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow #ihavethisthingwithflowers #moodforfloral #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife #aflowerfilledlife
It is the generosity of sweet peas that I find so amazing. 
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The more you pick the more you get.
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Picked and plonked into jars, perfect to give away.

#simpleandstill #gatherandcurate #growyourownflowers #gatheredstyle #nestandflourish #calm_collected #petalandprops #plantsmakepeoplehappy #cornersofmyworld #aseasonalway #cornersofmyhome #myhappyviews #myhomevibe #inspiredbynature #natureandnourish #slowdownwithstills #embracingtheseasons #ofsimplethings #foreverfaffing #collectandstyle #whimsicalwonderfulwild #tinytinymoments #aseasonalyear #mystoryoflight #scotland
Flowers so often remind me of people.
These buff pink poppies, greyed magenta gorgeousness, were in @jennykingcome ‘s wedding bouquet. A yearly reminder of a wonderful couple. 
Here they are ravaged by heavy rain but still quite glorious.

#growyourownflowers #wearetheark #cornersofmygarden #aseasonalway #thissimplescene #mindfulgardening #ayearinmygarden
The garden as the sun sinks - light through the hornbeam hedge. A blaze of colour for just a few minutes every evening. 
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We have been away. In London for a few days to celebrate it being 35 years since our first date.  It should have been to a Marc Cohn concert, but when that was cancelled, we decided to go anyway.
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35 years seems like an impossibly long time, it is forever and it is the blink of an eye.  Like all the best things.

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It is the last gasp of the columbines - their petals were scattered by overnight rain. 
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I shall leave them to make their jaunty seed heads amongst the grass.
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If you are looking for a plant that is happy in long grass you couldn't do better - in fact I think it is happier there than in a border - it uses the grass as a prop so doesn't blow over in sudden gusts.

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#aseasonalway #amomentofwonder
The bright orange flower Fox and cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) arrived a few years ago - right at the top of the perennial meadow. 
Now it is gradually spreading down the slope, threading it’s way through the dark columbines. 
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It’s an invasive weed in a lot of countries but here it has a perfect level of scattering itself around - bright and glowing amongst the grass. 
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It is my birthday today and I intend to spend most of the day in the garden. 
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There are a couple of orders to send out and some seedlings to drop off, but then it will just be me and this little menace pottering around the vegetable patch and putting seedlings in the ground (and hopefully not digging them up).
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Then I will be away from the main Instagram feed for a couple of weeks. 
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I will still pop up from time to time in the Studio Club stories feed, but otherwise I'll be on a social media break.

📷 @katgoldin 

#momentslikethese
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#daysofsmallthings
#natureandnourish
#aseasonalway
#daysofsimpleandslow
#ournaturedays
#aquietmoment
#pocketsofslow
#thesweetlifeunscripted
#folkandstory
#slowliving #mindfulgardening
My elder daughter Zoë asked for a stripy jumper knitted with wool dyed from the garden.
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These are the finished skeins - currently curing in the studio - dyed with sweet cicely, dock, bay, birch and nettle.
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In a month they will be ready to knit with.
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The slowest of slow fashion.

#slowstitching #slowfashion #naturaldyeing #foragedcolour #foragedcolor #naturaldyersofinstagram #sustainablemaking #sustainablecraft #plantdyedyarn #plantdyes
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