Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do


Scotch broom as a dye plant

simmering scotch broom flowers

We have a problem with Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) in the area around the workshop - it is an invasive plant, short lived, hardy, yet prone to die off. It is the main pioneer plant that appeared (in hundreds) after the landslip a few years ago took away the trees. It is a nice bright flower in May - though rarely seems to attract insects - but the rest of the year it is just spiky and dull, possibly a physical habitat but not obviously useful in a wildlife context. It is classed as a noxious weed in many countries.

For a few years we left it to do its own thing, but I now want to extend the meadow area, plant some native fruit trees and cowslips, so we took the decision to push it back to the fence line of the bit where we used to keep pigs.

It seemed the perfect opportunity to try it out as a natural dye plant - google and old books said it gave a great yellow, like gorse which its flowers resemble. I collected half a 10 gallon pan load of flowers and simmered them for an hour. No dye, it looked like a dirty puddle.

At this point I felt it was a failed experiment - always useful in their own right - but a bit disappointing.

It started to rain. I put the pan under my dye bench and went away. I went away for 4 days.

residue of broom flowers

When I came back the whole pan had gone that musty way - almost mouldy, definitely bletted - but as I sieved and squashed the flowers out I thought I should try a bit of wool in it - just to record the process. And the wool turned acid yellow - a strong, bright colour from the murk.

wool from broom dye

I kept it at a point just below simmer for about 40 minutes, let it cool and steep overnight.

This was the result - a glowing acid yellow which I am experimenting with as a base for layering up over-dyed colours as part of a Studio Members course on plant dying basics.

hank of wool dyed with broom

400g Cytisus scoparius flowers
3 litres tap water
Simmered for 1 hour and left to steep for 4 days, then drained.
100g Bluefaced Leicester double knitting wool.
Mordanted with alum then added to dye pot
Kept at just under simmer for 40 minuted and left to steep for 18 hours.
Drained, washed and dried.

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Snapdragon social

Seraphina's eleven babies have grown so fast.⁠⠀
Now when she tries to gather them under her - usually if she hears the buzzard overhead - they all head under her feathers but their heads and tails stick out the side.⁠⠀
She seems unperturbed and a little like an overstuffed tea cosy.
I think that the last time I had this wooden clothes horse out was when we needed to dry cloth nappies c. 2001.⁠⠀
The plant dyed alpaca house socks have all cured now, the dye is well sunk into the fibres, so over the past couple of days I've been washing and pressing and packaging them.⁠⠀
The link to the shop page for them will go out in Friday's newsletter first - the actual newsletter is all about the dye deck and if you want to get it straight into your inbox you can sign up on the website or through my profile.⁠⠀
These were all dyed with tansy - the very yellow ones from the plant at the top of the Studio meadow, the slightly more orange ones from the plant down by the Studio door.
Last year, in the spring,  I got a tiny amount of seed of a grey Shirley poppy. ⁠⠀
I sowed half and gave half to @gracealexanderflowers .⁠⠀
None came up, in my garden at least.⁠⠀
This year two plants have appeared - a little fey and wan as Shirley poppies go, but with definitely grey flowers. ⁠⠀
Well kind of a purply grey . . . and if I'm honest I prefer the rich plums of Pandora . . . but It is eminently instagrammable.
Yesterday Seth Godin wrote that instead of getting our ideas spread like wildfire (uncontrolled, destructive, leaving nothing) we should get them to spread like wildflowers instead.⁠⠀
I loved this idea.  Ideas that self seed and spread in groups, ideas that place themselves where they are happiest, where they can thrive.⁠⠀
Ideas that take root in unpromising places and bring joy.

These daisies moved into the top of the Studio Meadow last year- spreading from the garden rather than the fields- but wilding themselves none the less.
A bright new morning starting a bright new week. ⁠⠀
A row of dog daisies and love in a mist, fresh and light and optimistic.⁠⠀
I feel like I'm hovering on the edge of planning things outside my studio this week. It is tentative.⁠⠀
Today I have a meeting about something that will involve me leaving the premises. I'm part excited, part terrified - I think they are probably the same things in many ways.⁠⠀
I'm building up to going on holiday in a few weeks. It feels vertiginous.  I definitely need to build my social muscles back up.⁠⠀
The globe thistles shouldn't be there. ⁠⠀
It was meant to be a temporary nursery bed.⁠⠀
They were a root cutting from my parents' garden - memories of pulling off the heads as missiles.⁠⠀
It is the perfect place for them.⁠⠀
Low sun barrels along the path as the gloaming comes. ⁠⠀
They glow in the golden hour.⁠⠀
I leave the heads alone.
Of all the half hardy annuals that are beginning to flower here, I think that cosmos purity is my favourite. ⁠⠀
Happy and light and generous with its flowers.⁠⠀
As you pick it, the foliage smells that dense herby/incense way that is perfect for the late summer/early autumn time.
Yesterday I was chatting to Eileen, who volunteers in the garden on Wednesday mornings, about how the Studio meadow changes in the light.  In particular how the warmer light in August - especially the soft evening light - makes everything glow.⁠⠀
Walking back from checking things at work I snapped these big daisies with a speckle of purple loosestrife behind them.  Softly glowing.⁠⠀

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.

Through my communities, both free and paid for, through my writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted activity kits, and through my online and in-person workshops I aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here