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.

Comments: 0 (Add)

Snapdragon social

Small runs.⁠⠀
The single thing that has made the most difference in Snapdragon Life's eco-footprint over the past 9 months has been choosing only to make small runs of products.⁠⠀
I know that can be frustrating sometimes - people get upset when something sells out.  @amandabanhamceramics wrote about this recently - how she received frustrated, sometimes even nasty, emails after every online sale of her houses.⁠⠀
Once upon a time I would make 100s, sometimes even 1000s, of a single design. ⁠Now I make 10 or 20 or 30 of something. ⁠⠀
And that is it. ⁠Once they are gone they are gone.⁠⠀
⁠The photo is of some allium embroidered lavender cushions, embroidered onto C19th handwoven linen - part of the Just Breathe gift set - a limited edition of 20. ⁠⠀
Half have sold.⁠⠀
A big sky and a bright pond for the end of the working week.⁠⠀
This week I've been setting aside time to make things.⁠ It has felt grounding in the way that gardening is when we aren’t ankle deep in mud. Carefully chosen materials, working with my hands, concentrating. ⠀
These patches of antique linen, embroidered with the dark lines of allium seed heads, are for a new batch of the 'Just Breathe' gift sets which should be up on the website tomorrow.⁠⠀
I taught myself to draw with a sewing machine⁠⠀
years before I learned to draw with a pen. ⁠⠀
In many ways I still find it easier - as though there were something backwards in my head that is happier thinking in reverse.⁠⠀
At the weekend I read Anne Lamott's 'Almost Everything: Notes on Hope' - a book written in 2018, ⁠⠀
I copied out this quote ⁠⠀
Oh this linen from @scottishlinen is wonderful to embroider on.  It has inspired me to try something I have been meaning to do for ages.⁠⠀
All Summer I have been decorating order boxes with mugs and flowers.  I must have done a few hundred by now, the initial of the customer on the mug, fine liner on card.⁠⠀
It is a design device I love - the wonderful works of @debbiegeorgeartist and @angielewin are my inspiration - and I wanted to see if I could get fluid enough to have it work as a freehand machine embroidery.⁠⠀
I don't work from a sketch, there are no lines on the fabric, I just put my sewing machine pedal down and go.  It helps a lot if there is some level of muscle memory.⁠⠀
This large lavender cushion is the result - this particular one is going as a gift to a Club Member who has agreed to write for my January edition of Some Seasonal Notes. ⁠⠀
The link to have me make one is going first to Studio Club Members their e-mail this morning, but then will go up on the website later today. The last order date will be 30th November as I can't stockpile them and will need time to make them.⁠⠀
My Dad would hate this photo.⁠⠀
Growing up candles were banned from the house except from on Christmas Day - and even then he spent his time blowing them out as he passed.⁠⠀
This is a rosemary covered jam-jar.  I first saw these in 1990s when they were a speciality of the florist Paula Pryke and the tie was a silk taffeta bow.⁠⠀
This rustic version - with a tie make from linen offcuts - is the 15 minute activity going out in tomorrow's Studio Club email.
Dixie is slowly getting used to being a Studio dog.  All last year - as  I changed the way Snapdragon Life worked - she spent her time with me working at the kitchen table, bossing the cats around, barking at the postman.⁠⠀
Earlier this year, I moved back into the Studio full time and she came with me. To begin with it was fine, she was mainly outside and the doors were open.  She spent her days lying across the Studio threshold and watching out for trespassing pheasants.⁠⠀
But now it is too cold to have open doors and I can't be bothered with constantly letting her in and out, so she is a full time studio dog, curled up on the chair by the stove.⁠⠀
She very clearly finds it “boring, boring, boring” and thoroughly disapproves of both my music and the lack of biscuits. ⁠⠀
Now that we are in the season of mud I am spending most of my time looking up.⁠⠀
Birds stripped the orange rowan berries within a couple of days, but these yellow ones were still hanging bright against the grey.

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.


Learn more about why here