Spring is gradually turning everything into green on Arran this week! After sunshine and some very heavy downpours every shade of green is emerging in the hedgerows, in the trees and in the gardens. Knowing that I use a lot of green fleece in my felt pictures I felt this was the time to experiment with some of the spring flora and fauna to find a good natural dye to give me some green fleece.
I have had success and failures!
My first experiment has been with wild garlic
Swathes of garlic in Glenashdale are filling the air with the deep pungent garlic aroma ... I was sure this would give me a good spring green. Having simmered some garlic for quite a while my studio smelt more like a kitchen that art studio, but alas while the dye bath looked luminous green, this transferred to the fleece as a bright yellow ... a nice yellow but not a green!
My next target was some purple sprouting broccoli.
We had some growing in the garden and until quite recently have been adding some spears to various mixed vegetable dishes. I had noticed that whenever I cooked the purple sprouting shoots the water turned a rich green - so surely this would give me a good green dyebath. The plants that were left in the garden have gone to flower in the last couple of weeks so I harvested some of the plants: purple sprouts, leaves and flowers and gentle simmered them in the dye pot. Sadly this also produced a nice yellow fleece - but not a hint of green!
So still on the search for greens, my eye was drawn to some seaweed on Whiting Bay Beach ... it was such a vivid green I was sure I would get a good dye from it.
Here it is simmering away in the dye pot. I had read in a book about natural dyes that it could take several hours of simmering to extract any dye, but several days later where I had simmered it every day for a couple of hours, the green was still very much in the seaweed and no colour in the dye bath. I accepted defeat!
Now I had read that the best time to harvest nettles was in the spring and to just pick the tips - so armed with thick gloves I carefully selected the very best nettle tops that Arran can provide!
They simmered down nicely and the dye bath looked promising, but no matter how long the fleece soaked and simmered in the dye bath all I got was a pale grey / olive green. It is quite a useful shade for my increasing palette of naturally dyed fleece - but it is not a spring green!
So my next target - again guided by a book, I nipped the curls off the tips of the new bracken that is unfurling in the hedgerows and in swathes up on the hills.
I knew as soon as the colour started to leach into the dyebath that this was never going to give me a green ... the deep rust coloured dye bath was picking up the colour from the stems and not the bright green of the leaves.....
It has given me another sand colour which is quite similar to the comfrey dye that I achieved last autumn... still looking for a green though!
My last attempt for the month of April had me honing in on the fresh growth of cowparsley ... the new growth looked such a lush green I had very high hopes!
The dyebath quickly developed into a deep deep green, I let it simmer for a while, but I dont think it needed much heat as the colour developed so quickly, and when the fleece went in it took the colour almost immediately. I left the fleece in for 24 hours, but it had already developed a mid green within a few hours. This is the fleece that I achieved after 24 hours.
A lovely rich green and one that adds another dimension to my colour palette...but I am still checking out other green possibilities as I like to have a selection of greens to blend in my pictures so I am hoping I find some more sources! #naturaldyes #plantdyes