We have warmth and sunshine on Arran! While we endured a cold and wet May, June has certainly brought the island alive and it is especially evident with the colours in the fields, hedgerows and hillsides.
I am especially fond of cornflowers and am loving watching the blue heads swaying gently in the warm breeze... these are the cornflowers that I am growing at the Arran Community Land Initiative above Whiting Bay.
Of course, cornflowers flourish best if the waning flower heads are removed and so I have been collecting the flowers for a week or two and this week tried making a dye bath with the flower heads. By gently bringing the flowers to a simmer and then leaving them to soak in the water I got a lovley blue dye bath, but sadly the colour did not transfer well to the fleece - I have a very pale greeny blue from a 24 hour soak in the dye bath.
My next attempt was to harvest the flowers from the iris that I have been growing at the ACLI. It wasn't a big crop, but I am working with small quantities of fleece in these experiments, so I had plenty.
With just the slightest touch of heat the most vibrant emerald green dye was released from the flower heads... I couldn't believe the strength of the colour.
But after soaking the fleece for 48 hours, hardly any colour adhered to the wool. I tried mordanting some fleece with alum (I have tried to avoid any additives where possible) but even this did not help the colour transfer so I have another pale green blue batch of fleece.
The rosemary was flourishing in my herb garden so that was the next focus of my attentions. I love the arome of rosemary and as I heated the leaves in the dye pot the most wonderful smell of rosemary filled the studio (almost to the point of being over powering - I had to heat this with the door and windows open!) Given that the rosemary leaves are a deep green almost with a hint of blue, I was very surprised to see the dye bath water turn a deep red
But when the fleece was added to the pot and the dye bath heated again, the red turned to a green/grey - a useful colour for my palette, but a surprise!
Finally I decided to try the flowers from some of the foxgloves that are growing just about everywhere at the moment - in hedgerows, open fields, gardens, between rocks and even on a cliff face!
I have been careful to harvest flowers from the lower part of the stem so that the new flowers continue to grow, but there are so many stems of foxgloves everywhere it didn't take long to harvest a large bowl full.
Once heated the flowers release a strong pea green dye which transferred readily to the fleece with no need for mordant, in fact although I heated the dye bath I think the dye would have worked its magic in a cold dye bath.
The resuting pea green fleece is one of my favourite colours so far.
I am still experimenting with the summer plants on the island to see what other colours I can add to my palette. but my focus is now turning towards ideas for a piece of art produced from the locally sourced and locally dyed fleece, so I am seeking artistic inspiration over the coming weeks. I will share the next stage of this project with you soon!