I am still at a very early stage on this project. So far I have been reading loads of books and articles, searching the internet and picking the brains of some friends (who are way ahead of me!). I am starting to get an idea of what might (and might not) work as a natural dye source. I have got hold of some Arran fleece (I will share this with you in a separate blog) and I decided that I should jump in and try some very small scale experiments. As it is autumn there are so many hedgerows with an abundance of autumn fruits, so I thought I would check out the hedgerows close to me and just see what they might offer.
I live in Whiting Bay (that's Whiting Bay in the photo!) which is a small village on the Isle of Arran (on the West Coast of Scotland). The road that I live in is a single track road that heads steeply uphill from the beach and soon becomes a narrow lane passing through fields and eventually leads up into the Glenashdale forest. I explored the hedgerows just a few hundred metres from my house and was surprised to discover so many potential dye materials growing so close together.
There are so many berries ripening at the moment: Blackberries, Hawthorn berries and Elderberries, lots of wild rosehips and I even spotted a wild St Johns Wort growing up through the brambles.
When I felt pictures I only use small amounts of fleece so I am happy to be working on small quantities of fleece as I get started. This also means that when I am foraging for plant materials I am only taking small amounts and leaving plenty for the birds and red squirrels!
I have made a personal commitment not to use chemicals on this project so I may find that some dyes will not take to the fleece, but I have been soaking some fleece in a mix of water and soya milk to prepare it for the dye bath. My first experiment was to gently simmer some elderberries to create a dye bath. I left a small amount of fleece in the dye bath overnight and these are my before and after photos::
I am loving the range of deep pinks that have taken ... I can imagine using these colours to capture the colours of sea pinks by the shore or fox gloves in the hedgerows. I feel I am off to a good start!