Thursday, October 13, 2011

out of the dye-pot: elder/bindweed

An elder leaf dye-bath was begun quite a while ago, around the time in August that Grace took out her first batch of elder cloth. This cauldron doesn't have a lid so the water level varied with the rains and was mostly on the dry side.

 Checking it after a few weeks, it first appeared that nothing had happened.

But there were actually some pretty interesting markings. Then I decided to re-dye with bindweed -- mostly because I have so much, you know.

Back into a different cast iron pot, one with a lid this time. I collected a pound of fresh bindweed, added water to cover, brought to a boil, and immersed the cloth.

The lidded pot sat outside for at least another month. When I took the lid off, I was immediately taken back to childhood farm memories, cattle specifically, if you know what I mean. Our herding dog loved it -- the smell, the taste, everything -- she ever-so-slowly tried to steal a particularly tasty piece of cotton.

The underlayer of plant matter was still green. And notice the bindweed is still growing nice and healthy through that sundial base.

Bindweed transfer a lovely golden hue. There's hardly a trace of the markings from the elder dye-bath though.

My hands smell really, really bad.


  1. I started laughing when you described the smell. Oh, how well I know that smell! The only thing that smells worse is silage from the canning of peas. I have had similar lack of results and keep reminding myself that those whose cloth I admire have been doing it for years. I have a pot of walnut going and one of rose hips. Next up are maple leaves and hansa rose petals. I always think of a crone over her kettle and maybe the problem is I don't know the correct incantation to impart the plant markings on the cloth. Don't give up!

  2. the smell is the only part of this process I dislike, but it's worth it and so much fun. love the markings on the cloth in that third photo.

  3. also laughing...don't you love those surprise markings that show up? & love that photo of the pot w/flowers beside it.

  4. Jeannie, you're so right, it does take time to learn this. I'm thinking that re-dying over and over until something happens is teaching me something -- on an inner level, maybe. I'd love to know what your results are, especially the rose hips. I've rolled them in bundles but haven't prepared a proper rosehip dyebath yet. Soon though as the eglantine rose is covered with them! I love the imagery of the crone over the dye-port. Love it, love it.

  5. Deanna, I just never realized that dyeing is such a smelly process! The plant material truly turns into green manure. I wish I would've set those markings somehow, maybe with heat, before I continued with the bindweed. Next time...

  6. Cindy, maybe we could look at it as dye-pot aromatherapy? Rubber gloves might be a good idea next time. This lasted all night on my hands, no matter how many times I lathered up. I'm going to try to remember to set the markings from each attempt before continuing with the next material.

  7. I have some nice thick rubber gloves. :) What I need to remember is to not leave the dye pots right by the front door!

  8. isn't it just a mystery how the
    supposedly same plant will do such
    different things in different places? i am mystified by Deb G's
    results. again, i wonder what's in
    my water??????
    anyway...liked very much reading
    your experience

  9. Grace, it really IS a mystery -- it's basically a non-dye for me with our water -- or maybe it's the soil and the leaves contain different minerals. I love your results, dye lots before you move! xo