Experiments and Play

Play is one way we learn, yes even as adults. While I love structure, I also find it fun to simply see what will happen. A few months ago, when I wrote about Journeys in Natural Dyeing, I also shared my plans for experiments and play.

It took longer than I expected to gather materials and then find the time and head space I needed to begin. I filled a bunch of 4 oz jars with items I’d foraged from my yard as well as a few spices. Then I placed them in our “NO FOOD” slow cooker (it’s great at stripping paint off hardware), added water, and waited. After a few hours I shut it off and let everything cool.

8 jars of foraged plant material in a water filled slow cooker
The first 8 jars of (mostly) foraged plant material from my yard.

The very first batch included the following: turmeric I ground from dried pieces, chopped avocado pits (I’ve been collecting them for months), chamomile tea I purchased at a store, chopped sage from the garden (it’s one thing I seem able to grow consistently), chopped marjoram from the garden (it’s abundant too), last year’s wild raspberry cane chopped up, overwintered rosemary, and in the center some ornamental grass I snipped up.

After it cooled, I realized I didn’t have a good method for straining the liquid. I also kept finding more things I wanted to try, so I kept going until there were no more jars I could fill!

Earlier this week I finally picked up a strainer and I now have 11 jars of different materials from wild raspberry cane to a jar crammed with rhododendron blossoms waiting for me to take the next step.

straining the dye liquids into new jars on a messy workbench.

Next Phase

The next step of my experiments and play is to convert some of the liquid concentrate to inks/washes and to dye some hand spun threads and yarn. While I wait for this year’s wild raspberries, I’ve been collecting things which would otherwise end up in my compost bin. There are also intense negotiations with my cats for some of their wheat grass.

Yes, I can refer to books that tell me how different materials will result in a natural dye (or not). I’m curious to learn what will happen and make my own discoveries. My notebook is filling with the observations I’ve made so far. Most entries are about how I want to do things differently next time.

So far, I have only spindle spun and chain-plied about 16 yards of mulberry silk. This morning I gave my wheel some quick TLC and began to spin some churro. There’s some mystery fiber I might work up too.

Long term goal

What is the long-term goal of this project? I want to have fun and try something different.

Will it lead to drastic changes here? Probably not. This sort of preparation is conducive to very small batch work.

Will it influence all my work? Definitely! I’m curious to see where this project takes me.


When was the last time you played?

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