Windfall Scarf workshop with India Flint

I’ve just spent a lovely weekend rummaging around in hedges, picking up plants and leaves, but not for my usual food foraging, but for plant dyeing.  The weekend course was run at my usual textile haunt up in Newburgh. Alison did her wonderful lunches catering to a variety of dietary needs, including a locally made gluten free bread, which is actually proper bread, and tasty! I really should take a picture of the lunches sometime, a wonderful buffet banquet 🙂 India provides a mix of words, teaching and practical work. We start by centering ourselves and making mixed poems with words and sentences we’ve all shared as a group.

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We made a Tsunobukuro  bag out of silk to hold our finished scarf in. The circles stitched on it are a mix of merino and silk knit and were cut out of the wool/silk knit tube that we were given. The bag is roughly translated as ‘horned bag’ because of the ‘ears’ or ‘horns’ that form the handles. There’s some lovely antique ones here .

IMG_5923 The lovely kit we were given; loose weave silk (which made the bag), silk and merino blend knit tube and a mix of different threads, little silk squares (to sew onto our bag) and silk threads, to embroider lines, words, or whatever came to us from our walks.

IMG_5936 India leading her ducklings to the park on a foraging mission. IMG_5938 Our embroidered silks decorating the local park

Once we’d collected some leaves we went down to the river where we daubed and decorated the would- be bags with oozing, thick, silky river mud. It took me some time to realise why all the bags smelt of brine – duh! that would be the estuarine river mud…


when we came back we folded the silk in half lengthwise and then folding from the middle outwards, we folded into either squares or triangles. Plant material was sandwiched between the folds and the top and bottom ‘clamped’ with aluminium squares and wrapped up in string or twine. India was great and gave us each a pair of the metal square to take away with us. The bundles were put in a a dye bath with windfall leaves, tea bags, onion skins and a mix of whatever we hadn’t used up.

IMG_5955Bundle ready to go in to dye bath

IMG_5957 just put in

The bundles were left to boil for 20 mins and then simmered gently before being turned off. It’s important not to lift the lid and let the steam out as it’s doing the work.

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The bundles were left to drain and cool before being tentatively opened. It’s like unwrapping a present, never sure what will work. In general the rose family gave good prints – Rose, Raspberry leaves, Bramble leaves, Rowan, Meadowsweet, Whitebeam, though I didn’t have too much luck with my Potentilla. The dark headed grass, and Buddleia gave very good results – not ones I had chosen, that’s what’s great about sharing experiences in a class or group, I get to learn from all the others too.

IMG_5973 IMG_5974 Rowan leaving an imprint

IMG_6013 Yellow from Buddleia

IMG_5926   IMG_6005  Nice colour from the reeds.

IMG_6012     Holey scarves hanging out to dry

I made the holes that we cut in the actual tube scarf too large and plan to sew most of them up again but I can see that it gives a good effect. They can also be used as armholes to create vests/ tank tops! No pics of those as mine looked very strange – I’ll see how it looks after some more stitching before I post a picture of it 😉

We also experimented dyeing threads and using water from different sources, in different pots and vats (one aluminium, the other a nice wee ‘jeely pan’, brass jelly pan for those not familiar with the term ‘jeely pan’.) This was very useful for me as I’ve got several different pans to cook up my dye baths in, but I’d forgotten how crucial the water component can be. Rain water, stream, or loch  water is good – try not to use tap water, the water there had a surprisingly  high pH (10!) and smelt chloriney. This will definitely affect the colours coming through as we want it to be fairly acidic for the animal fibres to open up their scales and take up the dye.

IMG_5959 Berberis berries (black ones) in brass jelly pan, threads wrapped round paper and left to steep.

IMG_5980 Threads drying, blue from Berberis in aluminium pan and different water. IMG_5988 Paper from threads, unwrapped and drying. Stronger colour was thought to be from higher Kaolin content in that paper.

Miscellaneous other pictures below – took about 100 in just 2 days! You’ll be relieved to hear this is just a sample of them 🙂 IMG_5975 unmade bags drying


IMG_6007St John’s Wort leaving small red dots, almost like stitches, the cluster of red is where the flower head was

IMG_6020 Maiden hair(?) Fern – you could even see where the spores were! IMG_6023IMG_5953IMG_5949IMG_5935 IMG_5963 IMG_5970


piecing brings me peace

I have had numerous dog related incidents with dye products (indigo, still gruesomely and indelibly etched in my memory!)  and fragments and samples that have been dyed.

To get the bits out of the dogs way (namely husky girl) I thought that rather than put them in an organised book (which would be sensible), I’d try to make something with them. Things, literally, came together. Husky girl tends to leave a trail of fur and destruction wherever she goes. On one day she left an old linen, hardbook covered book in tatters. I’m not sure what it is with the old books, but she and the spaniel both have occasional bibliophobic tendencies for the older hardbacks. My theory is that the old books utilised animal based glues to keep the spine, linen etc together, and this is what they smell out and kill, very effectively. The cover is normally ripped off, chewed to a greater or lesser extent, the flappy pages shaken thoroughly into submission and given a bit of a doing generally.

On this day I salvaged a somewhat chewed but relatively intact cover separated from it’s pages. It was dark blue linen with rather nice 1920’s-30’s stylized cover and edges for a book of children’s poems.

IMG_4231 opened out cover to see all of outside of sewing book

I found myself absentmindedly handling this and beginning to patch and piece together my dyed samples. I started using bigger pieces of fabric that would have almost covered the book, but found myself cutting up big pieces and distressing others, using smaller and smaller scraps at times.

The patched cover was pieced together off the book for the most part but started being stitched over the wadding and the book cover, encasing the hard, chewed cover.


It was meant to be a book cover for the cover but ended up covering it all. I thought what to do with this now – answer – a sewing kit book! It needed areas for pins, needles, scissors etc.

IMG_4212 wadded area for padding and pin cushion



Tees had old shirts that had been damaged by age, time, him or dogs and were being  ‘re-resourced’ at they say now. I decided to cut up one of the padded sleeves off of an winter shirt and stitched layers together to form a padded wadge.

I used felt samples from old projects that had been dyed in the past. I loved finding the mini kids waistcoat with the pocket – this became the scissors holder.

IMG_4214 upside down picture – pocket is the right way up! pleased with my ‘catch’ to keep them in 🙂

I haven’t finished yet, as I now want to stitch into the cover itself. New circumstances are arising and I need my pockets of peace. I find hand stitching brings me that peace, so there may be a heavily decorated wee sewing book at the end!


Pictures – showing a disturbing amount of dog hair on and possibly sewn into the samples and book!

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IMG_4219 Old buttons salvaged from things or found in the sewing box I inherited. This felt sample sewn down middle horizontally to give me 2 horizontal pockets – tape measure?

IMG_4221 This sample is a vertical pocket, holding buttons and a seam ripper


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Re-purposing the garden

Weedin’ Wednesday comes round quickly. I’ve been trying to pace myself as I find pulling up weeds hard on my hands, so it’s been little and probably not often enough for any noticeable difference. although the brown bin for compostables is full and there is a healthy pile of weeds sitting in the drive ready to go to compost recycling.


It all feels a bit of a waste. I thought that there must be something I can do with the weeds. So far in the area that I’ve been tackling the main weed varieties have been Rosebay Willow Herb  (Epilobium angustifoilium aka Chamerion angustifolium)and Nettles.

Rosebay Willow herb (RWH) is a stately plant with a striking  pink  cone of flowers. Tees rather likes it, so do I for that matter, however it spreads like wildfire, reminiscent of one of it’s other names ‘Fireweed’, as it has an impressive root spread and growth and a full head of cottony seeds that billow and spread easily.

So to find other uses for this invader.. I tried a variety of things today…

1. RWH tea – I tried a variety of leaves in different cups of tea. I tried young leaves in one teapot and older leaves in another. I know that they are quite astringent and that’s why you choose young leaves to eat in salads in Spring (note; this is Summer, perhaps the young leaves are still not young enough?) I’ve read about them being used as a drink and with the tannins thought they might be relatively ‘tea-like’… No. Both cups of tea were strongly Green tasting and not very pleasant. If I thought I was getting a great deal of good out of them I might persevere, but while it may help with diarrhoea (which I don’t have) and may help with a respiratory condition (thankfully nope again to that) there are plenty of others that I would go to first.


2. A syrup from the flowers. In one word…Ugh! I gently heated up several racemes of the flowers and got a beautiful tinted infusion, strained it, tried it and thought it tasted revolting. Undaunted I thought a bit of lemon juice might help and went on to make a syrup by adding equal amounts of sugar to the infusion. Nope, still revolting.



3. Using the canes from last years stems. This works pretty well if you use the really sturdy ones. They are lighter than bamboo, and still quite strong due to the hollow nature of them. I put them around my young sweet pea plants for support. We’ll see how they last in the weather away from other stems to protect them.

4. Dyeing. I tried dyeing a paper bundle a la India Flint using the RWH and a few other plants I picked from the wilderness that is the front garden. The paper worked surprisingly well and coped with the saturation and steaming process, which I wasn’t sure it would. It was a pretty standard water colour paper.


IMG_4163 A good way to use up herbs past their use by date too – just throw them in for good measure!

Unfortunately, my weight arrangement wasn’t great and so the bundle didn’t stay effectively clamped. It was a proper bodge job as I hadn’t thought I was going to do this, it just sort of happened and so didn’t have all the kit and caboodle required.

IMG_4165Impromptu wight arrangement, oops, no disrespect intended.

I got nice tints to the paper but no prints. I know I can get them as I managed before on the workshop. Ah well lesson learned.


The seeds aren’t ready yet but they can provide tinder for fire lighting, and the inside of the stems has fibre that can be dried and used as tinder too, though there are easier sources.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARWH leaves giving a good print on India’s workshop. The flowers didn’t and were hard to seperate from the paper as the mucilage in the flowers became more glue like.

All in all a good day for experiments, tho’ not many were overly successful. The books definitely make RWH sound much more appetising than it actually is, though I have eaten the young leaves fine in Spring. I don’t plan on keeping lots of it around as a salad crop or plant supports.



Large Garden of Horrors!

Instead of Little Shop of Horrors with one large ‘weed’, I have a large garden of horrors filled with just about every pernicious weed native to this country. I know, I checked, and ‘pernicious’ was a quote from one of many RHS books!

In my infinite wisdom( like I don’t have enough to do!), I’ve decided to get the garden into some sort of order….this is a pretty big ask and task, in fact it’s a rest of my life project, never mind a 5 year plan.

My best fantasy is turn the garden into working space, in that I want it to have plants that I can use in the edibles and chocolates. I also want it to be medicinal where possible so that there are added benefits to the edibles. I want dye plants and plants that are good for insects, as I’d love to keep bees at some point.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA These 2 pics are of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) growing wild in garden. I want to keep this or grow it elsewhere as it’s a goodie.

The problem lies in that I have no time…which actually means that I’ve started this process before, cleared, fertilised, then not looked at it for ages, which means that I’ve given the best growth condition possible for , duh, duh, DUH….THE WEEDS. My weeds are architectural specimens, seriously, they’re taller than me by a long way!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Fancy Brambles and Berries spreading out and taking over. Honestly, it’s like the briar wall out of Sleeping Beauty, or for those less ancient, Maleficent, the new updated slant on the old Sleeping Beauty,I liked it for the record.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo put things in perspective, the bit of wall with the ‘hat’ on is my almost 6 ft gatepost, weeds, though raised a bit are waving up at the 8-10 ft level! Mainly Rosebay Willow herb, nettles, with generous smatterings of Ground Elder, unwanted young Sycamore and Willow!

An ecologist client saw the garden the other day with- in the Star Trek Next Gen words- “His eyes wide open”. His suggestion was agent orange, and bulldozers.

The problem is I feel it’s a challenge, the gauntlet has been thrown, it’s it – the garden, or me, mano a mano, planto a femano, as it were. But I don’t like to make things easy, I don’t want pesticides and weedkillers so it’s going to be a long hard slog of mulching and cutting back, so don’t expect pretty pictures for a long while! Just sayin’.


I also want to use what I cut back. I want to weave the willow and young saplings into wee hurdles and path edges. I want to try dyeing with the plant material and using as much of it as I can, if not going straight to mulch or compost.

I believe that  committing to writing it down here will make me commit to the process. I’ll keep you posted – how about Weedin’ Wednesdays!? (She says posting on a Thursday..)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmoss and mini gardens in the mono block

The plan is to work on one small space and project at a time. Wish me luck, I have the mission impossible theme music running through me head at this very moment.  I wish I could say I’m goin’ in now… but that would be a lie, I’ve got the birds to do before another dog walk, before doing  several clients in Edinburgh today….then I might be goin’ in..