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

Garden Reclamation

We’re being given a hand with the garden from a friend – at least from her eldest son (15) and one of his friends too. As she delicately put it – ” Jill, you need all the help you can get!” If I only I could be sure she was only talking about the garden 😉


I haven’t had much time to use the waste material for food/ herbal/dye experiments but there’s plenty of biomass of all the types still there to work with.

Plans are afoot to move ferrets and sheds to various places in the garden so we can put in another outbuilding that will house more choccy related stuff . As I’m travelling to the kitchen a lot it makes sense to bring it closer; it  avoids rent, reduces travelling time and fuel costs. The outhouse where the chocolate will go is already there but there’s not a lot of room in it and I’ve found that dehydrators and chocolate making don’t work well together, so the new ‘lodge’ will have wet stuff – oven,stove, dehydrators etc in it to prevent over heating and humidity issues with the chocs. At least that’s the plan….

So to work on garden, hacking, cutting, slashing, managing teenagers (deep sigh), actually, to be fair, the friend’s son is pretty good and reliable, the friend, mheh, not so much…

IMG_4252 Uncovering nice things loitering with lack of intent . I’d forgotten this was here!

IMG_4253 this area has a surprising amount of good quality raspberries in amongst the willowherb and nettles, so I plan to grow soft fruit here when it’s all done.


IMG_4251 Stumps still to be dug out but at least we can see where it is now, sans nettles. Sycamore are incredibly fast growers that latch onto any place to grow. Pests.


IMG_4254 Cleared area, just about ready for levelling. Bricks, hardcore and sand are now in bags there ready for a good flat base for the ferret cages – basically chicken coops – they have good bedding, hutch and run around space for them!

IMG_4256  IMG_4257 Snowberry gone completely riotous! All needs hacked back.

The area ( pictures above)is going to have a stair/decking/style arrangement so we can get into the top bit of garden. It’s all steep and built on a hill. My fantasy is permaculture based gardening schemes up here. It’s a mass of sycamore over the wall and if we took it out it would erode the hillside, so trying to think of ways of working with it…answers or ideas freely welcome!

It was very wet today so the boys decided not to come over – then it cleared up and I ventured out when it was drier – only to hurry back in less than an hour later with Cowdenbeath’s version of a tropical rainstorm. It has been very muggy and humid around here today.

IMG_4261 monsoon season!

More development to come – I really want the outhouse ready and yard cleared so we get the okay from health and hygiene – lots to still do, and I want to play with the plants and experiment re dyeing with them. What I’d like to do is to make a book out of the garden itself to chart it’s progress and the process…

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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