I’m not long back from a week with my family down in Whitstable, Kent. Down in south east England the berries are just starting to ripen and the leaves to turn and fall, but despite these hints of autumn the days are still warm and dry. Up north in Scotland, it has been autumn for a while now, with high winds buffeting the weather from downpour to sunshine in the space of minutes. The ground is laden with rusts, reds, browns and yellows, and I have been busy, both with my professional academic work and with dyeing, knitting and felting inspired by the changing season.
I used the autumnal colours from my dyeing experiments late last year and early this year to make a scarf-come-mantlepiece decoration, made from knitted leaves.
Lots of the natural dyeing I’ve done recently has turned out in autumn colours.
Clockwise from top left: mixed crottle lichens; parmelia lichn; usnea lichen; brazilwood; onion skins; hard fern; evernia lichen. Centre: acorns.
I’ve always been experimenting with the dyestuffs that autumn brings. I currently have a metric f***tonne (scientific term) of oak (leaves, branches and acorns) on the go, gathered from windfall after the gales we’ve been having recently. I’m experimenting with both oak as dyestuff on non-mordanted yarn, and oak leaves/twig and oak bark as a mordant.
Earlier in the month I experimented with berries properly for the first time, harvesting both brambles (blackberries) and elderberries. With both I soaked them in hot water with a bit of citric acid for a few days, before boiling and then straining and then dyeing with alum-mordanted wool.
Berry dyes are notoriously un-lightfast, but perhaps because I got pinks rather than purples (due to using not-quite-ripe berries) I haven’t found them to fade much, even when left on the window sill for a week. I did get the dramatic colour changes promised by an alkaline modifier: the pink turns to green and grey on elderberry and bramble respectively.
From top: mostly ripe elderberry; unripe elderberry; unripe elderberry modified with alkaline; unripe elderberry left in the light; bramble dipped in alkaline then re-skeined.
I have also knitted and felted lots of leaves and other autumn-themed pieces, which I’m planning to put up for sale on Etsy and will have photos for you soon.