A Coreopsis Opportunity

A couple of weekends ago WAFTA (http://www.wafta.com.au) was invited to an Open Garden in Victoria Park here in Western Australia.  The organisers had the foresight to ask us  to complement the beautiful garden beds with demonstrations of how fabric can be enhanced with plants.  Several of us went on both days and had a ball boiling and steaming our fabrics with the materials we had collected (no, NOT from the gorgeous garden!).

Visitors were surprised to see how much colour can be wrangled from plants such as onion skins, Eucalyptus sp. leaves and purple carrots.  I wonder if any will try it themselves?  Probably not. One of the common comments made to me was “I am so looking forward to retirement!”.  I completely understood this; my textile output was quite limited when I worked full-time.  It’s quite limited now, as a matter of fact, but that’s because…[insert excuses here].

I came home from that garden with a small bucket of dried coreopsis flowers that had been boiled up in a pot.

My work coreopsis image

What the coreopsis flowers look like before they are picked and dried. Photo from https://www.thespruce.com/growing-and-using-coreopsis-in-the-flower-garden-1402839

Well, the above was a long-winded introduction to the next short piece.  Yesterday afternoon  I suddenly rose, newly energised,  from the couch after a long dreary  weekend  with a “lurgie”.

I assembled a small bucket of vinegar water, the aforementioned bucket of coreopsis, four torn pieces of silk fabric and assorted plant matter, principally some purple carrot and various species of  Eucalyptus leaves which had been soaking in water for the past two weeks.  Each piece of silk was first soaked briefly in the vinegar solution. I made four parcels of fabric plus plant matter, spraying half of each piece with iron water and folding it over the top of the plant matter like an iron blanket and then tying the bundles tightly together with either string or between tiles.  Two of the bundles had onion skins added to the mix; the remaining two contained purple carrot and eucalyptus only. In addition to the iron present in the sprayed-on iron water, some of the tiles were clamped with what I call “bulldog clips”, which of course contain metal and rust easily after even one use in a dye bath.

After one hour simmering in the coreopsis bath the fabric bundles were left overnight to cool before being unwrapped, dried, then washed an ironed.

Here are the results:



Silk, purple carrot, red and brown onion and eucalypt wrapped tightly on itself and “cooked” for one hour in coreopsis bath


Silk, purple carrot and eucalyptus leaves folded and clamped between tiles and simmered in coreopsis bath for one hour.


Silk, purple carrot and eucalyptus leaves rolled on itself and tightly bound with string before being simmered for one hour in coreopsis bath.


Silk, purple carrot, eucalyptus leaves and red and brown onion skins folded into a small bundle and clamped tightly between tiles before being simmered in a coreopsis bath for one hour.

I have deliberately left plenty of the background play grey design board showing in the images to indicate how bright the colours are.

The surprising thing to me was that the pieces are so different from each other in tone when all went into the same pot!  Another curiosity is the lack of much yellow given the bath was a yellow one.  One of the above pieces shows some of the expected olive-green which is a product of the coreopsis and the iron but the others don’t even seem to show that.  I did notice that the rinsing stage yielded a lot of yellow in the rinse water.  That’s handy.

Finally, since I like to fussy cut these prints into larger pieces here are some details:





This entry was posted in dyeing with red onion, Eucalyptus cinerea as dye, Eucalyptus sp as dye, Iron mordant, Natural dyeing, purple carrots as dyes. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Coreopsis Opportunity

  1. lizarnold28 says:

    I was going to say which one was my favourite but I like them all.

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