Murraya paniculata- who knew??

Murraya paniculata, common name Orange Jessamine, is an excellent hedging plant.  A native of China and South-east Asia,  it is in several spots in my small garden because of its wonderful orange blossom perfume when in flower and its neat small dark green leaves when it’s not.

In pursuit of my experiments with natural dyeing, I bound some Murraya leaves in recycled silk (the unpicked “bias cut bow tie” of a silk blouse).  I brought a pot of mixed red and brown onion skins and water to the simmer and inserted the bundle of silk and Murraya in it for two hours.

Wishful thinking goes with the territory of dyers.  However, I did not predict the sensational green of the result. What a shame I didn’t collect the prunings when the hedge was manicured last week!

I actually did a ten bundle batch of garden material in recycled silk in the same pot.  More later.

Posted in dyeing with red onion, Murraya paniculata (orange jessamine) as dye, Natural dyeing | 5 Comments

Walking has its benefits

If I have to take my ageing legs for a walk I figure I might as well go somewhere interesting.  My current favourite destination right now  is the Bayswater wetlands, not far from my place.The wetlands are under threat from private developers but I hope soon that the State Government will wake up and protect them.  There is, after all, an election early next year.

As I walk I search the ground for fallen pieces of dye goodness.  Agonis flexuosa, lots of different eucalypts and unknown casuarina species are currently my flotsam of choice.

Long story short, my legs might weigh heavily on me  but my soul is in alt as I look at the results of steaming my “finds” in various weights of woven silk. A lovely record of my walk!

Posted in Eucalyptus sp as dye, Iron mordant, Natural dyeing | 2 Comments

Natural dyeing with local material

In her book Eco Colour, India Flint argues for collecting only fallen plant material for dyeing and using local plants as a record of “place”.


My view as I walked along the Swan River , with Belmont Racecourse on the other side

On my walk today in the local wetland and riverside park  I picked up a handful of fallen plant material from the ground.  Crispy and brown.


Three kinds of eucalyptus and some casuarina leaves, all fallen to the ground and dried

I soaked three pieces of silk in my iron water (undiluted white vinegar and lumps of scrap iron with a lovely three week old “crust”). I then laid the various found materials from today’s walk on each and bound them tightly around wooden rods with bandages and string.


Fine closely woven silk showing the tracery of casuarina leaves , two of the eucalyptus leaves and some faint gumnuts


All three silk pieces soaked in iron water and steamed for two hours with today’s locally collected material


Heavier woven silk patchily soaked in iron water with foraged eucalyptus leaves and casuarina needles 


Posted in casuarina dyeing, Eucalyptus sp as dye, Natural dyeing, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

More systematic natural dyeing


I love undoing bundles!



I am still going through Eco Colour by India Flint, finding I am open to so much more of her advice now that I have done a bit of bundling.This time I chose to look at two possible mordants.

The first was soursob (Oxalis pes-caprae) ++++ which I picked fresh and steeped in boiling water for fifteen minutes.




The second was my own iron water .  Young at five days old, it was made from a lump of rusty iron and neat white vinegar. It had a lovely orangey crust on it.

I resolved not to boil in a dye bath this time; instead I steamed the bundles for two hours.

Skipping straight to the results,  I found that the iron water substantially enhanced the printing of the eucalypts, the peppermint (Agonis flexuosa), the lavender and the rosemary compared with the oxalis steeped samples.  The latter were in fact a bit “bleh”. I’m wondering if this is the fault of the way I made the oxalis bath or if it is just that the oxalic acid levels in the soursob are low relative to those in rhubarb leaves.

None of this blog deals with the steaming of wool and plant material.  Those specimens are still drying.  Iron water considerably enhanced the printing of rosemary, however.



Previously dyed silk fabric rinsed in iron water and wrapped with peppermint, Euc. wandoo and unknown Euc. species leaves.


Previously dyed silk now steeped in fresh oxalis tea and wrapped with lavender- still uninteresting.



Previously dyed silk now steeped in oxalis tea and wrapped with fresh oxalis – still boring.


Previously dyed silk now rinsed in iron water and wrapped in peppermint leaves. Lovely strong design.


The outermost of three previously dyed silk pieces rinsed in iron water and wrapped in peppermint, lavender, oxalis and rosemary leaves.


The middle layer of a three piece bundle.


The innermost layer.  This is the darkest, suggesting that the iron migrates into the middle during steaming.

Posted in Iron mordant, Natural dyeing, Soursob mordant | Leave a comment

Natural and Local Dyeing


The recent WAFTA ( workshop given by Jane Flower ( revitalised my interest in dyeing with locally available plants.  I was lucky enough to be the facilitator for the workshop (not participating, just helping) and to have Jane stay with me.

One of the things Jane hammered home to us was safely.  The importance of good ventilation was key.

Anther principle was to experiment.  Don’t expect your tutor to have all the answers or to give them to you wrapped in a bow!  You have to experiment yourself to truly learn.

A third “pronouncement” was to pay attention to the advice of India Flint in her book Eco Colour.  According to Jane, if you really read it, everything is there for you.

So, armed with turmeric root from my local market, purple carrots and red cabbage from another greengrocer close to me, and other stuff, including kangaroo paw roots that no longer produce leaves in my own garden, I got stuck in to another round of boiling up.

I am lucky to have a few metres of various types, weights and weaves of silk fabric I bought in India earlier this year. I also have an old pink wool blanket.

My basic dye pot was tap water and avocado skins. Initially, bundles of silk and plant material were simmered for two hours in this.  Then I boosted the pH with some soda ash and ran more bundles through.The fabrics were otherwise not mordanted.


Wool blanket wrapped in kangaroo paw roots and tuber, turmeric root and purple carrot.


Silk bundled with purple carrot, and kangaroo tuber and roots


Murraya leaves clamped in silk and boiled in an avocado skin dye bath.

India Flint’s book is repaying my closer reading.  I am now going to explore some of the more prosaic plants in the garden. More importantly, I have found that boiling in pots of avocado skins with iron thrown in can be very deleterious to old wool blanket material. Post edit 27/9: India Flint points out that a ph greater than 8 is very harmful to wool.  The handful of soda ash I threw into the avocado skin pot will undoubtedly have made the pH way higher than 8 (after all, neutral is a pH of 7!)

My next blog will be about whether steaming might be a better way to treat wool.  It might even be a better way to get colour out of garden herbs!

Posted in kangaroo paw as dye, Natural dyeing, purple carrots as dyes, Turmeric as dye | 3 Comments

Scissor Humbug

In preparation for the start of the build of my studio, I have been cleaning up the little room that is so stuffed with “stuff” that I haven’t been able to  make anything in it for years.


A “before” photo

An upcoming “Garage Sale” event to raise money for WAFTA’s ( artist in residence program has encouraged me to donate things that were too good to throw away and thus might otherwise have been kept. One such  treasure is a box marked “Small Kits”. Tonight I got it down from the shelves and before putting it into the “WAFTA” pile just had a peek……it is full of  little kits that I’ve bought on the spur of the moment, convinced that they are so gorgeous that I would be making them up as soon as I got home….

Of course, I never did.  But wait, this little Scissor Humbug by Helen Dafter is going to be quick to make.  I’ll just do it while waiting for the chilli jam to set.


Celtic Scissor Humbug with Emery Powder by Helen Dafter

Don’t worry, there are plenty more untouched and complete kits in the box and I’m definitely putting them in the sale….


A selection of the scabbard, tassel, trapunto and other whimsical kits for the WAFTA garage sale


Posted in Kits, Studio planning and construction, WAFTA | Leave a comment

Juried exhibition: Twenty-one +

I was lucky enough to be included in the judges’ selection of works for Twenty-one Plus, the juried exhibition organised by WAFTA for its 21st anniversary.  See

I have to deliver my work, Family Tree, to the gallery tomorrow morning so I’m finalising its mounting  tonight. Tricky.  It’s a 3D work, designed to rotate from a central point and to show five “branches” of a family.  The WAFTA website has my explanation so I won’t repeat it here.  Suffice to say, after a consultation with the very friendly staff at, I have been threading several weights of fishing line and a swivel onto my work.  The wonderfully sympathetic guy at Tackleworld also gave me some clear plastic tubing to thread the fishing line through as he was worried that my perspex framework might have had rough edges that would chew through the fishing line.  How service oriented is that?

Anyway, here it is in my hallway.  Hope it looks as good in the gallery!





Posted in exhibiting, freeform crocheting, freeform knitting | 2 Comments