Category Archives: hand dyes and ecoprints

Rhubarb Pie

Guaranteed not to add calories, or go bad in shipping.

Or give you the runs 🙂 (Remember being dosed with it as a kid for spring tonic?)

rhubarb pie 14 packs available, in the shop now.


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Posted by on November 2, 2015 in FybreSpace, hand dyes and ecoprints, rhubarb root


continuing a love affair, and a book review

Apparently “exhaustion” in the dyepot ain’t happening yet with the rhubarb root! I keep throwing things in, and getting results, and will continue until there is nothing left. Being frugal means using EVERY drop.  I may seem i’m obsessing, but if you live in an area where winter means NO fresh plant materials, you do what you can as long as you can before the yard is elbow deep in that white stuff. And make lots of notes in the Big Dye Journal. I also suspect that because there is still so much colourant left in the pot, that storing it for “future” use would be a smelly, funky, moldy endeavour! (The only plant material dyebath i’ve successfully strained, decanted and stored is walnut. You don’t want to know what was living in there with tansy, goldenrod, eucalyptus and even madder……. store dry plant materials only, not the dyebath!)

This is the colour i’m still getting, even after all the other chunks i’ve pulled out:

dyebath still going strong

I didn’t get prints from leaves on this, because rhubarb is a substantive dye, like walnut and indigo. It bonds with every fibre and just doesn’t let anything else in.  You *can* overdye, post mordant and post modify it, but leaf prints, not so much. That being said, it’s a great way to build pattern when the ecoprint dyepot has mordant in it also that shifts the colour.

This was my first experiment in that effort:

overdyes and ecoprints 1 rhubarab root

The left was layered with tansy and artemesia leaves over rhubarb root dye, and the right with wild currant over brazilwood over rhubarb root, all the leaves still reasonably plentiful in this season if i look at south slopes along the river where it’s warmer. Very pretty with the mottling of colour shift due to the iron in the ecoprint pot, but no clear definition of leaf.

The second piece was done with Grevillea leaves, brought home as dibs and dabs from the fffFlower Mines.

grevillea on rhubarb

grevillea on rhubarb detail

I did a few other tests, but won’t show the results, as they are pretty much all the same effect. Few “prints” but great resists! I like the subtleties of colour in these, rather vintagey, but will probably overdye some of them again!

All of these are silk (protein), as cotton (cellulose) is lousy for this plant material (rhubarb root), though when i have fresh root again, i will try with alum and tannin pre-mordants. I still have the same amount as i used, in a dried form, but that will be saved for “drought times” ie the dead of Winter!

In the meantime i have been stitching away on my current large work, and will show pics in progress soon.


There’s a difference between making potions that are mad riots of colour and pattern that won’t last, and then there are potions that are all of those things because you knew what you are/were doing. I say “potions”, because i have never seen so many things in too many cases tossed into one pot, for one dubious result! There’s SO much “information” out there that is just plain WRONG. “Tutes” are being written, classes given (some with hefty price tags), myths perpetuated, and stubborn or blithe willful ignorance passed on to others……..The ABSOLUTE worst i saw on one site though was the blogger who wondered WHY she shouldn’t use the same pots for dyeing as for cooking for her family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  NEVER assume that because it’s “Natural” that it’s also “Safe”. (Go ahead, Honey, that’s Darwinian Karma then, but so sorry about the kids.)

Invest in a good book, an actual book written by someone who knows what she (he) is talking about, someone who has tested, experimented, sometimes failed and in the end, surpassed with many years of intense study and research. My Bible for natural dyeing is Jenny Dean’s “Wild Colour”, and i also use any book by Karen Diadick Casselman, J.Liles, or Dominique Cardon. (By the way, if you want an incredible book on indigo, check out the King’s latest, John Marshall’s “Dyeing with Fresh Leaf Indigo”–it’s a limited edition and *only* $450US……I WISH.) And if you can’t afford the others, more reasonably priced ;), well, what’s the library for??????? Use the Inter-Library search if you can’t find it locally.

I ordered a copy of “The Modern Natural Dyer” by Kristine Vejar, and while it is clear and correct, it’s mostly about dye stuffs one would have to buy as extracts or roots/leaves, etc from a distant supplier, with only a few plants that could be grown deliberately in your garden. There ain’t no madder, osage or pomegranates growing in *my* backyard! It’s detailed, with information on mordants and methods, but not as comprehensive about (wild) plants as Jenny Dean’s is. My biggest complaint about the book is all the “projects”. If you can’t figure out that wow, you can actually MAKE things from dyed fibres, whether yarn or cloth, well……i have no interest in pages of knitting info or cute for children. It IS a good book, it’s not a “kitchen scrap” book,  it is researched, well written and photographed, and clearly a passion of the writer, but i still recommend my JD Bible as THE best for my purposes, and the one i recommend most to people who throw vinegar on everything, or expect magenta from dandilion roots, and who insist that spinach, roses and grass will dye fabulously. Honestly, as good as it is, i shouldn’t have bought it, as i learned nothing new or in more depth. That being said, if it had been the first book i saw on the subject, it would have been a very good start, piqueing my interest.


winter dye preps, and mordant use

Time is of the essence now in collecting plant materials! We have been blessed so far with few and only light night frosts, and some of my favourite “go-to” plants for ecoprinting materials are still clinging to their leaves. It’s been a strange year though for flowering and seasonal changes–in late September, i saw an ornamental crab apple puffing pink near ACAD, and just this week, was delighted and a bit disturbed also to find a lilac blooming *now* one street over!


The little house next to ours will be torn down this coming week–probably tomorrow–leaving ours as the oldest now on the block (103 this year!!!). I again went next door as the Ninja Gardener, though in full daylight and with none of the usual disguise, and dug up all of the rhubarb roots i could find, before the hole fills the space……..We have lots in our own yard, and i let them be except for the occasional pull of stalks for stewed fruit, or the leaves as a (boring) mordant, so why not “rescue” these? Everything will be dug up, mashed and carted away anyways when the monster machines get in there……..

I wanted in 2011 to try the roots as a mordant/dye and did this:

rhubarb roots drying to be used as mordant in natural dyeing

rhubarb roots drying to be used as mordant in natural dyeing

Well, if you dry them, they are a BITCH DIVA to slice, so i threw those ones out. I would have needed a band saw to get through that lump, and my fingers are worth much more than that than any dried root!

This time, i washed them off as much as possible and sliced them up—-easier than carrots when fresh!

rhubarb roots rough and rawThe slices are gorgeous!

sliced rhubarb rootInterestingly, when sliced, the odour of these is reminiscent of alder, a fragrance i remember vividly when i lived in Bowen Island BC and had to chop for the wood stove!

I’m pretty sure that the older roots are showing the colour precursor–in fact when i washed the soil off, my sink was full of a gold liquid! Hope i didn’t wash most of it out! The younger/newer roots didn’t have that colour ring, and someday it might be interesting to test that theory. For now though, most of these were old roots, and all will be used in one pot.

rhubarb new root and old root comparison

I’ll be using half of them immediately, and will dry the other half for another time.

rhubarb roots all choppedUsing Jenny Dean’s recipe (from Wild Colour), i hope to get different shades! “Rhubarb root is a very useful dyestuff, more suitable for animal, rather than vegetable, fibres, & it can be used both with or without a mordant. Used with colour modifiers, it gives shades ranging from yellow & rust to pink, red-brown & green. It doesn’t seem to matter what species of rhubarb you use. ” At the very least, i will have pre-mordanted fibres to use.

I’ve been being more careful with the use of mordants period lately, or rather, actually using them (!)–yeah yeah, alum before, but now the others as well— and have had good results on silk thread in brazilwood. I couldn’t replicate the original soft pink i got from birch bark a few months ago, so thought why not try some soda ash in there–well, the colour bloomed in the jar, but not so much on the thread!

birch with soda ash

birch with soda ash

BUT, dipped in the brazilwood, there is a difference in colour uptake and that’s good results in building the colour range. Left, alum mordanted only, right the above birch mordanted, both done at same time in same dye bath:

alum and birch mordanted silk in brazilwoodBirch is (obviously) a tannin pre-mordant, so we’ll see how the longevity of colour is.

EDIT: i’m rather disheartened by so many who don’t know the difference between a mordant and a modifier, two separate entities, though a mordant can shift colour as iron does. Found this link on tried and true Griffin Dyeworks


Posted by on October 18, 2015 in dye experiments, hand dyes and ecoprints


a compendium of miscellany………

foodie photo garden bountySalad last night with everything from our garden–i never thought i’d be a foodie fotografer…….. 🙂 Arugula, bull’s blood beet greens, cukes, carrots, romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, green onions, snow peas and green beans.mmmmmm

Inspiration underfoot, from the bathroom rug:

inspiration underfoot


New ecoprint experiments, working out the bugs 🙂 These two are mine:

drama reverse


And these two are in the shop:

equinox 1

equinox 2

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Posted by on September 21, 2015 in FybreSpace, hand dyes and ecoprints, Jam Days


The Pragmatic Prairie Woman’s Ecoprinting Companion

Having just returned on Monday from Regina Sask, where Karin and i taught another 3 day spin on the Stitch Combo Extreme workshop, i thought i’d share some of the results and the thoughts that came with this experience.

The title of this post *could* be one of those old treasured almanac style chapbooks! Of the 10 participants, only the organizer had any experience with ecoprinting (my half of this workshop), so it was wonderful to teach people who had no preconceptions, no expectations, no airyfairyness and were all open to whatever happened.  Pragmatic indeed, in deed, questions were logical and honest, note taking was detailed and precise, and the teacher held nothing back 🙂

We used local plant materials only: nothing from any flower shop was there. I myself had been tempted to bring silver dollar euc, being a floral designer in the “day job”, but with both a luggage space limit, and a desire to show and prove the results of geocentric flora, decided against it. Work with what you’ve got, because part of the eco-conscious mindset IS/SHOULD BE how much of the carbon footprint you are leaving. Yes, Karin and i flew there, so that counts against us if you’re a purist, (and i took the bus to and from the airport in Calgary!) but we kept that footprint small as possible with locally sourced materials. We do not, will not, should not fly all over the world and expect eucalyptus to be handy wherever we are, as beautiful and as predictable as the results are. Quite frankly, in MY opinion, euc has become rather boring; everyone uses it, most have to have it from a florist which means it’s more than likely imported, and because it is predictable, what are you really learning? I’m thankful the discovery was made and shared, but let’s adapt and move forward to what is around us.

AHEM. Lecture and politics over.

As suspected, certain plants being widespread over the Canadian Prairies, they give rather much the same ecoprinting results. (Saskatchewan, for those of you who are not familiar with Canadian geography, is Alberta’s right door neighbour.) And as i suspected, my nemesis tree, Acer negundo (Manitoba Maple is what we called it where i grew up), what i also call the “Weed Tree” due to its forceful nature, still does not print. So scratch it off the list–i made everyone throw it out. It’s not even useful as a resist leaf. No point in wasting time or energy.

What did work? Red (Osier) Dogwood, oak, maple, rose varieties, crane’s bill variants and geranium geranium types :), peony, lady’s mantle, russian sage. Most of these *are* garden plants. I would like someday to experiment more with “country” plants, native and indigenous, though the days of “pure native diversity” are probably over with seeds and roots spread readily by purpose or by accident. One can only be so geographically, ecologically, maker aware Politically Correct!

And OH MY, am i jealous! This group (Regina Stitchery Guild) has DEDICATED space at the Neil Balkwill Centre!  There are also setups in other rooms for jewellers, photographers, and it also hosts the Art Gallery of Regina. The building has showcases everywhere, white wall gallery space, and an inner courtyard. Just wonderful!!!

Below is the common area for the “wet crafts”–if you look at the doorway there, you can see down the hallway to a closed door that is actually their space alone with library and archives space also.


The kitchen is shared with the painters studio (behind Karin in the photo below).


We “built” the pot as we went. I’ve seen photos from workshops where all the results were *immediately* dramatic–it just ain’t so. That “soup” that gives the flavour to the ecoprints has to be added to and is every time you add bundles. Ours started with tap water, alum and some rusty water–and transparency dictates that i let the participants know EXACTLY what is in the pot to begin with and what gets added to with each subsequent use. (I’ve heard of workshops where the teacher was somewhat secretive about the contents. HOW can you learn then to make your own outside of the workshop? Some i suspect had a bit of gin or vodka thrown in…..) As the pot gets used, there are natural pigments leaching from plant materials, tannins, minerals, the alum added, the rusty water for iron, bacteria, and no doubt some insect poop too 😉







Corally pink colour imparted to background by using commercially dyed silk dupion as the second layer:


Coleus, geranium species, russian sage below:


Lucky lucky–cotinus grows in Regina!!!!

6regDependable rose leaves:


Below, from the first “rolling” photo above, look at the coleus imprint! We don’t know if it’s light or wash fast, but sometimes that’s the fun discovery part.


I myself got greener and “teal-ier” results from the red osier, below:



And a startling yellow from the local maple! Not sure which variety it was, i usually get only dark colours at home:


Interestingly enough with that yellow, one participant noted that her less expensive, lower thread count cotton worked better for that result than the higher priced, higher thread count cotton i gave her!


Pinks from a Prunus variety mixing into the osier :


The ubiquitous onion skin, combined with Amur maple and a squiggle of steel wool:



Onion skin does give predictable results, no matter where you are or what you do with it, but i am hesitant to use a lot of it due to its unpredictable fastness.


Below,, a little Body English to roll tightly 😉


We talked about mordants, when and where to use them, modifiers, adding natural dyes, deliberate design in layout, practicing Salvage Botany and responsible disposal of both plant materials and the pot itself (gawdz forbid i should ever throw mine out!).

Karin and i traded off time teaching our respective parts of the workshop so that as many bases were covered as possible! While bundles cooked, she led them through “abusing” their machines.( It was amusing that the lender of the machine didn’t quite understand WHY we would WANT to loosen the bobbin tension so much, as the machine would not “work properly” then……Karin educated him 🙂 )

st and eco 1

st and eco 2

st and eco 2b

st and eco 3

st and eco 4

We are both quite pleased with the response and the results from this class–all the participants were enthusiastic, involved and many are looking forward to continuing their explorations with both techniques taught. We had a delightful time: Regina is beautiful, the company was excellent and the memories will last a long time! Thanks to Leann for organizing this and bringing us in, and thanks to the Regina Stitchery Guild for hosting us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by on September 16, 2015 in hand dyes and ecoprints, not so ordinaries, Workshops


5th Anniversary Sale!

I just realized it’s been 5 years since i started my fascination with natural dyes, ecoprinting and natural processes! To honour that, and my loyal and wonderful customers, i am announcing the 5th Anniversary Sale—-use the code 5Nat and get 20% off!!!

I’ll add more as listing space allows, sale ending either on Sept 17th, or when stock runs out. Sale does not include already “on sale” items 😉

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Posted by on September 2, 2015 in FybreSpace, hand dyes and ecoprints


mine and yours, more in the shop

I’ve added a few more pieces to the shop, detail photos below.

asemic brocade detail

bubble bubble b

cotillionus detail

open mandala 1b

totem detail

brocade writing detail 1

And i can’t wait to start my own stitching on these:

mine ]



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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in dye experiments, FybreSpace, hand dyes and ecoprints