Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

birch leaves

  • Summer Dyes

    The Red, Yellow, Blue project is about collecting the colours of the territory of rain, and I have compiled a long list of plants found in the garden, or the roadsides, that I’d like to dye. This week it was this one:

    I am not making friends with this weed. For all the yards and yards of sticky, bristly stems, it took me all day, and some very scratched-up arms (turns out I’m slightly allergic to the b*** thing) to collect enough roots. But when they were washed, they looked like this:

    Talk about spinning straw into gold! And after an hour simmering and straining, I got this:

    and added a skein of wool, and a square of old cotton sheet, and simmered again. This is the result:

    The other pot on the stove in the first picture is full of birch leaves. They were a lot easier to get, and I had a lot more, so there was a bigger square and two skeins of wool:

    The long one was was modified with vinegar which made it a bit brighter and lighter than the other one.

    It’s obvious by now that I have a lot to learn, not only about the dyes and the techniques (that would be a lifetime study!), but also the kind of skills that you’d think I would have learned by now – proper planning and preparation, having the kit ready (and organising your work space and storage afterwards), taking the time a good job takes, rather than just jumping in. But I’m slowly amassing a range of threads:

    and some interesting fabric in rather pale faded shades:

    Come the winter, I will see what I can make with them. I’m still thinking of some evocations of the birds of the territory, and maybe some of our weather. And the dialogue between hands and eyes is coming out in new writing. I have just written an outline of a new mixed genre project, and I’m so excited that I can hardly bear to get into it, in case it comes apart in my hands.

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