Welcome to Lydia McCauley's Garden of Simples Blog

The highest reward for a person's toil is not what they get from it, but what they become by it. - John Ruskin

Lydia McCauley and Kurt Scherer are owners of STONEHOUSE ARTIFACTS, offering Treasures from Colonial India. Online Here.

Our shop is located in Bellingham, Washington. We welcome you to come and visit our small estate, enjoy the grounds and share a cup of Chai.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Capturing the last of Summer, a Goldenrod Dye Pot

A friend and I spent the day doing a Dye pot, that is dyeing wool from natural plants. We gathered goldenrod and tansy, those ochre-gold pungent herbs that bloom late in the summer season. It's a joy to pick them, to smell them, and then to stuff them into old pantyhose and drop them into a canning pot of hot water to steep. The hardest part was finding the old pantyhose - it's been a while since I've worn them. We let the water boil. Marya commented that it looked like we were trying to make Haggis. Indeed, the little stuffed britches full of botanical matter resembled what I've seen but never tasted of that Scottish...umm...delicacy.

We began by washing the wool with gentle soap, taking care to use lukewarm water at first, then adding more hot gradually. We added some borax to soften the water and let the wool sit in the bath for a spell. We had to mordant the wool with aluminum sulfate and cream of tartar. This took about an hour of simmering heat on the stove. It looked like noodles cooking. We poked it, but never stirred. Wool doesn't like to be agitated or to have an extreme change in temperature. I don't either for that matter.

It was time to add the wool skeins into the haggis pot. One by one we fished them out and in. They caught the color almost instantly. We cooked them for over an hour. They gradually grew to a deep yellow.

It was getting on in the day so we decided to rinse them in a clean pot of hot water and added a slight bit of vinegar to set the color. The rinsing seemed to fade the color just a little, which was sad. We hung the skeins outside on a stick between two chairs. It's important to dry them in the shade, so that's what we did. To our delight, the yellow seemed to brighten as the skeins dried. It's the color of late summer and I like it.

Marya is going to knit a blanket for her lovely boy, Kristijan. I wound my yarn up and put it in a basket, along with other yarn dyed from previous summers. It will eventually become someone's scarf. Someone who might enjoy the sight and fragrance of summer's end during the cold grey of winter.