A day to dye for

Great excitement as we paused to do some geocaching on the long drive home from NW Tasmania the other day. It was such a glorious day after all the wind we have had we just had to get out of the car and do a short walk near the Table Cape Lighthouse.

But not only was the day wonderful – right near the geocache a patch of Weld was growing . This is a dye used by the Romans to make yellow (probably even earlier, but I think the references can be traced at least that far).

I brought some stems home, unfortunately the flowers were only just forming so the plant is a bit young for getting the best colour and definitely no seeds for me to plant some at home.

However, into the dye pot it went

I brought it up to simmering point then turned off the heat and let it steep until cool (overnight). Strained the dye out the next day and added an unmordanted pre-wetted skein of handspun. I brought this up to simmering and again let it steep overnight.

It’s not quite the yellow I imagined but there are so many variables involved it’s hard to make any conclusions – I think I’d start an analysis or long-term experiment with the season picked and then introduce some mordants.

But what is so exciting about this whole episode is that there is Weld growing in Tasmania. Our incredibly strict quarantine laws about bringing in plant material had left me thinking I’d never be able to experiment with these ancient dyes (except purchased in tincture or powder form). Now I just have to find some of this slightly closer to Hobart.

Note: For members of geocaching.com the cache is Cliffhanger

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