I thought I was finally immune. I thought my eco-dyeing days were behind me. After all, there's only so many eco dyed scarves you can make. And then I saw a pair of wool socks my friend Claire Mosley created. I wanted them so bad. I just had to make myself a pair (or three cos there's nothing like overkill and if you're going to fire up the pots, you may as well make a few bundles at the same time).
You all know my love of crafting with friends and creating in community; sharing skills, knowledge and ideas. It's the most inspiring way to make what you need and desire. So of course I had to share my triumphant return to eco-dyeing with my friend, Meli.
She brought along a string bag filled with leaves, berries and flowers from her garden. As well as a gorgeous scarf to dye that she had knitted herself from wool she had hand spun. I have such talented and creative, amazing friends. Truly lucky.
It's been a crazy busy couple of weeks so I didn't find the time to go foraging and pre soak leaves for our dyeing day. (Well to be honest, I didn't make the time either. I was more interested in sitting on the couch with a cup of tea, reading my latest book). Once Meli arrived I rummaged around in my box filled with eco-dyeing paraphernalia and pulled out a bunch of paper bags filled with dried leaves that past me had so thoughtfully saved. I had a beautiful collection of avocado stones, acacia pods, cinerea leaves, ornamental plum leaves, japanese maple leaves, pomegranate flowers and walnut shells. I refreshed them in a bowl of super warm water and crossed my fingers.
Into the base of my aluminium steamer we put cinerea branches, leaves and walnut shells for a reddy brown. In the huge stainless steel pot we added the whole tissue box of avocado stones plus the pomegranate skins I found in the freezer. Meli liked the purple I got from my avocado dye baths so I tipped in the last of my iron water without measuring it.
Once we got all the bits out we decided to go on a quick foraging walk down to the creek to see what we could find and then it was time for the bundling madness to begin. It seems so simple - laying out leaves on fabric, rolling it up and then tying it together but it's surprisingly intense and quite tiring.
By the time I got to the huge piece of silk I was planning to dye I had run out of ommph. So I decided to tie dye it and Meli had the brilliant idea of wrapping a cinerea leaf around each tie dyed segment. Crafting with other people is the best - I'd never have thought of that! I put it into the avocado pot hoping for a nice purple / orange combo.
It was a bittersweet day of dyeing with Meli. She's moving to Tassie in a couple of weeks and I thought it was the last time I was going to see her. The time went all too fast before she had to leave, bundles still bubbling away in the pots which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It meant she had to come back a few days later so we could unbundle together.
It was a whopping five days between dyeing and unbundling - a long time even for me. I left the bundles in the pots for a couple of days to soak up the dyes and then took them out to drain and wait. The weather got a bit hot, the bundles started drying out and I started to worry. My big silk tie dyed bundle was drying out a boring shade of brown and not the purple I was anticipating. Some of the bundles were getting a little fuzzy on the outside and I was worried about mould. I crossed my fingers and hoped.
When I first unwrapped the big silk bundle and saw more brown, my heart fell. But then. But then I untied one of the pieces of string, pulled off a cinerea leaf and saw the most amazing starburst. It's incredible - thank you Meli! And check out those amazing leaf prints on my other pieces. I'm so stoked my stash of dried leaves worked.
It's always a gamble and a surprise - happy or sad - when you eco dye. It's unpredictable nature is what keeps me coming back. The unknown, the surrendering, the letting go and then the seeing of what is there. So many beautiful lessons wrapped up in creating and making.
I am so happy with the results! I've got sexy socks, some lovely pieces of silk that will turn into some more eco-dyed books and a stunning tablecloth that's just too good to ever use. And when I wear my socks, I'll be thinking of those beautiful days with Meli when we walked by the creek foraging for leaves; when we put our precious bundles into the steaming pots; when we crouched out the back of my place as the rain fell on the decking roof, unwrapping our eco dyed bundles of surprise.