There are so many wild plants, living close to our homes that make a natural dye. Often, they are right under our noses.
Cow parsley is one of these. A very pretty plant with a not so pretty name and often left alone because people don’t want to confuse it with Hemlock, the famous poison of the Victorians.
We love the beauty of cow parsley and once you feel comfortable identifying it, encourage you to experiment.
It is one of the first Apiaceae to bloom. This family is also known as umbellifers because of their umbrella like flowers. Perfect for fairies to hide from the rain.
Well perhaps not fairies, but it certainly provides a refuge for a large number of creatures. These range from marmalade hoverflies to orange tip butterflies.
Other plants you find in this family are parsley, carrot and celery to name a few of the astonishing 3000 species.
It grows well in gardens, roadways, lanes and you will be sure to see it blooming from May to June.
How to Identify:
The main differences between hemlock and cow parley are:
Hemlock is a little darker in colour
Hemlock leaves are more feathery and finer.
Hemlock has a sheen to its leaves rather than the matt of cow parsley.
Hemlock has blotchy purple stems but when young can be greener.
Hemlock has no hairs on the stem where cow parsley has a hairy stem.
Cow parsley leaves smell of parsley when crushed. Hemlock smells of ammonia when crushed.
Pick double the weight of flowers and stems to fabric.
Chop them up roughly with scissors and place in a pan.
Cover the plant with enough water to cover and bring to the boil.
Simmer for an hour then turn off heat and allow the plant to steep for a few hours or until desired colour achieved.
Strain your flowers and add your mordanted fabric.
Cow Parsley creates fresh, subtle lemon and lime shades.
Marigolds are blooming in gardens all over the UK at the moment. Pollinators like bees love them and they have so many uses so make a great addition to our lives.
As natural dye enthusiasts we naturally get drawn to growing our own dye stuffs. One of the easiest of these is marigold. They flower from Spring through to Autumn and can be used fresh or dried.
The best types for dyeing are French marigolds or Tagetes.
Pick enough marigold flowers so they equal to or are double the weight of the fabric (WOF) you are dyeing.
Place in a plan and fill it with water, cover with a lid and bring to a simmer. Then turn off and allow flowers to steep ideally overnight and extract their colour.
Strain the flowers. Add your mordanted fabric and warm the water before leaving to sit until desired colour is achieved.
You can also use dried or fresh marigold petals for bundle dyeing.
We will be sharing our bundle dyeing experiments later in the summer.
Marigolds add colour and powerful antioxidants to your salads and cooking so don’t be afraid to throw them into stews, rice, dahls etc. They are also very decorative for the top of biscuits and cakes.
A cup of marigold tea can be healing for the stomach lining.
French marigold also known as tagetes can be used to make a spray for keeping whitefly, aphids and spider mites at bay as well as some other less welcome visitors to your garden.
Planting them amongst your vegetables can act as a deterrent too!
Combine 2 cups of water with 1 cup of marigold flowers, stems, leaves in a blender.
Leave to ferment for 2 days and bottle. Then spray on your affected plants.
You can also use the above marigold spray on treasured pets like dogs and horses to keep flies away.
Marigold also known as Calendula is one of our greatest healers and was an important medicine in ancient Greece. With its natural antibacterial and anti-fungal properties it prevents infections and heals injuries so is often used in skincare.
For a simple hydrating moisturiser. Fill a jam jar half full of dried calendula petals and pour over an organic base oil that works with your skin such as olive, almond or jojoba. Leave to infuse for 6 weeks to 3 months or until the oil turns a yellow hue. Strain and use.
When growing marigolds in your garden don’t forget to keep the cycle going its important to gather the seeds which are at the bottom of the flower heads. Harvest the seeds when the petals are dry and the base of each bloom is turning brown. Remove each head from the stem and store in a dry place.
They bring a huge amount of joy and their colours are uplifting. I encourage you to try growing some varieties in your garden. Try dwarf, French or Pot as a starting point.
As you walk along country lanes and park hedgerows you will be greeted by the hawthorn blossom. It has finally sprung and it beckons for us to benefit from its feminine healing powers.
Hawthorn has its strongest affinity with the heart. Opening us to giving and receiving Love. It encourages self-love and self-acceptance strengthening our inner courage. In fact the word courage comes from the latin for "cor" which means "heart" suggesting that the vulnerability that comes with opening our heart is what it means to be courageous. We love to wear powerful herbs against our skin.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, its thin dermal layers absorbing the physical and energetic qualities of the plants, our allies, that we have been connected to for generations.
We have been experimenting with it as a plant dye. Using the flowers and leaves combined it creates a beautiful coral pink.
If you would like to try this at home here are some instructions: Fill a saucepan full with flowers and leaves. Cover with water at least 2cm above the top of the hawthorn. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour then leave in to cool .
Use a pan large enough to allow the fabric some room if you want an even colour.
Place your pan on the hob and bring to the boil before simmering gently for 1 hour.
Keep checking to see how the dye colour is looking and when you are happy strain out the skins and place your material in the dye bath.
Keep on a gentle heat and move fabric around freely. For deeper colours leave the fabric to sit in the dye overnight and cool.
When doing natural dyeing you need to prepare the fabrics. You can do this with a metallic based mordant (instructions here) or alternatively a protein rich mordant like Soya, Cow or Goats milk.
For this fabric we mordanted with goats milk and water in a 1:1 ratio
This involved soaking the silk (you can use cotton or linen too) in goats milk, then putting on a spin cycle to wring out excess milk without leaving streaks before placing on the line to dry. Repeat this process without rinsing 3 times minimum. Once dry leave another 24 hours - 1 week to help the milk adhere.
For this mottled effect I crunched it up the fabric as I moved it about in the dye bath.
I also took it out after an initial soak, dried it then placed it back in the dye bath.
With Love + Knickers...