Of all the wild flowers growing at the moment Wild Carrot otherwise known as Queen Anne's lace has a beautiful elegance.
A plant of numerous virtues which we will explore, most importantly as a natural dye with its fresh lemony tones.
It makes any wild flower bouquet complete with its dainty up-turned umbrella like flower heads on a delicate stem but what is the history of this beauty?
Believed to originate from Afghanistan and spread through Mediterranean Europe its Latin name is Daucus Carota with common names including Bird's Nest and Queen Anne's lace.
The origin of its name Queen Anne's lace came from Queen Anne of England who was an expert lace maker. The Legend says that whilst she crafted she pricked herself with a needle and a single drop of blood fell from her finger onto the lace leaving a dark purple spot which you find in the central bloom of the flower.
We enjoyed creating a natural dye with this plant.
If you would like to try this at home here are some instructions:
Mordant your silk or cotton fabric. Find instructions here.
Fill a saucepan full with the leaves and stems and a few heads if you are short.
Cover with water at least 2cm above the top of the plant matter.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-2 hours with lid on then leave in to cool. You may need to simmer a little longer to reduce the liquid and strengthen the dye colour depending on what colour you wish to achieve.
Use a pan large enough to allow the fabric some room if you want an even colour.
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.
Place your pan back on the hob and simmer for 15 minutes before setting aside and allowing to cool.
We found it best to leave the cooled dye pan overnight for maximum colour.
As with all the plant dyes we experiment with we love to take a holistic approach and learn more about their benefits as healing herbs, tonics and food.
The root or "carrot" is edible as a food and in fact grated raw is used historically to dispel worms.
Its main association is with the urinary system, acting as a powerful diuretic helping to remove uric acid and water retention from the system. An infusion of the leaves is a useful treatment for cystitis.
Young first year leaves can be chopped and added to a salad to support liver and kidney.
Enjoy experimenting with this seasonal dye plant.
x Prim and Ness
As a naturopath our co founder Primrose has always been of the opinion that we are not just what we eat. We are what we wear and what we surround ourselves with. Molecules and chemicals in our environment are transferred to our body through our skin and through ingesting and breathing in tiny molecules.
Seeking a healthy lifestyle is about far more that what you put on your plate.
When we are not outside in the fresh air, we are inside in our homes surrounded by painted walls, fabrics and furniture all with their own manufacturing journey that we very rarely stop to question.
Last week we were pleased to talk to our friend Charlotte Lawson Johnston who is bringing the idea of natural, chemical free interiors into our awareness via her business Cloth Collective.
We are excited for her to share with you her work and vision which is closely aligned with ours at Bedstraw.
You have a beautiful instagram page and I encourage anyone reading this to follow you if they are not already – you are often documenting the natural dyeing that you do. How did this journey with natural dyes start? What was the inspiration?
I had a textiles business selling fabric by the metre mostly to Trade. I was printing the collections in a UK based factory and each time I visited to do another print run, I suffered from terrible headaches. I began researching the print pigments and dyes being used in the textile industry and discovered that most of the fabrics created for our homes are full of toxins. I set out to change my practice so that it would not negatively impact our planet or our health. I discovered the work of Sarah Burns who is a talented print maker. She also makes all of her pigments and dyes from plants. Sarah generously shared her knowledge of natural dyeing with me and that was really the beginning of my journey! We are now collaborating on a collection together which is so lovely!
On your website you say “We believe we should be able to fill our homes with exceptionally beautiful textiles without compromising our well-being or negatively impacting our environment.” Explain how you achieve this and how it contrasts so heavily with mainstream soft furnishings.
Most of the off-the-shelf soft furnishings readily available such as cushions, ready-to-hang blinds, rugs and bedding are coloured with synthetic dyes and chemically finished. These man-made dyes negatively impact our environment in several ways, for example polluting our water systems and destroying biodiversity. Many of the chemicals used to finish textiles (such as fabric softeners) contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s). They are unstable at room temperature and so toxic gases evaporate into our indoor spaces thereby reducing our air quality. At Cloth we naturally dye all of our fabrics and they aren’t finished using any nasties! Our dyes are all hand made from flowers and food waste making our fabrics 100% natural, breathable and if anything GOOD for our health rather than bad!
The use of natural dyes within interiors world is still very ahead of its time. What reaction have you had from the interiors community from what you are doing?
Two years ago people thought I was mad, mainly because they couldn’t see how natural dyeing could be a scalable business. Thanks to journalists such as Roddy Clarke, sustainability is now a prolific subject within the interiors industry. Toxicity in the home is less of a mainstream topic but with the rise of the wellbeing industry, I think it’s only a matter of time before it’s something more and more designers and makers will want to tackle. People are excited about what we are doing and they want to learn more about the benefits of our natural dyes. Designers are open minded and like the idea of being able to offer their clients British made, non-toxic and sustainable fabrics!
You have had some great collaborations to date. Tell us a project about a project you have most loved doing and why?
For me, it is about the people, always. I am currently working on a collection of 6 plain colours with Edward Bulmer Paint. The base fabric is woven with hemp and linen. We are creating dye recipes to match 6 of Edward’s most popular natural paint colours. Both of us are gentle chemists, creating plant based pigments and there is a mutual respect for our craft. Edward’s team are an absolute joy to work with and have given Cloth such an amazing platform from which to shout about non-toxic textiles. If we can do for home furnishing fabrics what Edward has done for the paint industry, we will be very happy indeed!
Tell us a little about the people involved in the “collective”?
The idea behind the collective is to join forces with other British based craftspeople in the textile industry to create fabrics together. Whether they be growers, weavers & spinners of sustainable fibres (such as hemp and linen) or printers and embroiderers. We want as much of our supply chain to be as British as possible.
You mention you use botanical waste. What do you mean by this? And aside from waste do you have a favourite natural dye to work with?
When we refer to Botanical waste, we mean waste from flowers. We love to dye with British madder root. Being a dye stuff that is grown here in England, it has a low carbon footprint and that is a big positive. Also the pinks harnessed from Madder are absolutely beautiful and we just never get tired of working with this plant derived pigment. Recently we have been creating recipes with Madder and Gallnut, this mix creates a dirty/beige pink similar to Edward Bulmer’s paint colour called Jonquil!
All the fabrics you use are natural fibres. Why is this important to you and can you tell me about the materials you use currently and the ones you envisage sourcing in the future?
Yes that’s correct, we only work with fabrics woven from sustainable fibres such as hemp, wool, linen and peace silk; fibres which are positive for our environment. For example hemp requires little to no irrigation and it sucks carbon from our atmosphere as it grows. We would love to use more locally grown fibres and were excited this year to discover a silk farm not far from us in Herefordshire. In terms of the future, we would love to be working with more British Grown fibres……there seems to be an exciting movement to reignite the Flax industry here so fingers crossed that we will be dyeing British linen in the not too distant future.
What you are doing and what we are doing at Bedstraw is all part of a larger green and conscious awakening. The planet is in an exciting but vulnerable time of change, what do you feel are the best things we can each do as individuals to adapt and bring about positive impact?
Sometimes climate change can feel overwhelming and most of us think we can’t make a big enough impact. It’s about incremental changes to effect change. Washing less, buying less, driving less, making environmentally positive purchases. Also talking to others about the small changes you are making, can easily influence them to do the same!
Thank you Charlotte
You can follow Charlotte on her instagram page @clothcollective.co and via her website www.clothcollective.co
With all the flowers around, Spring and Summer are a great time of year to indulge in some Hapa zome. Hapa what? You ask.
Hapa zome. The term meaning “leaf dye” is a Japanese printmaking technique invented by artist India Flint using pigments in leaves, flower to produce lovely detailed prints.
In Japan this technique is actually known as Tataki Zome but India’s name has taken off and most refer to it as Hapa Zome now.
It basically involves selecting a basket of interesting bright flowers, leaves or berries and using a hammer (a wooden mallet works best if you have one) to hammer this selection onto fabric. You can use cotton or linen and silk is particularly effective.
So the colours from the plant material last longer and bind better we recommend mordanting the fabric either using alum or milk (instructions below).
Wash your fabric in the washing machine and let it dry naturally, soak the fabric for 24 hours in milk, spin off the milk in the washing machine and let dry naturally, place the fabric back into the milk and repeat this process around three times. Then leave the dried fabric for 3 days before using for optimum effect.
Place your fabric on a hard surface and arrange your flowers, leaves and berries as you wish.
You can hammer directly onto the flowers themselves but I like to fold material over the top in order to get a mirror print.
Whilst the idea with this technique is to experiment which we always encourage. We have had good results with some of the following so you could start there: Rose Petals, Eucalyptus leaves, foxgloves, marigolds, geraniums, common catsear, dandelions, nettles.
Tag us @bedstrawandmadder with any of your creations.
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.