More than 7000 languages are spoken in the world today but one you may not have heard of is the ancient language of flowers. It is known as Floriography, a means of cryptological communication through the choice and arrangement of flowers.
Meaning has been attributed to flowers for thousands of year-end practised in traditional cultures across the world. As great lovers of flowers and plants, utilising them in our natural dyes we love this ancient wisdom and wish to revive this knowledge.
During the Victorian era this practise became very popular with the first floriography dictionary published in 1819, by Madame Charlotte de la Tour. At a time when expressing ones true feelings wasn't easy or was feared it opened a door.
We have put together a list of the flowers you can use as a starting point for sending your own messages and speaking from your heart.
Roses – Nothing says I love you better than a red rose. Associated with the goddess of love, they symbolise love, passion, romance and desire.
Lavender – Don’t trust someone? Give them lavender. It is a symbol of distrust due to the fact that venomous snakes often make their homes in lavender fields. The origins of the word come from the latin “lavare” which means to wash. It was often added to baths for fragrance.
Daisies are associated with childhood which in turn is symbolic of innocence and purity. In an old Celtic legend God would plant daisies to comfort and uplift parents who had lost children.
Iris – Do you have sone good news to share. Iris is your flower. The word comes from the greek for "rainbow". Rainbows are a link between heaven an earth which the greek goddess Iris uses to travel back and forth bringing messages of hope and good news.
Chrysanthemum – In China this flower is symbolic of good luck and a long life.
Pansy – an edible flower whose name comes from the French verb “to think- pensée” is the perfect flower to give to someone when you want to remind them that you are thinking of them and are generally associated with platonic love.
Rosemary - the plant associated with memory is symbolic of remembrance so a good one to use on anniversaries.
Say it with flowers...
Reconnecting to our wild side and remembering our ancestral ways can help us thrive and encourage us to preserve our sacred wild places for future generations to enjoy.
Connecting to the element of water is particularly powerful and wild swimming is a great way to do it.
When we sit nearby or immerse ourselves in water it helps us connect with our emotions. It doesn’t matter if it is a lake, a river or the sea, the process of being in or near these wild watery places is healing. This healing power has been known for centuries. In greek medicine it was known as 'water cure' with therapies such as hydrotherapy and thalassotherapy becoming fashionable. There are still ancient cultures such as the Hindus who bathe in the river Ganges with the belief it will free them from sin.
“When you swim, you feel your body for what it mostly is – water – and it begins to move with the water around it. No wonder we feel such sympathy for beached whales; we are beached ourselves at birth. To swim is to experience how it was before we were born.”
-Waterlog Roger Deakin
At Bedstraw + Madder we have a strong desire to preserve our sacred waterways and keep them pure and free from pollution. With 20% of global water pollution linked with the fashion industry from petrol chemical dyes and synthetic processing agents, it prompted our desire to work only with chemical free, natural plant dyes that had a positive impact on people and planet.
Our co-founder Primrose was lucky enough to grow up on an Island and now lives next to the River Dart so wild water and cold water swimming is very much a part of her soul.
There are great benefits from swimming in cold water regularly and it is quickly becoming a global phenomenon with characters like Wim Hof inspiring us with their personal stories of triumphing over illness and depression through the power of the cold.
So what are the Benefits?
It helps to build up brown adipose tissue resulting in fat loss
It reduces inflammation through the body
It boosts our immunity and balances our hormones
Increases our sleep quality
Triggers the production of endorphins - the feel good hormones that naturally elevate your mood making it incredible for mental health which a study by the BMJ can vouch for.
Salt water in the sea contains minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium and iron which activate the healing mechanisms in the body, reduce aches and pains as well as relaxing muscles and healing skin.
The best things in life really are free. If wild swimming can do all this then what are we waiting for?
The more you do it, the less you feel the cold as your circulation increases. Focusing on your breathing as you swim makes wild swimming a very mindful process and reduces stress.
If you are looking for inspiring wild swimming reading material here are some of our favourites:
The Wim Hof Method by Wim Hof
Wild Swimming walks Dartmoor and South Devon by Sophie Pierce
Taking the plunge by Vicky Allan
Cold water plunges can cool our cool temperature, especially in the cooler months. It is at these times it is especially important to have tools at hand to warm up quickly when you get out. You can't beat a hot drink for this. Our favourite companion for cold water swims is a Kelly Kettle so you can boil a cuppa for yourself and your companions wherever you find yourself.
Kelly Kettle - for that warming cuppa after your dip.
“Live in the Sunshine, Swim the Sea, Drink the wild air”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
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.
Supporting health and wellbeing is one of the reasons Bedstraw + Madder was born. Replacing toxic chemical dyes, with healing anti-inflammatory plant colour.
It doesn’t stop there though. We love to share all the things we have learnt and continue to learn along the way about supporting our health. As when our bodies thrive, we can flourish.
We all have bacteria that live in our gut. The right foods can nourish our gut bacteria for the better and help them proliferate, we call these probiotics. Excess junk food, chemicals and sugar can cause the opposite and encourage fungal overgrowth like candida which impacts our ability to be able to fight of disease. Our good bacteria play an integral role in almost every aspect of our health and immunity, even our mental health.
The link between our gut and our brain was an unknown in the mainstream for years but recent studies show conclusive evidence between the health of our colon and the state of our mind as well as the health of our skin.
So how can we support the good bacteria in our gut to prosper?
One way the Bedstraw team enjoy is with water kefir, especially in the Summer months.
Dairy free, it is a beverage with benefits and one to try if you haven’t already.
Water kefir is a fermented carbonated drink made from water kefir grains. Unlike the milk kefir it is made by combining water, grains, sugar and dried fruit together for 48 hours in a kilner jar until fermentation occurs. (don’t worry the grains digest the sugar as part of the fermentation process)
You can buy the grains easily online.
Of course, being passionate about plants and the power they hold for our health we bring them into all our recipes. Throughout the year there are different herbs or flowers that can be a powerful addition to bring anti-oxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits.
It is elderflower season so this combination uses elderflower and fresh ginger.
Elderflower has a host of benefits but has a particular affinity with the respiratory system and sinuses. Isn’t nature clever. Plants appear in the season when they are most needed. Elderflower appears during hay fever season and reduce the symptoms.
Just like every human being on earth, they each have a role to play, a raison d’etre..
Ginger increases blood circulation and our ability to sweat so is energising without the need for sugar or caffeine.
Give it a whirl…
Place your water kefir grains in a 1 litre kilner jar
Add 3 spoonful’s of brown sugar
Add one piece of dried fruit ( fig, apricot, 6 raisins)
Fill the jar up with unchlorinated filtered tap water.
Leave in a sunny spot for 3 days and watch for it to get fizzy.
Drain the contents and place in a bottle in the fridge to stop the fermentation process and consume within 2-3 days.
The secret to a healthy body is a healthy gut…
Drying herbs to support yourself or your family throughout the year is one of the most rewarding things we can do for our health. Nature provides us with herbal solutions and supports for all our ailments, it’s just often we don’t know which ones are for what and how to use them.
As a naturopath I have always cultivated in my garden the herbs or "weeds" I find most healing. Drying is the easiest method of preserving herbs, allowing you to benefit from their magic throughout the year and store them in the years when they are less abundant.
(Although a fresh supply each year is ideal)
Gathering your herbs
It is best to gather your leaves, flowers and stems on a waxing moon. Due to the gravitational pull of the moon the plants vital energies and fluids are flowing upwards into the plant. Roots on the other hand are best gathered on a waning moon when the opposite is the case.
The best time of day to harvest most herbs for the drying process is in the morning after the dew has lifted as you want your herbs as dry as possible before the drying process starts to avoid mould. When choosing flowers, choose the ones that are in the bud stage just before opening.
Harvesting in line with the season it is good to follow the energy of the plant and note that:
Roots are best gathered in the Autumn when the tops of the plants are dying back and the energy of the plant returns to its roots as a store for winter.
Leaves are best picked in early spring before the plant flowers.
Flowers are best picked when they are in bud about to come into full flower and full energy.
How to dry your herbs successfully?
When drying herbs be careful not to bruise or crush the leaves or flowers. Plantain is a good example, if they bruise, they can ferment and turn black when dry. Don’t leave your picked herbs lying in the sun either as they can lose essential oils.
The parts of the plants we often dry are the flowering tops as this is where most of the energy is within the plant. The simplest way of drying is in hanging bundles. The trick is not to make your bundles too big to allow the moisture to escape and avoid them going mouldy. Using string or raffia tie your bundles at the stem and leave to hang upside down in a warm well-ventilated area. You could use a fan if you wanted to speed up the process. Drying can take between 3 - 7days.
You can also use a dehydrator although this uses energy. Set your dehydrator to 35-46 celsius and place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times can vary considerably so check regularly. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent.
Storing your herbs
Once dried use your hands to remove the leaves and flowers from any woody stalks depending on the herbs you are drying. It makes them more storable and allows them to be utilised more effectively in making teas, crumbling into food or just to fit into a jar when making tinctures and oxymels.
They are best stored in a tinted glass jar with a good fitting lid away from direct sunlight and heat.
Store herbs separately.
How to use your dried herbs?
The two main ways I use dried herbs is as a tincture or Oxymel (we will share some over the next few months) or simply as a tea infusion.
A lovely tea combination I make regularly is Elderflower, Nettle and peppermint. This can be a real anti-inflammatory support during the hay ever season and a general tonic and digestive support.
Combine equal amounts of dried elderflowers with crumbled nettle and peppermint leaves.
Place a teaspoon full in a tea strainer and infuse for 15 minutes before drinking.
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.
We’re operating in a world where brand ‘transparency’ feels more opaque than ever. CSR is increasingly seen as a fad, and sustainability has lost its meaning – with some going as far as saying the word should be banned.
Honesty is always the best policy, which is why we wanted to explain exactly what to expect when you buy Bedstraw + Madder underwear. This isn’t simply a tick-box exercise – these are our values. They support our brand ethos and are non-negotiables for the way we do business, day in and day out.
We never settle
Before Bedstraw + Madder became a reality, when it was just the seed of an idea, we knew that pushing forwards, breaking boundaries and creating new norms would be key. It’s becoming equally clear that there’s no point just ‘sustaining’ the world as it is. The reality is that we need to reset the natural balance; we need to fix fashion. There’s so much we can do to make clothing in a way that is kind to people and the planet – and so we will always explore every avenue in every part of our business to make the most considered decisions possible. Forget no stone – it’s no cotton boll unturned.
We’re traceable and trustable
Transparent supply chains should be a given. We proudly grow our own cotton, which means we know the impact we’re making on the world around us, and ensure human rights are respected throughout our entire supply chain. And because we’re seriously serious about traceability, very soon you can follow the journey of each and every knicker we make through our QR codes. From field to fabric.
We act with integrity
We’re committed to making moral decisions that not only cause no harm, but do good – for both people and planet. And while we believe in the choices we’ve made and the methods we use, we know that nobody is perfect. So if things change, we’re ready to have open and honest conversations, and to rethink and course-correct as and when needed. It goes back to our belief in never settling. It’s the only way we can keep making a difference.
And this is all interconnected – a holistic view
Underpinning everything we do is a holistic approach; considering how every action and decision affects everything and everyone – whether that’s a cotton farmer and their family, the biodiversity of the land, or the customer hurriedly picking a pair of pants from their underwear drawer ahead of a busy day.
Those are our values. But what makes us different to other ‘sustainable’ underwear brands?
- Our knickers won’t fade into the background: We're unbelievably proud to have hit a first in the natural dye world, having achieved industry colourfastness standards with our plant dyes (meaning it won’t fade or run easily)
- Inventing new norms: After a lot of trial and error, we’ve taken a step into unchartered territories and created recycled elastane waistbands & trims for our knickers that are also biodegradable: from the Earth back to the Earth
- What goes around comes around: To be sure that we are creating truly circular solutions, we tested the biodegradability of our cotton at the Eden Research Laboratory. They’ve confirmed that our intimates completely biodegrade within three years – ensuring a better world for future generations
Sound like hard work? That’s because it is. As the famous saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it. But this is the regeneration generation; and we won’t settle for less.
Want to know how Bedstraw + Madder came about? Meet the founders here (link).
Every plant and herb has something to share with us or to support us with, whether that's on a physical, emotional or spiritual level.
There is an old saying that the plants that grow around you are often the ones that we most need for our own healing.
If we are curious and take time to connect we can learn what they are.
We try and incorporate healing herbs into our lives across the clothes that we wear, the food that we eat and the environment that we place ourselves in.
The lemon balm in my garden is abundant at the moment so I am welcoming its healing energy and benefits into my life. You can do the same.
Adding uplifting herbs like mint and lemon balm to a bouquet of flowers that we have in our home can be a real boost for our body, as just the smell of lemon balm for example can lift mood and improve brain function.
Or why not include it in your cooking?
Here is a lovely simple recipe for incorporating lemon balm into a delicious afternoon snack!
7g finely chopped lemon balm leaves ( choose the youngest freshest leaves)
1 tsp of lemon juice
100g sugar or jaggery
200g white spelt flour
100g fine porrige oats
2 pinches of salt
1. Chop lemon balm in a nutribullet with the lemon juice until fine.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl.
3.Beat the egg into the herb and lemon mixture and add to butter.
4. Add the flour, salt and porridge oats and bring together. It should form a dough. You can add a little flour if it needs.
5. Roll in ball and place in the fridge for an hour to cool.
6. Then roll out and cut with a pastry cutter.
6. Place on a baking sheet in the oven at 180c for 10 minutes or until the edges start to brown.
I leave you with a quote about this magical herb from the great 17th Century Herbalist Culpepper..
"Lemon Balm causes the mind and heart to become merry"
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...
Most of us can recognize a dandelion straight away. Its long green jagged leaves and yellow flowers are consistent company in our gardens, if not an unwelcome one in many cases.
If shouldn't be the case though. Dandelions long roots dig deep into the soil breaking up hard ground, drawing up important minerals from deep down below to improve the top soil. When their job is done, they stop growing. Isn't that magic?
I love these little rays of sunshine and certainly if I pull them up I like to put them to good use, as they are potent healers.
The leaves can be nibbled on, added to salads or used as a tea. The flowers added to iced drinks in the summer make a refreshing infusion and the roots also have a use to make bitters or a simple dandelion tincture.
When you harvest your dandelions affects how they will taste. If you pick in the Autumn the levels of the fiber inulin tend to be higher, whilst sugar is lower, but they taste bitter and chewy.
If you harvest in the spring the levels of taraxacin (the active constituent of dandelions that stimulates the liver and gall bladder are higher.
When you are harvesting roots with any plant the general rule is you want to do this prior to the plant flowering as it moves its energy from the roots to the flower.
In this modern world where we are barraged by toxic chemicals in the air we breathe and the food we eat, dandelion is a nice friend and support to have for your system.
It is a strong detoxifier so make sure you use the purest plants, ones that are growing away from pollution.
Just as when picking any plant for consumption choose one that looks large and vital and use a garden fork to gently work through the soil underneath the dandelion to prize it up by the root without snapping it.
I tend to use the roots on their own for tinctures and chop them up into 1 or 2 cm pieces after washing off the mud!
Making your tincture
Whilst you can use 40% alcohol for your tincture such as vodka I prefer to use local apple cider vinegar, which you can usually buy, from your local cider brewery.
You ideally do a ratio of 2:1 so 2 cups of alcohol/ACV to 1 of the chopped roots and leaves, make sure they are well covered.
Leave in a cool dark place for 2-3 months and strain off the plant matter before bottling.
As dandelion is a bitter it naturally stimulates digestion and stimulates bile production so it is a good idea to have 1 teaspoon diluted in a 2:1 warm water to tincture ratio prior to meals to have the greatest effect. It has a positive effect on reducing water retention and Urinary tract infections.
When you get more confident you can jazz up your recipe by adding things like Cacao nibs, orange peel, spices to your mix!