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colour from the planet

November 17, 2020

on these dark, grey days something bright is needed

November’s natural dye challenge supplied the colour

starting (on the left) with Brazilwood, also know as Sappanwood, a traditional dye since the Middle Ages

handspun 2 ply wool, singles silk and commercial cotton

it is light sensitive and will fade, I often combined it with a second dye

I used wood chips from the dye stash, approx. 1/2 of them had been used previously and dried

checking Maiwa, to order more, I find they no longer list chips, only ground powder

 they list it as Eastern Brazilwood

in the middle, 2 gms. of cochineal was combined with the first exhaust bath

 h.s. wool and a skein of unusual silk

the pale grey silk was a present from Japan and is a flat ribbon yarn

I have woven with it in the past but always wondered what it is called and how it is made

it is not spun – if anyone knows more please let me know

on the right is a skein of cotton dyed in the exhaust bath of Brazilwood and cochineal with madder added

 it is almost exactly the same colour as the first cotton skein dyed only in Brazilwood

cotton is hard to dye and takes vast quantities of chemical dyes for the bright clothes we all love

 definitely not ecologically friendly

 I won’t go into how terrible the growing of cotton is to the planet

natural dyeing has given me great pleasure through these crazy months and kept me sane

here are the wool skeins from the past 11 months

all but the top 4 are handspun – spinning has become an obsession!

one more month to go – I’ve been looking forward to using the wool in a projectwoven on my very old 4inch Weave-it loom

finished size is 3.5 inches and I figure I need approx. 144 for a good sized lap blanket

to keep me warm this winter – or next

pin looms have become trendy with several companies making them

you can get a hexagon one if you’re so inclined!

what will be the dye for December?

and will there be a monthly challenge for 2021?

thinking, but so far drawing a blank – suggestions!



24 Comments leave one →
  1. December 5, 2020 7:17 am

    I love the middle purple!


    • December 5, 2020 10:50 am

      Kim – cochineal is a tiny bug that lives on cactus plants, an old, traditional dye which is easy to use.

      Liked by 1 person

      • December 6, 2020 9:00 am

        Is it really sustainable? How do they harvest the bugs? Shipping it to England is probably a no-no. as well. Still its a pretty purple! 😉


      • December 6, 2020 11:39 am

        Kim – yes, it is sustainable – have you heard of a bug that isn’t? comes from South America, Mexico and the Canary Is. Has been used in Europe since the 16th century. In the U.K. get it from The book “Wild Color” (printed in the U.S. thus the spelling) author Jenny Dean is in U.K., is an excellent natural dye source. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet go to a reliable source. Maiwa Handprints (in Vancouver) has the best info, ships all over the world and has just started online courses, some of them free. is excllent and reliable. Red cabbage and beetroot may give instant colour but it fades very quickly to blah! Most natural dyes need a mordant, I only use alum, a natural earth salt.

        Liked by 1 person

      • December 7, 2020 3:56 pm

        Thanks for the links. My concern about the sustainability of the bugs is if they are harvested from the wild, are there controls on depletion of the population. Otherwise, if they are farmed, what is the environmental impact? Using fauna is often complicated….. 😉


      • December 7, 2020 10:42 pm

        Kim – they are farmed and if you only use alum as a mordant it is so much more environmentally friendly than all the chemical dyes used in industry and if you really want to get serious then cotton is one of the most, if not the absolutely worst, crop on the planet. And then so much of the clothing we buy is a man made fibre – a petroleum product. I don’t weave my sheets but I have woven towels – cotton!

        Liked by 1 person

      • December 8, 2020 2:40 am

        I buya lot of linen clothing, but recently they are adulterated by elastane…. 😦

        For the last year and a half, if I need anything I buy second hand. Got a cashmere winter coat for £8!


      • December 8, 2020 10:47 am

        Kim – great buy! We can each work hard at doing our part, if we don’t it soon won’t be an option.

        Liked by 1 person

      • December 8, 2020 3:22 pm



      • December 8, 2020 11:21 pm

        Kim – 🙂


  2. November 19, 2020 9:04 am

    Another post that has only just appeared in my Reader! I love all your colour experiments, but how about a good dark green for December, to be appropriately seasonal? No idea how/if it’s achievable, but I’d love to see what you have in your natural colour toolbox!


    • November 19, 2020 11:04 am

      Kate -in previous post I’ve mentioned how exciting it is to get green – any green! Traditionally green has always been achieved by dyeing a natural yellow – each yellow gives a different range of greens – and then top dyeing with indigo. I only keep my indigo pot active in the summer, outside, when it is warm enough to keep it healthy. Indigo dyeing is an entire skill in itself and is work, exciting yes! but still work. Don’t need a dark green any time soon and not enough to fire up the indigo pot and at this time of year I don’t have access to a good natural yellow. The colours in the previous post are a good range of natural colours from fairly accessible sources.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Going Batty in Wales permalink
    November 18, 2020 3:20 am

    One of the (many) things I love about natural dyes is that when you use different strengths on different yarns the colours always harmonise! The other day I saw on Facebook that a college was giving away floor standing looms and I was very tempted but I do not have space and I really really don’t need another hobby! It is all your fault! Reading your posts has made me want to do more spinning, more exploring natural dyes and try weaving! That is as well as all the things I do already so it isn’t going to happen. I shall just have to relish seeing the things you do. Thank you so much for sharing them.


    • November 18, 2020 1:04 pm

      Sue – I spin in the evenings when I’m too tired to do anything else, at the bus stop and on the bus, in the park —on a beautiful little Turkish drop spindle from a man on the Isle of Wight In the summer I solar dye in glass jars in the sun. You don’t have to weave on a floor loom, the little peg loom I’m using now is only 4 inches, fits in a backpack with the spindle. And handspun is wonderful to knit with. Always happy to share.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Going Batty in Wales permalink
        November 19, 2020 2:30 am

        I looked online at pin looms and came across a book of designs for small looms so have ordered it. I am sure I can knock something up in the workshop. I am very much a novice spinner so need energy and brain power to do it – not good in the evenings. But I have promised myself that between Christmas and New Year I am going o do nothing from the ‘to do’ list and just be creative including practicing spinning and having a go at weaving. See what you have started? 🙂


      • November 19, 2020 11:15 am

        Sue – oh, good for you and it is fairly easy to make a very workable pin loom, just be careful with the placement of the nails (pins) because they are not the same on all four sides. Spinning takes practice, every day, until suddenly your fingers “get” it and then it is easy. It is good to practice and get started with a well prepared commercial something because it is so easy to spin. Once you get the hand movements down then any fibre is good to go. I would guess there is some beautiful wool available in your area. Collect lichen on your nature walks, keep it in a paper bag, it is still good when completely dried out. Dyes beautiful golds and bronzes, doesn’t need a mordant and the wool smells woodsy for years after. Oh dear, guess I’m guilty 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Going Batty in Wales permalink
        November 21, 2020 3:26 am

        Thank you for the advice which I really appreciate. The book I ordered arrived yesterday and the instructions look clear and well within my capabilities. I will have a go with lichen – I hadn’t realised that I could do it without a mordant and there is plenty on the trees here. I will keep you posted on progress and am really looking forward to making tome to have a good go at these things.


      • November 21, 2020 10:29 am

        Sue – have fun making your loom. There are some natural dyes that don’t need a mordant like tree bark, roots and lichen which often have enough tannin in them that they are a mordant in themselves. (I still always mordant with alum because I think it makes the colours brighter) Best online source of accurate information is or or they all know what they are talking about and don’t tell people silly stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Going Batty in Wales permalink
        November 26, 2020 2:56 am

        Thank you. I will look at those sites.


      • November 26, 2020 10:08 am

        Sue – here is so much misinformation that it is good to know the informed sources.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Going Batty in Wales permalink
        November 27, 2020 3:14 am

        Indeed! One of my problems with the internet is to know who really understands their subject and who just thinks they know a bit!


      • November 27, 2020 10:02 am

        Sue – yes, indeed. I try to remember a time without the internet (it wasn’t that long ago!) I wonder what some people did to entertain themselves?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. November 17, 2020 3:32 pm

    Amazing … never ceases to amaze me how much talent is there in this world and more amazingly how different each talent is !!! I love the colours and the homespun blanket idea.
    You are right the one thing that has kept me sane over this year is my quilting. Long live our love for creating 💝


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