Summer Rain

This summer passed in a big cloud of rain, which has been lovely for plants and mushrooms that came out early and in huge numbers. We went on lots of day trips, for example Skovsnogen Artspace:

skovsnogen
Skovsnogen artspace, a forest full of sculptures.

My mom has managed to finish a couple of knitting projects with yarn that I’ve dyed. An Elizabeth shawl designed by Dee O’Keefe in Einband that I’ve dyed with madder. This Icelandic wool is wonderful to knit with and to wear, but it also takes color beautifully. She also knit a pair of socks, the pattern is Laurel by Wendy D. Johnson, the yarn a sock yarn I’ve dyed purplish blue with indigo and a twist of cochineal.

wendyknitting
My Mom’s knitting successes, using yarn that I dyed with madder and indigo.

We went on a day trip to the hilly landscape at Rebild. The sheep are a perfect match for this landscape, and in the end, it is their grazing that maintains the heath (blueberries though, they don’t touch). I don’t remember ever seeing such steep hills anywhere else in Denmark – it tells you about the power of the melting waters from the end of the last ice age.

rebild_bakker
The hills of Rebild.

Rold forest is close by. There, we saw the unusual old beech trees, called “purker” in Danish. They have multiple contorted growths because they were cut down repeatedly for firewood. Fallen logs are left to rot, giving mushrooms and insects a much needed habitat.

roldskov
The ancient forest of Rold.

We also encountered biodiversity on the island of Livø. We went on a guided tour of the organic test farm, where experiments are made with growth practices for organic farming, as well as testing new crops such as quinoa and buckwheat.

It’s always a good thing to see a field of crops with lots of other plants in it, such as clover and cornflower. I’ve always loved cornflowers, but I do see them in a new light after reading about their color in “Handbook of Natural Colorants” by Berchtold & Mussak. The color comes from a supramolecular, self-assembled, complex of cyanidins, flavones, and metal ions (Mg2+ and Fe3+), and that’s why it cannot be extracted for dyeing. The complex comes apart, and the individual parts are not blue. This could be the case with other pretty colors that are impossible to extract? The amethyst deceiver failure comes to mind.

livø
On the island of Livø, off the coast of mainland Denmark.

I obviously couldn’t walk outside an entire summer without looking for lichens. I’ve added two books to my lichen library, one is a small and useful Danish pamphlet, “Laver i Tisvilde Hegn” by Hørnell, Jeppesen & Søchting. The other is the elaborate, somewhat academic “Lichens, An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species” by Dobson.

I always find the most common lichens: Evernia prunastri, Ramalina fastigiataXanthoria parietina, and Hypogymnia physodes which I’ve already experimented with for for dyeing. So this summer, I’ve looked for Cladonia species.

I’ve often seen the funnel shaped lichen (top left in the image below) on the ground and on dead trees, and I believe it’s Cladonia fimbriata. I haven’t collected this lichen, since I’m not sure how to. One funnel at a time? Also, Casselman’s “Lichen Dyes, The New Source Book” does not mention this species.

Then there’s the reindeer lichens. Until recently, I thought they were mosses, but it’s never too late to learn something new. I found Cladonia portentosa (top right) in several places this summer, and my books do say that it is common, so I’ve collected a bit for dyeing.

I’ve only seen the bottom row lichens once each this summer, so I only took photos. Never pick a lichen if you don’t know if it’s rare. On the left, I believe, Cladonia rangiferina, and on the right, Cladonia coniocraea. Casselman does mention Cladonia rangiferina as a bwm (boiling water method) lichen that dyes shades of red to brown. Maybe it’s more common in other parts of the world.

cladonia
Different Cladonia lichens.

Home again, I’m beginning to prepare for the workshop on natural dyeing that I will teach the first weekend of October.

Wild Chervil and Intentionally Wild

The other day, we went for a walk along the road, and found wild chervil growing bountifully, so it’s certainly lucky that I have such a good little helper for these tasks:

pickingwildcarrot

I picked 180 g of stalks with flowers, which I boiled immediately for an hour or so. Next day, when the extract had cooled off, I strained out all the plant material and added a 10 g test skein of alun mordanted wool. The resulting color is very pretty, more yellow than green (yarn in photo, at least on my screen, looks more yellow than it really is).

dyedwildcarrot

FACTS – WILD CHERVIL, FRESH

Mordant 10% alun

Water Tap

Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g

Yarn:Dyestuff ratio 1:18

Conclusion Nice yellow with green tinge

Possible improvements Looks good to me! But it would be nice to see if a smaller amount of dyestuff will still give good color

So then what remains is to test the light-fastness. If that looks good, I’ll be tempted to dye larger amounts another time. Probably next summer, because by the time I can test it, the plant is gone for the season.

I’m always surprised with the treasures that the roadside has to offer. In terms of plants and the dyes in them, I mean (there’s also a lot of empty beer bottles and candy wrappers to be sure). And now we are getting to the big point that I want to hammer home in this post: roadside biodiversity, and the lack of it!

The top photo of my daughter picking wild chervil looks like it’s been taken in well, nature. In actual fact, it’s in front of a truck terminal, by the side of a busy country road where lots of big tucks pass. Not far away, you find an off ramp from major highway in this area. And just look at the place in the picture. Tall grass. I spotted more that 15 species growing, without even looking.

I am always pleasantly surprised by bits of untamed land like this. The good people in the truck terminal may think that they are just saving a bit of money, but what they are really doing is allowing biodiversity.

The other day, I heard something on the radio about a new project here in Denmark. It’s called “vild med vilje” which translates into “intentionally wild”. It’s a project that promotes urban biodiversity by – here’s the big thing – providing you with a sign that you can place on your wild land. The text reads “vild med vilje”. So now, busy neighbors and other local busybodies can see that this was on purpose, and not somebody who didn’t keep their land “nice”. They may even go check the project website. They may start thinking about biodiversity themselves. They may use less Roundup. The project is still very small, but I do hope it grows! I would love to see more wilderness. It’s good for many species, including the natural dyer.

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