10 day difference for Japanese Indigo seedlings

30 Mar

10 days & temperature increases and sunshine made a big difference. March 17th I planted my Japanese Indigo seeds, by the 27th I had sprouts! I ordered the wrong seed tray. Duh, but seeds planted in new tray sprouted sooner than my old method. I am smarter now despite myself. Next up I will plant my Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds. I’ll throw Cota and Hopi Sunflowers into the mix this year also. Maybe I can beat the birds to the seeds for dye this year.

I am still on bud watch on my older Suffruticosa plants. Will the 3 year old plants live longer? Did the freeze this January take the younger plants out? The drama of gardening continues.

Plus the Texas Persimmon is budding and blooming. Before I know it I will be out picking persimmons in July for the dye.

Footprint of Indigofera Suffruticosa in a home garden

25 Mar

One of my indigo friends asked me a very good question.  How much space does Indigo Suffruticosa take up?  So I went out and measured my bushes in my garden.  Understand that the info provided here is based on an experimental garden location in the Texas Hill country in an irrigated terrace area.  I could grow more but had to know if the plant would survive, provide indigo and seeds.  We are all learning.  I happen to be a couple of years ahead of you.  Keep in mind we are all in different growing regions.

In case you don’t have your seeds yet, they are available here. SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Exposure I placed the plants in three different exposures, full west sun, morning sun with afternoon protection and limited sun with deer exposure.  All three exposures have worked.

Water My spacing is based on protected areas within reach of my irrigation line or spray locations.  Your garden may differ.  Bear in mind, your plant needs some water about 3 times a week, no matter how it is delivered to the plant.  I happen to use alkali well water for my irrigation.  Your plant will be grateful for any water delivered to it no matter what PH.

Spacing Individually, at full leaf bearing size an individual plant takes up a 2′ by 2′ space with heights ranging from 4′ to 8′.  I do trim my bushes to keep branches from breaking in our wind storms.  We are both happy at the enforced 5′ height.   I have let multiple bushes grow together at 2/3 per bunch.  One always becomes the dominant plant.  I let the others come along for the ride as long as they give me leaves, if they don’t play well with the main bush they are cut back.

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Bed Size  East Morning Sun Bed is 8′ (space limited) with 17 plants and West Sun bed is 9′ (limited due to west exposure/would they live – yes) with about 10 plants.  Both beds are 3 feet wide and the plants are staggered at 2 plants deep.  These photos are of the late winter beds so forgive the weeds and scraggly appearance.

Finally, I am on “bud watch” right now.  The plants are still dormant, the ground temps are not yet warm enough but we are very close to bud break on the plants that have survived.  In my area the bushes live about 3 years.  If we get a hard freeze I can loose all the plants.  We did have several days of 14-16 degree weather here so it is possible not all the bushes will come back.  I do start new plants, which do yield indigo in the first year and will plant them in once I see who has survived.  Typically I pull the dead plants, give everything a good feeding and put in the new plants for the season.

Closeup of the branches I am watching for the buds to break on new stems and leaves.

I understand fully why folks have cultural blessings for their plants for a good yield and growing season.  I have said a couple of those prayers or curses myself over the leaf cycle.  May your growing season be joyful and curses be few.

Weld in the Texas Hill Country – Drip Irrigation

16 Mar

After two years I can plant my weld. Here’s hoping the seeds are still viable. Thank you to my California dye buddy for the seeds.

In the Texas Hill Country I have to be thoughtful with the seed placement by the drip system. Weld is going in now since I know from when I last grew it in this terrace bed weld is one of the first plants to mature. By the time June’s heat cranks up this bed will be up and done for the season. Here’s hoping for germination!

SOLD OUT FOR 208 Indigofera Suffruticosa Seeds for sale

2 Mar

Ok folks, here you go….Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale in my Etsy Shop, ColorsOfMy Valley, which is located here.  SOLD OUT FOR 2018!

Offered just in time to start your seed trays.  THIS IS NOT JAPANESE INDIGO!

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 It is Indigofera Suffruticosa or Anil De Pasto from the warmer climates.  You can give a try growing it in colder climates.  With protection it might be a perennial but I think it will turn annual on you with hard freezes and snows.  Not a hardship, if you can get it to seed stage you can replant for the next season.

It starts out small in the seed trays, without trimming the shrub can get to 7+ feet.

I place about 4-8 seeds in each tray to start my seedlings.  Here in the Texas Hill Country my biggest enemy behind drought is the crickets.  I hold my seedlings in a protected area from frost and crickets and plant out when it is safe.  They are mulched well.   Tiny crickets can take your seedlings out early in the season, larger grasshoppers come for your leaves in the fall, be aware!  Also give the shrubs room to spread.  You can see from the photo above that untrimmed the suffruticosa will go for the sky.  The hummingbirds love to hang out in the branches and visit the flowers.

When they are happy, they grow, produce indigo leaves, flowers and finally seeds.  The curved pods resemble banana bunches.  My shrubs have usually lasted 3 years. Very hard freezes can take them out. The prior season shrubs put out new branches fairly early.  I pull the dead shrubs and put in the new seedlings in to fill the space.

These shrubs fill in nicely, can take east and west exposures with irrigation.  I am testing them this year to see if the deer will much on them.   My crops are grown in a protected area the deer cannot access.   The flowers are lovely and the birds love the branches thru the winter to perch on.  The hummingbirds use them for launching sites in the early spring.  They are pleasant plants to have in the garden, they add height and take trimming in stride.  But of course, it is all about the leaves!  I trim my shrubs to shape and strip the leaves off of the smaller stems.  I weigh my stripped leaves at this point to keep track of the color intensity yielded.

If you use fresh leaf extraction you are limited by the leaves you’ve harvested.  I tend to do several harvests a year and dye skeins over the year.  Building the layers as the leaves grow.  Be patient.  Of course you can also extract the pigment and save it for one annual dye bath.  I simply prefer to continue to experiment with what each harvest gives me.

   This shirt and silk skeins are from one dip in the fresh leaf fructose vat.  One of the skeins has been dipped twice.

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I am also experimenting with drying this indigo species leaves to see how it work for indigo leaf storage and fructose pot production.  That will show up on my blog also when I have a few more results to add.

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Freeze dried Indigo Suffruticosa leaves waiting for experimentation. 

Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds for sale in my Etsy Shop, ColorsOfMy Valley, which is located here.  SOLD OUT FOR 2018! One packet should be plenty to get you started with questions and leaves for you to experiment with!

Dye Thrums from CHT 2015

28 Feb

I had the privilege to speak about natural dyeing at the Contemporary Handweavers of Texas 2015 Conference in Austin, Tx in late June. As most teachers know, one touches on subjects to make students aware of potential paths but class time constraints prevent one from delving into the details. I needed to stay on the subject of natural dye basics but couldn’t resist mentioning some of these items. One of my students, Fern, was gracious enough to capture a bucket list of those interesting “time sinks” for me.  Thank you Fern!

Below are random references for folks that attended my lecture to wander at will. Take your time, enjoy and thank you for letting me share the joy of creating color with you. What color is in your valley?

My apologies, this blog entry covers a lot of ground and no pictures are within this blog post BUT by popping over to some of the links there is plenty of color photos and information created by some of the most talented teachers I have had the privilege to train with.  Regards Deb Mc

  • I spoke of symplocos, a natural mordant sourced from leaves. When used it gives a slight yellow cast to your fibers BUT that disappears when you put your base color over it. There is a lot of information in the links below. Consider running some dye pots comparing your mordant choices, alum acetate, alum sulfate and symplocos. Consider the higher cost paid for the mordant as a source of support to the folks who gather the leaves. Also consider the limited nature of such a resource.

Natural mordant from leaves, sourced from Indonesia   http://plantmordant.org/symplocos/

History of use http://plantmordant.org/symplocos/history-of-symplocos-use/

Consider running some dye pots comparing your mordant choices, alum acetate (cellulose) or alum sulfate (protein) and symplocos. The website above has ample instructions on the different ways you can use the mordant for different fibers.

  • As opposed to gathering natural dye bulk material, natural dye extracts are a good way for those who cannot gather to experiment with natural dyes. Upon occasion folks remark to me that extracts are expensive. Experiment with it and learn the recipes. Focus on one type of substrate (type yarn) and learn the percent that you need to get to the color you want. Learn how to fully exhaust your pot to pull all the color. I’ll give you a couple of sources that have outstanding instructions for extracts on line or available for sale. Not only do they offer extracts but most carry some of the bulk natural dye material. Please understand there are many other retailers out there at your local festivals that sell natural dye extracts. Try to support local merchants but don’t hesitate to use our global economy. You are helping someone support themselves in their village and you can stay in your village and enjoy their colors. The links provided gets you to their site. Take time to look thru these websites to see their extracts for sale, the mordents AND the awesome online instructions.

Natural Dye Extract Suppliers in alphabetical order:

  • Botanical Colors https://botanicalcolors.com/product-category/natural-dye-extracts/
  • Earthues http://www.earthues.com/natural_dyes/extracts (workbook also on bibliography)
  • Maiwa (Canada $$’s) http://www.maiwa.com/home/supply/index.html
  • Online groups enable us to share information and learn. Technology keeps changing but for today Yahoo and Ravelry have solid groups that share information. You can join these Yahoo & Ravelry groups and search their achieves. Both groups are fairly gentle with beginners but it is always good to ask specific process questions and cite what research you have done beforehand. Both Yahoo and Ravelry require you to join. Facebook has some natural dye groups but I’ve found them difficult to research and find/mark information for retrieval. Hopefully technology will advance.

Yahoo Groups, search for NaturalDyes (active) and sustainablenaturaldyepractice (low activity)

Ravelry, search for Natural Dyeing (process) and Plants to Dye For (growing and dyeing)

Facebook, search for Natural Dyeing, IndiGrowing Blue, Indigo Dye, Indigo Pigment Extraction

  • I spoke about pulling color from wood chips. Sandra Rude of 3 Springs Handworks has written an excellent paper on using woodchips for color.

I will repeat a safety warning. Using alcohol is a good way to pull color from your wood chips or sawdust BUT do not use open flame for your dye bath. Use electric heat for safety.   You do not want to flambé yourself or your skeins. Safety FIRST!

The link is below. Look for “Instructions for Extracting Color from Wood Chips”.

http://www.3springshandworks.com/Extras.htm

  • I showed some examples of using pigment I pulled from my dye baths to paint and screen print with mordants. That is an advanced subject that I won’t address in this entry. Know that a way exists to precipitate out color from your dye bath and merits research if you pursue natural dyeing. Both John Marshall and Michel Garcia address this from different points of view. I’ll give links to these gentlemen below. Probably the best book I’ve had recommended to me is Natural Colorants for Dyeing and Lake Pigments, Kirby, et al. Search on line, it is pricy and would be a good guild book. An individual could probably find it via library loan or a university library to see if you want invest in the book or explore the process further. Others might exist but this book give historical context and experiments.

Another resource is this paper by Kirby online, this was the precursor to the book above, give it a moment to load. http://www.doernerinstitut.de/downloads/Back_to_the_Roots/Back_to_the_roots_Kirby_I.pdf

  • Michel Garcia was known for his natural dye plant garden in France, and he is now teaching about natural dyes and the historical indigo fructose method. He also addresses printing and precipitation of dyes. His lectures are worth attending for their botanical and historical content. His dvd’s should be in a guild library for member reference. They provide a wide scope of information and provide a chemist’s point of view. Take some time to read his background and look up his botanical garden.   https://shop.slowfiberstudios.com/collections/video
  • John Marshall is a fiber artist and most excellent teacher. He lives his art through the Japanese tradition and uses soy milk as a mordant to create his artwork. He does use Japanese pigments in conjunction with the soy milk and has written a booklet and provides instructions on his website. His booklet should also be in guild libraries.
  • Here is his home page: http://www.johnmarshall.to
  • Here is the soy booklet: http://www.johnmarshall.to/I-bookSOY.htm
  • Here are his online instructions: http://www.johnmarshall.to/H-Soymilk.htm
  • Here are his references to pigments: http://www.johnmarshall.to/H-DyesPIGMENTS.htm
  • The University of Nebraska offers space via Digital Commons to organizations like the Textile Society of America (TSA). Digital Commons are Institutional Repositories (IRs) which bring together all of a University’s research under one umbrella, with an aim to preserve and provide access to that research. IRs are an excellent vehicle for working papers or copies of published articles and conference papers. Presentations, senior theses, and other works not published elsewhere can also be published in the IR.

The 2010 proceedings are probably the richest in dye reference material as that was the conference theme. Look at some of the papers. I referred in my lecture to the South American cochineal harvesting process. Here is it, provided by the TSA organization.  Consider joining them to support textile research around the world.  We are thankful for the clear photos and comparison of methods. Without the Digital Commons, how would we access information like this without traveling? http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/39/

And finally, folks asked for a natural dye bibliography, this is what I recommend for beginners,  Here is my list….

Books as of 07/2015 sort by title, **first dye books recommended for beginners

A Dyer’s Garden ** Rita Buchanan

ISBN: 1-883010-07-01

Approach to natural dyes via touching the ground

Indigo, Madder & Marigold  Trudy Van Stralen

ISBN:0-934026-86-6

Good equipment chapter for beginners. Basic instructions for dyestuffs readily available.

Natural Dye Instruction Booklet** Michele Wipplinger

http://www.earthues.com/natural_dyes/books

Excellent summary on use of natural dye extracts various techniques

Natural Dyes – Sources, Tradition, Technology and Science

Dominique Cardon                   ISBN-10: 1-904982-00-X

Belongs in any fiber guild library, provides cultural, botanical & practical natural dye research spanning our globe

Salvation Thru Soy John Marshall

http://www.johnmarshall.to/I-bookSOY.htm – http://www.johnmarshall.to/I-bookSOY.htm

Different cultural direction to apply natural dye to cloth

The Craft of Natural Dyeing                                                          Jenny Dean

ISBN: 0 85532 744 8

Solid beginner definitions, nice approach to mordants and modifiers

Wild Color **    Jenny Dean

ISBN: 978-0-0230-5879-2

Great index and table of contents for reference. Best mordant and modifier (assistant) table available.

Sharing a Texas Winter Dye Garden

25 Feb

Today I hosted 3 UT Art Graduate students and showed them the winter dye garden. Even though all outside was frozen or dormant there was plenty of color in the studio to show them. It was a fun 3 hours of give and take and seeing the art world thru their eyes.

The indigo suffruticosa is cut back and dormant but the seed pods were beautiful.

The madder root bed was frozen back but we weeded and looked at the roots gleaming with color.

The Japanese Indigo beds lay fallow waiting for their early spring turning of the soil. Some frozen indigo leaves showed their true colors.

Final Harvest

11 Jan

Finally! All indigofera suffruticosa seed polls cracked, hulled & winnowed except for a couple of renegade pods. The winds were useful today. Next up winnowing Japanese Indigo seeds.

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