Diary of an Urban Dyer
My love of plants began in childhood. As I grew, I acquired an allotment, learnt to forage, and started to make botanical syrups, oil infusions and teas. When I subsequently trained to become a medical herbalist like my great grandfather, I spent hours studying their medicinal properties along with their other uses. I was frequently amazed by how many plants could be used for dyeing or brewing. Or both!
It wasn’t until I travelled to Iceland with my friend, Fu that I realised how many incredible colours could be achieved from plants. Hélène Magnússon, the Icelandic Knitter, took us to visit Hespa who uses both native Icelandic plants and imported non-native varieties to create a rainbow of hues. Fu and I were smitten! A social weekend workshop followed with Jules of Woollenflower and Julia of Black Isle Yarns at Kat Goldin’s farm, Gartur Stitch in Stirlingshire. I delved deeper and attended a number of online dyeing workshops run by Flora of Plants & Colour; and also Maiwa School of Textiles in Vancouver.
Fu and I set up our respective dye studios, occasionally combining them as one in a very well ventilated polytunnel on her farm in East Lothian, Covid restrictions permitting.
And then I had an idea. I wanted to spend a calendar year dyeing small batches of beautiful undyed Uist Wool using either: plants in my garden or within walking distance of my house in Edinburgh; or food waste. And I wanted to use the resulting colourful skeins to knit a single woolly item as a record of the twelve months; plus have enough yarn leftover for other projects.
Below is a photographic account of my year of urban dyeing.
January - Ivy leaves
February- Alder cones & twigs
Food Waste - Avocado stones
March - Daffodil flowers
April - Ivy berries
Food Waste - Yellow Onion skins
May - Dandelion flowers
June - Hornbeam (Sorbus) leaves
July - Weld aerial parts
August - Mugwort aerial parts
September - Elder berries
October - Dock leaves
November - Eucalyptus leaves
December - Dried marigold flowers