The coastline of Anglesey is abundant with heather and gorse. Wild angelica is starting to line every country lane and wayside, the brambles a creeping forth and wild vervain (not to be confused with the medicinal vervain) is starting to sprout. Anglesey is a joy to behold in Springtime.
Right now, the heather tops are a glorious green, ideal for dyeing wool. I've been doing a lot of research into the uses of heather and stumbled across the below wool dyeing recipe whilst looking into methods for heather thatching. Click on the link below to see wealth of knowledge and lore collated by Electric Scotland.
Gather the tops of the (Barr An Fhraoich) Heather. Gather when they are young and green, and growing in a shady place. Place a layer of wool and heather alternately on the bottom of the pot until the pot is filled. Then add as much water as the pot will hold. Put on the fire to boil, but do not allow to boil dry. The wool will dye a lovely yellow colour which is a good basis for green when indigo is added. If a moss green is require, add gall apples and iron mordant towards the end of dying. Purple and brown tints can be obtained by using old heather tops.
If wanted for winter use, the tips of the heather plant should be picked just before they come into flower. If it is to be used fresh, it can be gathered as long as the flower is in bloom.
The resultant dye is a mordant dye which means the fibre requires special preparation before it can absorb the colour. The treatment is 4oz alum and 2oz cream of tartar to every 1 lb of wool.
I've been out collecting heather for thatching my aunt's gazebo with. I have a feeling I am going to be collecting heather for quite some time. I don't mind though, collecting heather or gorse or other free food and dyepot materials is always an enjoyable task.
Its too early to collect heather for wine or tea but I think I'll have a go at making a besom :)
My uncle made this gazebo himself. Its beautiful isn't it. Can't wait to see it with its heather thatch. I'll post more pictures as the project progresses.
Here is a picture of Welsh Angelica. I have some of the garden variety North American Angelica growing in my garden. Its a lot bigger than the Welsh Angelica and has not yet come into flower. I have plans to harvest it later in the year and make some into Angelica Liqueur. I'm trying to find out if this wild Welsh Angelica is edible too. Maybe it can be used in a dyepot? I'm going to look into it as it grows so freely around here I'd love to think of it having a culinary or dyepot use. I recently found an article on the Wild Colour website explaining how rhubarb leaves can be used as a mordant. I'm not very scientific so don't know the botanic make up of rhubarb, maybe angelica will work on the same principles?
I've been noticing lots of these round balls growing all over the oaks. My granddad calls these 'oak apples'. Can anyone tell me if these 'oak apples' are also 'oak galls'. I've been reading about dyeing with oak galls so am keen to give it a try.
The past week or so I have been noticing dandelions springing up all over the place. I read somewhere that St Georges day is the traditional date for collecting dandelions. There are so many culinary, healing and dyepot uses for the dandelion. I think I'm going to have a go at making dandelion wine and using some roots for the dyepot. I have read that dandelion roots can give a red/purple colour in the dyepot but also that this is a debatable fact. There's no harm in giving it a try to see what happens.
I tried solar dyeing with the beautiful wild vervain last year. I didn't get a very vivid colour, but I will try again this year. There are so many techniques for dyeing I'm not going to be put off by one failure. Above you can see the vervain just beginning to surface. In a few weeks these plants will be waist height and displaying the most magnificent red and cerise flowers.
I hope to have more to show you soon xJ