Saturday, 9 April 2011


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


La Dolce Vita said...

just beautiful photos and so nice to see the plants, none of which I am familiar with here... xx

Elizabeth Rimmer said...

yes, oak apples are oak galls - they make ink, too, if I remember right. I love yur glowing golden background!

Tammie said...

lovely to see your world coming alive in spring.
yes that gazebo is wonderful!
Good luck getting those dandy roots! I was collecting them one year, might be my soil actually, but they were happier in the ground, would barely let go.

Jasmine said...

Thank you Cat. Heather and gorse are very common to coastlines and the Celtic regions. I love them x

Thank you Elizabeth. I'll be sure to collect some now :)

Tammie, tell me about it. I've been trying to rid them from the lawn for a while now :) x

Suzi Smith said...

yes... oak gall wasps lay eggs, & the 'oak apple' forms around them as they are an irritant to the oak buds. If you look closely will see a small hole where they exit the gall (i think at larva stage, not certain). And you can make ink from them... and a dye? There is an oak apple day in england to celebrate 'bonnie prince charlie' hiding in an oak tree.

Look forward to seeing the heather thatch!

Jules Woolford said...

Lovely pics. i envy you the gorse, it's my favourite wild perfume!

Faerie Moon Creations said...

Beautiful spring photos! I love heather...we tried to grow it and it didn't do all that well. I loved seeing all of it growing so naturally there. Theresa

patricia said...

beautiful post, i´m finding out a lot of flowers that grow here and there, and it´s a sort of lovely metaphor too. i´ve done my first attempts changing wool´s colour, so i´m glad to learn through your knowledge and generosity. xxoo!

BluMoon said...

Angelica, love the candied stalks! I lost mine years ago, goodness gorse is such a lovely scent shame it can't be grown in the garden lol, we have it everywhere down here. Oak apple or oak galls someone answered that for you they are made by the gall wasp.
Beautiful photos Jasmine.

Jasmine said...

Hi Suzi - You know when I saw these galls my first instinct was to ask if they were created by wasps. Thanks for taking the time to let me know. I'm guessing now would be the best time to harvest them x

Jules - They smell beautiful don't they. The drink is perfect for summer days too x

Hi Theresa - It grows like a weed here. It tends to do better around rocky coastal areas. I was surprised to hear that it is on a red list in Holland as it is such a prolific grower here. Also there is not any brambles or nettles in Australia. Its odd what we take for granted.

Hi Patricia - Its great to hear you are starting to dye. Can't wait to see your results xJ

Hi Blumoon. Lovely to see you here. I must email you xJ

Karin Bartimole said...

amazing! So many uses for the fabulous plants at your fingertips :) Yes, your uncle's gazebo is terrific - and will be even more so with the heather hatched roof!! You are an inspiration Jasmine!! xoxox K

Lucky Dip Lisa said...

Very exciting happenings here Jasmine!!

Heather Woollove said...

I think you should come and collect THIS Heather for wine or tea!! Giggle. XXO-