Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dyeing wool with Eucalypt leaves

Thanks to Lyn and Maria for their comments about the homespun bag and interest in the colour obtained from Eucalypts. I decided to add a few notes about my experiences using the leaves as others may also be interested. There are over 500 varieties of Eucalypts in Australia but only a few give really good colour for dyeing wool. as most will only provide pale shades of fawn. The best colour is from those trees that have greyish leaves and among these Eucalyptus Cineria is ideal as it produces a range of rusty colours through to a red earth depending on the strength of the dye and how long the wool is left to soak. The best colour seems to come from dried leaves. Because I particularly wanted this dye I planted this Eucalypt at our place in the Blue Mountains some years ago and had access to the leaves as it grew. Now it is a large tree and the leaves are well out of reach so can only be cut with an extension pruning tool!

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Gunnister Man

Sometime in the late 17th or early 18th century, a traveller died near Gunnister in the Shetland Islands, Scotland. In 1951 his body and all his possessions were discovered preserved in a peat bog there and among these articles were several finely knitted items including gloves and a drawstring purse. These are the earliest examples of knitting from Shetland and are made from homespun wool in natural colours with a red wool dyed from a plant material used for the pattern. All the articles are now preserved in the Shetland Museum. Scroll down to see a photo of the original purse here:

I recently found my version of the Gunnister Man's purse that I made some time ago so here are some photos to show you. The wool is my own homespun in natural colours and the red earth colour was dyed using eucalyptus leaves. The purse was found with several coins but I made some tokens and beads from Fimo instead. As a link from Scotland to Australia (my Scottish ancestors arrived here in 1853) I decided to add some emu feathers and a kookaburra feather. I also spun some of my hair with the merino fleece from my family's sheep as a personal touch.