The dyed yarn is all drying off. It has been a very exciting but intensive few days! What a lot of boiling water, rinsing yarn, drying yarn, weighing out mordants, chopping up leaves, cleaning mud and spiders off things and lugging big kettles of water around has been going on! Hats off to Katie for making it a job; I’m not ready to do wool in batches greater than 200g and probably not again now until next year; it is a lot of graft.

But look…

Here is the yarn, drying on the line, semi-organised by colours.

To me these colours are replete with stories and history and look, together, a little bit like my garden. There are fewer bright greens than I was hoping for, but perhaps the Wallflower experiment next spring when all the Wallflower plants flower will provide brighter greens. I was planning to use some Wallflower this year as in my dye book, this purportedly gives beautiful, yellowish greens. But I ran out of yarn to try with and in any case have somewhat lost faith in the colour-guides set out in books. In the same dye book as the purportedly green Wallflower dye, Bramble shoots and leaves on alum-mordanted yarn supposedly result in a lemony shade of yellow. Those skeins of delicate, pale grey greens in the middle were achieved using Bramble shoots; not a splash of lemon yellow in sight!

But that, to me, is the beauty of this small, home-dyeing project; serendipity, chance, too many variables to keep track of, and no real need to ever repeat shades or results or obsess over the way something did or didn’t turn out were key objectives! The dried Rhubarb leaves I’ve been saving up all year gave beautiful, vivid, spicy-orange shades on tin-mordanted yarn.

The sunflower heads which I’ve been freezing and saving up all year gave extremely rich, greenish-browns when dipped in an afterbath of copper mordant, and overdyeing Woad dyed yarn with Brambles made some beautiful, muted green shades.

I’ve been quite unscientific about this, jotting down vague notes on what went on what in which order and measuring my mordants out carefully, but not my dyestuffs. I wanted this yarn to reflect the way I garden; to be an erratic mix of science, attention, note-taking, delight, play and experimentation. There are enough things to be fastidious about in life (calories, tidiness, budgets) for some activities to be reserved for unfastidiousness.

Keen-eyed spotters amongst you will notice that I have used leftover sound-museum tags from the FRRS for itemising mordants, dyebaths and dips on the skeins… I like how they have all become progressively more trashed and stained throughout the process. I really must find a water and dyebath-proof method of labelling skeins for future experiments. My vague labels are a far cry from the super efficient note-taking required, I imagine, to reproduce the same shades consistently.

What amazes me about the yarn is the luminosity of the colours. They all share a kind of fragile, murky glow, which means that orange, brown, tan, green and blue can sit harmoniously beside one another and seem related. I love the lack of uniformity, the semi-solid way that the yarn takes up the dye, the lighter patches where I secured the skein with string too tightly, the patchy take-up where I didn’t soak a skein sufficiently before adding it to the dyebath, the little mishaps and chance moments that have produced this unrepeatable rainbow of garden colours. I also am fascinated by the affinity all these colours find with each other; it is reminiscent to me of the way that any number of different green things growing in the garden will ‘go’ together.

I am thinking that the way to put these all together now, is to make up a feather and fan scarf using maybe only one line of each colour at a time… that would make an awful lot of ends to weave in, but may well be worth it for the beautiful effect… I have a feeling this yarn will be on my needles as soon as the vest is finished!

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