Welcome to my first blog post, wherever you are in the world. You probably don't know anything yet about me and my work. I have just launched my first ever website, https://www.leafalkemy.co.uk/ showcasing months of hard work to create beautiful hand dyed and eco-printed silk scarves and other wearables which are inspired by seasonal plants and local landscapes. Autumn is here in Ireland, chilly and misty mornings, the leaves will soon start falling so my plant gathering for new printing will have to step up because in the dark winter months ahead I will have to rely on my stores of plant material and foraged barks and roots, maybe some overwintering hardy souls in the plant world too, to be able to make new things. I've been foraging for plants on the shores of Lough Neagh, one of the largest lakes in the British Isles, steeped in history, stunning scenery, wildlife, simply breathtaking.
After discovering natural dyeing with plants, and ecoprinting, a term which I believe was coined by the amazing artist India Flint in Australia (see her site here, https://www.indiaflint.com/) I wanted to try out the potential of plants native or local to the Northern hemisphere, not just far flung exotics.
So, I embarked on this journey, experimenting, and learning a lot of amazing things about this topic.
What I was most excited about is that I got some lovely colour shades from plants I knew and used in my garden either for herbal medicine or natural fertiliser, such as comfrey, which yields a rich brown dye, elder leaves vary their colour potential through different seasons, but I got some amazing mossy green a few months ago. Also wood sorrel, nettles, ivy, laurel, onion skins, and so on. Check out some great ideas from Alicia Hall's work at https://www.botanicalthreads.co.uk/ or Rebecca Desnos's blog and new ebook:
Now I can only get muddy browns. And my Valerian, which I grow as herbal medicine, the leaves print really well on fabrics and I incorporated these in some of my scarf designs. Then I stumbled upon "ice flower" dye, making a delicate blue dye from pansy and petunia petals frozen and then thawed in warm water. Or an iridiscent yellowish blue from Crocosmia flowers. Who knew! I was hooked.
Basically each new technique led me to another potential and discovery that I never knew about.
Such as the "hapa zome" another one of India Flint's names for an old Japanese method of literally beating colour into cloth from live plants. In Japanese it means literally "leaf dye". Even though this is not the most permanent of printing methods, most prints will survive a couple of years if they are washed carefully by hand with very mild soap. You get some lovely seasonal prints of whatever flowers or plants you have at hand, and if they fade, well, you can repeat the process over the faded bits. It's a great way to embellish old t-shirts or dresses or whatever you have, provided it's in a light and plain colour. See some of the samples in the pics here.
I have a keen interest in herbal preparations as well as gardening, so my blog will cover different topics at different times.
So, this is all for now, next time I'll share some amazing herbal recipes I made. Great for the cold months ahead!