Sunday, May 10, 2015

Making time for beauty


No matter how busy my day is, I always make time for beauty. The imperfect beauty of the natural world surrounds me every day, and whether I'm in the city or out in the country, I always make time to immerse myself in it. Even if just for a few minutes, these experiences rejuvenate and inspire me as I go about my day. The smell of a fallen eucalyptus leaf in my hand, the sight of a bug crawling up a fence post, the sound of grevillea pods crunching underfoot; all of these things remind me of what a gift being alive is.

This is the current state of my ever growing wall of perfectly imperfect flora that I've found while on my way, a reminder of that beauty that is so easy to forget as we go about our day. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

True indigo dyeing with Aboubakar Fofana

http://theplanthunter.com.au/culture/indigo-dyeing/
(Photo by Francois Goudier, courtesy of Aboubakar Fofana)

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of spending two weeks with Malian natural dyer Aboubakar Fofana in Mullumbimby, just inland of Byron Bay, NSW. I was hoping to advance my natural dyeing skills by learning with Aboubakar, who has spent the last few decades mastering various natural dyeing techniques. I was not at all disappointed. The days were long and often tiring, but the opportunity to learn advanced natural dyeing techniques made it well worth it and, using my learnings from this workshop, I feel like I've been able to take my natural dyeing practice to the next level.

Aboubakar specialises in indigo dyeing with a fermented leaf vat, using no chemicals. This is one of the key reasons that I chose to learn with him. True natural dyeing without the use of chemicals is important to me, and indigo dyeing is a form of natural dyeing that is frequently performed with the use of strong chemical additives to reduce and alkalise the dye solution. In his workshop, we learned that there is no need to use these chemicals to achieve a beautiful and permanent result, and I am excited about using these methods as part of my natural dyeing practice.

I wrote about my experiences with Aboubakar for The Planthunter, and you can find out more about his work and future workshops in this article.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Upcoming workshops: natural dyeing and weaving for The Craft Sessions

Natural eucalyptus dyed merino wool yarn by Belinda Evans of Alchemy
Native Australian plants for natural dyeing by Belinda Evans of Alchemy
Ordinarily I like to announce upcoming workshops first via my shop email newsletter, but I'm today announcing these two workshops for The Craft Sessions here because they completely sold out a few hours after registrations opened! 

I really enjoyed learning and teaching last year, so I'm returning again on 11th - 13th September this year to teach two classes: Natural dyeing using native Australian plants and Weaving a wall hanging using naturally dyed yarn. These two classes work well done hand in hand (using those naturally dyed yarns to weave your own masterpiece), but they work equally as well separately. I'll be bringing in plenty of my own naturally dyed yarn for the weaving workshop. 

I'm looking forward to spending another amazing weekend with beautiful women who share my love of crafting, connecting, sharing and laughter. Are any of you coming along to The Craft Sessions this year?

Make your own Australian native smudge stick

Wild harvest Australian native smudge sticks by Belinda Evans of Alchemy

On my journey of fulfilling a constant desire to capture my experiences with my natural surroundings, I recently created a handful of smudge sticks made using wild harvested Australian native flora.

Cleansing my spaces with smoke is something that I do regularly - I love the scent and ritual of clearing old and making way for new energies. Doing it with native Australian plants that carry special memories that are harvested from local places that hold meaning for me makes it an even more enjoyable and meaningful ritual. 

I enjoyed making and using these smudge sticks so much that I decided to share my methods on The Planthunter for this month's Scent theme. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Plant-related objects that have recently come into my life (that I love)


I've been doing more travelling since my previous plant-related objects post, so many of these objects have found their way to me from far away places. Some have come from far away places that I haven't even visited, thanks to a lovely woman living in San Francisco. All of these objects, from both near and far, have now found a special place in my life because of the joy they are bringing me.  

Wildflower Tee by On A Whim 
When I spotted this tshirt on On A Whim's Instagram account I actually squealed with excitement. When I found out that it was locally printed on organic cotton, I knew that I had to make it mine. It ticks all the boxes for me: locally designed and made, features Australian wildflowers, made using organic cotton. I'm not generally a big tshirt wearer, but this lovely little number has secured a solid spot in my wardrobe since it arrived in the mail.

Natural Curiosity colouring in book by Lila Ruby King
This little treasure actually came into my life a while ago, but it has been hidden under a pile of paperwork until very recently. So now I'm finally able to start enjoying it! I like to engage in a bit of colouring in as a kind of meditation, and Anna's beautiful illustrations featuring collections of plants, birds, insects and other small creatures are so much fun to work with. Anna is also very sustainable in the way that she runs her label - she chooses sustainable materials wherever possible (this book is printed on recycled paper and card), and offsets one tonne of carbon each month. 

Dye Plants and Dyeing - a handbook by Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
I like to try and read every book on natural dyeing that I can get my hands on because I think that they all have something that I can learn and use to improve my own natural dyeing practice. Generally, I find that many of the new books are more about beautiful photos and less about useful information. In my experience, the older, text heavy books (with the less beautiful photos) have more information on the kinds of plants that I can easily access and tried and tested, environmentally sustainable techniques for dyeing textiles with those plants. 

I've come across a lot of rare and old Australian and international books through friends, family and secondhand stores, and this little booklet (first published in the 1960s) is one of the good ones. It goes through different plants and recipes that can be used and gives a really great historical and cultural context to the dyes and recipes used across the world. It's definitely worth reading if you're really interested in natural dyeing.

Foraged Californian flora
Recently I made it my aim to participate in more collaborations with kindred spirits. Since I created this intention, I've worked with some incredibly talented, passionate, beautiful individuals. One person with whom I am currently engaged in a collaboration is Ama Wertz. Ama is an amazingly talented tapestry weaver and I am so excited to be working with her on a really special project. She recently sent me a package in the mail and included this lovely collection of flora that she foraged locally to her. Their textures and scents are so different to that of my local flora. 

Banksia seed pod scent pot
I've seen these beautiful banksia pod scent pots in people's homes before but never known where they came from. When I was in Byron Bay last month I finally saw them for sale at the Byron market. So one came home with me to Melbourne and now sits in my studio space, filled with the eucalyptus oil I got from Candle of Vision

Seagrass twine
I recently embarked on a small collaboration with Lucy, a Melbourne maker who sells her gorgeous handmade linen clothing under her label Moth Cotton, and she gave me a package wrapped in this fantastic seagrass twine. I don't want to say that the twine was more exciting than the exquisite undyed linen that was contained within (which I did this with before returning it to Lucy to work her magic with), but I've been pretty happy with that piece of twine since it entered my hands. 

Plant dyed organic cotton yarn
As well as the foraged flora, Ama also sent me these two balls of Sally Fox's organic cotton yarn that she dyed with avocado and eucalyptus. The colours are really beautiful and subtle and I'm looking forward to finding the right project to use them in. I'm also looking forward to working with the undyed cotton that Ama sent me for our collaboration. I'll share more on that soon!

Passionfruit dyed scarf
When I was at the Byron market recently, I came across the stall of a local passionfruit farmer who I'd met at The Channon market earlier in the year. We got talking about her fruit and my natural dyeing, and she ended up giving me a big bucket of passionfruit that was unfit for sale so that I could dye some silk with it. I made her a scarf and one for myself, and this is mine. It is just the most amazing, soft, warm pink colour, and quite different from the (also really beautiful) more violet colour that I achieved dyeing merino wool yarn with fruit from the same farm only a month earlier. It demonstrates how very subtle changes in dyeing conditions can significantly affect the outcomes - something I love about natural dyeing.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Upcoming workshop: Botanical textile dyeing with Australian native flora

(Image by Pierre Curry)

After having such a great time at the natural dyeing workshops I held at Kinfolk Cafe earlier this year, I decided to team up with City of Port PhillipPort Phillip EcoCentre and Vegilicious to celebrate World Environment Day doing two of my favourite things: natural dyeing with foraged Australian flora and eating delicious food with other passionate makers, crafters and artists!
In this workshop for only ten people from 10am - 3pm on Saturday 6th June at the EcoCentre in St Kilda Botanical Gardens, you will learn how to prepare natural textiles for botanical dyeing, choose plant materials, and use those materials to dye textiles with. You'll also enjoy a delicious vegetarian lunch locally prepared by Vegilicious in St Kilda.
Using locally foraged Australian native flora and simple equipment that you probably already have in your own kitchen, you'll learn techniques that will work on any new or vintage natural textiles, and will go home able to create something new or bring new life to old clothing and home textiles. You'll take home samples of yarn and fabric that have been dyed in the workshop and detailed notes on the preparation, mordanting and dyeing process for natural textiles.
I'm donating the profits from this workshop to the EcoCentre, so you get to spend the day learning natural dyeing, enjoy a delicious meal and support some great local cultural and environmental projects and programs.

Find out more and book your spot here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

New Eco Weaving Kit - the plant dyed yarns (summer fruits)


http://thealchemystore.bigcartel.com/category/weaving-kit
As I think about what to write about Summer fruits, the third colourway of my most reason batch of Eco Weaving Kits, I realise that this fruity selection of yarns demonstrates perfectly what I mentioned in my previous post about these kits being an example of inspiration and materials just coming to me in the course of my every day life. 

These colours very literally did that. In my recent trip north to Queensland I collected and purchased food from the roadside and markets. Food that I don't have easy access to in Melbourne: locally grown passionfuit, mango and lychee, native Davidson's plum and quandong harvested from the rainforest, masses of enormous prickly pear growing like weeds by the roadside.

https://instagram.com/iamalchemy/
https://instagram.com/iamalchemy/


https://instagram.com/iamalchemy/

These three images are from my Instagram and were taken on my recent road trip: passionfruit from The Channon market, quandong from the rainforest floor in Maleny, mango and lychee from a roadside stall. As these tropical delights came my way,  I collected, consumed and put aside the skin and flesh in jars to begin the solar dyeing process. When I continued and completed the process on returning home, dyeing and overdyeing with the fruits that I found. 

http://thealchemystore.bigcartel.com/category/weaving-kit
The results were these yarns: a golden yellow from mango, soft mauve from passionfruit, deep orange from lychee and prickly pear and a rosy purple from Davidson's plum. They are available to purchase together as part of the Eco Weaving Kit or separately in addition to the kit. I have to admit that I will be reluctant to see these beautiful yarns move from their fruity yarn bowl.