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.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

New Eco Weaving Kit - the plant dyed yarns (eucalyptus)

http://thealchemystore.bigcartel.com/category/weaving-kit
I have to admit that I have a slightly strange relationship with my Eco Weaving Kits, with regards to selling them as part of my business. They are very time consuming and laborious to make and are not especially profitable for me (truthfully - if I took into account all of the time I spend making them I would actually be losing money!). But despite all of this, I really love making them. Am I crazy? I don't think so.

There are a few things that I do get from making these kits. The pleasure of connecting with other like minded people, and of seeing others learn a new skills and make themselves something beautiful. The satisfaction of knowing that I'm putting something thoughtfully made and high quality out there into the world. I could probably charge twice as much for them and that might come close to covering the beautiful materials and copious amounts of time that I spend working on them, but that would put them out of the reach of many people and then I would be missing that connection that I love so much. And there are many more things that I get out of making the kits that are not monetary. One of them is completely selfish and I will not deny it - and excuse to indulge in LOTS of plant dyeing.

I could continue dyeing textiles just for the fun of it, but to me that feels a bit wasteful. I'm not interested in hoarding hundreds of skeins and balls of yarn that I've dyed just for the sake of it. That's not my style. But creating beautifully coloured yarns from the plants that I've collected on my adventures for other people to enjoy - that's my style.

It's important to me that everything that I make has a story, and that this story has come naturally as part of my every day activities. I don't sit down and actively come up with ideas for things to make, colour schemes, etc. It took me a while to realise, but if I just do what I love every day and enjoy myself, these things continue to come to me quite effortlessly. Perhaps this is another reason why I'm not too fussed about making lots of money from my creative endeavours - I'm doing them anyway and I'm loving the process. Admittedly, I don't derive as much pleasure from sanding timber as I do from foraging for eucalyptus leaves, but even a mundane task such as sanding delivers a degree of satisfaction for me. But it's really the dyeing I'm here for.

So let me tell you about the inspiration behind these yarns. I recently took a road trip north to Queensland and experienced some incredibly inspiring and quite diverse landscapes. I have visited many of these places before, but they never cease to amaze me with their beauty. The redness of the dirt as you move toward the centre of the country, the vastness of the ocean as you move back out to the coast, the changes in flora from the lush rainforest to the sand dunes and the dry eucalyptus forests. The eucalyptus is something that seems to remain constant everywhere that I've travelled - even in the rainforests you never seem to be too far from a patch of eucalyptus forest. Their familiar bark, leaves, seeds and heady scent remind me that I'm home all across this country. They keep me both grounded and inspired. I've spent a lot of time experimenting with the colours that this brilliant plant can produce over the past six months or so, so it was inevitable that I was going to use it as part of these new colourways.

I've used eucalyptus in two of the kit colourways and one of the extra fibres. The first is Warrandyte eucalyptus, the colourway featured in the two photos above. Those warm, earthy tones are all derived from and inspired by leaves and bark from the mighty eucalyptus. More specifically, they are derived from eucalyptus trees growing along the Yarra River in Warrandyte.

I wish I could properly describe with words what a special area this is, but I think you have to spend some time there to truly understand its appeal. People who live there speak of it with pride, I feel grounded as I walk along the river banks amongst the eucalyptus trees and rejuvenated as I take a dip in its icy cold waters. Even if I'm just passing through the area on my way to somewhere else, I feel like I have to slow down, look and feel the fullness of the area. I get the feeling that this little patch of the world has been special to many for thousands of years.

The Pacific Ocean dream colourway (above) also include yarns dyed with eucalyptus. The charcoal grey-brown yarn and marled grey-brown unspun fibre derive their hues from this tree and are inspired by the serene vastness of this ocean that sits against the east coast of Australia. And this familiar floral friend of mine grows along this coast too. It's when I'm spending time on the coast that I am most aware of the trees, their thick leaves slapping together loudly in the ocean breeze and making their presence known to me even when my eyes are closed.  The rest of the yarns in the kit are in their natural, undyed state. No matter how much I love experimenting with colour, I'm always drawn back to the clean, neutral tones, which is why I've included this neutral colourway in this batch of kits.

http://thealchemystore.bigcartel.com/product/plant-dyed-unspun-merino-wool-fibre
I love this marled unspun merino fibre so much that I've made some extra available to purchase with the kits. It's truly beautiful to look at, hold and weave with.

So that's two of the three colourways. Next I'll be talking about the most vibrant of the colourways: Summer fruits. It's got a lot of personality so it deserves a post of its own.



















Monday, March 2, 2015

New Eco Weaving Kit is now available

http://thealchemystore.bigcartel.com/category/weaving-kit





































A limited number of Eco Weaving Kits are now available in my online store in three Australian natural landscape inspired colourways: Warrandyte eucalyptus (pictured above), Summer fruits and Pacific Ocean dream. 

This kit includes a beautiful eucalyptus hardwood loom (handmade by me), a hand turned casuarina wood bobbin (made by a local wood turner in my design), six plant dyed and undyed yarns and fibres (all Australian merino wool), my detailed beginner's weaving guide, plus all the other bits and pieces that you need to make your own woven wall hanging (you can see the full list in the product listing).

Because I love to support sustainable local makers and I LOVE healthy chocolate, I'm giving away a free bar of RAW Chocolate to the first ten Australian buyers who spend over $150 (excluding postage). If you haven't tasted the raw, organic, sugar free, dairy free chocolate that Casey Pringle makes in the Macedon Ranges, Victoria, you are in for a treat. Ever since I picked up a bar from a local farmers market I was hooked.  


You can also purchase extras that will ship free with your kit: extra plant dyed yarns (for more colours) and bobbins (in case one is not enough), plus natural unspun merino wool, bamboo and cotton fibres, a delicious chunky felted merino wool fibre (which is halfway between an unspun fibre and a yarn) , some textured organic cotton yarn and my favourite - an unspun merino fibre that I dyed with eucalyptus to achieve a beautiful marled grey-brown colour. These extras are also limited and are only available to purchase with the kits, and they sold out really quickly last time (so I've added a few extra options so that nobody is disappointed this time!).

I'll be sharing a bit more about the inspiration and process behind the plant dyed yarns in the coming week. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

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


Welcome to the second installment of my new regular post: plant-related objects that have recently come into my life (that I love). I have to admit that when I committed to making this a regular post I wondered whether enough plants and plant-related objects would continue to come into my life to make it a feasible series.

That fear has now very much been put to rest. Over the last month I have accumulated enough plants and plant-related objects that I could do three more posts. But let's not get carried away!

I have just returned from a fantastic road trip north through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, having reached the beautiful K'gari (Fraser Island) before turning around and heading back home again (you can see photos of this trip on my Instagram). These objects have all been collected on my road trip and have made it home, securing a permanent place in my life.

Seaweeds of Australia by Bruce Fuhrer, I.G. Christianson, M.N. Clayton and B.M. Allender
I purchased this secondhand book for the purpose of identifying local seaweeds for natural dyeing and eating. I'm in the process of learning all of the skills that I need to live self-sufficiently, and as I travel around this country I am realising that seaweed is bountiful all around the coast. So I can see that learning how to identify edible (and otherwise useable) seaweeds will likely be a useful skill if I am going to live near the coast. This book has already proven very useful as a visual guide for locating and identifying various seaweed species.

Mojo Muesli
I have actually been eating Mojo Muesli for a few years now, but this time I bought it directly from the family who make it at the Mansfield Bush Market. I love this muesli not just because of the taste (it's really delicious), but because it is high in protein. This means that I can have the high protein (for long lasting energy) breakfast I like to have every day without having to cook eggs or beans. I eat it with coconut yoghurt or almond milk, and fresh seasonal fruit (if I can be bothered).

Woven seagrass bag
I bought this bag from a shop in Bangalow, NSW (I don't remember the name) to carry our towels and swimwear to the beach and waterholes. I really like it because it the perfect size, is strong and folds up really flat for travelling. Now that I'm home, I'm using it to collect foraged flora for natural dyeing. If I buy something on a holiday I make sure that it is going to be useful once I get home - too many spontaneous purchases in the past has left me with many an object that I have no use for in my everyday life!

Coconut oil + tooth tonic + remineraliser - a new teeth cleaning routine
About five years ago I decided to stop using conventional (ie. chemical and fluoride containing) toothpaste in favour of more natural alternatives. I've been using locally commercially manufactured natural toothpaste since then, but have been seeking out an even more natural, handmade alternative. While I was at The Channon Market I came upon Maya from Tooth Tonic, who makes all natural tooth cleaning tonics and a whitening remineraliser. Now my daily brushing routine is oil pulling with organic coconut oil (I use this cold pressed oil by Goconuts) followed by brushing with the (really delicious) fennel tooth tonic. Twice a week I follow up with a brush with the whitener/remineraliser. My teeth have never felt cleaner. Goodbye toothpaste!

Seeds pods
These eucalyptus and banksia pods are just two of many Australian seed pods that I collected on my recent east coast roadtrip. I love collecting seed pods even more than flowers, because they last so long. I have pods that I've carried with my for years sitting in vases around my home, reminding me of the adventures I've been on long after I've returned home.

Quartz stone
Not strictly a plant-related object, I know, but I've spent a lot of time gazing at this beauty that I picked up from the red dirt in country NSW since I found it. I really love the way that the colours of the earth run through the white of the quartz.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Upcoming workshop - Creating sustainable textiles: natural dyeing with kitchen scraps


(Image by Pierre Curry)

I've been doing a lot of research and experimentation with natural dyeing and have found that a lot of the information available encourages the use of difficult to find (and often quite toxic) chemicals. In my experimentation I've found that you can achieve the same results with simple materials and equipment that most people already have in their home, and I want to show you how. 

I invite you to join me for a natural dyeing workshop at Kinfolk Cafe in Melbourne as part of the Sustainable Living Festival on Sunday 8th February.

In this half day, not-for-profit workshop you will learn how to prepare wool and silk yarn and fabric for natural dyeing, choose food materials, and use those materials to dye textiles with. We'll be using food scraps from the Kinfolk Cafe kitchen, and you'll go home with naturally dyed samples from the workshop and all the information you need to go home and start dyeing. 
I'm donating all of the profits from this workshop to the local and international community projects that Kinfolk Cafe supports so you get to learn natural dyeing and support some great programs at the same time.

Find out more and book your spot in my online store.