Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Dyer’s Garden in Roberts Creek B.C.

A small plot of land in my daughter’s garden basking in the sunshine of Roberts Creek, and a dream was planted.

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Referencing “A Dyers Garden” by Rita Buchanan and “Harvesting Colour” by Rebecca Burgess, we spent a Mother’s Day at the local garden centre and were able to get all of the plants we had chosen to fill the space.

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Marigolds, zinnias, hardy hibiscus, dahlias, marjoram, St. Johns Wort, purple basil, lemon cosmos, Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’ black hollyhock; Cherry Brandy rudbeckia and sunflowers were planted with care and love.  Later we added three plants of Japanese indigo.  One of our Guild members had acquired some Japanese indigo seeds and several members started them from seed.  An indigo workshop was planned for late summer.

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Just how many plants can fit into a very small space?  We planted them much closer than the recommended spacing and they flourished.

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Christina made our dyers garden extra special with the addition of driftwood signage marking the Garden and each and every plant in it.  The sun shone for record hours this summer on the Sunshine Coast.  A gift from Mother Nature.

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The Japanese indigo thrived at the back of the space.  The flowering plants were watered faithfully and deadheaded on a regular basis.  We had more success with our dye baths than we could have imagined.  Deanna gave great advice on mordanting and Heather set up dye baths on her deck which gave Dorothy and me the courage to try our own. What amazing fun while we were learning the process.  A perfect summer and the start of an absolute obsession with natural dyeing.

The results:

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Top row:  Japanese indigo Rebecca Burgess method; zinnia
Middle row:  Japanese indigo (no heat Method), marigold, ‘Cherry Brandy’ rubeckia
Bottom row:  dahlia, Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’ black hollyhock.

I have a freezer full of blooms and the plants are still producing more, we are hoping for a second crop of Japanese indigo leaves to produce our Sea Foam Blue dye.  What a fun summer!

Photos by Christina and Roberta


Harvest Festival

The Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden Society invited the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild to participate in their September 1 Harvest Festival which celebrated the last days of summer.  The Guild welcomed this opportunity to share their traditional skills of weaving, spinning and dyeing with natural materials.


One of our members built and warped a loom between two trees.

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Garden and Guild members brought a wonderful diversity of plant materials to use for weaving.


All day visitors and Guild members added their contributions to the weaving.

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The final masterpiece.

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The Guild’s spinners were well represented with everything from traditional drop spindles to the latest model of battery/electricity driven spinning wheels.


There was great interest among some children and maybe some future spinners!

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There’s a growing interest in dyeing with natural materials as an environmentally safe alternative to chemical dyes.  The Guild had a display of plant materials for dyeing and naturally dyed fibres and fabrics.


There was also the opportunity for visitors to try out colouring fabric with plant materials by pounding flowers and leaves into the fabric.  It was a great hit particularly with the younger visitors.


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It was a wonderful day of sharing traditional skills that are environmentally sustainable and can enrich our lives.

Heather Apple
Photos by Heather Apple and Deanna Pilling

The Magic of Indigo

August 24 was another wonderful day at the FibreWorks Gallery in Madeira Park.  Yvonne Stowell hosted an indigo vat dye workshop which was facilitated by Ros Aylmer.  Ros set up three individual vats – the Maiwa natural indigo vat, the Bangladesh hydrous vat and the ferrous or iron vat, all of which gave slightly different and wonderful results.  She taught us the secrets of starting, using and reviving indigo vats, as an indigo vat can be kept going for months.


She showed us how to create patterns on our cloth with resist dyeing using an assortment of everyday tools including elastic bands, hair clips, clamps, hoses and everything else one could think of.  Our results were nothing short of miraculous considering it was a first for many of the participants.



The objects being dyed varied and included gloves, scarves, shawls, wool roving, spun yarn, items of clothing as well as many different fabrics.  I think the highlight was a scarf that Ros had been gifted by a friend.  It had been eco dyed with plant matter and then Ros over-dyed it after placing a few resists.  A beautiful piece of art.


Participants were from up and down the Sunshine Coast as well as the Vancouver area.  By the end of the day we felt like old buddies who had been through a great adventure together.  We were all very excited with what we had accomplished.



Dorothy T

Eco-dyed scarf photo by Dorothy T, other photos by Yvonne Stowell of FibreWorks Gallery