Our Indian Summer in New Zealand, has swiftly being pushed away by a well needed rainy few days and plummeting temperatures. A welcome reminder that it’s time to get the quilts out and start snuggling in under their warmth and comfort.
During the early part of summer, the street where I live was strewn with fallen Flowering Gum leaves and gum nuts. The colours of salmon, blush pink, grey, dusty violet and brown are a beautiful reminder that even in the withering of life, there is beauty. These colours provided inspiration for creating a quilt made with natural plant dyes; a process that has its ‘roots’ in antiquity, in a time when all colour used by our predecessors, was made from harvesting plants or minerals from the earth. A time when there were no synthetic dyes and a time when life was sustainable
There is a wonderful revivle of this natural plant dyeing practice taking shape world wide, within the Makers Movement; A loose term for many artisans globally, producing hand crafted products from scratch, and with a close eye on sustainability. These colours are created by harvesting the leaves, bark and sometimes the flowers, soaking and heating them to draw out their natural colours, and then adding the cloth to be used. Although this is a long and slow process, I particularly like dyeing cloth this way because it keeps me in-touch with the seasons and unearthing the beauty that this earth has to share with us.
I gather from many different plants whenever I come across a good amount to work with.
Once the colour has been created and the dyeing of the cloth is complete, I love to make quilts out of this beauty. Knowing that I can return all the excess dye, plant material and off-cuts of the dyed natural cloth to the earth via my compost bins and garden beds, brings me deep satisfaction that I am giving back to the earth in a sustainable way. I am experimenting more and more with native plants of New Zealand. These plants are rich in tannin and produce lovely warm, earthy tones.
Many people ask me where I get my inspiration from, and the answer is always from my surroundings. I have many wonderful books on natural plant dyeing, some from the 1970’s and some more contemporary, but the practice and message is all the same. The biggest influence for me however is Maura Ambrose of Folk Fibers. Maura creates the most gorgeous quilts from colours of Indigo, Madder, Osage, Pomegranate and more. Much of the plant material she uses is harvested from her surroundings in Texas. This has encouraged me to unearth the colour in the plants of my garden.
I was recently given a Woad plant…..now I have to learn how to care for this young treasure as if it was a new born. Now, that is a challenge!!