Bubble Bubble toil and trouble

This phrase came to me because I’ve been dyeing some wool for my One Year One Outfit challenge, and I felt very witchy indeed as I was stirring my cauldron and watching my wool change colour!

[I have since changed the title, and I know I am misquoting William Shakespeare, but if Walt Disney can do it, so can I!]

First up, sourgrass flowers. I am pretending that I am cultivating sourgrass in my garden for this project, but I’m really just too busy lazy to pull them out. I have masses of the plants but no flowers. This sent me on a trip round the neighbourhood, but my neighbours groom their gardens so I was reduced to finding some on a vacant block, which I happily harvested.

I simmered my flowers with some knitted i-cord and some 4ply wool, and the resulting colour is a deep, deep gold. Lovely.


I had a friend visiting and she needed some yellow wool to mend a teddy’s ear, so we dunked a bit in the pot towards the end of the simmer time, and then I put a piece of white knitting in after we had turned off the gas.


From left to right: my piece of knitting which spent about five minutes in the cooling liquid. Teddy’s wool. My i-cord and the length of wool.You can see the variation in the colours.

Then Nicki from Thisismoonlight told me about red ink sundew bulbs which dye a bright red. Hmm. I had to google the flowers as I had never heard of them. According to my good friend, Wikipedia, their botanic name is Drosera erythrorhiza and they are a flat, rosetted tuberous, perennial herb. A herb? Well, when I saw the picture I had a conniption. I love these little plants and take photos of them constantly. Here are some in what I call my “fairy dell” at our holiday place. See the little rosettes?


These plants are quite shy. They hide under leaves and, once I started looking, I found them everywhere. I didn’t have a trowel to use to dig them up, so I started with a chisel. No bulbs. So I went to a shovel. The bulbs are surprisingly deep and remarkably coy. I worked hard – and destroyed quite a few plants – in my attempts to get just a few bulbs. I was careful to minimise the destruction, and harvested from several different locations. The bulbs are orangey red and vary from minuscule to the size of a pea. I started with two bulbs and a short length of wool and got a dried blood colour. Not bright then. I took some bulbs home with me and simmered them up with some lengths of wool (sorry the photo is out of focus, but I only took the one for some reason).


I used a stainless steel pot instead of the aluminium pot I initially used and the result was quite different. I got a gorgeous dusky pink colour.


I put a piece of felt in the cooling liquid and zapped it for a minute in the microwave and love that colour too. Here it is with my golden i-cord.


I have already run out of the gold for my project. Erk! Back to collect more flowers.


I think I  left too much greenery with the flowers because my wool is more yellow and I need that almost medieval gold for my outfit. Can you see the difference?


I only need a small amount to finish a little section, so I’ll be back picking flowers again tomorrow for another go. Today’s batch won’t be wasted though, I will find a use for it.

I also had a little experiment with snake vine flowers (Hibbertia scandens) and they do nothing when simmered. Nada. Zip.


I might have another play with these, but in the meantime I really must start getting an outfit together!


11 thoughts on “Bubble Bubble toil and trouble

  1. The colours you are getting from these plants are beautiful. Wonders how long they last. At least this lot of dying is of non toxic plants!

  2. So glad you found the sundews! And so interesting with the pots getting different colours, I wonder what an iron pot would do. I like the pink and it’s really similar to my marri bark result, I have a suspicion the colour would be brighter on a silk. I’m in love with the yellows from the sour grass and have been collecting like mad too. Oh, I thought I’d throw some of the purple peas in a jar after your streaming luck, but nope, nothing.

  3. I remember learning about Drosera in my biology days. I love the one that grows like a strand with tiny flowers along it. They are adorable. So, you’ve been digging them up!! I’ll forgive you since it’s for such a good cause and the colours you got are so beautiful. Your dyeing exploits sound like great fun, I can’t wait to see what you make.

  4. I look forward to seeing this MAJOR project finished – you are a devil for punishment. Next project Sue – interested in rust dying? I have a collection of fantastic rusted metal bits, found around the different spots when we stayed at different camp spots, we must have a show and tell!!

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