Pinks from Second Year Woad

Hello fellow plant dye enthusiasts! I’m here today to tell you about a use for your 2nd year woad leaves (other than waiting for seeds, chicken feed, or compost additive)!

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As we know, woad (Isatis tinctoria) is a rather plain looking plant from Europe that has a long history as a source for blue dye. Think Celts and medieval European tapestries. Only the first year leaves are a good source for blue (usually, unless one is extra lucky), but the plant is a very hardy biennial. (Too hardy sometimes – it is labelled as a pernicious weed in some Western US states). I have grown woad in my Minnesota (zone 4b) garden for the past 4 years, and it reliably overwinters despite cold snaps of -50F. In its second year the plant sends up a flower shoot that will burst into yellow blooms. I’ve heard that the flowers can give a yellow in the dye pot… but to be perfectly honest enough plants will make yellow; I’m after a beautiful, dusty rose type of pink.

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I like to harvest my second year plants before they flower – really anytime after they start growing again which seems to happen as soon as the snow melts. This is a good time to decide which plants get to stay to produce seed and which plants need to go. You really don’t want all of your plants going to seed or you will end up with “woad woes”, to quote Rita Buchanan, writer of the excellent A Dyer’s Garden

So on to the dyeing process itself! I fill up a big stainless steel dye pot with leaves – I take the whole plant from rosette to flower stalk, stuff it in the pot, give it a few snips with the kitchen shears, and fill with water. I don’t tend to weigh the dye stuff here, but as a guess it is about 3ish pounds of leaves per batch? This goes onto heat to simmering (I honestly don’t think a light boil would hurt anything, but I’m a baby and don’t like to boil my dyes) for about 1 hour. Let the leaves sit and steep until you get a nice rich sherry-colored liquid, usually an additional hour. In the meantime you can dig the roots of the harvested woad (I chuck ’em in the compost), and pre-soak your fiber.

 

And here is a cool part of pinks from woad; I have had fantastic success (both depth and longevity of color) on protein fibers WITHOUT mordant. Cotton not so much (needs more experimentation!) but really couldn’t be easier with wool and silk; just make sure it is well cleaned of course. I get reliably pink results using a ratio of about 3:1 fresh plant matter to fiber. Fortunately woad is a bulky, heavy plant so a little goes quite a long way.

 

After you have a nice looking color in the pot and you bath has cooled just a little, strain the leaves (also great for compost!) and add your fibers. Give the whole thing another simmer of about 1 hour and then (this is important) leave them to soak overnight!! In the morning do your typical rinse. I like to use my rain barrel water to cut down on water usage, and perform a final rinse with a wool wash like Eucalan. Spin or squeeze and hang up to dry! You are done!

 

A few random thoughts and notes.

  1. You may be thinking, wait! This is very similar to Jenny Dean’s process for pinks from first year woad leaves that have already had the blue extracted! You would be right – we are just using a previously underused dye potential in second year leaves!
  2. This is a really nice way to scratch the post-winter fresh leaf dye pot itch. It is a great and efficient way to get a double use out of a dye plant and your garden space.
  3. I have not specifically light-tested these fibers, but I do have several skeins that have been in and out of tubs for 3 years that still look great.
  4. Learn more about general woad cultivation HERE, or purchase seeds HERE! Looking for some beautiful pink woad-dyed yarn? Click HERE!
  5. A disclaimer – other than the woad seeds and yarn I do not profit from any links on this page 🙂

And there you have it! Beautiful dusty pinks from second year woad. Any questions? Have you tried this or want to try it? Drop a comment here or come visit me @knittyvet on Instagram or in my Etsy shop! While you are here feel free to check out some of my other dye and dye plant tutorials. Be well!

Like it? Tried it? Pin it!

Woad Pink
How to use second year woad leaves for a beautiful dusty rose pink!

 

Knitting Pattern: Garden Stroll Socks

Hey knitters – what about spring socks in fresh, lightweight yarn. Sound good to you? Free pattern sound even better??

Free sock knitting pattern.
Garden Stroll socks by KnittyVet in hand dyed botanical Marigold Sock Yarn.

Here is just such a pattern that I whipped up specifically for my sock weight Garden Yarn. Full disclusure: I’ve made 3 pairs of these anklets and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. So what are you waiting for? Grab your yarn and needles and cast on!

Garden Yarn colorways - Walnut, Marigold, Coneflower
Naturally dyed sock yarn with walnut, marigold, and coneflower

You can find the pattern on Ravelry, and several colors of yarn are still available for now.

Share your works in progress or happy feet wearing your new socks by using #GardenYarn or tagging me @knittyvet on Instagram! I’ll give you a shout out. 🙂

Free Easy Sock Knitting Pattern from Knittyvet.com

Best Ever Sourdough Biscuits

Last week I had a magical day. A sublime day. I still don’t know how it happened.

I made 3 separate recipes that were SPECTACULAR (if I do say so myself… but the family did agree, in my defense).

Number one was a sublime molasses cookie recipe. I feel like I’ve made this recipe before, but I don’t know, maybe the stars aligned or something. They turned out crisp/chewy, just the right amount of spice and sweet, and they lasted for a few days perfectly (until they all got chowed) in the TARDIS cookie jar. Yes, I have a TARDIS cookie jar. Find the recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/molasses-cookies/

Number two was a lovely wild rice cream of chicken soup. I’ll post the base recipe here but I may go back and write more about this later since I did change some things. http://www.food.com/recipe/minnesota-cream-of-chicken-wild-rice-soup-134627

And Number three. Number three turned out to be the Best Ever Sourdough Biscuits. I’ve made biscuits before… and sourdough biscuits before… but these were fantastic. Light, buttery, just a hint of tangy sourdough. I’ve made them again and wow. Just wow. The beginning of this recipe is from http://www.tasteofhome.com, but you should try mine instead.

So –>

– Best Ever Sourdough Biscuit Recipe –

Prep/Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Makes: 12 Biscuits
Oven: 425 degrees F (I used 400 with convection)

Ingredients
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup sourdough starter
1/3 cup of plain yogurt
1/6 cup milk (just put your yogurt in the measuring cup first, then add enough milk to reach 1/2 cup. I used skim milk but I bet 2% or whole would be even better)
Melted butter for tops after cooking

Directions
1. In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Great kid activity. E can attest.
2. Combine sourdough starter, yogurt and milk. Stir into the crumb mixture until the dough just holds together.
3. Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead 8-10 times until the mix begins to behave like dough. Then STOP or your biscuits will be tough. Roll or pat to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with a floured 2.5″ biscuit cutter. Place 2″ apart on a greased baking sheet
4. Bake at 425 (or 400 convection) for 12-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove and brush tops with butter (if wished) and allow to cool on a wire rack. They taste best when still warm! With honey! Yummm….

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Happy cooking you guys. If you make this recipe feel free to post comments or photos here or my facebook (www.facebook.com/knittyvet) or instagram (@knittyvet) or twitter (@knittyvet).

And remember I have a Mother’s Day Shipping Sale at the KnittyVet Etsy shop right now – FREE SHIPPING on any order over $10! Just use the code MOMGIFT15 until Mother’s Day.

Ok folks, thanks for reading, and enjoy those biscuits! Man, I’m so hungry now!!!!