Friday, 17 May 2019

Silver Birch Bark Dye - Fresh versus Dried Bark

My companion, Elinor Gotland and I climbed over a huge silver birch fallen right across our path through the woods.
"Isn't it odd how trees withstand great storms coming the same way as the prevailing wind, then topple at a few gusts blowing in the opposite direction?" 
"There's a metaphor in there somewhere, Beaut." My companion leaned against a branch and lit up while the dog headed off after a squirrel and I got my penknife out. "Planning to peel the whole tree?"
"One percent of this bark would be far more than I could fit in a pot. It's a shame really, when you think of all the times I've gone hunting for birch to dye with and found nothing freshly broken."
"What makes you so sure the bark has to be fresh? Couldn't you just come back here when you need some more? Or bring a bag of peelings home to store? I remember seeing dried wood dye stuff on sale at Wonderwool." 
"That was logwood and fustic, not silver birch. I think bark does need to be fresh."
Elinor stubbed out her fag.
"Oh, I shan't argue. You know best."
Naturally, her unwonted complaisance quite toppled my convictions.

On the way home, we passed a silver birch tree that fell last winter and I stopped to examine the part I had peeled to dye a great pile of chunky merino wool and knit the Betula Jacket. Over the intervening months, the exposed layer between the core of hard wood and the silvery outer skin of the bark had dried, changing colour from pale green to a pinkish brown. A dozen tiny beetles scuttled for cover when I prised up a section to get a better look.

The dye bearing underlayer had turned russet brown and friable. It was easy to flake off a few big chunks. Back in the kitchen, I put 100g of this old bark in one pot and 400g of the fresh bark into another, added water and left them to ferment for a week. On day eight, both pots were simmered for an hour and left to stand overnight.

Testing with indicator paper showed both dye baths had fermented equally, dropping to pH 5. Once I had added enough soda ash to raise the pH back to neutral, there was an obvious difference between the two samples, the fresh bark dye being a warm orange while the old bark dye looked pale yellow. 

Here are the results of dyeing two 50g skeins of unmordanted Blue Faced Leicester yarn by simmering them almost at the boil, one in each bath for over an hour. The old bark gave no pink at all, just a hint of tannin beige. Perhaps over time as they turn the bark itself visibly russet brown, the dye molecules in silver birch bark oxidise or otherwise change their state. Presumably the dye becomes insoluble once you can see it in the wood, since no pink was extracted into the dye bath from the old russet bark, while plenty came out of the pale, fresh peelings..

To make it a fair trial, in each bath I dyed fibre totalling half the weight of the bark. One hundred grammes of old bark dyed (or didn't dye) 50g Blue faced Leicester wool. The 400g of fresh bark dyed 50g Blue Faced Leicester and also 150g 'British Wool' - tough old carpet yarn of unspecified species - another of my Wonderwool bulk buy bargains in three base colours, cream and two shades of pale grey. I think overdyeing grey robbed the pink of some of its warmth, giving it a faintly mauve caste.

All this dyeing was done with the bark still floating at the bottom of the dye pot. I've noticed that after repeated heating with new batches of fibre, the dye bath becomes a stronger orange/pink rather than appearing paler and weaker. I guess that more dye is being released from the bark with more time and warmth. While fibres don't need mordanting, they do need to be taken almost to the boil before the dye latches on. Silver birch bark is both curious and generous dye stuff. I put another 150g carpet wool in the pot next day and it dyed at least as deeply as the first lot. Felted wool blanket weighing 300g was turned a peachy pink the day after that.

I turned to my companion.
"See I was right, silver birch bark does have to be fresh to give pink dye."
"If you recall, Beaut, I said as much myself. Still, credit where it's due, that's a considerable result from 400g bark."
"I noticed today the fresh bark has turned dark red in the dye pot. Funny how the initial orange dye bath turned wool deep pinky brown, and now the bark and the bath both look dark red but don't dye things half as strongly. This morning I took out this big skein of two ply merino and Tussah silk blend and the colour on the yarn is much paler now, but I think a soft pink shawl might be rather lovely. There's a cotton Tee shirt I might dye too. It takes a lot of fibre to exhaust a silver birch bark dye pot and I do like the paler pinks."
"No need to push your luck, though. That whole tree is still lying in the woods and the bark can't have dried out in just two weeks. Get your penknife, put the dog on her lead and let's see if we can beat the beetles to it."

Friday, 10 May 2019

A Dye Gardener's View of Malvern Flower Show

I strode up and down the patio picking pots up and putting them down again, not sure which plant to put where, undecided what border to sort out first.
"Flower Shows are so packed with inspiration, I always come home with my creative juices in full flood." I clasped a small helianthemum to my chest. "You know that show garden we saw, the Malvern Telectroscope? Just imagine how brilliant it would be if I built something like that next to our front door."
My companion, Elinor Gotland, looked at me and sipped her tea.
"All those creative juices just washed a dead horse downstream. A Telectroscope here - himself would have a fit."
"Maybe just a small periscope sticking up out of the lawn, as if a submarine were about to surface?"
"Wouldn't it be a 'subterrine'? A lurking paté de fois gras, perhaps? Why don't you stop crushing that poor plant and find it a place in the sun."

The opening day of the RHS Malvern Spring Festival may have been damp and grey, but it fizzed with ideas. As well as the Show Gardens, there were five Green Living Spaces, all of them joint projects between interior designers and garden designers.
"Wouldn't you have loved to have one of those studio gardens, Elinor? I can just imagine you lounging artistically on the divan inside that one with the cob wall."
"Looked like a shipping container left next to a pile of mud and bones."
"Oh, don't be so mouldy, upcycling an old container is good for the planet. I loved it, everything within that space was natural, sustainable and handmade, lush textures of wool and linen, wood and glass. Even the planting had a soft palette."
"Soft palette? That garden was lisping for the lack of a palette, it could ask for tea but heaven help its plosive consonants if it fancied a bit of cake."
My companion wasn't entirely wrong. That Green Living Space would have sprung to life if the designers had added just a couple of textiles woven with bright, plant dyed yarn.
"People don't always appreciate that natural colours can be vivid and varied. Plant dyes are still pretty niche. Still, reasons to be cheerful, now Monty Don has started growing dye plants on Gardener's World, I bet they'll get a much higher profile."
"What's he planted then, Beaut?"
"Madder, so there'll be alizarin scarlet. Only he put his plant in the border, not a tub, so I'm worried the roots might rot like my first plants did when we had a wet winter. There was a woad plant, only since it's ready to flower, he'll have to save seeds ready to grow lots next year. Otherwise, I think he had hollyhocks, marigolds and St John's Wort."
"Oh good grief, what a plonker."
"Don't you call Monty names, he's my personal hero."
"This summer, your hero is going to show the world some sadly fugitive colours. Hollyhocks and marigolds won't set the nation alight. Feeble and ephemeral. He'd better save half his St John's wort to make a tincture to cheer him up when all his Fair Isle knitting fades to beige."

I dug a hole and firmed the heliathemum in.
"I suppose you could be right, Elinor. Monty Don does need some proper dye plants. Weld, coreopsis tinctoria, anything with 'tinctoria' in the name."
"Well, he won't find them at Malvern Show. All those hundreds of trade stands we went round, thousands of plants and not a decent dye among them."
"That's not quite true. I did see one Dyer's Chamomile plant."
"The exception that proves the rule and I bet Monty won't find it."
"One day, Elinor, dye plants will cover the front of the displays, people will demand them because they are so beautiful, fascinating and useful."

I finished weeding the herb border, placed a few more of my new plants in the spaces and stood back to consider the effect.
"We had a grand day out at Malvern. I was pleased to buy old favourites like this sage and thyme, but much more excited to pick up six kinds of chilli and talk to the nursery owners about conditions for growing sorrel and old school herbs you'd hardly ever have seen on sale in the past. Tastes change, things get rediscovered and growers and suppliers respond. Dye plants won't be forever hidden in the farthest corners of the RHS Plant Finder. One day, there'll be whole trays of Dyers Chamomile and shelves full of Japanese Indigo at every flower show." 
Elinor finished her tea and dusted the biscuit crumbs off her front.
"And one day, Beaut, you too shall have your own Telectroscope."

Friday, 3 May 2019

Re-lining a Sewing Box

"Enjoyed yourself at Wonderwool, Beaut?"
My companion, Elinor Gotland, hadn't waited for an invitation to go nosing through my shopping bags full of lovely new yarn and fibre. I finished wiping the dust and dirt off the most precious of my purchases.
"I always think Wonderwool won't be as good as it was last year, but every year, it just gets better." 
"And every year you go further over budget. That old box must have cost a fair bit more than the vintage rug bodger you came home with last time."
"This is a cantilevered sewing box trolley. It's priceless. The stuff of dreams."

I squirted a drop of oil into each castor and spun the wheels. 
"I've wanted to own something like this for nearly fifty years. I remember asking for a cantilevered sewing box for my tenth birthday and having to plaster on a happy smile when dad gave me a plastic tool box. To be fair, it has hinged trays that rise up when the lid is opened and I do still use it, very handy for keeping scissors and pins, but it's never been an object of beauty and it isn't nearly big enough. Once I've given my new sewing box a polish, it will be a marvel of utility and authentic art deco ornament."

"More like a marvel of 1960's repro, Beaut. Its original features include a salmon pink nylon lining - bit of a giveaway."
"Elinor, no!"
Too late. My companion had already stripped off the tasselled braid, torn out the lining and was inspecting the base of the box.
"As I suspected, vintage hardboard. Never mind, it'll fit in the sitting room, hold your knitting and you can stand a mug of tea on top." 
"My lovely sewing box!" 
It is difficult for Elinor to look sheepish.
"Come on, Beaut. Best we replace that nylon with some of your nice natural fabric."
I followed her upstairs. 
"Silk would be too thin, wool would collect dust and cotton is just ordinary and uninspiring."
"How about this silk and linen blend?"
Elinor pulled out the legs of a pair of trousers that I had unpicked and contact dyed with weld plants a couple of years ago. The fabric was just wide enough to cover an oblong of card the size of the base of the box. All very neat and professional. Using a hot glue gun to stick the other leg to the sides of the box, I burnt my thumb and welded a fold of fabric into a hard lump.
"Oh I've ruined it now." I slumped down to examine my blistered thumb.
"Don't forget you need braid to go round the top, that'll cover a multitude of sins." 
So I crocheted a matching trim of pink yarn dyed with silver birch bark and green yarn, possibly dyed with birch leaves. Gluing that on with UHU was easy enough.

All that remained was to transfer the contents of my old plastic tool box, rediscovering in the process such lost treasures as an envelope holding locks of my children's baby hair from their first haircuts.
"Oh, yuck, how Victorian can you get? No wonder your old tool box was always overflowing with crap."
I took the envelope from my companion's hoof.
"I think I'll just tuck it away down at the bottom of the new box. That's not a problem, this sewing box trolley is so capacious, I've got plenty of room for everything."
"Everything? In that box? Really?" said my companion, swinging open the door of the sideboard ....

Friday, 26 April 2019

Pob Lwc Knitting Pattern

"Nice pouches, Beaut."
"Oooo, do you like them? They're prototypes for an entrelac basket pattern I've been working on, which has the same basic construction method."
"A pouch or a basket - what would you call such a thing? A POB pattern?"
"Hadn't really thought about it. The curved shape just happened when I made a mistake knitting a flat piece of entrelac, so I could call this the Fortuitous POB Pattern."
"Go native, Beaut, call it 'Pob Lwc'. That means Good Luck in Welsh."
Sometimes my companion comes up with a pearl.
"Love it, Elinor. Happy and snappy."

This pattern can be used to make any size of pouch or basket (pob) in any weight of yarn. The final roundness depends on washing to cause at least a little felting before the pob is stuffed while damp and left to dry in the desired shape, so your yarn will have to be minimum 50% real wool without superwash treatment. A pob would be a good way to use up small amounts of leftover yarn from other projects if you knitted each of its eight sections in different colours and completed the top with a ninth yarn.

To choose the correct size of long circular needle, twirl three strands of yarn together, match the width of the twirl against the width of a knitting needle, then go down a size and use a needle which is slightly narrower than the three strand twirl. This should knit a reasonably tight fabric to make a secure container after felting. Nothing should be able to work its way out of your pob - that would not be much lwc at all.

To make handles, you will also need two double pointed needles in the same size as your circular needle, which will be used for knitting free lengths of icord, plus scissors and a tapestry needle for finishing.

Size and Quantities
Entrelac is knitted in rectangles and triangles, each of which has the same stitch count. The greater the unit stitch count you choose, the larger your pob will be. To get a fair idea of the final size and the amount of yarn you will need, cast on ten stitches, knit ten rows of stocking stitch and cast off, then wash the piece to felt it slightly. Measure the width of your gauge piece and multiply by six to find the widest circumference that a pob would be if made in your yarn on your size needles with units of ten stitches. The depth of the pob, not including the icord rim, will be about 1.5 times the width of the gauge piece. Use these measurements to decide what your unit stitch count should be to achieve the size of pob you'd like.

Example - your ten stitch gauge piece measures 7cm wide. Therefore a ten stitch unit pob would be 42cm at its widest circumference (the brim will be narrower) and 10.5cm deep (not including brim). You would prefer a larger pob, so now you can calculate that if you use a fourteen stitch unit, that would make a pob of 59cm circumference and 15cm depth.

Weigh the gauge piece and multiply by 12 to find the weight of yarn you would need to make the body of a ten stitch unit pob. The construction lends itself to working in four colours and if you decide to do this, you will need three times the weight of the gauge piece in each colour. You will also need more yarn for making the top of the pob, the amount depending on whether you plan a simple brim or multiple turns of brim plus long handles. 

The dotted lines on this schematic show which sections become knitted together in which order. The labels A, B, C and D refer to four colours of yarn if you are working with four colours.

In the following instructions, X represents the number of stitches in a unit.

K = knit
P = Purl
P2tog = purl 2 stitches together
RS = right side
SSK = slip one stitch as if to knit, slip the next stitch as if to purl, then pass the left needle through the front loops and knit the two stitches together
WS = wrong side

Section One
In Colour A, cable cast on X stitches loosely.
P2, turn
K2, turn
P3, turn
K3, turn
continuing as above to KX and then break yarn and tie on Colour B

Section Two
In Colour B, with RS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up X stitches along the knitted edge of Section One
PX, turn
*Knit  X stitches, turn and purl back* repeat (X-1) times
Break yarn and tie on Colour C

Section Three
In Colour C, with WS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up X stitches from the edge of Section Two, passing the needle from the RS to the WS so that the new stitches appear on the RS and the selvedge is hidden.
*Knit  X stitches, turn and purl back* repeat X times
Break yarn and tie on Colour A

Section Four
In Colour A, with RS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up X stitches along the knitted edge of Section 3.
*Knit  X stitches, turn and purl back* repeat X times
Break yarn and tie on Colour D

Section Five
In colour D, with WS facing, turn work clockwise and pick up (X+1) stitches along the edge of Section Four passing the needle from the RS to the WS so that the new stitches appear on the RS and the selvedge is hidden.
K X + 1, turn
*P2tog, P to last stitch, then P2tog last stitch of Section Five with first live stitch of Section Three
K back to end of row* repeat until only 2 stitches remain of Section Five, then purl those two together with the last stitch of Section Three.
Break yarn and fasten off.

At this stage, your work will look like this:

The live stitches of Section Four (on right of photo) now need to be transferred to the opposite needle, which puts that needle into position to pick up stitches from the free edge of Section Four.

Section Six
In Colour D, with RS facing, rejoin yarn and pick up X stitches from the free edge of Section Four.
P X, turn
*Knit to last stitch, then SSK last stitch together with a stitch of Section Two
P back* repeat until you have completed the knit row in which the last stitch of Section Two is used.
Break yarn and tie on Colour C

Section Seven
In Colour C, with RS facing, pick up (X+1) stitches from free edge of Section Two.
*P2tog, P to last stitch, then P2tog last stitch of Section Five with first live stitch of Section Three
K back to end of row* repeat until only 2 stitches remain of Section Five, then purl those two together with the last stitch of Section Three.
Break yarn and tie on Colour B.

Section Eight
In Colour B, with WS facing, pick up (X+1) stitches from free edge of Section Six, passing the needle from the RS to the WS so that the new stitches appear on the RS and the selvedge is hidden.
K (X+1)
*P2tog, P to last stitch, then P2tog last stitch of Section Five with first live stitch of Section Three
K back to end of row* repeat until only 2 stitches remain of Section Five, then purl those two together with the last stitch of Section Three.
Break yarn and fasten off.

Your work will now look like a shallow box.
The brim will be knitted as an icord bind off, which will draw in the edges and provide a firm and inelastic top for the pob.

Basic Brim

In the Brim Colour yarn, with RS facing, pick up (X+1) stitches from the free edge of each of the four triangles using a circular needle. Do not turn your work, continue as if knitting in the round.
Cable cast on three extra stitches from the first stitch on the left needle and knit an icord bind off right round the top of the pob - here is a helpful video tutorial.

To complete the pouches, at the end of the first round of icord, I simply picked up another stitch from the top of the start of the icord before passing all four stitches back to the left needle, knitting two, then knitting two together through back of loops, picking up another stitch from the top of the icord and passing all four stitches back to the left needle. This builds a spiral of icord at the brim of the pob which you can continue to knit for as many rounds as you choose.

To make icord handles, you will need two double pointed needles, here is a helpful tutorial on knitting free icord.
At any point on the brim, knit an icord as long as the handle you want, then loop it in half as you return to the point where you started knitting free cord and continue knitting an icord bind off around the brim. 

For a single strap, when you reach the opposite side of the bag, knit an equal length of free icord and pass it through the loop of the first before returning to complete the icord bind off. Sew the two sides of each icord loop together to make a sturdy handle. 

For two handles, make four loops, one at each quarter of the brim circumference and interloop each pair.

Sew in ends and put the pob through a hot washing machine cycle to felt it. The misshapen lump that emerges should be tightly stuffed with towels and pummelled into a nice round ball shape, then left to dry.

I used a free Ravelry download crochet daisy pattern to make the decoration on the daffodil dyed basket which is shown near the top of this post. Haven't quite decided what I might add to this silver birch bark dyed shoulder bag. Maybe some green birch leaves?

Friday, 19 April 2019

Dandelion Flower Dye - One Yellow, Three Greens

On the first of April I turned the page of my calendar to see a picture of dandelion dyes. The day was sunny and light of heart with the promise of spring, I grabbed a bag and set off for my usual hunting ground, a wide verge beside the A48. 
Sure enough, the grass was ablaze with dandelion flowers. I used to feel horribly self conscious crouching to pick them as fast as I could, imagining people driving past might consider me foolish. This year, that galvanising thought had barely occurred to me before the verge was stripped. Once I got home, I found I had only 700g of dandelions, rather less than the usual kilogramme.
I simmered the flowers for an hour and looked for some fibres to dye. This 200g of super chunky singles wool yarn from World of Wool was mordanted with alum a couple of years ago and has been lurking at the bottom of the basket because I've previously found the white Cheviot yarn didn't seem to take up much from plant dye baths.
The following day, the skeins of yarn were simmered in the dandelion dye bath for an hour and left to cool. The day after that, I hooked them out for a look at the result and my companion, Elinor Gotland, glanced up from doing her crossword.
"Of all the weeds in all of Wales, that is the most weedy yellow you've ever dyed, Beaut."
"Mmm, not enough sunshine yet, not enough dandelions and not the ideal yarn, either. Still, I've not given up hope. This dye bath has been fermenting for a couple of days, it's bound to be acidic. The colour will look better after a rinse in plain water."

Though my companion looked dubious, I wasn't wrong. The skein on the far left of this photo was simply rinsed and dried, the second was reheated in half the dye bath with a splash of iron solution before rinsing and the third was reheated with copper solution, which modifies colour best in an acidic environment. The fourth was originally the grey skein, proving once again that yellow + grey = green.
All four skeins were knitted into an entrelac bag which was felted in the washing machine with colour washing powder. I expected the alkaline powder to intensify the dandelion dye colours even further and I'd say the plain yellow, the grey base and the copper modified greens did get marginally stronger. One surprise, the iron modified skein shifted to a rather beige toned green variation, which hasn't happened before. 
I'd never claim to be astonished by beige, that just seems to be the default state for amateur natural dyers. I stared moodily at the beige sections of the bag.

My companion waved a hoof.
"Cheer up Chicken, it's Easter, the family are coming and it's time to hide chocolate in the garden."

Elinor will not be missing a trick from her eagle's nest. 
I suspect all my eggs may end up in one basket.

Friday, 12 April 2019

An Entrelac Tablet Cover

"Have you found the button to turn it on yet, Beaut?"
My companion, Elinor Gotland, always finds my technological ineptitude a source of great entertainment. I bought myself a tablet - absolute bargain - then was appalled to find there were no instructions in the box. Apparently, no-one needs such things these days, it's all 'intuitive'. Eventually, my 'intuition' had led me to search online for directions on how to charge the thing up. 
"Are you planning to write your blog on that tablet?"
"No." I blew my nose with a loud and snotty trumpeting sound. "It's first function is going to be carrying a powerpoint presentation to Gloucester. I've been invited to talk to the Guild there about dye plant gardening and I was really looking forward to it, only now I've got a filthy cold and I'm absolutely bloody dreading having to link this thing up to their projector."  
"Oh, go on with you. What could be easier? It'll be fine when you get there." Elinor positively skipped across to the kettle. "This is the perfect time for you to talk about growing dye plants. The green fuse has been lit, leaves are about to unfurl from the trees and seeds are bursting to germinate." 
I stopped tapping and swiping at the screen of the tablet and shoved it away.
"Feels to me like someone pressed 'pause' on the Spring. That cold East wind is still blowing and I've been rained and hailed on once too often this week. My throat is sore and my head's in the shed. I want to write my blog on the computer, but I've lost the bit of paper with my notes on the knitting pattern for this entrelac tablet cover. What's more, I didn't even remember to take many photos."
My companion passed me a mug of lemon and ginger tea and a box of tissues.
"See what you can remember. The pattern will have to be 'intuitive'. You can always google 'entrelac' if you want to make another."

Materials - four 50g skeins of handspun Shetland wool, high twist, chain plied somewhere between double knitting and worsted weight, dyed with madder, weld and meadowsweet.
3.5mm and 4mm circular needles with a long cord, darning needle for sewing in ends.
Fabric to line the case, needle and thread and two buttons.

Cable cast on 60 stitches loosely on 3.5mm needles. Knit six entrelac base triangles each 10 stitches wide. Changing colour for each row, knit seven rows of entrelac rectangles, then finish with a row of bind off triangles.
I-cord will shrink more in the wash than entrelac fabric. Change up to 4mm needles and pick up 11 stitches from each of the 10 stitch triangles and three extra stitches at each corner. Cable cast on three more stitches and knit an i-cord bind off to edge the entrelac. To make button hole loops, on one of the short sides, knit three added rows of free i-cord at two of the rectangle points.

To felt the fabric, put the piece through a hot cycle in the washing machine and pin it out flat to dry. Cut a piece of material 2cm wider and longer than the knitting, turn back a hem all round and sew it against the inside edge of the i-cord on the wrong side.

Fold the piece into a envelope with a flap, sew the icord edges of the pocket together and set in two buttons in line with the button loops on the flap.

"Ah, brilliant, completely brilliant."
"You've cheered up, Beaut."
"Sally rang me from the Guild. She only knows how to work their projector from her laptop and wondered if I'd mind bringing my presentation on a memory stick. I can stop fussing about with this tablet. All my worries are over."
"Not quite, Beaut. You'll be wanting to crochet a cover for the memory stick before you go."

Friday, 5 April 2019

Plant Dye Greeting Cards with Free Seeds

Delighted to introduce these dye plant cards, which come with gardening instructions and free seeds. 

Now available here if you'd like one to send to a friend who'd enjoy natural dyeing.

A sharp East wind kept me out of the garden this week. Thanks to an equally sharp prod from my companion, Elinor Gotland, I have braced myself, got to grips with html coding and set up a Dye Plant Card Shop Page. As well as the gardeners' choices, there are three cards in a 'Live Fast, Dye Young' series; simple instructions are written on the back with a view to encouraging beginners to try natural dyeing. 

Here's how the online card shop began ...

Rain poured off the greenhouse roof while inside I gently dripped water onto my dye plant seedlings. My companion,Elinor Gotland, sauntered along the workbench inspecting the trays. 
"Looking good, Beaut. What are you going to do with all the extra seeds you saved last autumn? Seems a shame they'll never have their moment in the sun. Assuming we ever get any."

"I'm giving little seed packets away free with every dye plant greetings card I sell at Crafts by the Sea. Advice on sowing, growing and harvesting the plants is written on the back of the cards and people round here seem to be taking to the idea of dye plant gardening. Even so, I've got far more seeds than will ever get planted in local gardens."
"You should try selling those cards online. Send free seeds all over the country."
That idea pleased me very much. So I've set up the online card shop and will see what happens.
Meanwhile, back in Ogmore by Sea ...

A pan of onion skin dye has taken up residence in Crafts by the Sea's kitchen and so far, no eggs have been broken by the kids who come to try their hand at printing small leaves onto eggs. My companion was impressed with the instructions on the Egg Printing card.
"Fair play, you've cornered the market for Easter Cards with this one, Beaut."
"Actually, I think fluffy chicks are still the Craft Shop's best seller."

Elinor looked up from her reading.
"Do you think silver birch bark dye is really suitable for beginners?"
"Well, it does need a dedicated pot for dyeing, but no mordant is needed and I've found I can get away without any heavy duty scouring, just soaking my fibres before dyeing . Plus it makes a lovely looking card."

"True, but Cath's art looks even more gorgeous. Her Dye Garden painting has printed out like a jewel box."
"I went to the same printer as did the Dye Plant Calendar for me last year. FSC Accredited and Environmental Impact Certified and still achieving that lustrous, glowing, quality finish."
Elinor put down the card and moved on.
"What on earth persuaded you to make these two?"
"Oh. The poetry cards. Sentimental, I know. Those are the poems that come to mind whenever I walk in those woods by Merthyr Mawr or Dunraven Walled Garden."

Elinor looked at me askance. 
"Surely I can't be the only one who likes a poetic kind of thing?"
"Mmm, well, you're going to find out the hard way." 
My companion had reached the last card.
"Speckled Face Beulah sheep? When you could have had a glamorous Gotland in your photo?" 
My blood ran cold, how to explain that away? 

"Elinor, don't you see, you are of course the 'Missing Ewe'.

To buy any of these cards, click 


to get to the Card Shop page.