"Another parcel? Not Christmas for ages yet." My companion, Elinor Gotland, grudgingly shifted her teacup so I could put the box down on the kitchen table and saw away at the layers of packing tape with a butter knife.
"This box, my tiny chum, should contain a manual spiral binding machine. The last piece of the jigsaw. The answer to the final conundrum - how to wrap up my brainchild, the 2017 Plant Dyes for All Seasons Calendar, which is to be both an item of beauty to adorn the home and a practical guide for anyone keen to start dyeing with plants."
"Finished it, have you, Beaut? Fair play, I thought you'd never be done with fussing over those dye projects. Not til well into the New Year, anyway."
I'll admit, it has been a lot more difficult to make a Dyer's Calendar than I imagined. I wanted to create the introduction to plant dyeing that I wish I had had, when I started. Simple, succinct and hands on. There are many great books on the subject - I own several of them, as well as a couple I still can't make much sense of. My trouble with reading was that I only really paid attention to the colours, looking for the most tempting ones and working out which plants I could get hold of. The introductory chapters and the technical explanations never sank in. For these Calendar projects, one page is enough to cover the background essentials.
In my early days, I boiled up loads of local vegetation and wondered why so many things I dyed turned out beige. This blog holds most of what I have learned since, piecemeal, through trial, error, luck and digression. All the experiences of past posts have been boiled down to make this calendar, structured as a beginner's year of learning to use foraged plant dye materials,
growing a few of the best and practicing a range of core techniques suited to the time of year. Regular readers will be aware that concise is not my middle name and may wonder how such a woffler condensed her writing to one page per monthly project. I believe a mass of information is not everyone's thing and a dyer doesn't need to spend a lot of money, have a big garden or read a big book before starting.
In January, dyeing with onion skins, no need to worry about mordants, just learn how to tell the difference between a simmer and a boil and see how wool, cotton and silk take up varying shades from the same dye bath. Bark dyes in February lend themselves to trying out home made iron and copper modifiers, then in March, see the difference between using these, or alum, or no mordant at all for daffodil dye.
With the spring comes sowing and transplanting dye plant seeds, shifting the pH of a dandelion dye bath and having a go at hammer printing new leaves. Summer is the time to try using those home grown plants in dye baths, solar jars and for contact printing ecobundles, Autumn brings saving seeds, taking dye prints from fallen leaves and making tannin mordants from oak galls and acorns.
The idea underlying this calendar is that through completing a simple, seasonal project every month, building in a couple of basic principles each time, by the end of a year, someone new to plant dyeing could be set up to take on all sorts of challenges, without half as much grief as I have given myself.
"Costed this calendar out, have you, Beaut? Hundred pounds a pop should account for all the lovely heavy paper you've wasted."
"I've got the method cracked now, Elinor. Optimal printer settings for the pictures, foolproof instructions to self for collating the pages." I pointed to a small stack of calendars. "Ready for sale at the Christmas Fairs for £7.50. If I sell a dozen, I can cover my costs. What's more, you'll never believe, I visited a wonderful wool shop in Pontyclun today. Ammonite Yarns are now stocking my calendar for their customers."
Elinor flicked through a calendar to the blank back cover.
"I'm not being funny, Beaut, but you got to think of internet sales and marketing. A celebrity endorsement could shift a few of these. How about a personal message from a glamorous actress for your online customers?"
She laid her portfolio on the desk.
"Did you have someone in mind?"
"Oh, just to help you out, I'd be prepared to add that touch of stardust."
If you would like to be posted a copy of Plant Dyes for All Seasons 2017 Calendar, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me which country you live in, so I can send you an invoice to pay by paypal or credit card, £7.50 plus a postage and packaging charge of £1.50 within the UK, £4.50 to Europe and £5.50 to everywhere else.
Update 2017 - this calendar is still available, I can print one as and when an order is emailed to me.
I will send out your order within seven days of the invoice being paid, the delivery time will depend on Royal Mail and their overseas partners, if sending abroad. Do remember, Christmas post is often slower than at other times of year.
I am a UK Sole Trader, trading under the name Rich & Strange Silk and Wool Work.
Anyone who fancies taking up Elinor's generous offer, just say so in your email, let me know the name of the person you are buying the calendar for and you shall have Ms Gotland's personal greeting printed on the back at no extra charge.
Update Tuesday 15 November 2016
I have been both delighted and staggered by the amount of interest in this Calendar. More people have ordered one than I can keep pace with, doing the whole thing at home. This has been marvellous, but anxiety provoking. In order to make sure I can send out calendars promptly, I have asked the local print shop to make me 100 sets of pages, printing exactly the same content from my original pdf file. I can still customise the back page whenever requested, since I will continue spiral binding the calendars at home. I saw the proof copy today and I consider the quality better than my own printer could manage, particularly on the card for the front cover, which has a much nicer glow.
Terms and Conditions
I will post via First Class Royal Mail within seven days of your invoice being paid.
If you have any questions or problems with the dye plant projects as you go through them during the year, please email me and I will do my best to advise you.I will refund your payment if you wish to cancel within 14 days and return the calendar to me at Rich & Strange Silk and Wool Work, 29 Bowham Avenue, Bridgend, CF31 3PA UK. The purchaser has to pay the cost of return postage.