Natural Dyes

I received a note today asking me about medieval natural dyes from my other site, The Medieval Tailor. Their question was, which is the cheapest to use. Onion skins. You can get them at the grocery store, always good to catch them when they’re clearing the bin, they’re usually happy to give you the skins, you can scoop them into a bag and pay for them, probably less than $.25 as they are so light, or you can save them from your own cooking.

Different onion skins and different fabrics will give different color results. You can get anything from a creamy yellowish ivory to various rusts and if using red onion you might even get blues and lavenders.

This is cool stuff, totally better living through chemistry. Get brown after soaking in blue and yellow? Well pooh, not what I was gong for. Throw it into an ammonia bath and instant green. INSTANT.

The witchy potential is pretty vast. Dye with plants that have special properties not caring about the resulting color but the infused fabric with magickal elements and intention. You can dye fabrics like wool, linen, silk, and cottons. You can dye paper. You can paint with it. I could go on but I want you to take this as a starting point.

One day I had the distinct pleasure to spend the afternoon with a friend who I consider to be very skilled in the arts of medieval dyeing. She had many pots, some hot, some cold, some large, some small, but all containing vegetable matter of one sort or another. Things like walnut shells, turmeric, weld stalks, brazilwood chips etc.

  • Blues – Indigo, Woad, and in the case of the bottom shade, Brazilwood first then indigo in an attempt at purple
  • Browns – Walnut shells
  • Greens – Indigo, Weld, Turmeric
  • Reds – Brazilwood, Madder, kermes (an insect not a vegetable)
  • Yellows – Weld, Turmeric, Saffron, Onion Skins

Better living through chemistry was the motto of the day. For instance, I wanted a green wool and after dyeing a hank first in turmeric and then indigo, I was surprised (and  dissappointed) to get brown. I already had brown. Lots of brown. “Toss it into the ammonia bath.” Which I did and instantaneously it turned the most lovely shade of moss green. The batch of wool that I dyed in weld and indigo needed no ammonia bath to turn green. But who would have thought. And now we know why urine was so popular for dyeing fibers. It was the period ammonia and it could work wonders.

The colors I show you here in these pictures are the results of that day of dyeing. You will note that the larger bundles of wool have a slightly different shade than the smaller crewel wools. We could only attribute that to the difference in modern manufacturing and fiber processing. They both started out the same color, winter white. I have done my best to make sure that the colors you see in the monitor come as close to what I see with my naked eye. Your monitor might show color variations. You will also note that next to each wool sample is a little card that I made that day showing how many times a fiber was dipped into which dyes, if there was a mordant used, and if there was an ammonia bath or not.

Sadly it turned out the madder we had was too old to dye properly and we came away with very unsatisfying results. This should have given us anything from pink to a rusty red but what we got was something that looked like, white with a little bit of the palest pink here and there. But madder was a very popular dye in the medieval period so use it freely.

For a more colors available and how to get them, check out this page on Natural dyes from Pioneer Thinking. There are also many books on this subject, modern and vintage.

Have fun!


Some of you expressed an interest in what I meant when I said I had failed to ground last night before the party and I was very jangled and couldn’t sleep. And how does one do that? Didn’t know you could? Can it really make the difference? Oh yes.

I believe that all humans, all living beings, animals and plants included, are created with the ability to sense and react to the energy of all living and non living things, from mom to rocks. As we grow up we start to lose this ability. Use it or lose it I say. We don’t teach it in our homes or at school or on the playground. We actually deny it exists and that we can’t do it and deny those who say they can until we’ve become a society of folks who don’t know what is running them. But we do feel the effects whether we believe in them or not. And absorbing the energy of others either runs you ragged or brings you energy to restore you. Leave yourself wide open and unshielded and you will notice it the next day.

What I don’t know about me, runs me. And sometimes what’s running me is the entitled doctor on the phone with me at work, hitting me with his power to get his way. If I’m not grounded, centered, and shielded, I’m in trouble. And yes, he might not understand HOW it works but make no mistake he is INTENTIONALLY hitting me with his power. He knows that gets results in his sad little world.

I have lots to say on THAT subject but will stick to grounding today.

Many of you (and I know quite a few witchy folks are here and I KNOW you could probably say this better than I) might be familiar with the exercise of holding your palms face to face in front of you and bring them closer together and further apart to find that you can feel the heat, the energy flowing. There are many more advanced exercises you can do with just the palms of your hands and the palms of other people’s hands. Try it now. I like closing my eyes so I have to rely on my other senses to tell me how close or far they are from each other and to feel it.

I can actually feel energy stretching thin and thick like an accordion. I can send into your hands and I can make a ball with it. But not like Harry Potter. Just a fun little ball of energy. But I know if I worked on it long enough I COULD form and send a ball of energy to hit someone. I’ve done it by accident in extreme grief. But intentionally, that would go against all my beliefs about love and I would be a traitor to myself.

What does this have to do with grounding? A lot. We sense and are absorbing the energy around us whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Ever seen a mob? Gotten a contact high? Felt the energy pulsing and slamming into you at a Ramones concert? It’s always there, always accessible.

But because we deny it, we are at the whim of it. We are open receivers and transmitters just sending it out and taking it in and we wonder why, when we get home from work, that we have to lie on the couch for 20 minutes just to decompress. Or get drunk. Which leaves you open even more and the cycle continues. Those guys with tin foil hats probably really are more sensitive. I had a conversation with a guy in tin foil hat once and he actually made some sense except for our refusing to believe in energy.

When we are sick or “low energy” we are even more susceptible to the energy of others. Last night was loud and raucous and drunken and fun and silly and there was a TON of energy zapping all around that room. Some people even got a little cranky, like the women with the mic who couldn’t get everyone to shut up and listen which created confusion in the clusterfuck game.

Soooo. How do I protect myself from the energy of others? How do I ground?

I stand or sit or even lie down. I close my eyes. Whatever part of me is touching the surface, in this case my butt and legs and feet, I start to imagine tendrils of my energy (mine are neon pink in my mind’s eye and I don’t know why) extending down, into the cushion, through the sofa, done through the floor, the neighbors apartment (sorry guys), down through the concrete pad, down into the earth, down down down down until the soil becomes rocks becomes boulders and I start to see the glow of the earth’s core… I let my tendrils grow tendrils, and more tendrils and I let them wend their way amongst the rocks and bones of the earth and then imagine them becoming straws, like roots, sucking up water but instead sucking up the earth’s core energy, up up up through the molten energy, up through the boulders, up up up until I feel it enter my body. I let it fill me with a golden pink light and let some of it rest in my heart.

As I fill up and I keep drawing more and more energy up from Mama, I start to release it from my crown chakra and send it fountaining back into the earth, creating a circuit of energy flowing from me to mom and me and back. I believe that THIS is what Jesus was talking about when he talked about “my cup runneth over.” It was him right? I can really get it flowing, I visualize it being pretty freaking sparkly too because why not? Like a rainbow of water drops in the sun or sparks. Sometimes I let it be a cool calm smooth flow that feels like wind, that’s for today when I’m too low energy to even take a good zap from Mom. I do this usually before I enter a place that I know will have high energy or after a rotten phone call at work or before picking up the phone. Over the years I’ve become able to do this entire thing in about 10 seconds. It used to take about five minutes. But once I start I can actually feel my body lock down to the earth, battening the hatches. I’ve been holding hands with folks in a circle and they’ve felt me lock down and gasped. Not bragging, just illustrating that if you’re awake and aware and open, we exchange it together. It’s why sex is sooooo intense and can either make you feel marvelous or suicidal. It why sacred sex is so crucial to our well being. We are literally letting someone into our core.

Once I have the cycle flowing, I set the intention that it continue doing that for a certain amount of time without my having to maintain it so that I can function in this plane of reality and still receive and give the flow.

Think I’m cuckoo? Shrug. That’s cool. But I tell you it works and keeps me from using my own energy reserves, which are few more than ever these days, mama gives and I give back.

This next thing isn’t grounding but shielding. I envision myself surrounded, on the aural/astral plane, by a shiny somewhat flexible silver egg. I try to remember to sit and meditate on it, visualize it. I note where it’s been dented and scraped and stained and I visualize myself polishing and rubbing and washing it until it’s shiny as new sterling, glowing. This is my permanent shield and must be kept in good working order. I didn’t check my egg last night (or most of this year come to think of it, I’ve been cracked wide open, ugh) and I see this morning that not only is it not shiny but it’s only half inflated. Time for a tune up.

If I had done both of those exercises before the party last night, I probably wouldn’t have been so wired, jangled, when I got home. I might have slept better and I might not have felt hungover from absorbing the energy of some tipsy folks.

It takes practice but it’s a very cool thing. Everything, EVERYTHING, is energy and energy goes EVERYWHERE. And EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. There is NO separation, that is the illusion of being human, that we aren’t connected. But we are, for good or ill, and the more we know how to care for ourselves, the happier we will be. Through and around you, it’s what it does, for we ourselves are simply energy with a little carbon and water thrown in, also forms of energy. It’s why I believe science and God are very close to becoming ONE. We’re right at the crux of a huge realization and transition. If we don’t do ourselves in first.

The biggest energy wave in the universe is the energy wave of love. You can tap into it even faster than Mother Earth. Ride the wave. It’s energy, love. God is love, love is God, and it’s all energy waves. All connected, ebbing and flowing….

coming soon… Energy Vampires

Soon Come

The construction phase of pouches is complete.  I just need to create a cord channel and add tassels.  So here is a taste.

The middle pouch on the bottom row is going to knock your socks off.  I’ve cut out tiny oak and birch leaves in 3 colors of suede for a 3-D Greenman you will love. The top two on the left are going into a private collection but the others will be posted in the Etsy shop this weekend.  Sorry for the poor quality image, my camera phone images only look good on the phone…

I’m Alive

Man, life!  I thought August would be slooowww.  And while it is in some ways in others it is not.  Work offered truly excellent incentive to launch as many sites as we can and I’m in the over 20 sites 5 months running.  A record. Sooo Tired.  *headdesk*

We are having a yard sale so I’ve spent weeks pulling stuff out of storage, sorting, and now pricing as the yard sale is this Saturday. God. *bodybed*

I joined a gym and got a personal trainer.  Yesterday I did 6 sets of 10 girl pushups.  If you had told I could do even ONE I would have laughed in your face.  holy crap.  I am going to lose this weight damn it and have finally accepted fully that the only way to eat the foods I like to eat, I need to work my ass off. Low Carb works for me but I can’t sustain it because I tend to miss pasta and breads now and then and don’t get me started on potato chips. I can never eat just one.  My shoulders are KILLING me today but tonight Mr. Furnace comes over (we are adding him to my gym membership today because they have a Friends and Family half price sale right now) and he’s going to give a super duper Mr. F. massage.  He’s pretty darned good I must say. *sigh* and *yay*

I need to remember to have him take a Before photo in all my pudgy glory.  Not that I look bad but in my mind I don’t look like ME.  or feel like me.  Did you know I made the front page of the sports section in my city because my hurdle relay team broke the record?  I used to be BUFF and no lie. Ran 5 miles a day and then did calisthenics, gymnastics, stretching, and walked/biked/skiied/danced.  Not using my body is not a new thing but I’ve neglected my bod for at least 17 years.  I starting taking diuretics for my high blood pressure two years ago, the fibromyalgia isn’t bad but it’s not good, and I want to live a loooooong time. It’s time.  Feels great.  But did I mention my shoulders are killing me?

But here is the best part!  I’m a CRONE!!!! my years of peri and menopause are over.  Yeah, sure, still some hot flashes but the migraines that debilitated me for decades have been gone for an entire year now.  No more agonizing cramps.  No more mood swings (well they have diminished significantly).  My energy levels are rising and I’m starting to feel really great.  My trainer guessed my age at 12 years younger than I am which Made My Day.  So here’s to being a youthful looking crone.

Not sure of the artist, anyone know?

So, I have 5 launches in 2 days to get out the door so I can’t stay.  I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth. Not yet any way. Autumn is coming and I’m excited about some the projects I’ve got going on.

Ooooh and watch for a new post soon on the new circle I’m forming with some friends. Oh wow oh boy, I haven’t been THIS excited in over 20 years.

Boil Boil Toil and No Trouble

I love my Mermade Magickal Arts incense burner.  Boy do I love it. It’s electric. There is no discoloring smoke.  Yes, I know, no smoke, but then again. NO SMOKE.  This is a great thing when you live in small place and work with textiles.  No Smoke.  And it doesn’t set of my fire alarm either.

What I get is pure fragrance.  I have many incenses these days, I’ve been trying very hard to move away from incense that is on a stick of wood. It isn’t part of the intention.  I buy a lot of my incense from the most Fabulous and Lovely Sarah at Witch of Forest Grove but have a few others that are just plain incense.  Since I don’t want to have to light a charcoal (another pollutant) every time I want incense, this electric burner has been Goddess sent.

I love the purity of the smell I get with this burner.  Pure fragrance unaltered by wood or charcoal.  Not portable and can’t take to the woods with you but for home it’s great.

Speaking of taking to the woods, they have a very cool portable version that is battery operated (rechargeable) .  My friend Andrine, who turned me on to this product, and I were in a dinner club listening to a friend’s band when she put some frankincense in the burner.  We were just tickled when folks across the room started saying, wow what is the scent?  Probably not a nice thing to do in the end because not everyone likes experiencing another’s fragrance odyssey but it was a successful experiment none the less.

Below is Bee Propolis incense, my favorite, burbling away merrily, making my life better by it’s very existence. These are the Honey Years after all. Life continues to be challenging, work has not let off as promised (although the bonuses are coming so that is good) and so I am tired a lot of the time and can’t visit here that often.  But life is good, very good, prosperity and abundance, happy abundance, are manifesting to make up for the lack of abundance and poverty of spirit two years ago.