The circle that binds


There are many things to astound as one hangs over a dye pot and in a curious twist of timing
a question I've been asking myself presented a sealing wax answer.
The question was, why am I spending so much time learning about natural dyeing
when I could be spending all this time on stitching and beading?
Surely there is enough dyed fabric available to use as it is ...

Let me backstory just a little to fill in some blanks ...

Our merry band of shibori stitchers here on the island has morphed a bit 
into a quite smitten (still merry!) band of natural dyers and we've been meeting regularly to 
dip into uncharted waters (so to speak).  It's been a wild time with some raucous experimenting.
We met last week and one member brought a  HUGE  selection of clippings to share ...
that's her garden above, so lovely ...
in the mix was a red-leaved barberry (Berberis thunbergii atropurpurea sp.) which produced
such a yummy mauve it caused considerable swooning.  Much swooning, in fact.

She was very productive that day.
What a stash!

But I digress ...
the dye pot had been so full there wasn't room for many bundles
so this generous owner of said barberry shrub offered to let us come and clip some more,
should we have the desire ~
which I sorely did.

I brought my treasure bag home and chopped up everything - leaves, stems, thorns, everything, 
and put the pot on to simmer, marveling at the brilliant red color
before covering tightly to raise the heat quickly.
Inside, I wrapped my bundles and periodically stepped out onto the porch to give the brew
a stir.  This took a fair bit of time ... one-burner hot plates are not the Ferrari's of the heating world.

In about an hour, I raised the lid and was engulfed in the magnificent aroma of steaming roses.


I kid you not.

It was then I knew for sure and my question finally had an answer:  the mystery of plants 
has long held me in its grip ... I am a 
flower floozie and plantaholic from way back, a garden "ho"... does it not make complete and utter sense
that I'm now captivated by one more of their alluring properties,
their ability to dye cloth?

I see what's happened now ... I've come full circle.

Here was the barberry shrub in the garden (far right)

...and here it is on the cloth.

: : :

Resting quietly in the shade until unwrapping day, July 30th ...


  1. barberry...i think we have that in this region. i know what you mean that there is enough hand dyed cloth around but what a joy to dye your own and wait in anticipation for the big reveal. just love the color the barberry is giving you.

    1. You probably do, Deanna, it's a true heat lover & very drought tolerant once established. Prickly, tho...so mind your hands!
      CAN I wait that long???...she asks sitting on her hands, chomp, chomp.....

  2. What a wonderful story, garden, gorgeous bundles..and I was wondering: can she wait that long. I was on Salt Spring and did a bundle with Fiona and the deal is, she'll open mine soon and aim to keep hers until about when you will be opening yours. I am such a novice..but am loving this as well! Wonderful blog post!

    1. Thanks, Ginny...and I'm pretty sure I can wait ~ the rewards are worth it.
      Magic often takes time ;>}}

  3. ooo I love the look of the bundles - you'll have to unwrap and show them! (just like a present.... and here's me - just like a toddler I'm more engrossed in the wrapping paper!) .... I'm dying (oops a pun) to get into creating my own bundles..... in time... in time....

    1. I promise to show them. It's going to be quite the "unwrapping" party! Will probably post photos of everyone's bundles for I think we are in for quite the show n'tell extravaganza. And we are all encouraging each other to WAIT...most helpful. I'm dying {{ wink }} for YOU to get started!

  4. using your own hand dyed cloth is just like using your own photos, or images, very very personal. I can no lnoger use anything that someone else has done.

  5. Two weeks ago I pruned mine and thought "you should save these", but it was too hot and I was lazy. Since it grows back and I have 3 plants, it may get another haircut (when it cools a little). Thanks for sharing your beautiful cloth!

    1. Jeannie, you can put the clippings in the freezer for later. It works fantastically! I'm learning to listen to that intuitive voice that tells me to save things...the rewards can be huge. 'Course, at some point one might require a chest freezer to hold all the accumulating vegetation!!

  6. now you know
    the answer
    to your question
    and maybe even
    to mine
    thank you
    barberry berberis

    1. ...it was awhile coming...sometimes best to patiently wait and not push for NOW. If this is your answer, too, then I am doubly glad.

  7. wonderful work and findings. thank you for sharing barberry! i admire your patience to wait to open these pretties.

    1. You are welcome, Nancy...such a fab plant, and hardy I think, where you are. An added bonus is that it's deer resistant. I'd like to cook up another pot of it when it goes into into its brilliant fall color...see if there's any color change. Happy you stopped by.

  8. I think there is great glory in delving deeper and deeper into one's passion.
    On the one hand, it can diffuse efforts, or at least feel like it by times, to create that ever so elusive "Body of Work" which seems to be the Golden Ring of the Art World. (note the caps. read with tongue in cheek)
    But the understanding gained? Oh so worth following those diversionary paths.

    A key? Self-indentify as "mixed media artist" and then you can wander along whichever path calls to you with complete immunity. ;)

    (note new blog link ... you're the first I've told ;)

    1. That's a perfect word, Jen...diffuse. That's exactly what I felt was happening & had some discomfort about that. I have no aims at all for a "body of work" ~ I only strive to DO the work. It can all define itself later, if it needs to, without my help. Coincidence (maybe?) that you mention mixed media artist, as I was trying to write up a little blurb about myself recently and that was the conclusion I came to. It was sort of freeing :>]]

      Already found your new blog link (I had to click on that beach photo with Stella!), but could tell you were not sharing it with the world yet. Welcome to Blogger, btw, I luv that you're here. xo

  9. Yes, India got it right....an addiction! And you were right....it's all her fault!

    1. She has a way of accomplishing that before one even knows what's hit them...but I don't think she minds being blamed one little bit ;>]]

  10. Looking forward to the day of revelation! I've just done my very first indigo Shibori and I know it's the start of a journey. Did you use a mordant?

    1. Hi Clare ~ yes, all of the non-silk cloths were pre-mordanted with either soy milk or ash (from the fireplace).
      And you better watch out...you'll probably get hooked!!

  11. You've inspired me, I'm going to have to make some bundles tonight! I love that what I grow can feed me, heal me, sooth me, and add color. I love all the connections.

    1. Ditto on those connections, Deb.
      So did you, did you?????
      Shall await your upcoming blog post eagerly!

  12. Oh so beautiful, I too can not wait for the unwrapping! I am new to all of this, but so very interested. Must go get India Flint's book! ... as I have no idea what I am doing. I can hardly wait!

    1. Thanks, Kim! And run, don't walk, to your nearest supplier of India's book...oh so inspiring.

  13. Via other blog I stumbled into yours and found your amazing and inspiring blog. How wonderful to follow you and read the interesting posts. I love dyeing and natural prints. I also got India's books. They're treasures. I'll go through your other posts. Thanks for sharing.
    Terrie from Hong Kong.