Our little guy's elementary school class had an outing this week to help the local weed sheriff knock back a patch of invasive species plants. The plant they chose to cut down happened to be dyers woad, a natural dye plant I have been longing to work with for ages! It was apparently brought to this area many decades ago by pioneer families and has since spread all over the place to the point that it's considered quite an invasive menace. Here's a picture of one of the plants in the area they worked on. This one is about two feet tall, although some were shorter. Nearly all were in flower, which is why the weed sheriff wanted help knocking them down before they got much more mature - apparently one woad plant can produce thousands of seeds!
We brought home bags of the stuff, and last night I began to extract juices from the leaves for woad dye. It's a bit of a complicated process and I don't know how it will turn out, but I have high hopes. If it works I should know this afternoon. I have to stop at the store for some clear non-sudsing ammonia on the way home from work, then drain the steeped leaves from the water they've been in. I'm taking pictures of the process and will post them if it works out.
My first dye project will likely be some very special wool that my friend AtomicWombat was given while she was volunteering at the local zoo. It's some very fine, soft almost cashmere-like wool that was "blown" (shed naturally) off our local zoo's herd of Rocky Mountain Sheep. It was very dirty - so we've been pretty busy washing and drying it - and it still needs to be carded and spun, but it's a lovely ivory white and should take the woad dye extremely well. We're jazzed about the local wool and local woad project, and can't wait to drop-spindle handspin the results.
Woad, in case you aren't familiar with this plant as a dye source, makes the loveliest sky blue dye - if you can get the chemical reactions right. Here is a picture, and a link to a page with more information. Isn't that the most gorgeous color???
Here's a great page with more information on woad.