“And herbes coude I tell eke many on,
As Egremaine, Valerian, and Lunarie,
And other swiche, if that me list to tarie,
Our lamps brenning both night and day,
To bring about our craft if that we may,
Our fournies eke of calcination,
And of waters albification.” – William Chaucer
Fresh plant material to harvest for natural dyeing and eco printing isn’t as plentiful in winter. With some forward planning, however, you can gather and store leaves and flowers for winter use. I have stashes in presses, frozen and layered between sheets of paper. I have a bucketful of orange onion skins and another of red, for onion dye baths; and also a bucketful of avocado skins and stones.
In the slideshow are images of some weld-dyed linen and silk and some eco prints, or – more accurately – resist prints, on silk, using seed heads from Honesty plants, and Hop flowers. The Honesty seed heads are from plants I grew from windfall seeds I came across on a walk; the hop flowers are from a hop bine – also called garland – I bought to hang along the beam in my kitchen – and which are now in the process of being converted into a spider tenement.
If you’ve ever hung a hop bine you’ll know what a nightmare that is. Once delivered to your door, it needs to be left outdoors overnight to rehydrate. Even then, tons will drop while you’re hanging it – onto hair, clothes, table, floor and the hop flowers are sticky. Yes, hanging a hop bine can be seen as a kind of self-administered tarring and feathering. And if you have a cat who likes to be in the middle of whatever you’re doing, Puss will soon be sporting hop flower boots and in her vigorous attempts to discard them, will spread the sticky stuff around the house.
If, as well as a hop bine enthusiast, you’re also an eco-printer, you won’t, however, mind the mess; you’ll be happy to gather it all up to keep for printing – even off the cat’s paws. I got my hop bine from Castle Farm in Kent. This is the second hop bine I’ve bought from Castle Farm and they are massive so can be divided. And once installed, they last for years. An occasional spritz of water keeps them hydrated. And in my case, quenches the thirst, and provides showers for, my spider tenants.
Honesty (Lunaria biennis) is called Lunarie in the Chaucer quote at the head of this blog. Honesty has a variety of names:
“It is called Lunary and Moonwort, from the disk-like form of its great flat seed vessels, or their silvery and transparent brightness. This peculiarity accounts for its nicknames of White Satin–flower, Money–flower, and Silver Plate. – The Lunaria biennis is mentioned by Chaucer as one of the plants used in incantations …”
Richard Folkard: Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics: Embracing the Myths, Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore of the Plant Kingdom, 1884
The Rev Hilderic Friend, in his section John and the Devil, (Flowers and Flower Lore. London: W. Swan Sonnenschein, 1883) writes:
“The plant Honesty, or Lunary, … is one of those plants which ” naturally possess the power of putting monsters to flight”; an idea which will be easily intelligible when we consider that, just as the Evil Ones avoid the light, so the Lunary (from Luna, the moon) represents it. The Evil Ones, or Spirits of Darkness, hate the light, neither will they come to it lest their deeds should be reproved.”
Rev Hilderic Friend: Flowers and Flowerlore
Lunary, lune, loon, lunatic. It’s not surprising that Honesty – Lunary – was once used in a spell or incantation, and otherwise as a cure for lunacy.
I like this: There is a popular superstition that wherever the purple Honesty is found flourishing, the cultivators of the gardens are exceptionally honest.
I try for honesty, though I don’t know that I am exceptionally honest. But maybe it’s no coincidence that the seed heads of this plant came to me during a walk, were strewn across my way for me to notice, to harvest and cultivate and introduce into my garden? To cultivate and develop a greater honesty into my life?
I’ll write about hops next, in : Natural Dyeing and Eco Printing in Winter: Honesty and Hops II