The precarious life of a natural dyer

As I was driving through suburban Sydney yesterday, with one eye trained on the passing flora and the other on the road, I started thinking about the precarious life of a natural dyer. Not only are we exposed to metal salts when mordanting the fabric, various fumes as the pots bubble away, seeking the next dyeing plant can be a hazard also, particularly if this search is carried out in Sydney traffic. I find myself looking at the plants I drive past and wonder if they would give a good colour, or make a nice imprint on the fabric. When I find the ever elusive eucalyptus cinerea, I try and make a mental note of where I have seen it so I can go back at a later date and do some creative pruning without being caught. Are the leaves too high up, is it on a major road with nowhere to park or stop, and where are my secateurs ….. Particularly eye catching, in the passing traffic, were the freshly blooming coreopsis, which give a beautiful yellow dye. Masses of these yellow blooms beckon me, to be reckless, and risk life and limb to harvest the yellow prize, as I assess whether stopping in a 90 zone with very little shoulder is wise…maybe later, when peak hour is over and it is dark. It is almost an addiction, a need to find a good source of colour, constantly scouring the urban landscape in the hope of colouring treasure.

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