Foraging Tips

Please remember the countryside code: Respect the trees, plants and mushrooms, the surrounding environment, wildlife that may have a dependence on with what you are taking, other people and their property. The countryside act also states that you shouldn’t uproot any plant from common land.

In Royal Parks and Protected Parks,forestry areas you may not pick or pick up anything. On Commons, heaths and in the Countryside you may Pick leaves, fruit, flowers only for your personal use.

My rule is take one in three flowers, leaves or plant tops – that way the insects, birds have their share.

Bark, only collect fallen or cut branches, if you take bark from a tree you could kill it

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DOCK RUMEX

Leaves yellows, roots browns/ochres

Excellent colourfastness Try with mordant and without

Colours with mordant brighter  However it is still colourfast without mordant

QUEEN ANNE’S LACE\ wild carrot BE CAREFUL Hemlock is part of this family

Flowers, leaves, plant tops

In early spring the leaves dye a bright green Later in the season the flowers and plant tops go towards yellows.

Alum Mordant Fairly good colourfastness

TANSY

Flowers, plant tops

Smells wonderful as you simmer it – but it is poisonous – don’t make a tea ( It was used for abortions in the past) Tansy dries very well and the colour from the dried flowers is a good saturated colour

Bright deep yellows

Excellent colourfastness

Alum mordant

YARROW

Flowers, plant tops

A lovely smell when simmering – very herby Can be dried – colours somewhat more beige

Dyes Olive greens 

Good colourfastness

Alum mordant Lovely greens with a Copper modifier afterbath

ST JOHN’S WORT Common Hypericum perferatum Small wild variety

Flowers, plant tops, leaves

I have found that only the short wild variety dyes good bright colours. The varieties that you find in gardens and municipal parks have not turned out well. You can dry the plant tops and flowers to store The dried material produces good colour

Dyes Green and yellow 

Alum mordant

  • Jenny Dean explains a 3 colour process
  • worth an experiment

Good colourfastness

MUGWORT

Leaves

I have found mugwort this year to be fantastic. I have achieved good olive greens using the leaves only. I dyed with Spring mugwort – which was a beautiful chartreuse and the late summer mugwort has dyed an olive green

Dyes Olive greens 

Good colourfastness

Alum mordant Lovely greens with a Copper modifier afterbath

HEATHER Whole Plant tops

Please be very careful when taking from heather heaths. Only take the tops of the plants and flowers – they can be shallow rooted in sandy soil and are protecting the ground from erosion.  Drys well – produces darker/ mustard colours from dried tops

Dyes Fantastic strong golden yellows 

Excellent lightfastness Alum mordant

STAGHORN SUMAC

Leaves

This is a bit of a wonder plant. It is the only readily available safe plant mordant that is a light enough colour

that it will not alter the colour you dye afterwards too much. I have seen friends get pink dye from the leaves in Autumn – but I have not. You can also give the sumac fruit a go Can be used instead of Alum to mordant wool

Natural Mordant – tannin

Dyes Very pale cream/tan

No Mordant necessary

WALNUT FRUIT

Just the green outer shell

Use gloves when handling the fruit – it really stains skin If you want the nuts then collect when they fall to the ground.

Break the outer green shell off the nuts. Put the green shells into water to keep. They will ferment a bit and go black – but they work perfectly well kept this way all year. I like to pick them when young as the nuts are still soft and you can cut the whole fruit up and keep in water. 

Very strong Tannin – no mordant needed Deep rich browns

Colour darkens in light! Blacks with an Iron modifier Blue blacks with a copper modifier afterbath

OAK LEAVES

The colour is very variable – from light browns through to mid browns – it depends on the tannin in that particular tree Oak galls – the smooth hard ones are fantastic – a good dark brown that has been used as a dye for centuries

Tannin – no mordant needed

Dyes Browns/ khaki

Excellent lightfastness Greys with an Iron Modifier afterbath

IVY Leaves

In winter in desperation I have used Ivy. It can be iffy  – 

Dyes Grey greens, dark olive green

Alum mordant

Fair lightfastness A copper modifier afterbath can produce a dark grey green that it very attractive