When my aunt died a couple of years ago, the only things which I felt I wanted from her house in Sunderland were old family photos and Grape Hyacinths from her garden.I dug them up and brought them home to plant in my garden, and ever since, when they bloom, they remind me of her.
I have quite a lot of them in the front border, and had used them to try a version of eco printing. I was very pleased with the bright blue stains which had been made. I looked on the internet and found that many people have used them quite successfully to create blue, green and purple dyes, depending on the mordant. I also learned that they originated from the Mediterranean, and were very popular for use in dyeing before the Second World War in Italy.
The only folklore I could find related to the Hyacinth, which was a plant used for protection and for love, and was sacred to Apollo.
Freshly picked and into the dye pot
The results were really beautiful- such a gorgeous muted blue on both the silk and the muslin. As with the other muslin, it had been mordanted with Alum and Soda Crystals, but the silk had not been mordanted at all.
I’m so pleased with this result, in fact I think this is definitely the best result of the dyeing experiments yet. I think that the Grape Hyacinth has been underestimated in terms of its “blueness” as Woad seems to be the plant which everyone raves about whenever blue dye is mentioned.
I purchased Woad and Weld last week to plant in a patch where I am making a “Herb and Dye” garden. Apparently these plants self seed and spread really vigourously, so I hope I don’t regret planting them, although I’m sure I’ll need quite a lot of them to create some dye. The Woad may be ready for next year, but until then I’m content with the Grape Hyacinth, which doesn’t require loads of preparation and still creates a wonderful colour.