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#1year1outfit: into the dark

Sometimes my foraging can get a bit desperate…

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With a spare hour one Sunday before Christmas, I set off in search of the acorns that I was sure I’d seen somewhere along this stretch of road. I figured the mighty winds of the previous few days would have brought down a good load more. I’d set out late, so gradually the light began to fade, and then the rain started… but I trudged on regardless, determined to find those acorns because in my head I had a deadline and a plan for dying the following week – My homemade iron solution had finally turned a deep orange after my waiting patiently for weeks, and I was more than ready for some iron and tannin black magic.

Thing is, I know really that it doesn’t work like that: You don’t go out foraging with a ‘list’ like you do when you pop to the shops – instead it’s about going out with your senses alert, happening upon something interesting and then deciding what to do with it. Needless to say, I didn’t find any acorns that day – must’ve missed that crucial window after the winds and before the expert opportunistic forager squirrels stepped in. However, I did spot some interesting mushrooms, and I made a mental note to return to this stretch of roadside next year – perhaps in daylight.

Despite feeling rather soggy and ridiculous, as I squelched back home I remembered the motley assortment of tiny acorns sitting in a bowl on the nature table that were collected during a series of expeditions with the kids up in the woods – just enough to fix some trial eco-bundles. I had a cunning plan to capture the last colour of the year just at the point when the light begins to fade from our days. I’d already gingerly alum mordanted a length of silk left over from making the slip for my wedding dress. It’s been sitting in the too-precious-to-make-anything-from section of my fabric cupboard for nearly ten years now, but all this dying has pushed me over the edge. Confident I had just enough acorns, I collected some green windfall leaves and the bright and brave calendula flowers still surviving against the odds and laid them on the damp silk, then bundled it all up with a rusty old tent peg around a barky piece of oak from the log shed.

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…simmered it all in a bath of rainwater, acorns and oak bark for about an hour, following the instructions I’d found on Thicket and Thistle. THEN time for the rusty/tannin black magic. The transformation from ‘meh’ beige to dark black was almost instant, and deepened with every dip. Extremely satisfying… and then suddenly alarming! – I’d got a bit carried away and my mood rather darkened as I wondered if I’d turned my entire piece of precious silk an uneven black.

With my eyes squinty-closed, I unwrapped the bundle… and cor blimey! I was super chuffed with the result.

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I have a special event in mind for this piece of silk, so I’ll keep you posted!

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