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May in North Iceland is the very beginning of the season for natural dyeing. When we arrived at the start of the month the hills around, the gardens and river banks were still yellow-brown after the long winter, and the trees were bare. Now, nearly four weeks later, the overall view from the Textile Centre is one of a fast-growing green except on the mountain slopes which still retain some snow. Relative warmth and extended daylight have brought on a rush of growth.
Dandelions on very long stems compete for height among the grasses at the edge of the river path, lupins are in flower and the birches and rowans are suddenly in leaf.

lupin leaves

I have collected lupin leaves and dyed some mordanted wool. After an hour of gentle heating and a couple more hours cooling in the dye bath the colour was surprising in its almost neon yellow-green.

lupin flowers

Lupin flowers too produce colour. Initially the water turned a translucent pink but the wool became a greenish-blue, quite unusual for natural dyeing.

birch leaves

I have experimented too with angelica leaves, birch leaves and horsetails, all giving yellow, but each one slightly different. Photos just don’t capture the exact colouring.

Delia Salter