It’s been a few weeks now since I first started to hand-dye my own raffia with natural dyes. Since then, I have been having a great time using it and making more dyes along the way.
It has been really satisfying to start bringing these skills together and I feel full of ideas at the moment, it’s just a matter of finding the time to try them all.
I had to try out that gorgeously intense, crowberry dyed raffia first. I was just so blown away by the colour. I decided to work it up into a basket, along with some un-dyed raffia.
The contrast worked really well and I had a lot of fun making it. I thought that this special basket deserved a special border, so I tried out something new. I wanted to to create a flower shape and worked the rim in the crowberry.
I was really happy with the results and I think that my enjoyment must have shown in the finished basket, as it flew out of my shop the same day as it went in.
After that, I received a commission for a large mat, to use as a decorative surface protector. This time round, I used some of my willow leaf and fern frond raffia.
I had seen pictures of my customer’s living space and along with working up a couple of samples and discussing design options through with her, I decided that this subtle combination would be just right for her space.
She opted for a flower petal border and I am glad that she did, because I think it transformed this simple mat, into something much more special.
I often take the time to make some braid or cordage to wrap up orders and whipped up some, with more of the willow and fern and also some crowberry raffia. I really liked the combination of these two colours and knew that I wanted to do more with them.
A week later, I started to make a set of hanging decorations for winter celebrations in that very same combination, working each one with a similar wavy border.
My hands were particularly busy that week, as I was also working on a little raffia basket.
Just before autumn really took hold, I had been tidying up our fuchsia hedge, that runs along the front of our property. I had let it run quite wild over summer, because it was such a haven for bees here. With the hedge looking considerably neater, I started to clear away all of the trimmings, but I couldn’t bring myself to waste those beautiful blooms. I collected up as many as I could and boiled them in a little bit of water.
It was a very small amount of dye, but I really wanted to try it on some raffia.
Unfortunately, I was finishing the dyeing process at the same time as helping one of my kids with some maths problems and our youngest with some craft time. The pan boiled dry! I realised before any heat had damaged the raffia, but I feared that the colour would now be terribly uneven.
I hate waste, so I finished the process and dried the raffia out in the sunshine. I’m glad that I didn’t scrap it, because once fully dry, it revealed a gorgeous variegated effect, the colour of dried flower petals.
This actually turned out to be my favourite hand-dyed raffia yet and I paired it with some blackberry dyed raffia, to make a sweet little basket with a hanging loop rim.
Dyeing my own raffia, has added a whole new aspect to my work, a deeper connection and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am determined to find other plants to use for dyes over the winter, even though the choices are obviously much more limited.
I have started to plan a dyers garden to the side of our house, for spring, which is a very exciting thought. For now, I am hoping to experiment with kale (we have a large crop growing in our kitchen garden), heather and crocosmia, if it will just stop pouring with rain!
I feel like I have already come a long way on my journey, working with the plants around me. It has made me feel grounded, awakened my creativity and strengthened my own feelings of identity.
As a busy mum and home educator, it is quite easy to lose myself and identify myself as being mum to five, rather than Jane Haselden. Being mum to my five beautiful children and wife to my lovely husband, will always be the most important part of my life, but it is good to feel more connected to myself as well.
I hope that my creative adventures will show our children, that they can follow their dreams too and that they should never be put off by limited resources. Really, limited resources, just mean that you have to look a bit harder – be more creative. My eyes have been opened to just how bountiful natures resources are. I have all of the art and craft materials that I need on the land around me.