It’s that time of year when lots of people have been gathering dandelion stems, to use in cordage and basketry. Dandelions are great, I’m a big fan, but they are not the only gift from nature to be gathering right now.
Here, the daffodil leaves are all turning golden. The drying process has started naturally by the sun and the wind. Each variety turns at a different time, depending on when they flowered, which is very convenient for gathering. I always fill any drying space that I have quite easily, so a glut of leaves often means missing out of some of those treasures.
For the moment at least, there is a smooth changeover going on in our porch. Whilst the dandelions are hanging on various hooks and nails in the wall, the daffodils are spread out on my drying racks.
I made these last year, from reclaimed wood and linen scrim and it is lovely to see them full again. Last year they were supported by runners over our stairs, this year, while we wait to begin renovations, they are stacked on the floor, separated by some of my daughter’s building blocks.
The porch has actually proved to be a great place for drying. The door, for now at least, is often open and the breeze blows in, drying everything out evenly and a little bit quicker than last year. This steady breeze and the fact that I am gathering the leaves when they are very nearly dried anyway, has made drying them flat possible. I’m glad about that, because hanging them, spread out evenly to prevent mildew, was very time consuming last year.
Now I am powering through the busy time of gathering quite easily and my biggest problem is where to store all of these lovely fibres, once they are dried to perfection.
I know many people don’t bother to collect daffodil leaves at all. On their own, they are not strong, which makes them a bad choice for twining and they dislike being twisted, so cordage is out of the question.
What to do with them then?
Plaiting is the perfect choice for these beautiful golden leaves. Layered up, a few leaves at a time, they become strong and the plaiting process is gentle enough that you won’t suffer any breakages, along the way.
As they were destined to be plaited anyway, I have decided to do this as each batch dries, as it will make storage much easier.
If you decided to gather some of your own daffodil leaves (and it would be a waste not to!), make sure that they are dried from base to tip before use. How long they will take to dry, varies a great deal between varieties. I have some with very slender leaves, which are ready within the week, whilst the rather fleshy leaved types, take quite a bit longer to dry out, especially near the base.
Once dry, you will need to dampen them before plaiting.
When dampening any plant fibres, you want use as little water as possible, to make them flexible enough to use. Too much water, will cause shrinkage as it dries out again and this will spoil all of your hard work.
Daffodil leaves will need to be wrapped in a wet towel, until they feel soft and not brittle. The time this takes will vary, depending on the humidity when you are working, so it’s a good idea to check them every hour until they’re done. Mine took just under an hour, but the air here always contains a lot of moisture and the constant sea breeze, means that it’s always cool. If you live further south, you may find that it takes another hour or two.
Then all that needs to be done, is the plaiting. Use several leaves in each section of plait, adding in more as each length begins to run short.
I will pop a video of my daffodil plaiting on Patreon, over the weekend and will be posting videos about my gathering and processing of fibres there regularly over the coming months. If you’d like to find out more, just click on the red “become a patron button”.
Happy gathering everyone!