Thursday, July 28, 2011

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) - blossoms

Common Foxglove, also known as Purple Foxglove or Lady's Glove, can readily be found in the Pacific Northwest in early summer growing alongside the roads, in fields, yards, and in logged-off areas.  Extracts from the leaves of this plant are used as a medication for heart failure, and the leaves, flowers and seeds are all believed to be poisonous to humans and some animals, possibly fatal if eaten.  While this may sound rather alarming, rhubarb and rhododendron leaves, to name a few, are also toxic if eaten, yet we pick and prune them without fear. Some of the products many of us use for cleaning around our houses or in the garage are toxic as well, and while we do use them, we don't injest them or leave them where small children or animals may get into them.  The same care should be taken when harvesting or handling foxglove.

That being said, my grandsons and I have picked these blossoms (lots of them) bare-handed, stuffing them into plastic shopping bags, simply followed by a good handwashing once back home, and have never experienced any kind of problem.   However, if concerned about it, a good rule-of-thumb may be to pick and handle the blossoms using rubber gloves, followed by a thorough handwashing. 

The blossoms fall easily off the plants.  The summer of 2010 I dyed one 4 oz. skein of 100% wool using about 600 grams of blossoms and alum mordant.  The resulting color was a peapod green.

For this year's project, I picked two plastic shopping bags full.  After separating the green caps and stamins from the blossoms, my cache weighed in at 775 grams.
Once in the dyepot, I covered the blossoms with boiling water and left it to steep over night.  The next morning I strained the petals from the liquid which was a deep pinkish-purple color.  To this I added 1Tbs. of alum mixed in a little hot water.

When Grandpa's car buddy, Jack, heard that the grandsons and I were doing some dyeing, he gave each of the boys a 100% cotton T-shirt from his stash of shirts featuring his apple green streetrod truck (licensed APL-JACK), just for the purpose of dyeing them.  We decided not to do tie-dyeing since the shirts already had a printed logo on the front. After pre-wetting the shirts, we simmered them in the dyepot for close to an hour, rinsed well, and dried.  A nice celery green was the resulting color.

There still being plenty of color in the dyebath, I added two 100 yd. skeins of 100% wool yarn (one mordanted with alum, one with copper), a small silk gift bag, and swatches of silk and muslin fabric.

These simmered for about 45 minutes.  After those came out of the dyebath, I added another skein, silk bag, and swatches.

Here are the results:
 Top: copper mordant; 2nd bath (T-shirts were the first bath).
                       Bottom left:  alum mordant; 2nd bath.
                       Bottom right:  alum mordant; 3rd bath.

Left:  Muslin swatch, silk gift bag; 2nd bath.
 Right:  Muslin swatch, silk gift bag; 3rd bath.
Note:  Without applying heat to the dyebath, my result was a disappointing gray.

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