Sunday, June 9, 2019

Horsetail - Equisetum arvense

Field horsetail also called “snake grass,” or “puzzlegrass,” is a relative to the fern and is one of the longest living plants known to us.  Horsetail dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests for well over 100 million years.  Some even grew to be large trees reaching to over 90 feet tall.  There are over 20 species of horsetail, and they reproduce by spore, rather than by seed.  Today horsetail is native throughout the arctic and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.  The plants I harvested, pictured here, were growing in the wild along a logging road in western Washington state.

I simply chopped the stalks into 1-2 inch pieces and covered with water, letting it simmer for an hour or so.  A nice orange color began to develop.

After allowing the bath to cool, I entered in three small hanks of wetted yarn, one recycled cashmere mordanted with alum, and two hanks of wool yarn, one mordanted with copper and one with iron.  I also tossed in a small swatch of cotton fabric that had been mordanted with soy milk.

At the same time, I did a similar dye bath using scotchbroom.  More about scotchbroom can be found in another post by that name.  Scotchbroom will yield yellows if using only the blossoms, but light greens can be obtained by using some of the green leaves and stems along with the blossoms.  This time I used mostly blossoms which resulted in a soft yellow.

Results are as follows:

On the fence left to right:  scotchbroom:  cotton fabric swatch mordanted with soy milk, recycled cashmere mordanted with alum, wool mordanted with alum, then iron and copper mordants;  next is the horsetail, starting with the coral-colored yarn which is recycled cashmere mordanted with alum, then wool mordanted with copper, then iron, followed by a cotton fabric swatch mordanted with soy milk.  The real surprise to me was the coral color.



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