Dyeing silk with eucalyptus

dyeing silk with eucalyptus

love the eucalyptus-dyed silk. I have been seeing it around the local markets for a year or so. I have bought garments for Christmas presents for oversees relatives. Recently, my friend Nell turned up at the farmer’s market wearing a silk dress that had been imprinted with eucalyptus. We all asked her how she had done it. Quite simple, really.

I thought I would try it.

How to dye with eucalyptus leaves

1. Use silk or wool. If using another natural fibre like cotton, pre-soak overnight in soy milk, but don’t rinse it out. Just wring it.

2. Lay eucalyptus leaves in the silk. The little heart-shaped silver dollar eucalyptus leaves you buy from the florist create a beautiful burnt orange. Experiment, but the other eucalyptus leaf in my garden made a black imprint. Wrap the silk with leaves around a block of wood or rolling pin, and tie with string.

3. Steam in a basket. I steamed for about two hours.

4. Remove from steamer with tongs, cut string, and shake off leaves. Hang dry in shade {though sun seemed to be fine too.}

5. This little top has the leaf imprint. But it also started as white. I made a dye out of eucalyptus by boiling the silver dollar leaf in a glass jar for about an hour. I then added half a teaspoon of iron sulphate, and mixed. I dipped the silk into the mix briefly (about 30 seconds) then hung the garment on the line.

My husband asked me what the floppy thing was that I was wearing. But I really like it!

Have you ever dyed with eucalyptus? 

A natural dye garden gathering

It all started with Gardening Australia.

One night, at Mum’s, my kids and I were watching Gardening Australia. On the show, a lady demonstrated how to dye fabrics with plants from your garden.

First thing the next morning, Elki wanted to make her own naturally dyed quilt. I am excited to share the whole process with you when the quilt is finished – I think it’s such a lovely project. And it’s turning out so well!

Meanwhile, a few friends started chatting about natural dye, and next thing, there was a spontaneous gathering in my garden. It was the only sunshine-y day of the week, so we were very lucky.

We ate necessary pre-dyeing croissants and home-made chocolate brownie. We drank coffee out of pretty cups. The children jumped on the trampoline.

Lovely Nell spread out her blue blanket in the garden. She laid out the bits and pieces she’s been working on over the years. She had prepared little paper bags of fabrics for each of us to experiment with. She brought her mordants for us to use, and jars of dye she’d make the day before.

We went around the garden gathering leafy and petally specimens. We put colours in jars, and added our fabrics. The more organised amongst us {clearly not me} wrote down the names of the specimen and the fabric type.

After boiling the colours, Nell showed us how to play with mordants. We experimented; changing botanical shades dramatically by adding iron or alum.

Things I learnt about naturally dyeing fabrics with plants

1. dye animal fibres, like silk or wool
2. if dyeing plant fibres like linen or cotton, pre-soak overnight in 1 litre of soy milk
3. you can put fabric and plants in jar at the same time
4. add lemon and salt to strengthen colour
5. put jar or fabric + plants into cold water, and bring to boil {do not put cold jar into hot water or jar will break}
6. boil covered for at least fifteen minutes – longer is better
7. separate colours after straining out plants, and test with 1 teaspoon of iron, chalk or alum
8. always dye in a well-ventilated space
9. use old jars and vessels not intended for cooking food
10. you can wash and dry fabrics as normal if fabrics are pre-soaked, or contain animal protein

Our natural, colourful beauties dried in the sun, and our little hearts were filled with warmth, and rainbow goodness. What wonderful, creative friends I have!


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Linking with Essentially Jess

Into darkness :: How the darkness has become my creative mentor

into darkness

The night is quiet. Well, almost.

A little chatter comes from one side of me. A sound – like a twitch, if you can imagine that, comes from the other.

There is tossing. Turning. My arm is in the wrong place, apparently. So is the blanket. More tossing. More turning. This can last for over an hour.

Not long ago, putting two squiggly children to sleep drove me somewhere in the direction of insane. I breathed deeply, trying to keep my cool. But if one squiggly child seemed to be sleeping, then the other slightly more squiggly child squiggled in the wrong direction, and woke the sleeping child up only to begin the hours more of squiggly activity – my temper would crack open.

‘Enough!’ I would yell into the not so quiet night. ‘Enough! You children need to sleep!’  The children would cry. My arms would tense around them. More tears.

I would, of course, feel awful.

From the minute my first child was born {five and a half years ago}, my up and down relationship with the night began. I have been blessed with beautiful, beautiful children who are blessed with squiggly genes.

And because we are the parents we are, and we believe the stuff we do, we’ve decided to lie next to them to guide them into sleep.

One squiggly child is enough. But two is more than twice the work. They keep each other awake. And fuss is contagious, apparently.

Earlier this year, my sanity was in shaky ruins. It was give up altogether, or rope my husband into lying-down duties. My youngest wouldn’t like it, but she would have to learn to, otherwise mummy would flip altogether.

So we started taking turns. After a couple of days of resistance, my youngest accepted that one night was mummy’s turn and one night was daddy’s turn.

My sanity returned. My guilty-mum levels plummeted. And I suddenly had an extra two to three hours a week of time to spend writing.

Now that my lying down responsibilities have halved, I have come to enjoy them. And my creativity needs them. That hour-and-a-half of darkness is essential to opening channels in my mind. I process stuff, and then ideas start to drift across. Stories and characters form.

As a new mum, getting my baby to sleep was probably the challenge I found hardest. Singing Hallelujah on loop as I rocked her incessantly felt like a strange kind of torture.

But what has been most challenging has also been about the best thing for me as a person generally and as a creative person. I have learned patience, yes. And in a busy life, I am forced, in a way, into a kind of creative meditation.

It’s almost magic, what the dark can do to a mind.

Do you have any creative pockets in your day? Are your children good at going to sleep?

The Gruffalo, a street performer and a new creative focus

I recently saw a post from Mel at Two Little Humans And Me on Facebook: “Comment and share to win two tickets to meet Julia Donaldson”. I don’t often enter competitions, but this I did. We read the Gruffalo when Elka was one, and have been buying and reading Julia Donaldson books at a frightening rate ever since. If I could meet any children’s author, it would be her {and probably Oliver Jeffers ~ he looks lovely}.

I hadn’t really thought through the logistics. Only when I won the tickets, I realised the show was in Sydney. I wasn’t sure if I should go ~ it would be a big trip for little old us. But my husband convinced me. Go, he said. You’ll remember it, and so will Elka.

We went. My daughter woke up an hour before she usually does, so great was her excitement about catching a plane and spending a whole day just with her mummy. An early start meant she was emotionally fragile.

We were only there a day, and spent the whole time by the harbour. After lunch, we walked around the harbour, past the iconic Pier 2/3 where Gregor and I met, to the Sydney Theatre.

Mirrors at the MCA

Mirrors at the MCA

The theatre was swarming with enthusiastic children and stuffed Gruffalos. We were perched right at the back of the dress circle. But Julia, with her husband, filled the stage with her energy and her stories. It didn’t matter where we sat.

They performed a few of our favourite stories ~ Jack and The Flumflum Tree, Tiddler, What The Ladybird Heard, and of course The Gruffalo. My daughter sat on my knee for most of the show, clapping and singing.

Afterwards, Julia Donaldson signed a book for us. It was fleeting, but special, to have a moment with Julia.

Julia Donaldson book signing

A little moment with Julia


Hundreds of excited children in one space equalled slight overwhelm for my over-tired daughter. All she wanted to do was be near the water for some peace and quiet. We walked back to the water.


Suitcase and harbour selfie



She particularly wanted to visit the Opera House, which was neither peaceful nor quiet, but she marvelled at its beautiful shape and texture as we walked around.

One of thousands of lives walking around.

It struck me ~ all these people, these lives, milling around one building. Each one of us wrapped in our stories, our problems, our thoughts, our hopes, our history. We hold up phones and take selfies. Beside us, another life is happening, also marking the moment with a selfie, and an Opera House in the background.


Suitcases and water selfie


Walking towards the bus, we passed a busker dressed as a statue. My daughter kept her distance. Scary, she whispered.

Even scarier was the street performer who swallowed a two-foot red balloon. My daughter shuddered and pulled me away.

I always considered myself an adventurer. But these days, I need to be convinced to take a spontaneous day trip to Sydney. I foresee complicated transit arrangements, and potential tantrums in The Rocks. I imagine tired feet, and lugging a suitcase through crowds of people. It doesn’t seem like an adventure. It seems like work.

These days, my adventures happen in the stories I write, either laying beside my daughters while they fall asleep, or at my computer. These stories take me anywhere, and there are no awkward suitcases, or crowds of anonymous people.

But still, it takes a small adventure like this to take my stories in a new direction.

I have been working on a fiction piece for kids for a few months. I’ve had ideas for the story for much longer than that. Over the last little while, I have been writing, re-writing, toying with new ideas, defining characters etc. I was happy with its direction.

But walking around the harbour, and sitting next to my daughter on the plane or the train, I realised the story was lacking something.

It lacked a certain depth. It lacked drama. Intensity. The story may be short, and relatively simple, but still, it needed a stronger hook. Higher stakes. More emotion.

While we were away,  I unravelled the story in my mind, and lay each piece bare. Characters. Setting. Plot. Motive. Emotion. The story read nicely, but the pieces didn’t fit together.

I made some notes on my phone. The next morning, we workshopped the ideas. The girls ate bacon and toast at the cafe.

That afternoon, it rained. My youngest slept. My oldest watched Cinderella for the hundredth time. I wrote.

The story completely changed. Completely. The characters were still the same people, but they now had more flaws and more strengths. New characters were woven in. The setting changed. The whole emotion of the story changed.

It was funny how it took going to a new location, seeing new faces, and breathing new air for the story to unhinge itself and reform.

What helps you shift your creative focus? Does travel help unlock creativity for you too, and allow you to see things in a new light?

One day in Sydney

Hey, I just got home from Sydney. It was funny. When I was young, trips to Sydney were such a big ordeal. A week’s visit, at the least, and six-months of organisation.

Today, though, I ate breakfast at home, caught a lift with my friend and neighbour, Christie to the airport, flew to Sydney, did some fun stuff and came back in time to hear lullabies being played, and a little person still not asleep.

My life is so glamorous.

I dressed in a yellow dress this morning. I keep talking about my yellow dress, but it’s somehow so perfect this dress – because it is so sunshine, and because it’s my grandma’s from the 70s and because it’s silk, and because… as I was walking out the door, one of it’s back buttons popped off, so Gregor had to sew it on.

yellow dress

It was fun to know how possible it is to go to Sydney for the day. I felt like such a country pumpkin travelling with my well-seasoned friend Christie. ‘Is there an ATM here?’ I asked her in the airport. Of course there is, silly.

Fortunately she was able take me to the doorstep of the QT Hotel where I was doing the presentation, as this little country pumpkin might not have made it.

I was there to chat about my book, Too Busy Sleeping to a group of bloggers and other representatives from the media. The event was organised by our publisher – Hardie Grant Egmont. I was speaking alongside lovely Freya Blackwood and Danny Parker, who were both awesome {Danny can talk AND juggle} and I want both their new books immediately.

Danny and Freya’s book Perfect, which is out this October is swoon-worthy. My childhood and dream of childhood in sum. And I can’t wait to read Danny’s early reader series Lola’s Toybox, the story of Lola, who goes into the magical toy kingdom, resolves her problems, and returns to real life, with her friend Buddy, the useful clown. It’s out this April.

I think my talk went well. It felt good. While I was talking, it was very nice, and comforting, to sit next to my publisher, Margrete, who’s made all this possible.

And yes, the yellow dress helped.

I chatted with a few of the lovely bloggers who came along – Brenda, Kristin, Alison, Maria…I am sorry I missed you Bron!

After, I had a couple of hours to spend. There were a million shops to explore, but I must be a writer, because I ended up spending the entire time in Kinokuniya bookstore on George Street. Why have I not been to this store before? Kinokuniya is a magical world of books, bespoke and other. It was impossible to choose one gorgeous book over another on the endless bookshelves of gorgeous books. This was my final stash {Banjo and Ruby Red was a gift}.

Books from Kinokuniya

I had a long chat with Freya Blackwood in the bookstore – she really is completely lovely!

And the most surprising thing about my day was heading to the airport early evening, and meeting Christie at Movida for champagne and tapas. We had one of the best catch ups we’ve ever had – which is funny, because we had to come all the way to Sydney airport to hang out, even though we are practically next-door neighbours.

So here we are again. Back in reality. Baby still chatting/crying. Lullabies a’tinkling. A patient husband lulling her to sleep. Who’d of thought you could take a day out from normality and return to find it all just as you left it?