Monday, July 21, 2008

dyer's woad

My friend Lisa gave me a couple of books for my birthday this year, A Dyer's Garden and A Weaver's Garden. I don't have nearly enough yard space to raise any of these plants (the books estimate needing as many as 24 plants to dye a scant 4 oz of yarn), but I've gotten interested in the idea of using ones that are noxious weeds around here. They're plentiful and I'd be doing the rest of the ecosystem a favor by using them for something practical.

I love indigo, but given that it thrives in places like South Carolina and southeast Asia, I can't make a go of growing it here. Dyer's woad has the same chemical (though in smaller amounts) and grows in Great Britain--a similar climate to here. The catch is that to use woad in a non-commercial form that would avoid the use of lye and such, the leaves must be absolutely fresh, so I have to go foraging for them.

So I looked up dyer's woad and it is classified as a Class A noxious weed in this county--a real nasty. I e-mailed the local noxious weed control coordinator, who is a friend of mine, to see if she could recommend any likely patches.

Alas! Except for one tiny patch in Kittitas County, she says that dyer's woad has been eradicated from Washington state. Quite an achievement--usually Class A weeds are unstoppable--but I am selfishly sad for my big plans ending up in the toilet.

She did say that it is still found in Idaho, where I'll be camping next week. I think I'm going to have to lug along some yarn and a dyepot, just in case. Otherwise, I'll probably be experimenting with purple loosestrife and Scotch broom, which are two nasties that are taking over the countryside.
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