Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Too Many Books?

On Saturday, a few of our guests at the Indigo Dye Day commented on the number of books in our extensive library. 'You sure have a lot of books. Why do you need so many?' I mumbled something about homeschooling and the lack of reference books in our local library. But really we just love learning -- and books are a huge part of that.

We have an extensive collection of nonfiction books for reference and interest -- homesteading, animal husbandry, fiber arts, science, field guides, history -- lots of history books, theology, and art. As well as homeschooling texts and reference books like Saxon Math -- every grade from 4 to 12 --, Exploring Creation through Biology, Chemistry, and many collections of literature, and poetry, Latin, Greek, Logic. These books have nurtured the creative and intellectual development of two generations of Dalziels. Some of these books have nurtured 4 generations -- like Charles Dickens, "The Christmas Carol" -- our copy is from 1843 and was first read by Robin's grandfather, Gordon Rutherford Brown, to his children each Christmas.

My Fiberarts books cover natural and chemical dyeing, weaving, basketry, spinning, knitting, crochet, fingerweaving, luceting, and botany. And I still add more books to the collection.

Every once in a while I pack up a box of books and give them away -- some of the books are favorites though and Sarah wants to save them for when she is homeschooling her own children. (Sarah's 16, so it will be a long time before she is ready for them).

I recently added "Koekboya, Natural Dyes and Textiles, A Colour Journey from Turkey to India and Beyond" by Harald Bohmer. I love the photography. Dr. Bohmer has included a scientific analysis of the natural dyes used in turkish carpet weaving and in historical turkish textiles. His analysis is valuable for its insight into the fastness of various dyes.

Unfortunately his evaluation of woad is incorrect. He states that it is the second year plants that are used for dyeing, when it is the first year plants that have the most colour. There are other errors in his description of woad as well. He seems to have misunderstood the relationship between the indigo precursors Isatan B and Indican in the woad plant. But for his other information about natural dyes, the book is very valuable.

Its interesting that many of the plants that are used for natural dyeing in Turkey, have a family member in Canada -- yarrow, mullein, St. Johns Wort, Chamomile. But I learned new things about these plant families by reading Bohmer's book.

Mullein's yellow dye constituent is luteolin, same as yarrow and weld, in the leaves and flowers -- so it is a good fast, bright yellow. Mullein is useful because it contains tannins in the leaves, which when combined with iron, give a rich black. (Koekboya, p. 145) Hmmm. That experiment is on my gonna list for the next week or so, as our mulleins are just beginning to flower.

If you dye with Mullein wear a mask and avoid breathing in the dust. The plant contains saponins which can be toxic and the little hairs become airborne and irritate the lungs, when the leaves are torn for the dye pot. (the voice of experience talking).

Joybilee Farm now carries this book in our store. Priced at $130CND plus shipping.


  1. I understand what you are saying about how many books you have and the comments that can generate. I have my fiber interests, and we also homeschooled our three kids. I ran out of bookshelves years ago. Personally, I find books are almost as necessary as oxygen.

  2. Yes, its the love of learning. Good that you are instilling it in your children, too. Children who see their parents reading will want to read too.

    It helps that we don't have television. I got rid of it decades ago and we've never missed it.

  3. Just found your blog, and love it. We are in Colorado, homeschool, are purchasing our first french angora rabbit for wool and friendship, and have over 2,000 books. Variety of topics, but sorely lacking in fiber arts. Time to hit yard sales and thrift stores again!

    We are searching for a "homestead" and plan to settle in before next Spring. Then we'll increase our rabbitry and plant cotton. Considered flax but since I usually end up doing most of the work, cotton seems to fit me better.

    Thanks! Vikki at

  4. Hi, Vikki
    Thanks for your comment. Can you grow cotton in Colorado? I know they have sheep, alpaca, and angora goats there.

    Flax takes about as much work/time to process as wool. But each fiber has its own benefits and characteristics. Linen is great for summer wear, towels and it lasts much longer than cotton, because it is a longer fiber. Linen actually is stronger when wet.