Dyers Chamomile grows very quickly from seed and it can be grown as an annual. Sow in March indoors and, when large enough, transplant outside to a sunny position spacing about 30 cm apart. Alternatively, sow in May to July, plant out during September and October and they will flower in the next summer. Keep the plants well watered as they are prone to wilting. Prune to 20 cm when they have finished flowering to remove leggy branches.
Harvesting Dyers' Chamomile
It is a good idea to harvest the flower heads when they are starting to wilt as this will promote further flowering. You can use the flowers fresh or you can dry them to be used later. The flowers are quite bulky, and you will need about one and a half litres of dry flowers to make 100 grams.
If you want to collect your own seeds, pick the flower heads when they have wilted and let them dry thoroughly, which can take 2 to 3 weeks. It is easier to pluck the small seeds from the centre of the flowers when the flower heads are very dry.
Dyeing with Dyers' Chamomile
The warm yellows produced by Dyers’ Chamomile are a useful complement to the lemon yellows obtained from weld. Although not as light fast as weld this warmer yellow is an asset for over-dyeing, yielding different shades of green and orange. The compounds that give the yellow colour are flavonoids and they work better on wool or silk rather than on cotton.
Adding half a teaspoon of chalk to the dye bath makes stronger yellows and I have found that the colours become darker and brighter after the dyed wool is washed using washing up liquid.
Use 200 to 400 grams of dry flower heads for 100 grams of wool (and use a bit more if you are weighing fresh flowers). 200 grams of flowers will just about fill a 3 litres container (about half an average shoe box), so it is quite a lot of flowers. Simmer the flowers for one hour, strain them, add mordanted fibre to the yellow liquid and simmer for another hour.
We have experimented with different weights of dried dyers chamomile flowers using 100 grams of Blue-faced Leicester wool and found the following:
From Left to Right
100 gm of flowers – pale yellow
200 gm of flowers – yellow
300 gm of flowers – medium yellow
400 gm of flowers – dark yellow
200 gm of flowers + ½ tsp chalk – dark yellow
200 gm of flowers - overdyed with woad
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