Across South Australia right now is a sea of yellow. Oxalis pes-caprae also known as sour sobs is in flower. In our house we call it the love heart plant as its little leaves are in the shape of love hearts. These normally get pulled out in gardens due to them smothering and competing with plants around them. Before getting rid of them pluck the flowers and make a dye with them. This is a lovely activity to do with kids.
Kids seem to already know some of the secrets of this little plant because they will often pluck the stalk and suck the ends for the sour flavour hit. If you have a little person collecting flowers with you, let them eat the stems and leaves too. The stems, root and leaves are all edible. It has a lemony sour flavour and is harmless in small amounts. If you want to eat it in larger amounts just boil it first and discard the liquid before eating.
To make the dye collect a few cups of flowers. Fill and boil a kettle with about 1.5 litres of water. In a pot, add the flowers and boiled water and let steep. After 5 mins or so you will get a vibrant yellow water.
The fabric doesn’t need to be in the water for long to become dyed but if you leave it in for at least half an hour it should allow for the dye to be soaked up well by all the fibres and give a more even colour. Use natural fibres for this – eg cotton, wool, linen.
To make yellow, use either vinegar. To make orange, add bicarb soda. Now, I’m still trying to find an effective natural fixing agent for this dye as the yellow went orange after the first wash and vinegar and salt wasn’t strong enough to hold the colour after the wash.