April 23, 2013

Natural and Eco Dyeing

I decided that I love dyeing most of all. Dyeing using natural materials is very satisfying. It challenges me to search for dyable plants while out walking in the bush. It challenges me when I travel to other countries and look for local vegetation that I can dye with. It must have been 3 years ago since I started eco-dyeing. I have been enjoying it and think that I've achieved what I wanted in eco-dye. Most of all I have got lots of dyed fabric that I don't know what to do with. At the beginning of this year I came across Rebecca Burgess of Fibershed and Maura Grace Ambrose of Folk Fibers on natural dye and fell in love with all the solid colour they are dyeing. Rebecca mainly dyes yarns. I remembered years ago when I first dyeing with Eucalyptus leaves I dyed fleece for spinning into yarn. That was when I learned how to spin. Today though I have both eco  and natural dyed samples to share with you. Enjoy...


On my recent trip to Bangkok I took some pre-mordant silk with me knowing that mango dyes beautifully. You can use both the leaves and the fruit of mango to dye with. I remember that my sister has a mango tree in her yard so in the first few days of my visit with her I picked some leaves from the tree. 


I wrapped up three bundles using the silk I took with me. I used mango leaves for two bundles and the fruit for the third one. I had no way of steaming the bundles as I would do at home. The temperature in Bangkok was 35-40C outside the hotel room so I thought I would make good use of the heat to set the dye. I put the bundles in a zip-lock bag, sealed it tightly and hung the bag outside of the hotel window. I checked it each day to see if anything changed. The day before we left I had to unwrap it to bring the silk home. The result was surprisingly beautiful. I took this photo when the silk was still wet. It dried a bit paler yellow than this.


Before I left for Bangkok I steamed a few bundles using Eucalyptus, Fig and Prunus leaves. I immersed 5 bundles in an oak solution tub and left some out. I was excited to open them when I got back. All the bundles from the oak solution were rich with the imprint from the leaves. I'm so happy with the results. At the same time, the bundles I left out dried and were dull with faint imprints from the leaves. I'm going to use this soaking method again from now on. 


This is a sample of the piece from the oak solution. In this bundle I used Prunus and Eucalyptus leaves. I just love that beautiful blend of purple from Prunus leaves and some yellow from Eucalyptus. Oh yes, sometimes I get good result from experimenting!


Here they are drying along the rail on the back deck. I dry them out first and then press them before I wash them. Now you know why I wreck my steam iron so frequently!!!


In the photo above is a batch I did since I returned from Bangkok. The two dark pieces were steamed in a cast-iron pot and left sitting in the dark rusty liquid for a week. The other coloured bundles were steamed and immersed in oak solution. The results are quite pleasing. These were dry when I took the photo. 


Now on to natural dye. After getting some inspiration from the blogs I mentioned above. My first attempt was with onion skins. Cotton threads are always my preference for dyeing because I use them a lot in my stitching. I added a piece of pre-mordant cotton fabric in there as well. Onion skin dyes beautifully yellow and it's something you can bank on giving you colour!


My DD Kitiya Palaskas asked me if I would dye some threads for her.  So I did. She is doing a project to sell with 10% of each sale going to KIVA, which is a micro-finance organisation I support.


I joined the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria when I did the weaving workshop last year. It's a lovely group of people full of energy and generosity. I never have time to get there because of work, but I'm still a member and get the newsletter every month. There is a natural dye group that meets once a month. I happened to be in the city so I dropped by when the natural dye group was meeting and having fun dyeing with madder. Robin Heywood the group leader was showing how to dye with madder roots. Afterward there was show and tell of the dyed yarns they did the month before. In the photo from the top left clockwise: a) Robin was showing everyone how to tie Ikat, b) the madder roots that Robin kindly shared with the group, c) some yarns naturally dyed from show and tell; and, d) the young madder plant that another lady brought in to show us. I was so inspired and thrilled to be there that day. Robin wrote an article on Indigofera Australis for Turkey Red Journal, it's very interesting to read if you like indigo.


I took some threads and cotton fabric to the workshop. Robin showed us the Ikat tie technique. It was my first Ikat tie and I did shibori on the fabric. There were two pots going at the same time. One with madder root and the other with madder powder. I mainly did mine in the root because of the strong colour. I brought my pieces home and stored them in a jar for a few days. When I opened them I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. I'm looking forward to dyeing more with the madder root that I got from the guild. 

People ask me what I do with the fabric I dye. My answer is always, I don't know! I just love the dyeing part of the process. One day if I come across projects that I can use my dyed fabric. I do have a few cloths/quilts I pieced with dyed fabric, but I haven't got time to stitch them yet. In the meantime I will just keep dyeing...

Thanks for visiting.
Nat




12 comments:

Kitiya Palaskas said...

You're the best Mum!

Jude Craig said...

Nat,
I love your generous enthusiasm.
You are such an inspiration!
Love Jude x

Needled Mom said...

They always say "trial and error", but I would say in your case it is "trial and success"!!!! Your pieces are just glorious. I love the mango coloring and that oak combination is spectacular. The madder and Ikat produce beautiful results too. I can't wait to see all you do when you retire.

deanna7trees said...

you are an inspiration. you always get such beautiful results and have such an adventurous spirit. always love visiting here.

Nedra said...

So beautiful Nat! The colors from the madder root in reds really caught my eye. Love it all.

Jeannie said...

Gorgeous results from the mango, the oak pot, and the madder! Wow!!! The yarns are gorgeous and I am so intriqued by the Ikat dyeing. Thanks for always inspiring me and for sharing your experiments. (I am also asked what I make with the things I dye. I also respond that it is the process, the mad scientist in her lab experimenting that excites me. The resulting cloth is just a benefit of fun afternoons.:D)

Ginny Huber said...

You are an inspiration, Nat! Wonderful blog post full of information and connections. I just discovered turkey Red Journal and apparently they are always looking for articles from people...and also I discovered Fibershed recently and the other link you mentioned will be new to me; I find tiese excursions into the dyeing world wonderful and gathering the info wonderful as well! Thanks.

Queen Of The Armchair aka Dzintra Stitcheries said...

Such lovely dyeing Nat....I like the one with the prunus as well...lovely muted shades there! Great post....and you just keep on dyeing there girl LOL!

Kim said...

No wonder you love it, you get such beautiful results. Lovely pieces Nat.

Happy Spring

Peggy said...

Hi Nat -- I loved this. Your pieces all came out beautifully. Gorgeous. The madder dyeing is so interesting, I'm growing it this year and this is the first time I've seen what it does, colorwise. My seedlings are about the size of the one in your photo! Thanks! xo

Tracy said...

That saffron-color dye from the mango is GORGEOUS!! And the oak solution makes a STUNNING effect....wow... Your dye posts are always such inspirational reading to me. Dyeing is something I've wanted to try, but haven't got round too--and I don't have a lot of space for storing extra tools, kettles, etc. This is on my someday list, though! I love the idea of making a quilt with my own dyed cloth. I'm working on a log cabin quilt right now. :o) Happy Days, Nat ((HUGS))

Queen of the Tea Cosies said...

I love your dying most of all too, and your knitting, and your stitching and your basketry and your garden and your...