Painting with Natural Dyes

Painting wool, that is.  I’m not painting paper with dyes . . . yet.  I was introduced to this technique in the fall, though I’m not sure why it didn’t occur to me sooner (or why I haven’t seen anybody else doing it).  The principle is the same as hand painting with chemical dyes – you make up a concentrated dye solution, thicken it if you want, and paint it on your fabric/yarn/fibre then heat set with your method of choice.  I usually steam.  You can see it on fabric in this post.

I spent most of yesterday preparing solutions to do some painting of roving for the shop, and I’m doing some experimentation.  My recipe says basically to take two tablespoons of the dyestuff and simmer it with a litre of water for a while and that’s it.  But it doesn’t quite make sense to me to do it that way.  After all, cochineal dyes at 5% and madder dyes at 35%.  Why should the painting solution use the same amount of dyestuff?  Either the madder will be very weak or the cochineal very strong.  So I made my solutions in proportion to my normal recipes, with enough dyestuff to dye 200 g of wool (about two tablespoons of cochineal, so that will be the same as my original recipe), extracted it and simmered down the resulting solution to 500 mL (mostly because that’s the size of the bottles I had).  Then when I actually used them, I mixed half-and-half with water to get it back to the original recipe’s proportions.  Let me know if that paragraph makes any sense at all  🙂

Aren’t they pretty bottles?  Poor me had to go through all of that wonderful organic cream to collect them.  I think I might need more colours . . .

I don’t expect the solutions to store for quite as long as my acid dye solutions do, but they should last for easily a few weeks.  I’m keeping them in the fridge since they are still full of organic material.  Though I’m sure mouldy dyeing could be interesting, it’s not something I want to investigate any time soon!

I’ll post pictures when they’re washed and dried, and compare to the samples I have with the original recipe.

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One Response to “Painting with Natural Dyes”

  1. Laurel Says:

    Thanks for posting this information. I’ve been thinking about how to do this for awhile. I’ve made herbal preparations by cooking the plant material down as you describe so I thought it would probably work for plant dyes.

    I use only plants I have grown or find by the wayside so I’ll be starting with larger amounts of material perhaps, but it should still work.

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