Posts Tagged ‘natural dyeing’


December 13, 2009

Yay!  The semester is over!  Well, I have two more classes to go to this week, but the primary thing on the agenda for both of them is eating cookies.  Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time, learned a lot, did a whole lot, but I’m glad to have a break.

First up on the list of things to blog about is the only thing I have pictures of – a piece I made on top of all my school work for a competition.  The winning piece goes into the permanent collection at the hospital.  My piece was inspired by the stupendous view from the family lounge in the Palliative Care Ward, which is on the top floor of one of the few tall buildings in the city outside of downtown.

This was my original sketch.  The black lines are where it is divided into panels.  Because hey – why make one piece when you can make nine?

I decided to use one of the new techniques I learned earlier in the semester – direct application of natural dyes.  I’ll post more about that later, but essentially you make a concentrated solution of your dyes and mordants, paint them on your fabric, let it dry, and steam it.

After dyeing the canvas, I did free-motion embroidery to further define the areas and give it a bit of texture.  And then . . .  I was out of time.  I wish they had given us more than a month’s notice, there was tons more I could have done to this thing.  Oh well, next time.

So.  Want to see it?

(This is the extra-big version, click on the picture to see it full size)

The colours are much more vibrant than they look on my monitor.  The detail shots are better, but you don’t get the full impact without seeing it in real life.  Sorry.

I had a heck of a time photographing it.  It’s too big for me to do at home (23″x60″) so I’d booked the classroom at work, which has a nice big wall of windows that the sun shines right in until about noon.  Perfect, if I’d managed to finish it the night before.  Instead we got there at about 12:30, so by the end of setting up and the initial test shots, it was pretty dark in there.  After dragging up a couple of extra lights from the sales floor and a white cutting mat to help reflect the light, this is what it looked like:

I’m still pretty pleased with how they turned out, and hopefully the judges will be intrigued enough to want to see it in person.  I find out on Friday.  Wish me luck!

Next up:  Tomorrow I should get back my mammoth dye project, which means I can take pictures for you.  It’s far from finished, really, but I’ll post the beginnings.

New Project

October 2, 2009

I love my dyeing teacher.  Since I’ve already taken the second year version of her class (and therefore already know how to use all the dyes she teaches), for the third year version the two of us basically just sat down and invented one big project that will be most of my grade.  Want to know what we came up with?

I’m going to make a colour reference book with natural dyes, procion mx (for cellulose fibres) and acid dyes (for protein fibres).  There are lots of reasons I can think of that somebody might want to use chemical dyes instead of natural dyes (they were invented for a reason, after all!) but still stick to the natural dye spectrum.  So I’m doing natural dye samples with a natural linen, a bleached linen, a wool and a silk fabric, and then colour match with the chemical dye of choice, and put it all together in one big book.  And, of course, post it on the blog.  I want people to use it!


Volume I (’cause I’ll probably do more) will consist of twelve colours, spread between most of the colour wheel:

  1. Dark Pink/Red:  Cochineal
  2. Pink:  Cochineal (exhaust)
  3. Red:  Madder
  4. Orange:  Madder Pale (exhaust + citric acid)
  5. Yellow:  Weld
  6. Olive Green:  Osage + iron
  7. Dark Blue:  Indigo (many dips)
  8. Light Blue:  Indigo (few dips)
  9. Dark Purple:  Logwood
  10. Light Purple/Grey:  Logwood pale (exhaust)
  11. Light Brown:  Cutch
  12. Dark Brown:  Cutch + iron

I’m mordanting the wool and the silk as I type (gotta love dyeing for multitasking!) and hopefully will dye the first couple of colours this weekend.

Here’s the chopped up pieces:


Top down is wool, silk, natural linen, bleached linen.

Woad Vat

August 6, 2009

First things first, hello SCA people!  Thanks for coming by my blog  🙂  I will be going to Tir Righ’s Summer Investiture in the Shire of Danescombe with even more stuff, so if you missed out at Clinton, bring your swatches to colour-match and I’ll see you there!

Back to the business at hand, sorry for the delay in posting – suddenly we were packing and there was no time to write!  However, as promised, here are my pictures and method of getting that lovely blue out of my garden.  I used kind of a combination of three different methods:  Teresinha Roberts’, Cheryl Kolander’s, and Jenny Dean’s from Wild Colour.

It starts off with these beauties (who have, in the two weeks since harvest, almost doubled in size again):



I took as many of the big, mature leaves as seemed appropriate – the mature leaves apparently have more pigment.  It was a pretty small harvest, I got about 250g of leaves.  Then I rinsed them to get off any dirt and the associated unwanted pigments, not to mention bugs.

First Woad Harvest

Next, I tore the leaves up into smallish pieces, small enough to get out the maximum amount of pigment, but large enough not to go through my sieve.

Torn up Woad

I put the torn-up bits into my dyepot and heated it up to almost simmering, and let it steep in the hot (not boiling!) water for ten minutes.  Then stuck the whole pot into a sink full of icy cold water, to cool it as quickly as possible.  Two of my three sources said that it’s very important to cool it to 50° C in about five minutes.

Quick Cooling

While it was cooling, I made up a soda ash solution with a very scientific couple of tablespoons dissolved in about a cup of boiling water.  The indigo pigment will only dissolve in an alkaline solution.  One of my sources says the pH should be 9, the other two say that pH is important, but don’t give a number.  I don’t have any pH strips, so I guessed.  It seems to have worked.  After straining the leaves, I added the cooled soda ash solution to the woaded water, which turned it from green to a pinky-brown kind of colour (which I forgot to take a picture of, sorry!).

Next in the process was the incorporation of air into the dye liquid.  I chose to pour it between two buckets instead of using my kitchen mixer.  It took about 10 minutes for the foam to turn blue and the water to turn back green.


Pouring, with Bee

Still Pouring

Pouring one more time

Pouring Green

Blue Foam

After that, I added about a cup of liquid from my experimental mother vat a few weeks ago.  Did I post about that?  I decided to try to do the ginger beer thing and make a tiny woad vat that’s always fermented and then add some of that starter solution to temporary larger ones, instead of having to either maintain a big one or start it from scratch any time I wanted to dye something.  I used about the same proportions of madder, wheat bran, and woad powder (purchased) as my indigo vat, but in a 650mL jar.  I knew it was ready the day my boyfriend came home from work and went looking for the dead rat under the bookshelf . . .  Anyways, I added a cup of that, with the pre-grown yeast, along with some more wheat bran for the yeast to feed on so it could multiply in the larger pot.  Then I put it in the bathtub so it would have a good steady temperature, and waited, stirring it once or twice a day.

After about three days it was getting the ‘functional vat’ odour, so I started testing it with bits of paper.  Which was frustrating at first because it didn’t seem to be doing much of anything.  It looked right, but it just wouldn’t dye the paper.  Then I remembered the small amount of pigment I was working with (not to mention the fact that I’m used to working with chemical indigo vats), so I wetted a strip of cotton and left it in the vat for a couple of hours.  Ta da!  Gorgeous blue.  Which, I’m sad to say, I have no pictures of and it’s night-time now, so they’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

Mission: Sowing

March 16, 2009

Yesterday I remembered that I had several decent-sized pots in the garage.  Which means (yippee hooray!) that I could plant my woad seeds!  I would have just put them straight into the garden, but we’ve been getting weird cold-warm-cold-warm cycles and while they’re supposed to be over, I’d hate for them to sprout only to be killed by yet another late night frost.  Also, I really like watching the first few weeks of a plant’s life and it’s much easier to  do that when they’re on the window sill in my studio than out in the backyard.

I did three pots, with two rows in each one, so when they sprout I’ll thin them down to two plants in each pot, then separate them when they go into the garden, leaving me with six plants.  According to A Dyer’s Garden, six plants will produce enough dyestuff to dye an ounce of wool.  She’s not very specific though.  I don’t know if that means they’ll produce that much dye over the whole summer or in one harvest session.  I’m guessing the latter, but I’ll just have to wait to find out for sure.