Print 1. Experimentation – Natural dyeing

A fun day on Friday dyeing cloth and paper with my friend and OCA mate, Judy.  She has already posted a review and some of her results here and her pieces are terrific.

Moving away from my normal routine, where I usually get decent pattern transfer on fabric, I decided to try dyeing wool felt using tips from another friend, Jane, who achieves wonderful results.  I’ve not tried wool before.  I steeped eucalyptus leaves in iron water overnight, the next morning I sprayed the fabric, both sides, with vinegar water, laid my steeped plant material (and other bits) over the surface and rolled it up in a sausage.  This was then wrapped in a plastic bag cut to size and placed into the boiling dye pot for about 1 1/2 hours.  I made a couple of samples – one went into a Eucalyptus leaves/iron sulphate pot whilst the other went into a Banksia leaves/copper sulphate pot.  Neither have come out very well.  Perhaps I didn’t wrap tight enough.  Jane said her plastic bags shrink and really grab the fabric tightly, mine didn’t.

ND-2015DAbove: the wrapped fabric ready for the pot, torn Eucalyptus leaves with a bit of bark coming to the boil, the two finished prints.

ND-2015EAgain, I tried a new method with my velvet.  Usually I fold and trap my fabric and inclusions between two pieces of wood tied up with string.  This gives a grid-like appearance to the print (see some of the results Judy got using this method), but this time I folded the fabric right sides together with plant material enclosed and wrapped the fabric round a piece of wood and secured it with string.  I knew I would get a huge amount of dye coming through because there was barely any resist but I hoped for at least a little plant pattern.  I didn’t get any specific patterning but I did get colour changes where the leaves leached out and this has resulted in a lovely richly coloured sample.  I’ve got a few nice deeply coloured lines where the fabric was tight against the wood block edges.

ND-2015FMoving to paper, which I love to dye, Judy and I had a banquet of plant samples to choose from.  Through experimentation over the last few years I’ve found that native foliage, ferns and weeds transfer to paper very well.  Others such as hyacinth, hydrangea, lavender and pot plant leaves don’t do so good.  Judy brought a variety of small pieces I hadn’t tried before so we were sure to get some unexpected results.

ND-2015AND-2015GWe boiled the paper for well over an hour (having got a little sidetracked on other things) and then separated the pages.  Resists had been placed between some but others had stuck together a little as the paper melded together.  ND-2015HIt didn’t help that I put a bit of egg on some foliage, hoping for better transfer, and this acted like a glue adhering the plants to the paper.  Won’t do that again.  Despite that I was staggered at the wonderful greens that came out.  I’ve never had that good a colour before and even though the egg was a mistake I think that helped the colour to transfer more strongly.  You’ll see why I believe this later.

Pretty happy with the results even if some are a bit patchy.  Yesterday, having kept the dye pot, I had another go using more resists but without the egg!!

ND-2015BA very different outcome to the previous day.  ND-2015C

I used a lot of gum leaves, unlike the day before.  The amazing thing is that I’ve done a lot with gum leaves in the past but never got these colours.  These ones were brought by Judy and are much larger than the leaves on the trees in my garden, obviously a different variety of Eucalyptus.

The two showing the most pink were underside of leaf to paper, whilst the paler version in the front was placed right (waxy) side to paper.  Colour mainly discharges from the underneath of leaves so the variation in this print is lovely.

Of course, I kept the pot and went to bed dreaming of more dyeing.

This morning I went back to the weeds from the first day (well I picked new ones.  It all helps to keep the garden marginally under control, and aren’t we in the age of ‘recycling’?)

Wow!!!  And these are double-sided as well – what a bonus.  You can see I’ve used the same weeds that came out very, very green on the first day but have much less intensity on these prints.  That could be because the dye pot is now 48 hours old or because on Friday they were painted with egg to add protein and today they weren’t.  Who knows, who cares anyway?  I never expect to be able to repeat something exactly.  There are too many variables: Are the plants freshly picked? What time of year is it?  Is it new or established growth?  Has it been raining or dry?  Do you live in a hard or soft water area?  What type of pot do you use?  What type of paper or fabrics are you trying?  Have fabrics been prewashed?  Etc. etc. etc..

So, three brilliant dyeing days, three totally different outcomes and a friend who I know is going to be as smitten with these techniques as I am.


About Claire B

I'm a passionate printmaker, paper-maker and a poor sketcher (which I'm working to improve). I've stitched from early childhood and am a perpetual student, loving learning and participating in everything creative.
This entry was posted in My Creative Pieces, Print 1: Experimentation, Printmaking 1 and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Print 1. Experimentation – Natural dyeing

  1. fibresofbeing says:

    Lovely results! It’s fascinating all the variations – to quote Jane “be prepared for serendipitous results”.
    You’re right about me being smitten, there’s definitely a trip to the garden centre for plant-friendly chemicals coming up.

    • Claire B says:

      Hold on, don’t get too excited, we’ve got the cochineal dyeing to explore yet!!!! Just joking.
      I can’t stop gazing at my paper results. I think I’m falling in love with paper arts.

  2. Nola says:

    Absolutely gorgeous results from both of you!
    Next time you come over, remember to collect some leaves from my Ironbark trees, which gave me a gorgeous rich orange with alum as mordant. The bark yields a deep black-brown, even without mordant.
    Also I have a grey-leafed helichrysum plant H. petiolare, which gives a nice clear yellow, again with alum, and a wormwood ditto – much finer leafed than the helichrysum for pattern making. Not that yellow is hard to achieve! But you can have a cutting of the helichrysum, if you like, as it strikes easily.
    I also have some Pandorea Pandorana, otherwise known as Wonga Wonga Vine, which allegedly yields a gold yellow. Not sure what its sister, Pandorea Jasminoides might yield, but I have that too. Both have lovely seed pods…

    • Claire B says:

      Oh my goodness, I barely know the name of all the different plants. Lucky I have you and Jane who know what’s what. One of my weed like plants that has yellow flowers like buttercups has lovely long seed pods and they came out well.
      Such fun.

  3. epocktextiles (Jane B) says:

    great work – my bundles are usually quite fat, and i wrap really tightly. My eucs must be different to yours. as usual, not replicatable results! you had fun and thats a good thing

    • Claire B says:

      We had a ball. Poor Judy had to drive home afterwards and we had a very long day, but it was worth it. I have big plans for these prints.
      I love your wool based dyed pieces and am going to leave that area to the expert – you, while I concentrate on paper based samples. I’m turning into a paper fiend.

  4. Pingback: Print 1. Experimentation – Further natural dyeing trials | TactualTextiles

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