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.
Again, 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.
Moving 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.
We 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. It 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!!
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.