Annette and I experimented with two different plant dye pots, mainly focusing on paper dyeing but I added some small pieces of silk noil into one pot.
A large amount of rosemary leaves were stripped and added to around 10 litres of water. After boiling point was reached and the water had turned a good green/brown we added 1 teaspoon of copper sulphate mordant. My raw silk was sandwiched between wooden boards and tied tightly before boiling for around 2 hours.
Whilst these results may look underwhelming to most dyers this is exactly the effect I was after. These pieces are to be worked into further and used as concertina book panels. The very tightly tied wooden pieces have only allowed the dye to marginally reach the centre of each cloth piece to give a slight colour change, while producing a deeply dyed effect around the outer edges.
The paper we dyed in our other pot – cinerea/silver dollar plant with no mordant – had been pre-soaked in alum and allowed to dry before using. The folded paper sheets were sandwiched between wooden boards during dyeing and plant material and resist cloths were inserted throughout the layers.
Cinerea typically gives a bright orange colour when used as individual leaves compressed between layers but here we were using a full dye pot. We decided to forgo the mordant additive as the paper had been pre-mordanted and we weren’t using fabric that would be washed. Therefore, the reasoning was that, once dyed, the paper needed only to be dried which would ensure no colour runoff.
And, boy, did they come out with bold colours and outlines!
In my recent (January) natural dyeing workshop we were encouraged to use cotton rag printmaking paper or watercolour paper. I used some BFK Reeves which worked reasonably well, but this time Annette and I used ordinary cardstock and plain white and pale yellow sheets of indeterminate content. Definitely not cotton rag or anything fancy.
As you can see, different plants were placed against the outer sides of the folded sheets (the first 3 pictures) but we folded the inner sides together with no resist to allow the design to migrate across both sides, like an ink blot.
Obviously they all have very similar colouring, as they were sandwiched in one bundle and dyed together. The plant transference has come out extremely well with some precise detailing but I would like to see more colour variation coming from the plant fibres themselves. My sense is that the alum pre-mordant helped the patterning to be sharper and more defined and I’ll do that in the future.
Considerations for future pots:
I’d like a less vibrant plant in the pot, probably a eucalyptus, bottlebrush or banksia. Then 2 separate pre-mordanted paper bundles; one with alum and the other with copper sulphate. I want to see what difference that brings to the compressed plant fibre colour outcomes.