5 days natural dyeing at Sturt summer school was an enjoyable way to start the new year.
The course was interesting although I already knew much of what was taught. I went for several reasons; I’ve never really had a reliable method of getting a good green dye colour from plant material as they usually turn to browns and greys: I wanted to explore natural dyeing on paper again and I was interested in more linear and random patterns/colours than just transferring plant images/stencils to cloth and paper.
The results were mixed, some people had very vibrant sharp marks/patterns whilst others came out more sludgy and with fuzzy imagery. I’ve always used silk in previous classes but learned that wool cloth produces stunning results with excellent colour pick-up. I didn’t have any, so relied on silk noil and cotton. Different paper types gave enormous variations in outcome.
Hard to believe the two sets of dyed papers shown above were treated in exactly the same way; both with similar plant material, the same resist between layers to stop dye seepage, both tied tightly between the same tiles and in the pot together and for the same length of time.
The type of paper used makes or breaks the results. The best outcomes were those using Canson watercolour paper.
We worked with around 11 pots of different plant material including various Eucalyptus leaves and bark, American Ash, red cabbage, Bottlebrush, Purple Plum, Wattle, Oak, Maple, Smokebush, Cinerea and Rosemary. Each pot was boiled, samples of the colours were taken and different mordants were added to see what colours would evolve.
Mark jars with the type of mordant to be added (alum, copper sulphate or iron sulphate in our case).
Once main pot has boiled and colour achieved put a little of the liquid into each jar and add a smidge of mordant, add fabric scraps to jars (we used silk noil) and continue to boil the pot with the jars for another hour.
Remove the fabric samples and choose which colour you wish to work with. Add that mordant to the main pot, boil and add fabric or paper to dye.
We brushed egg white onto the underside of plant material before lying it onto fabrics, folding, securing and dyeing. This increases the protein level and produces a better colour and pattern transfer.
Never, never do this with plant material that is going onto paper as the egg white turns to glue and leaves cannot be easily removed, thereby ruining the pattern. Yes, it’s the second time I’ve done it without thinking in advance – what a pain. Won’t do it again!
Here are some of my better results, on paper, cotton fabric and silk noil.
Overall a fun week with a bunch of lovely classmates. I learned a lot from them and the tutor, so next time I try this I’ll have some new ideas to experiment with.