Friday, 28 August 2015

Natural Dyes - Cherry Tree Leaves

I read an interesting blog about natural dyes today. The one I was particularly interested in used red onion skins on a site called Folk Fibers by Maura Grace Ambrose. She uses natural dyes to dye cloth for making quilts and the onion skin recipe is here. I wanted to have a go but of course I didn't have any red onions. If necessity is the mother of invention then impatience must be its younger sister. In the garden we have this lovely cherry tree.

It's difficult to photograph as it's a bit hemmed in by the house and the other trees but you can see the lovely dark red colour.

It only took a minute to get a bowlful of leaves as they are all over the grass at the moment. Then I boiled them for an hour.

Meanwhile, I chose some cloth. From left to right there is a piece of pale pink silk, some calico and two different pieces of polycotton.

While the leaves were boiling I boiled the cloth in a mixture of vinegar and water. Probably should have used alum but again, I didn't have any and I read somewhere that you can use vinegar if you are using a plant dye.

After an hour I strained the dye to remove the leaves, rinsed the cloth, then put the cloth in the dye and simmered it for another hour. Then I turned if off and went out for lunch! When I came back, about three hours later, I rinsed the cloth through, dried it and ironed it. This is the result.

The silk definitely came out best. It's difficult to get a good idea of the colour here but it's a deep browny purple, although over the last few days the purple has gone and it's more or less brown now. The calico and one of the polycottons look a sort of beige mushroom colour, and the other polycotton is a paler beige/pink. 

I broke all the rules doing this. Should have probably used alum and left the leaves to steep overnight then probably the fabric overnight but two whole days is just far too long for me to wait. I'm really pleased with the silk and since I like using silk I'll probably stick to silk if I do any more home dying with natural dyes. The cottons have a slight uneven quality which looks nice and if I used cotton again I would tie-dye it to make more of a mottled pattern. 

No idea what I'll use these for!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Batik - second try

I had another go at making some batik fabric today which I think was more successful as I used a better combination of fabric and fabric dyes. They are all between 10 and 15 inches width/lengths.

These were made using red dye on orange fabric.

This one was a white fabric and I used a paintbrush to paint the squares between the wax grid.

These were all on a pale blue fabric. The first one has a purple dye, the middle one was blue and the right hand one was a darker blue dye. The last one looks better in real life although the detail did get a bit swamped by the dye.

That's probably it for batik for a while. Now I need to think about what to do with them!

Friday, 21 August 2015


I wanted to have a go at free form quilting today but then I discovered that I can't drop the feed teeth on my machine so I can't do it. Instead I made a small piece using wavy lines. It's made from a blue duvet that I bought specifically for sewing with. The duvet was plain blue cotton one side, silk effect on the other and had some beautiful Chinese style embroidery on it. So far it's been made into wall hangings, bead quilts, cushions, crazy quilting squares and a small purse and there's still plenty left though all the embroidery bits have been used up.

This is the quilt ready for beading. It's tiny. Only about six inches square. It's blue not green.


I'm busy working on the 'Silver Mine' bead quilt but today I fancied a change so I spent the afternoon trying out batik using wax instead of flour this time.

The results aren't great but I learnt a lot so I'll probably try again some time. I was a bit limited with colours as I only had a few last little bits of fabric dye. I heated the wax in a tin cup over the cooker and carried it to the table to work but it cooled down quite quickly. Once it starts to cool, even though it's still liquid it doesn't seem to penetrate the fabric as well so next time I'll probably work next to the cooker so I can keep it hot.

I just used tea light for the wax. I chopped them up and took out the wicks. I bought about a hundred really cheaply ages ago so they were ideal. The only specialist equipment I used was a tjanting like this one on the left. I also used a paintbrush and in some ways that was more successful as the tjanting was a bit too fine.

Here's the work midway.

And here are the final pieces. The colours don't show well at all. This first one was an orange material with a green dye and is quite bright.

 I covered this completely with wax and crackled it.

This is the flower one. They are very pale but do look good. The original fabric was a mottled green and I dyed it a darker green.

The next two are actually purple with some shiny bits.

This is pale blue, purple and pink. It's much paler and more colourful than the picture shows. I've already got plans to have another go so hopefully I'll sort out the photography by then.

 This is blue on pink fabric.

I've had real trouble photographing these so sorry about the quality.

Sun printing silver mine bead quilt

I bought some lovely shiny grey silk with a rough texture and had a great plan in mind for a grey, silver, black and red bead quilt. When I got all the beads together I suddenly didn't like the shiny material! Cue afternoon spent dying another piece of fabric. I used a technique called sun printing. Basically you paint your fabric with a watered down fabric paint, lay objects on top of it and leave it out in the sun to dry. As the fabric dries it pulls the liquid from under the objects along with the paint leaving paler patches. Acrylic paint works well too.

I began with plain white poly cotton and daubed it with two different greys and some white. Then I laid it outside with some leaves weighted down with stones.

This is how it looked when it had dried and been washed.

Here's a close up of one of the fern type leaves. I'm really pleased with it.

The little leaves came out slightly strangely but I like them.

Here's the fabric with its border. I did finally use the shiny grey material for the border.

That's it ready for beading. I'll post the finished piece later.