Monday, 28 September 2015

Natural dye - Walnut shells and photography problems

A friend of mine went camping last week and brought me back some walnuts in their shells to use for dying. She had climbed the tree to get them and her hands were still stained brown two days later. The walnuts had gone a bit soggy and bringing them hope in my lunch bag probably wasn't the wisest decision.

I boiled them up and simmered two pieces of silk for an hour. Then I removed one and dropped a pieces of wire wool into the dye, leaving the second one to simmer for a while longer and then sit overnight. This is the result, with the wire wool one on top.

The one with the wire wool hasn't come out as dark as I hoped. I think I should have halved the dye and added the wire wool at the start because by the time I added it the dye had already been used once and the cloth was already dyed. Even so, they are a nice browny-yellowy-greeny colour (brown being my speciality!)

One of the things I am finding hard is photographing the dyed fabrics as the results are never the same on the screen as they are in real life. I think the surrounding colour makes a big difference. The four close ups below were all taken at the same time, in the same light, in the same position with the same camera held at about the same difference. The only change I made was to put my hand in or a piece of white cloth. The four photos at the top show close ups of the four uncropped photos at the bottom.

As you can see, the cloth looks a completely different colour each time. (So does my hand!) So then I experiment with taking photos through a white or black square like this.

The one in the white square gave the closest colour but it still wasn't right so I took it again, flattening the card to make less shadow. I cropped it and then used to adjust the colour by eye. The photo at the top of the page is the nearest I can get but of course that's just my eyes and my screen - it's impossible to tell what everyone else sees and how other people's computers read it. If anyone knows of any photography tricks that help get the colour exact I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Green Path Beaded Quilt

I've just realised that I never posted pictures of The Green Path beaded quilt that I completed back in July. This was the beading that I did on the green flour batik fabric that I made and showed here.

As usual I've added too many beads and you can't see the fabric that I worked so hard to make. Here it is.

This was the quilt before the beads were added.

The final piece included some polymer clay buttons I made.

And here are some other close ups.

Beaded quilt - Blue Wave

I've finished the little blue quilted square that I quilted a while back and pictured here.  The crazy thing is I've covered it entirely with beads so you can't see the lovely quilting! The shape of the quilting did influence the lines of the beads but really, I must learn to leave gaps. Here it is.

I'm generally pleased with it though there were a few things I would have changed. The pearly star shaped button top right got a bit swamped and the blue in the top right hand corner doesn't have enough contrast but hey ho.

A few close ups:
I really like the pale shells against the blue beads.

This is me showing off because I've finally worked out how to use the macro setting on the camera.

I really like this bit - I like the contrast of textures between the little cream seed beads and the other jumbled cream beads and I also like the little bits of pink here and there.

And I like the way the seed beads dip into this unusual holey button. Wish I'd done the same with the other two.

Unusually for me, I'm pleased with the colours in this piece. I picked the blue background just because I have a lot of blue material but then I used a picture and to select the colours. Basically, I chose a picture I liked then used the dropper tool to select between three and six colours. I did this several times and then chose the one I liked best. This was my 'inspiration'.

I think I'll use this method again.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Sari material

I found a brilliant shop on ebay that sells cheap, damaged silk sari fabric. The fabric comes in 4 yard lengths.

The ones I bought had a pattern one end and then either a plain or simpler pattern for the rest of the fabric. Some have a border. They're only hemmed on three edges and they're advertised as being damaged or faulty in some way. I bought four and am really pleased with them. One of them was very thin and I damaged it slightly when I washed it as I twisted it a bit to ring it out. I've found that the fabric is really fragile when wet, but actually quite tough when dry. Some of the pieces have thin patches, the odd stain or mis-prints in the dye and one was quite dirty but now they've been washed there are yards and yards of material ideal for embroidery or other crafty stuff. Actually, some of it would be fine to make blouses from too. And at only £8 a piece, I think it might just be the best £32 I've spent in an age. Even the postage was free.

They really are beautiful and it's difficult to get a real feel for the colours or shine from the photos but here are the other three. I've photographed the patterned ends and a bit of the plainer part. Each one is folded roughly in three so as you can see, they are big.

They were difficult to film as the slightest breeze wafted them about. Also the rabbit kept getting under my feet.

And here's a collage showing two close-ups of each piece.

As these were bought for embroidery or quilting I know they have to be cut up but it's going to be hard. I chopped about a foot off the bottom of each one quickly before I could talk myself out of it so I have some small pieces to start with but I think it's going to be hard cutting into the patterned ends.

Incidentally, they are really silk. I checked using the burn test on a tiny bit, so even with the marks and small tears they are really worth having.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Natural dyes - onion skins and rosemary

Yesterday I rummaged through the vegetable tray in my local supermarket and filled a bag with loose onion skins which had fallen off the onions. I did buy a couple of onions too. So today's experiment was to see how using iron as a modifier might change the colour of a dye. I made a batch of onion skin dye and a batch of rosemary dye. The onion skins were simmered for just over an hour and the rosemary for almost two as not much colour came out of the rosemary. I had stripped the needles off the stems of the rosemary as I thought it might intensify the green but the dye ended up very pale so perhaps I should have included the stems. Here they are bubbling away.

Once I'd strained the dyes I divided each one in half. One pot of each was left as it was, and to the other two pots I added a tiny bit of wire wool. The wire wool is magnetic so I presume it is mostly iron. I added about two square centimetres to the onion  skin dye but when I saw how dark it went I only added about half a centimetre to the rosemary. The results of the onion skin dyes are quite dramatic.

This is the silk dyed in onion skin without the iron. It is magnificent if I do say so myself.

And this is it with the iron.

It's almost unbelievable. Both pieces of silk (dupion) were mordanted beforehand with alum. How is it that one piece of wire wool turns the whole things from brilliant orange to black?! If I hadn't seen it happen (and it was almost immediate) I wouldn't have believed it.

I also had a larger piece of silk in the onion-skin-with-iron pot which was unmordanted. At first it looked very black too, but when it dried it was more dark grey with lighter and darker patches. Here it is.

The difference in colour that a tiny bit of iron made is practically magical.

The rosemary dye is much more subtle; it came out a very pale yellowy-green and not the definite green I was hoping for. It's still very pretty though. See.

The second pot of rosemary had a tiny bit of iron wool in it and came out about half a shade darker.

There's one other piece. This one is polyester and was in one of the pots with iron added but to be honest, I can't remember now if it was in the one with the onion skins or the one with the rosemary! I thought it was in with the onion skins but looking at it, it looks quite green and I'm pretty sure there was more than one piece of fabric in the rosemary-iron pot so I think this must be it. You wouldn't think it would be so difficult to keep track; I guess I should make more notes as I work.

 Although the colour of this isn't particularly attractive, the patterns are lovely so I think I need to experiment more with using iron as a modifier.

And here's the pile of all today's fabric. From top to bottom it goes; spare bit of polycotton dipped in the onion skins with iron and then onion skins at the end, mystery polyester (probably rosemary with iron), two pieces of silk in onion skins with iron, three pieces of silk in onion skin, silk in rosemary with iron, two pieces of silk in rosemary.

It's really hard to get the colour right in the photographs. In real life they are a tiny bit brighter than this photo suggests.

Natural Dyes - eco printing results

A few days ago I experiments with eco-printing, mostly on paper but also on a little bit of silk. The details are here. The results are patchy in every sense.

First of all, the silk. I did two pieces in the stack which was steamed, and one piece rolled and steamed. I've since seen a post where the fabric is sandwiched with a layer of polythene or cling film. I think this gives sharper results as my prints are a bit swamped by the colours coming through from both sides. Anyway, here they are. First the two that were in the paper stack.

Next, here is the rolled one. There's also a rolled cotton strip but I haven't opened that. The silk has had two days which is enough but the cotton will need longer.

Over all I feel they are a bit murky and indistinct, but there are some nice details after they'd been pressed which I might use. Here are a couple of close ups.

The paper was varied too but some of it is really nice. The two pictures below show my favourite piece before the leaves were removed and then after the leaves were removed and it had been dried and pressed.

Interestingly the piece above is on the cheap printer paper, not the nice thick acid free watercolour paper. It's definitely the darkest piece. I wonder if the acid helps bring out the colours. Some of the others worked quite well too. Here is a selection of the best.

I now have a nice stack of paper to go with all the other things I haven't yet used.

Natural dyes - red cabbage results

And here are the results for the red cabbage dye. First a quick reminder of the plan. For more info see this post.

I used about 3/4 of a red cabbage, chopped finely, simmered for just over an hour. Then I divided the dye into three, added vinegar to one third and baking powder to the other. At some point (I don't quite remember when) I googled baking powder and realised that as well as bicarbonate of soda, which is alkaline, it also contains cream of tartar which is acidic, thus making it ineffective as a modifier. To correct this I added a good dose of bicarbonate of soda. The vinegar solution turned a lovely pink, the baking powder went a bit greeny-blue, and then even more greeny-blue when I added the bicarb, and the other one stayed purple.

Next I divided each dye in two, hot dyed three lots (simmered for an hour) and cold dyed three lots. One of the hot dyes (Sadly the lovely greeny-blue one) burnt dry while it wasn't being watched so I was left with just the two hot and three cold. The cold dyes only had two days in the jam jars but with silk, this seems to be enough. Some of the silk was mordanted in alum and some wasn't but to be honest, I can never see any difference.

Here are the cold dyes , along side a green sweet chestnut (left) which I added the next day.

Apart from the burnt saucepan, two other disasters befell this dye lot. Firstly, the lovely new silk that I bought in town this week turned out to be polyester and didn't take any colour at all. I shall have to get my money back on that. Luckily I used some of the old silk as well.

Secondly, the cold dyed greeny-blue (remember there isn't a hot dyed one, it burnt dry) came a right cropper when I was rinsing them all; I spilt some vinegar, grabbed what I thought was a jaycloth and mopped it, only  I'd picked up the greeny-blue silk and not a jaycloth at all! I watched in horror as large pinky patches appeared. However, not to be beaten, I rinsed the empty jam jar, filled it with water and a teaspoon of bicarb, shoved in the silk and gave it a good shake. The greeny-blue cover returned. I suspect this means the colour won't be very fast at all and will be affected by anything it touches but never mind.

Here are the two hot dyed silks. I think the vinegar one should have been taken out sooner as after an hour it had gone purple. They are really quite similar.

Red cabbage hot dye without vinegarRed cabbage hot dye with vinegar

Here are the three cold dyed silks. From left to right, bicarb, nothing, vinegar. Again, the vinegar isn't that different, even though I rinsed it in vinegar afterwards. The bicarb one recovered well after it's disaster with the vinegar. This picture is when they are still damp.

Sadly, the colours are not so vibrant when they're dry, and the pink is now purple again.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Natural Dyes - Red Cabbage

There seem to be two opinions on using red cabbage as a natural dye. On the one hand the colours produced can be bright and exciting as you can change them dramatically by changing the Ph level. On the other hand, there seem to be dire warnings that the dye is not colour fast at all. Since it's not used as a traditional dye I'm guessing the warnings are probably correct but in the end, the idea of the lovely colours was just too tempting.

I decided on two methods: simmering and solar jars. I also thought I would use it as a test to see how much difference mordanting makes. I simmered six 12" squares of dupion silk in an alum solution and soaked three other pieces in plain water. Meanwhile I chopped the cabbage and did a whole load of eco-printing - but more of that in a different post.

The chopped cabbage went in a big pot and was simmered for an hour and a bit. By then the cabbage had lost almost all its colour and the dye was a deep purple. I divided the dye into three lots and added vinegar to one and baking powder to another. As predicted, the one with vinegar went pink and the one with baking powder went a greeny-blue. I'd call it teal. Some of the dye went into saucepans and some was ladled into three jam jars. I added mordanted and unmordanted silk in varying amounts to each container. Now the jam jars looked a bit sorry for themselves and the greeny-blue one soon went a dull purple so I chopped up a bit more cabbage, added some more silk, topped them up with warm water and added a teaspoon of bicarbanate of soda to the greeny one. They perked up no end and I sat them on the windowsill, shaking them every time I was in the kitchen.

Not much in them
Topped up

I left the three saucepans simmering away with instructions to my son to turn them off after an hour and I went out. Unfortunately, the teal saucepan burnt dry and the smell of burnt cabbage juice filling the house didn't alert my son who dutifully turned the pans off exactly when I'd told him to. The teal silk was completely burnt and had to be thrown away. There is a reason why all the blogs you read tell you not to use your cooking pans for dying. Beautiful pattern, on the pan but took a good twenty minutes scrubbing to get it off. Beautiful but burnt saucepan

I'll post the results when the jars are ready.

Natural dyeing - eco printing

Having started to experiment with natural dyes it was only a matter of time before I came across eco-printing. This is technique where leaves and other plant materials are pressed against fabric or paper and are steamed or simmered so that the dyes from the plants adhere to the fabric or paper. India Flint and is one of the artists using this technique on fabric and Cassandra Tondro gives a good explanation of the technique on paper.

I tried both the fabric roll and the paper stack. It's fairly straight forward. With the fabric you lay out a strip of fabric, cover it in leaves, petals or other plant materials, wrap it round a stick, tie it up and steam it for a couple of hours. Then you leave it for as long as you can stand before unrolling it.

 The plants laid out on the three strips of fabric.

The sticks prepared

Half way through steaming

Meanwhile, I prepared small rectangles of paper by soaking them. I used various different paper including brown wrapping paper and a few sheets of ordinary printer paper but mostly I used 165g artists paper. After soaking them I create a paper block by layering the paper with plant materials. I put two pieces of paper between each layer of plant material as you only need to print on one side of the paper. I also included two pieces of silk as an experiment. Once the stack was complete the whole things was sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard, tied up and steamed for two hours. I turned it over half way through the steaming.

 Here is the stack being made. The paper is still wet. each piece only measures 13cm x 17cm because they had to fit into the roasting dish I planned to steam them in. I did read that you should press the plants first to make them flat but it didn't seem to be needed as they squashed down pretty well.

The picture above shows the stack ready to be steamed. Next to that you can see the pan I used. It's an oval roasting tin and I propped the rack up on two ramekin dishes to keep it out of the water. I put a stone on top of the stack, then put another two stones on the lid of the pot which pressed the lid down nicely against the stone inside creating a bit of a squeeze on the stack. On the right you can see the stack after two hours of steaming. It's held together very well. 
This is how the stove looked mid dyeing. The large pot on the right has the stack of paper in it. The other three pans have the red cabbage dye in that I wrote about in another post. The front left one is about to be badly burnt but I don't know that yet! Just in sight on the left is the handle of the steamer which has the fabric rolls in waiting to be steamed. I thought about putting them over the cabbage dye but I'm glad I didn't as when they were steamed they turned the water in the steamer green and it would have affected the cabbage dye.

It was a busy few hours. I'll post the results in the next post.