Tag Archives: contact dyeing on silk

The seeds sprout and the sun rises

Planting seeds… Every Spring as Nature awakens and comes back to life, seedlings are planted and seeds are sowed. Cause that’s how it goes. Cause that’s the way it is – standstill taking over the movement, and solution and breakthrough coming forward after the deadlock…


Since we settled at #szaryganek a few years ago, I started another dyer’s garden right away. I planted several varieties of smoke bush, couple of catalpas, tamarisk, liquid amber, and two types of sumac in addition to what was already growing there. (Some of the new plants were presented by a friend visiting at that time. Evgenia, remember?) I also arranged madder root corner in the rear end of the garden. Needless to say, rubia tinctoria is a very important dye plant, although a young plant is not so good for dye extraction, you’ve got to wait 3 years until you harvest the first batch. This Spring I have been able to draw out a few root shoots to expand my madder plantation.


Madder is one of the oldest dyestuffs. According to J.N. Liles, it extends back at least to 2000 b.c. In his book The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing, 1990, you can find at least 10 recipes with madder root for color red. Wow, I’ve been always fascinated with madder dyeing potential, and also with its medicinal properties. At the same time, have to admit that traditional dyeing with madder has never become my thing. Maybe I am not ambitious enough…

However, enhancing the effects from leaf printing in contact dyeing with madder extract, on the contrary, has been serving me at its best from the very start. Back in those days, when an absolute newbie in botanical printing struggling to get leaf prints of decent visibility on fabric or paper, at the same time craving for eucalyptus foliage to appropriate for my studio experiments, (and eucalyptus itself had been a complete alien at the local florists) half in despair, I resolved to giving a break to squishing out wishful color from the foliage that had already proven void, and to taking an opposite approach of saturating a weak leaf with stronger potion.


The thing is that in days of the past newborn babies were traditionally bathed in herba bidentis extract bath-water in view of its antibacterial etc. properties, clothes were also treated with the extract. I did bathe my child that way too. The extract should’ve been cooked every time fresh through a time consuming process, and no steps to be skipped whatsoever. And the results were magical… So, in my studio I gave the old method a go and treated those weak leaves to the dye stuff extract. And, yes, the leaves impregnated with stronger dye print immediately even before the heat is applied. This is a pic back from that time:

What a relief it was after so many failures! And throughout the years of my exploring botanical dyeing this method never stopped surprising.

But it’s Spring time, remember? Conditioning the stage for madder root expansion in the garden was not a big deal, in fact. However, my recent urge for setting a vegetable garden (the lockdown sequela) required way more engineering intense arrangements. First came five plastic boxes for vegetable beds – yes, yes, I know, plastic… But, hey, sometimes you just have to to make do with what you got. I didn’t like the idea of poking holes in the bottoms, I wanted to keep the boxes intact. So, I thought I would make a raised mesh bottom supported with fixed wire. Water is supposed to go underneath, and I added a tube for ventilation and also for watering:

IMG_6738 IMG_6729

Next, I spreaded agrotextile to separate soil from the plastic walls, added some potting grit and soil.

It took me several hours to finish the construction stage. Planting and sowing took the next couple of days. However, after a period of nice weather we got the temperature dropping from +26C to +8C. Which now makes me really wonder if my efforts prove fruitful.



P.S. Oh, did I mention that seeds were germinated in a plastic bottle? It is a very effective and low maintenance sprouting method. XOXO


Black Poplar and Birch/ Черный тополь и береза

In my country there are over 160 dyeing plants. However, this number is not final. I have been focusing on my local resources since early years of my batik practicing. To my understanding it is natural dyes that make batik crackles and lines stand out in a very special way. Batik was an initial impulse for looking deeper into available and affordable local resources. Natural Contact Dyeing came next.

На территории моей страны насчитывается более 160 красильных растений. Однако, указанное число не является окончательным. Впервые обратить пристальное внимание на натуральные красители меня подтолкнула техника горячего батика, которая была моей основной техникой долгое время. Я не сомневалась, что применение натуральных красящих веществ наиболее удачно сочетается с батиковой линией и фактурой, придавая им особую выразительность. Таким был первоначальный импульс, заставивший меня сфокусироваться на доступных и приемлемых местных ресурсах. А затем пришло Контактное крашение.



In Ukraine three species grow wild—the European aspen (P. tremula; Ukrainian: osyka), the black poplar (P. nigra; Ukrainian: osokir), and the white poplar (P. alba; Ukrainian: topolia)—on the floodplains of large rivers, along lakefronts, in dried-up riverbeds, or as protective screens along roads and fields. Some poplars are cultivated as ornamentals; pollution-resistant P. italica, P. deltoides, and P. balsamifera provide green foliage in cities. Encyclopedia of Ukraine.

In Ukrainian traditional natural dyeing bark and buds from all poplar species are used to dye wool into yellow, bright yellow, brown colors; leather is dyed into yellow color. Buds contain lots of flavonoids (quercetine, chrysin, others), organic acids, essential and fatty oil, vitamine C, and other compound; bark contains chrysin, tannins, xylogen (lignin), others. Poplar is medical plant, woody plant, honey plant, tannin bearing plant, fibrous plant, vegetative reclamation plant, and forage plant.

В традиционном натуральном крашении шерсти в Украине применяется кора и почки всех сортов тополя. Шерсть окрашивают в желтый, ярко-желтый, коричневый цвета; кожу красят в желтый цвет. Почки сожержат флавоноиды (кверцетин, хризин, др.), органические кислоты, эфирные и жирные масла, витамин С и другие соединения. Кора содержит хризин, дубильные вещества, лигнин, др. Тополь-лекарственное, древесное, медоносное, танниноносное, эфирно-масличное, волокнистое, фитомелиоративное и кормовое растение.


The results of my work with black poplar foliage for the purpose of contact dyeing of silk, cotton, linen and wool fabrics have placed this plant firmly among my absolute favs! It works equally good both on iron and aluminium mordants. It yields green, yellow, brown, and black. Also, the shape of black poplar leaves is very often so elegant and refine, that it makes the figurative statement itself. The colors are very wash fast.

Результаты моей работы с листвой черного тополя по контактному крашению переместили черный тополь в число моих абсолютных фаворитов. Листья черного тополя прекрасно работают и с железом, и с алюминием. Полученные цвета: зеленый, желтый, коричневый, черный. Форма листа настолько изящна, что сама по себе доставляет эстетическое удовольствие. Полученные окраски достаточно прочные и стойкие.




Birch is the plant next to black poplar in my favs list.

Two main forms are found in Ukraine: the European white birch (B. verrucosa), which reaches a height of 25–28 m and grows separately or mixed with other species; and the pilose or swamp birch (B. pubescens), which reaches 20 m and grows in wet, swampy areas… Birch charcoal is made into black powder and filters for the paint industry. Birch sap is consumed as a beverage in the spring, and tea made of birch leaves, buds, and sap is used in folk medicine as a cure for stomach ailments and rheumatism. The white birch is also grown in protective belts against the wind, along highways for decoration, and on slopes to prevent erosion. Some forms of the birch, such as the weeping birch, are valued as decorative trees.Encyclopedia of Ukraine.

In Ukrainian traditional natural dyeing birch foliage is used to obtain yellow, brown-black, yellow-green, golden colors on wool, silk, and cotton. Birch foliage contains flavonoids, tannins, saponins, gums, vitamins, essential oil, carotin, bitter principles. Birch is a medical plant, honey plant, woody plant, resinous plants, tannin bearing plant, forage plant, essential-oil plant, ornamental plant.

Береза идет следом за черным тополем в списке моих фаворитов. В традиционном натуральном крашении в Украине используется листва березы для колорирования шерсти, шелка и хлопка в желтый, черно-коричневый, желто-зеленый, золотистый цвета. Листва березы содержит флавоноиды, дубильные вещества, сапонины, смолы, витамины, эфирные масла, каротин, горькие вещества. Береза-лекарственное, медоносное, древесное, смолоносное, танниноносное, кормовое, эфирно-масличное и декоративное растение.


Used for contact extraction birch foliage yields very nice bright colors at iron and aluminium presence, yellows and greens, black and browns. The colors are very wash fast. When used together black poplar and birch make a great golden color scheme, birch yields more of bright lemon-yellow shades, while black poplar gives more of golden shades of yellow.

При использовании для контактной экстракции листва березы дает очень яркие цвета в присутствии железа и алюминия: желтые и зеленые, черные и коричневые. Окраски прочные и стойкие. При сочетании листвы березы и тополя создается особая золотисто-желтая гамма, береза дает яркие лимонно-желтые оттенки, а тополь-золотистые оттенки.


The third partner in this golden company which I discovered as a great combination for my art work, is Catalpa tree.

Catapla is coming next!

Третьим составляющим золотой компании выступает катальпа. О ней-в следующий раз!



Upgrading Store Clothes/ Апгрейд Готового Платья

Utilization of Dyeing with plants method is a known thrill when it comes to introducing personality to store clothes. It works perfectly considerably due to the fact, that you are getting resuls from the Work of Nature, which is unmistakable and flawless.

The dyer acts just as a medium here, getting a thrill of opening the fabtics to the resuts.

I wanted to catch this moment with my camera, taking slowly each step as the Nature reveals its work in between the layers of fabric and leaves.

And there is something about it, not just that it is an OOAK peice of clothing you own, but it feels like you have a significant proof of your bond with the Nature, a protective shield that you’re wearing.

thr01 thr02 thr03 thr04 thr05 thr06 thr07 thr08 thr09 thr10 thr11

Метод крашения листьями сложно переоценить, когда речь идет о превращении массового в индивидуальное. И тут дело не в том, что на готовый предмет наносится некий штучный дизайн. Дело в том, что наносит его Природа, как свойственно ей, безошибочно и точно. Красильщик – только передаточное звено в этом процесс; он получает свою порцию восторга, когда разворачивает ткани.

Я постаралась с помощью фото передать захватывающий момент, когда перед тобою неторопливо разворачивается и предстает нерукотворное творение.

Что-то однозначно в этом есть, и это не только и не столько факт появления неповторимого дизайна, это как-будто в руках у тебя оказывается непосредственное свидетельство связи с природой, некая незримая защита, если хотите, не просто элемент одежды.

My Garden List: Strawberry

Now when the Spring is close enough, it is time to get back to my garden, my true place of inspiration and enjoyment!

Located amidst the Southern Dunes, veiled in the spicy air of pine-tree forest.

That’s where I favoured the Natural dye-stuffs once and for all. And this is where my seasonal open-air batik and dyeing studio is situated.

Having been so much captivated by the process of printing with plant material on textiles I, however, learnt that the most of quite scarce available information on the subject features mainly plant material which is exotic for this area. And my creative process is strongly bound with that land of the Dunes, inspirationally and resource-wise.

So, following the concept of the local resource development, after sufficient familiarization with some exotic exponents, I got back to my trivial natural objects with renewed vigour to estimate their potential for my good.

– and who can learn enough about his local phenomena of the Nature! –  

My today’s List of the Day starts with Strawberry!    

That’s because I love it big time! Wild strawberry, both berries and leaves, are important ingredients for my herb tea recipe. And leaves from any type of strawberry are great for printing.


For the test I took

  • strawberry leaves, nice ones
  • a plain piece of silk, no mordants used
  • a wooden stick to wind around
  • a brass pot

So, it is just strawberry leaves and silk, no mordants used before or after; simmered in the brass pot for about 2 hours and left for 10 days unopened.

Please, watch the results!


These pictures do justice to the printed fabric sample, there both nice light-green areas alternating with distinct pink ones.

And can you see a heart pattern there! 

BTW, I am eating strawberries while writing!

Well, I can say that this one makes an excellent demo of Strawberry potential!

More entries to my Garden List on the way.



Весна подошла вплотную – самое время вернуться в свой сад!

cредь Южных дюн и соснового леса.

Здесь, в саду, моя сезонная батиковая мастерская; здесь работается как нигде хорошо, и здесь все ресурсы под рукой –прямо под ногами. Тут я обнаружила натуральные красители однажды, на них же и остановилась.

Веяние последних лет в области натурального – Эко Принт, процесс контактной экстракции натурального красителя прямо на окрашиваемую поверхность – на самом деле не так уж хорошо и подробно описан. Чаще всего в отношение Эко Принта встречаются упоминания экзотических растений, никакого отношения не имеющих к моей эко-системе. Это огорчает, потому что процесс контактной экстракции натурального красителя меня очень увлекает.

К слову, это определение получилось у меня на ходу. Надеюсь, теоретически мощно подкованные коллеги могут такое принять.

Этот самый процесс имеет столько переменных, просчитать достоверно которые невозможно и от которых драматически зависит итог крашения, и вероятно самый верный путь к его пониманию – это многократное повторение наибольшего количества вариантов, сделанное своими руками, на своих материалах, в своих специфических условиях, и т.д.

Собственно, уже имея определенное знание этого процесса, я и начала вести этот блог как некий дополнительный метод упорядочить свои результаты и поделиться тем, что уже знаю, с теми, кому это интересно.

Я твердо убеждена, что нужно в первую очередь знать и использовать свои местные ресурсы. Поэтому, вволю наработавшись с экзотическими материалами, я с двойной решимостью возвращаюсь к своим землякам, чтобы еще раз пройти по списку и обратить внимание на их потенциал.

Первой в списке выступает Клубника!

А также земляника, неотъемлемый ингредиент моего травяного чая.

В опыте участвуют: кусок натурального шелка, листья клубники, латунный таз и деревянная палочка, на которую наматывается образец, переложенный листьями; варю все около двух часов и не разматываю около 10 дней. Протравы никакие не применяю, Ph не меняю; вода дистиллированная.

Результаты – прошу обозреть фотографии выше. Должна сказать, что фото действительно близки к реальности: просто очаровательная комбинация светло-зеленого и розового. Каким-то образом сложился орнамент в виде сердечка! Это меня от души порадовало.

В следующих постах – далее по списку из моего сада.

А также, я продолжу редактировать предыдущие посты, добавляя часть на русском.

Приглашаю всех, кому интересна эта тема, к диалогу! Оставляйте, пожалуйста, свои комментарии, даже если это просто “спасибо” или “привет”!! 

Back to My Studio! Hurray!

I have just returned from an over a month long most fabulous car journey. And yet, it feels so great to be back HOME and  get down to work! 

With a minor break for the Winter Holidays, of course!

As much as I am overwhelmed with the current plans for my studio work, I’d like to turn to the nearest past and share some of my fresh experience, as posting on the way was hardly feasible, and I don’t wonna miss this one.

And not to forget, this is a DIARY, in no way a THESIS; the main idea here is to register facts from the Natural Dyeing practice my being just a humble apprentice in the ancient art of dyeing with the Nature. Although some of my findings might as well be  valuable for the fellow apprentices!

      Up in Lithuania with my dear friend Ina we had a dyeing session for which we used mostly local plants from the area with a small exception of  a few euca leaves from the sauna broom. For fabric, we took silk, cotton and cotton jersey.

The method  of the fabric pretreatment we used, is a part of the dyeing technique I developed for my batik works quite a few summers ago; which could very well add to the subject matter of an enthralling demonstration!

All was simmered for about 2 hours in the dye bath with the same plants we used for printing. The next day the bundles were unrolled first thing in the morning.

Gratifying is the fact that Celandine and Strawberry combination yielded a really bright, multi color print. And in comparison to the  effect we got from the euca leaves, the Celandine gave more complex and deep color. 


So far, Celandine (Chelidonium majus) holds its honorary position in my Preferences List of the local plants for yielding bright complex colors; although being a subject to further testing for wash-fastness.


Shown is the piece of  silk :

IMG_4572Celandine and StrawberryCelandine and Strawberry




Another Test. A Visual Review

Another piece tested for wash fastness. 

A silk top dyed in the same dye bath as the jersey top,

printed with same type dried euca leaves, tested in the washing machine with the mild detergent.


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On a Windy Day. Take 2

This will be just a photo report to complete the Floating Scarves Story!

I took that many pictures pursuing  the true colour and the feel of the fabric:



Однажды в ветреный полдень. Дубль 2.

Это репортаж, подводящий итоги истории про шарфы, играющие на ветру.

Мне хотелось как можно точнее передать истинные цвета и ощущение легкой шелковой ткани:


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