Tag Archives: natural dyes

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…

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

 

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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

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Batik Class in Lithuania/ Писали батик в Литве

This June for my Batik class in Lithuania I had a great group of dedicated students. Technically Batik requires a lot of concentration and patience, and is not an easy technique for beginners. We had quite an intense practical part and as the result each student fulfilled two batik works. During my demonstration I shared my favorite surface design techniques on cotton and linen fabric, some of which students incorporated into their works. 

В июне на моем занятии по батику в Литве собралась замечательная группа очень добросовестных студентов. Технически батик требует большой концентрации и терпения, и для новичков является не самой простой задачей. Практическая часть нашего занятия была достаточно интенсивной, и в результате каждая ученица к концу занятия сделала по две законченные работы.  В демонстрационной части занятия я поделилась своими особыми приемами создания дизайна поверхности на льняной и хлопковой ткани, и студенты смогли применить сразу же некоторые из них в своих работах. 

Students at work/ Студенты за работой:

 

We followed one color combination/ Мы придерживались определенной цветовой комбинации:

Some surface design on linen fabric/ Примеры дизайна поверхности на льняных образцах:

One happy batik session! Замечательное занятие 🙂

 


More on Wash Fastness

As much as I enjoy obtaining refined and unique marks from the plant material on fabric I cannot but brood over the Wash Fastness aspect, especially when it comes to wearables.

The common advice that can be most often found regarding washing and caring for naturally dyed textiles, is to hand wash it in cold water, or use a gentle cycle in the washing machine.

In my practice with natural dyestuffs I tend to meticulously run my own experiments to see how the same recipe/regularity works for me. Well, the moment I got my very first satisfying dyed pattern on a wearable item I immediately put on considering cap:

How long a garment treated with the natural dyes will serve before the increasing color fading from the multiple washes finally gives it an unappealing look?

Provided, of course, that the garment has been properly treated with mordants, as well as that the dyeing process has been carried out aptly.

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For the silk accessories and such, the washing matter does not look as much uncertain as for the sportswear for instance. 

I really would have doubts as for a jersey T-shirt and a gentle washing cycle… Well, maybe I am just too lazy to consider a hand-wash, or is it just that I know that you cannot give a quality wash to a jersey T-shirt without presoaking it, which will definitely affect the natural dyes. So, why not give a try to a conventional washing then?

Still wearing the same considering cap, I got a dyed jersey shirt:

Front

Front

Back

Back

I decided to wear it on a regular basis from the moment I finished working on it last September, and throw it into the washing machine with the rest of my light-colored laundry; I used my usual detergent, Persil most of the time, for cotton fabrics.

These are some close-ups of the shirt pattern right after dyeing:

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And now after three months and 15 to 18 washes, this is what I end up with at this moment:

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Not sure how much obvious it really is from the pics, but the background color retains its corn-colored hue; while the bluish marks from the tannins have shifted towards brown color, as the result of their exposure to the high Ph of the washing powder.

Well, at this point my shirt still works for me. Which is fine. I’ll keep my further records on the gradual color shift and/or loosing color of this item.

Determining the point when the T-shirt starts looking toneless will surely give the better idea about the general shelf-life of my naturally-dyed clothes, which is essential info to be labeled on my naturally dyed collection.

So, dear colleagues, and what advice do you label your naturally dyed wearables with?



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