Category: Dye Bath Processes

16 Sep

Alder tree cone dye

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Alder cones stored in dry box

Alder cones fall off the trees in strong winds and are found in the grass below all year.  Newer cones side by side on twigs are green and hard.  Store the brown cones in dry boxes and they last a long time.

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Alder cones fall on grass
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Alder cones on tree

To make dye bath soak cones, twigs and leaves together in a mixing bowl or pan.  The water will go dark brown.  Boil up then simmer for one or two hours.  Keep checking water level.

Adde silk to dye bath, but only when temperature had lowered to hand hot, or silk will roughen.  Never boil silk.  Stir frequently for even dye coverage and leave overnight to finish absorption.  In most cases, colour deepens the longer silk is left.

A secondary paler colour can be achieved in a new silk sample if added to dye bath for 24hours.  I would enhance the absorption ability by pre-mordanting in powdered allum.

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Alder cones removed from dye bath after boiling
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Silk after removal from dye bath of alder cones, leaves and twigs.
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Silk dyed result after soaking in alder dye bath

So many natural dyestuffs produce a range of creams and beige, fawn and gold tones; all very different.  All neutral tones provide an excellent background for silk painting. The Ahimsa peace silk or Habotai silk takes up any natural dye nicely.

This piece will be used in a fashion garment and link posted here in future.

21 Aug

Logwood Dyed Silk

Two Logwood dye sessions gave very different results, but the second session produced a pleasing background 

Session ONE - deep violet result.

Shibori stitch resist technique was used but most of the white lines were dyed, and needed a bleaching out with fabric bleach.  A good experiment but no end product.  The small unburnt sections were saved to use as patches.
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1st soak in logwood dye
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Washed out shows shibori
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Shibori stitching pulled tight before dyeing to leave areas white
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After surface iron bleaching
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Gutta applied to contain colour
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Dye colour added to shapes
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Burnt result after steamer ran dry!

Session TWO was used to soak a batik worked silk in the previous dye, much depleted, although enough dye for a dull lilac resulted.  The piece became the background to dress Butterflies and Pansies.

'Butterflies and Pansies

[Note:  Add logwood dye process images this page, from dress post.  Oct. 2020 Site images updating:]

21 Aug

Mullein Dyed Silk

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My Grand Mullein 6ft. tall

Magic of Mullein

Mullein plants have been used for centuries both as medicinal and as a wick for natural torches. 

The leaves here give a good light gold on Ahimsa silk after steeping in dye bath from several leaves.  Stem of plant not yet trialed. 

Plants seed themselves in the fruit and vegetable allotment: thousands of seeds but just a few plants, biannual.

Click on any photo to view enlarged Photos Gallery

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Mullien leaves soaking boiled
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Dye bath after removing leaves
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Silk soaking in mullien dye bath
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Silk absorbed mullein dye
  • Fully cover dyestuff leaves with pond water, and stand to soak for 24-48 hours.
  • Boil up in 2 or 3 inches of rainwater for 10 mins then simmered for at least an hour until the colour reaches full strength. Dip piece of soft white tissue in to test strength from time to time. it may be necessary to add water if simmering a long time.
  • Remove dyestuff leaves.  Allow dye bath to cool until barely hand hot to be gentle for the silk.
  • Immerse silk and agitate for 5 minutes then leave to soak, stirring every 20 mins or so. Some dyes absorb immediately; some need longer overnight soaking.
  • Absorption of colour depends on whether the silk has been pre-mordanted in alum crystals; which is not always necessary.
  • Silk piece is washed out gently in warm water until water runs clear. Hang out to dry without squeezing too much.
  • Steam iron when almost dry to remove creases.

[This silk will be incorporated into a Shamanic Nights garment and linked to here in due course]

14 Aug

St. Johns Wort Plant Collecting and Dye Bath

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St. Johns Wort yellow flowers in bank side.

St. John's Wort (hypericum perforatum) yellow star shaped flowers, are found along grass verges. These photos are from the Tarka Cycle Trail old rail track - Barnstaple to Bideford; my 10 mile route for foraging, using Jenny Dean's plant spotter book. 

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St. Johns Wort yellow star flowers collected

Click on photos to see enlarged views as Gallery

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Dye Bath  - 1st Soak

  • Soak flower tops overnight in rain water. I use pond water.
  • Boil up and simmer for an hour
  • Cool liquid until hand hot, not to roughen silk, soak silk, stirring occasionally.
  • Leave overnight to absorb dye colour
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Gold result from St. Johns Wort dye.
1st soaked silk contrasted with pale woad dyed silk and darker

Dye Bath  - 2nd Soak

  • Second silk piece added on top through the night.
  • 2nd day: Remove first stronger dyed silk piece and rinse out, not squeezed too much and leave to dry.
  • Drain seeds and flowers and heat remaining paler dye bath. Add second piece again for half a day.
  • Rinse out when water completely clear. Colour was blotchy, so I cut it in half.
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Three varieties with St. John's Wort dye bath.
L-R (a) first strongly dyed silk (b) Second paler dyed silk
(c) Third dyed silk with iron modifier
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Dye Bath  - Session Two - Iron

Iron Modifer: Olive Green-Khaki Results

I heated dye bath again, allowed to cool, before adding tablespoon of ferrous sulphate for third final piece of silk. (for khaki colour) Silk must not be exposed too long to iron mix as can weaken it. Colour change is immediate so 5 mins sufficient; less to just dull colour.  Rinse out with a little soap.

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  • Silk dyed with no mordant = GOLD.
  • Silk modified after dyeing with iron = KHAKI
  • All cream and gold dyed silks with any plant dyes will turn  duller, khaki, or grey after a dip in iron.

Notebook:  I bought the iron (ferrous sulphate) specially, but you can make your own. I generally experiment with adding water from a jar of rusty nails and screws; about half a tea cup to turn grey or khaki. Top up jar as rusty liquid is used. Even a spoonful dulls a colour adequately.

[Note: Site under restructuring: additional dye images to add]

See more and others' dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

Shamanic Nights background image