Soak walnut husks with walnuts in, including broken husk pieces, in water for two days.
Boil and simmer for 30 mins and leave soaking for another two days.
Boil again to reheat and leave to cool to reach hand hot only for silk soaking.
Remove husks and decant liquid to bowl.
Add wet silk pieces
Agitate frequently then soak overnight.
Colour is already achieved if not soaked longer.
Silk takes up the brown dye bath quickly but keep turning and agitating occasionally while soaking. (Don't boil Ahimsa silk as it would roughen surface) Soaking is adequate for obtaining a reasonable colour.
Dye bath is quite dark after walnut husks soaked in water, so could be used without boiling. Longer soaking might even produce an even darker dye bath. There is a lot of pigment left in the dye bath and dye can be stored in jars. Fill to brim to avoid mould forming. it could also be used to add to other cream or gold dye pots to strengthen or darker tone. (not experimented yet)
[Note: Post restructuring in process: Images to be resized]
Cut up Tansy flower tops and soak overnight in water (pond or river water if available).
Boil up in stainless steel pan; simmer for an hour or more until water is well coloured; then leave to cool to hand hot only. (Cotton can be simmered, but silk may get matted and rough if boiled).
Agitate silk in dye bath occasionally, redistributing evenly in liquid during first 15 -30 mins to ensure all areas are covered when first absorbing dye. After first absorption, remove to a china or glass bowl, to agitate easily. Use an upside down lid to keep silk beneath surface.
Transfer boiled liquid from steel pan to bowl for easy silk soaking and ocassional moving for even dye distribution.
Soak silk for some hours in cooled dye bath liquid. The colour of the dye bath water is no indication of the final outcome on dry silk. Remove soon if you want a pale colour; leave overnight for stronger colour.
Comfrey dye bath makes an ecru cream-beige, which becomes duller and darker after dipping in iron modifier, after dyeing.
This sample experimented with shibori stitching prior to dyeing which resulted in several vey pale wavy lines of resist made by where the stitching gathered the cloth to prevent dye entering.
Result after dyeing shows Shibori stitch-resist as pale wavy lines.(Stitches are removed after full dye process.) The idea to make ‘waves’ by stitching in ‘curves’ worked, but contrasts poorly on pale colours. Large pegged sample shows dye-bath original tone at bottom right, and darker result top left, after adding iron modified. (black marks are the iron water splashed as I poured in iron solution, so take care with fabric proximity)
Preparing dye-bath with comfrey leaves
Cut up comfrey leaves and soak overnight. Also soak silk in alum mordant overnight or for some hours beforehand. Silk often dyes well without mordant when using some plants. Lighter colour at left, darker tone after longer soaking. Best to leave soaking over night to ensure good dye absorption. New pieces can be dyed in dyebath afterwards, and will be paler, but always a good starter colour for painting, or re-dyeing over.
Boil up and simmer for an hour. When just hand hot, drain comfrey out and put dye liquid in a bowl to soak the silk. (I never boil this ahimsa silk as it becomes matted in high temperatures) Agitate to distribute dye equally for first 15 mins, then leave to soak all day, redistributing in dye occasionally to ensure even dyeing.
Dyed and washed out, the ahimsa silk has an ecru beige colouring where first dyed (top left) – with additional dulled, more grey colour where half of cloth was soaked into iron modified dye bath. Out of the sunlight, the iron modified sample is quite dull and darker, to be used as one would a grey.
Sample (gallery top right) compares comfrey colour dye result with Ladies’ Bedstraw, peach. Samples (gallery bottom right) show iron modified comfrey sample in centre; between (left) Hawthorne dyed silk (left) and natural, ecru result of non-modified comfrey dyed silk in second dye bath. (right).
Note: A second dye-bath was made by reboiling liquid and leaves leaving overnight to stand. Heated next day, added fresh un-mordanted silk. Left to soak for a day and overnight 24hrs. This produced a pale but warm ecru silk.
Below: Comfrey dyed silk in centre – dull tone is result of iron modifier. Silks look duller indoors whereas they come to life in sunlight. The range of colours obtainable is fascinating.
Conclusion: Comfrey gives a very good neutral tone suitable for use with any silk painting over. Longer steep in iron (ferrous sulphate) would make it greyer, as needed. Experiment with quantities of iron added. I use either water from a rusty-nails-jar as well as purchased powder.
[This page undergoing new photo uploads. please see old blog temporarily]
Woad is easy to grow. Buy some seeds, and watch the plants develop over 2 years.
Woad Dye Bath Alchemy - 1st Session
Overview - Woad leaves are cut up and soaked before boiling and simmering for an hour. Remove leaves, then dye bath needs soda crystals, before whisking for 10 mins until froth forms. Woad dye bath is ready when there is a pale blue or (in this case) pale green froth. Reheat dye bath to 50 deg. then add spoon of sodium dithionite to remove oxygen. The water goes limey green. Submerge silk. Lift after a while to see strength of blue (which shows in oxygen).
Boil woad leaves - until liquid is sherry coloured: it changes quickly, but simmer for an hour.
Add soda crystals - until alkalinity reaches 9-10. Use litmus papers from plant dye suppliers.
Whisk liquid - until froth forms. A tiring 10-15 mins but liquid can also be poured from height from one pan to another making bubbles. (for a whisk break)
Heat dye bath - to 50 deg again. Set aside 20 mins. (use cooking thermometer)
Add desert spoon sodium dithionite - to remove oxygen. Add enough until dye bath turns limey green.
Place silk in liquid - carefully without creating air bubbles. Submerge. Leave for 20 mins. Woad colouring occurs quickly after exposure to air, because the dye bath had the oxygen removed by sodium dithionite; re-exposure to oxygen turns it blue.
Remove fabric - and rest. Watch it turn blue in air. (mine went turquoise on ahimsa cream silk using pond water)
Rinse out - when colour as dark as will go, hang out to dry.
This bright turquoise was lost on re-emersing in dye bath! How we learn!
A second session (to be added) produced pale blues as in above image.
[Note: page restructuring - additional detailed dye process images, Session 1 and 2, being resized.]
Lady's Bedstraw is foundin waste ground or unused areas and near the coast. This particularly large and well established plant rambled on the River Torridge embankment above the Bideford marshes along the Tarka Trail cycle path (N. Devon). The reddish roots are used for dyeing: family is Madder (Rubiaceae) a well known red dye. Not easy to pull out the roots, and most were left for next year's growth. It was immediately apparent why it is called 'bedstraw' as plant sprigs were 'springy' in the hand, making it ideal for mattresses. Bedstraw has many herbal uses too.
Roots taken from plant ground need soaking for several days to soften, before boiling up. (I soaked mine at least a week).
Roots of plant produces a red dye, the longer soaked the deeper red. The red dye appears while soaking, and would probably dye without even boiling up. Photos show the dye was absorbed onto the pan sides, which I believe lost dye pigment strength available; so pans must preferably be steel. Copper pot might also assist with tan tone.
Some dyes will work without soaking cloth in a premordant. I usually do two tests. The second piece was not mordanted, and is some shades lighter on drying, but probably only because the first piece absorbed most of the pigment.
Steam press silk before bone dry to reduce creases. (don't squeeze out too tightly). The patchy areas do not show in the final dried sample.