The second in my little series of workshops at the Guild went really well. There was yarn, fleece and roving dyeing. Brown, orange, almost-red and maroon from E Scoparia (bark and leaves) and E Cinerea leaves, yellow from silky oak (Grevillea Robusta) using Ida Grae’s recipe from Nature’s Colors: Dyes from Plants, and the ever-astonishing purple from red sanderswood with alum. I again used Jenny Dean’s method from Wild Colour and still got nothing like the oranges she suggests are likely.
Mysterious outcomes in natural dyeing are not all that uncommon (at least for me!), as the number of variables is so huge. But this one is out of the box–purple!? Since my last post on the subject, Jenny Dean has very generously been in touch with her thoughts on the matter. She suggests this purple could be the result of alkalinity (but given I made no attempt to generate an alkaline bath, it seems unlikely it was seriously alkaline).
Or–and I agree with her that this is much more likely, even though I used 4 different jars/packs labelled “sanderswood”–perhaps the dyestuff was never sanderswood to begin with. The colour is very, very like the logwood results I have had, just about indistinguishable. I am still not complaining about the result–I love purple and so did the participants. I was hoping for purple on this occasion, as I have no more logwood–that I know to be logwood. Perhaps there was a time in the past when a batch of “sanderswood” came to our Guild or a supplier nearby and all the different jars I’ve used ultimately can be traced back to the same mislabelled supply. This would fit with my experience of Eucalypts… it is much more likely that I have misidentified my tree than that the dye bath is giving a completely different colour. Variation to some extent, however, is completely expected.
Here is the “sanderswood” just after I poured boiling water over it–Jenny says this looks like a logwood bath to her. I bow to her much more extensive experience and wisdom, without hesitation.
I have the biggest chips in a little zippered mesh pouch that must once have held toiletries. The smallest chips/splinters are in something that looks just like a giant tea ball. I saw it for sale in a Vietnamese grocery where I was investing in greens, seaweed and soy products and immediately saw its possibilities. The woman who sold it to me had an eye-popping moment (evidently she hasn’t sold one to an Anglo before), and asked me what I was planning to do with it. I love those moments in Asian groceries, because once I’ve been ask the question and given my (admittedly bizarre) response, I can ask about the ordinary use of the device or food in question. This one is usually used to contain whole spices when making a big pot of stock or soup. This point was helpfully illustrated by a packet of soup seasonings–star anise and cinnamon and coriander seed were some of the spices I could identify right away.
People tried out India Flint‘s eco-print technique on cotton, wool prefelt and silk. I hope she will get some extra book sales as a result (if you’d like to acquire her books, click on the link to her blog and look for the option to buy them postage free in the left hand sidebar).
There were biscuits and icy poles and lots of chat. I demonstrated soy mordanting and black bean dyeing. And while we were at the Guild and using the copper, which is such a generously sized vessel by comparison with my dye pots, I leaf printed some significant lengths of fabric that I brought to the workshop bundled up and ready to go. The copper really is copper lined, but I could detect no obvious impact on the colours. Seedy silk noil:
Wool prefelt… the degree of detail is fantastic. This is destined for felting experimentation by a dear friend who generously assisted me at the workshop. Her practical help, support, constant grace and good cheer made things go so smoothly. I also decided to start some processes before participants arrived, which I didn’t do at the previous workshop. I think that helped. But it was a fabulous group of people too.
And finally, silk/hemp blend, destined to be made into a shirt (by me, so it may take a while). I am delighted with how it turned out, after many months of putting off the day.