July 3, 2015 · 3:25 pm
A friendly natural dyer (and highly accomplished spinner and weaver) from the Guild gave me a gift a while back. Alkanet root! This is a dyestuff I had not expected ever to be able to use, and a welcome gift: very generous of him!
Once it went into the bottom of the dye pot, its purpleness became ever clearer–albeit with some camera help! Jenny Dean clearly doesn’t like the smell of alkanet, and I have seen other dyers suggest it is especially unpleasant. For me, it evoked a rotting tropical fruit. The kind of thing some people find delicious and others find appalling. I do prefer the lovely smell of madder or eucalypt, but wasn’t troubled by the alkanet root bath. Mind you, I dye out of doors.
As it happened, this was the same day I made a delectable juice from the last of the season’s pomegranates. Years back, I noticed just one pomegranate tree in all the streets of the neighbourhood where I walk that never, ever, had a rotting fruit fallen underneath it. The tree was always in superb condition–clearly loved, tended and cared for by knowledgeable people. One day I found the people from that garden in the front yard and asked what they did with the fruit, because at that point, no one I knew had ever served them up to me (all this has since changed). The man I asked went into the house and brought me out a sample of the pomegranate juice he had made for his dinner guests! And then explained how to make it by releasing the jewel like seeds from the skin and then putting them in a food processor and straining the results. So. That’s how I had used the fruit. And this is all that was left.
Jenny Dean came with me again for the ride, and some of my cold alum mordanted fleece-of-Viola went into the pots. Once I had carried out Jenny Dean’s alkanet instructions, I threw more fleece into the pot to see whether there would be any additional colour in there.
On the left, the alkanet purple. Upper right, alkanet exhaust, which I would call a pale brown. Bottom right, the pomegranate yellow. Subtle but pleasing.
February 14, 2013 · 12:26 pm
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.
Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing
Tagged as brown, cotton, dyeing, E Cinerea, E Scoparia, eucalyptus, for the love of the Guild, generosity, Grevillea Robusta, Ida Grae, India Flint, Jenny Dean, logwood, orange again, purple!, red, red sanderswood, roving, silk, user error, wool, yarn, yellow