I’ve had jars of dye and thread or fabric sitting about outside and on bookshelves for years here–they have been created using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store method. And I’ve been interested to see that I can let them be for years! A stitching friend was keen to start a stitch journal and so I thought I might contribute and made her a parcel… beginning by opening a pile of jars. Some put by in 2014!
For once I took the effort to make sure I could line up labels with contents… and hopefully my friend’s stitch journal will bring her joy. She’s a wonderful sewer and thinker and feminist and all-round, an upwelling of glorious energy and action.
Needless to say all this dyeing excitement led to more jars…. I love this method. I don’t come across jars big enough to use it on huge quantities, but I am blessed with small batch amounts of some dyes, such as flowers, that work really well with this method and I can process seven at a time, saving energy and drama. And it’s pretty!
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.
The time has come for some of my clothes to find new uses. These worn out jeans have had years of use as jeans…
I made these shorts from a length of linen I found on a pile of hard rubbish on a Brisbane kerb when I was there one summer. They have had years of hard wear and been re-dyed once or twice. Surprisingly enough the screen printed design on the pocket details didn’t take dye!
They are now completely threadbare in places that would create embarrassment if they were to fail, further evidence of the hard wearing qualities of linen.
I paired the jeans up with some leftovers from past sewing adventures, which finished out the lining.
The jeans pockets went on the inside, retained for future use. The outside features the pockets of a pair of hemp shorts that hit the dye pot some time ago.
I teamed the linen shorts up with the remainders of a pair of men’s twill cotton pants bought for a dollar from the Red Cross.
I love a beautifully executed pocket, and there are two of them featured on the outside of this bag, while the back pockets of the shorts are still on the inside of the bag.
In between the sewing, I spent the weekend mordanting fibre and continuing to try to exhaust dye baths from the workshop a fortnight ago! By the end of the weekend I was down to pastels… And there was the odd Stuff, Steep and Store jar to be going on with. Using the microwave has lowered the barriers to taking an opportunistic dye find or something that seems promising but whose dye properties are unknown to me and putting it up for future reference. Here, rat-nibbled pomegranate remains collected off the ground… as no edible pomegranate would be turned to dye at our house!
I’ve been making the most of the end of season fruits and flowers to create more Stuff, steep and store jars.
This jar contains pomegranate rind (and a few seeds)–somewhat dried out after contributing to more than one salad earlier in the week:
Then I made another with hibiscus flowers, and since I was sorting through dyes from the Guild that day (on a large sheet to catch escapees), a few cochineals and kermes left on the sheet with dust and dirt and leaf fragments.
Finally, why not try madder root, as I now have quite a bit of it in my possession? I figure if this does not go well–though I can honestly see no reason it should fail–I can heat it and dye with it when it comes out of the jar.
And some days after…
Many more images of what people are doing with this process over at The Pantry.