beautiful mistakes

When chemistry has its own way.

I bet i couldn’t replicate this if i tried…..I had used this tannin bath already twice, and it was filtered water, but the tannin had started to oxidize, and it also showed me that either my filtered water system leaves some iron in, or that the original scouring had left a residual, BUT it’s the most gorgeous silver and fawn i’ve ever seen. The right side is actually the bottom edges, and the left is the middle where it was folded over a rod to hang to dry. The iron migrated then to the bottoms so it was still pretty “loose”.

I’m hoping that after a good rinse, it’s much the same. (Silk velvet)

Advertisements

naturally dyed silk velvet

I’ve had a love affair with velvet since i was 12 and found a Vogue magazine that advised “A pant of lavender panne velvet is the essential in a bohemian styled wardrobe.” I’m not sure *how* i thought my 60cent an hour babysitting jobs were going to finance the purchase of an $800 garment, but that was obviously beside the point (I’ve never forgotten that quote either…) Natural dyes coupled with silk velvet have me quite giddy at the moment. 😍

I just have to fire up the indigo pot, do some dye combinations and extend the colour range a bit more as we need greens, blues, purples, almost-blacks, different pinks!

Listings will start on July 5th, with 2 differently sized packs, and as always, i refund any extra shipping paid!

this is why we scour and mordant

Oh, but it’s a pretty colour anyways.

Well, i can always overdye it.

But it was/looked clean when i bought it to dye.

It doesn’t matter, my clients like this colour.

But Famous Author *always* does this.

I don’t wash these anyways.

Did too scour: I washed this with my socks, before i dyed it.

Vinegar is too a mordant, you freak.

You’re just jealous i got dye from strawberries, ______, _______ and _____. (Insert appropriate inappropriate plant material here.) (This is usually said when said player has it explained to them, that even mordanting will not “fix” fugitive dyes.)

 

Here’s why you should scour, and pre mordant. Left to right: unwashed cotton, dye didn’t penetrate completely, many white spots visible, stiff as a f*****g board. Next, scoured only (soft as a baby’s butt!!!), no mordant, some colour uptake. Last, scoured and premordanted, deeper colour uptake. All were dyed in same pot of quebracho rojo, at the same time.

 

And please “but the colour is so pretty anyways” is not a good way to dye: the colours on the unscoured and unmordanted especially will/did wash out and will continue to do so, the scoured only will lose most of its colour with each subsequent wash, while the scoured and mordanted piece will keep its colour. And even “new” fibres that look clean need scouring.

Below cotton also, right scoured and mordanted, left scoured but no mordant.

 

A perfect example of what happens if you don’t scour properly, lesson learned in June last year:

I thought i had done enough on a new thread, but when i put them in tannin, this happened:

GREEN?????? I contacted Maiwa, my trusted supplier, and asked if perhaps it had been the soda ash in the initial scouring that had reacted (maybe not rinsed enough), as gallnut is a clear tannin, and stays to the “browner” tones after being used and stored. Nope.

Hi Arlee,

This is rare but it does happen, but it is not from the soda ash. Fabrics are often pretreated and contain substances which can leach out or react with the mordant. When used on it’s own Maiwa’s gallnut extract is usually a clear/colourless tannin. I would suggest trying other cotton fibres from different sources and comparing the results.

Best,
Danielle

I had to REALLY scour again, properly, to get the green out of the threads!

I have noticed since, that even tightly plastic packaged new thread can show brown, yellow and PINK (!!) dirt in the water after scouring. Don’t skimp on this step. Even “PFD” (prepared for dyeing) fabric in MY opinion should be scoured—a. it’s been “prepared” for synthetic dyes, and b. you don’t know how much it’s been dragged over warehouse floors, handled, packed or shipped. (MMM, someone had tacos for lunch and wiped their fingers on the silk. SHARESIES!)

I mordant EVERYTHING first. I *know* substantive dyes like indigo and walnut don’t require mordanting, but given that i use a lot of dyes that do need it, i’d rather have everything pre-done in case i grab the wrong chunk. Pre mordanting will not hurt substantive dyes. Some may be stripped out by a chemical indigo vat, but you should mordant again after indigo if you are going to overdye with another natural dye.

HOW to scour? Maiwa: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1086/6542/files/natural_dyeing.pdf?2077475857497476456 NOTE: different scour methods for cellulose vs protein fibres.  I use neutral soap and soda ash, or neutral soap and borax, or just neutral soap, depending on what i have handy, and depending on the fibre type.

HOW to mordant? Maiwa: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1086/6542/files/natural_dyeing.pdf?2077475857497476456 I sometimes add a tannin step to protein fibres, not because they need it, but because they will extend the colour possibilities.

Yes, they are the same link. Maiwa has the BEST, FREE information available that is accurate, researched and trustworthy. Save the link, print it, share it, USE it.

 

more lightfastness notes

Made in 2013, “The Difference Between A Plum” has travelled a lot of places, without due care as to light conditions. It’s been in well lit galleries, dim areas, fluorescent light, daylight and gawdz knows where else as it made the rounds to various shows. While it’s hard to “match” photos for colour truth, i think these are both very true to the colour it was when made, and the colour it is now.

Iron was integral here as a mordant. Iron deepens and “saddens” colours, can shift to deep purples, blues, garnet, greens, greys and browns, depending on the dye used. (In this case, brazilwood.) It can weaken fibres as well, if the concentration (know as WOF, or weight of fibre ratio to mordant/dye) is too high. I’m pleased to say the fabric still seems quite strong, despite the heavier rust concentrations, though of course, i’m not swinging from the chandelier to test the fact 🙂

Brazilwood is NOT a good dye for lightfastness, though it holds up well to wash fast tests. (Great, you can only wear it in the dark, and wash it in dim light….) BUT surprisingly, this piece is not that different from when i made it six years ago.

Left, the original photo taken in 2013, right the photo taken today:

brazilwood lightfastness after 6 years

detail of “The Difference Between a Plum” 2013, 6 years later

It is noticeable, and yes, 6 years is not that long, BUT i’m still quite happy about the effect time has had on it.

I definitely wouldn’t advise this for clothing that would be worn a lot, or an art piece in a very bright room, but as an artpiece, the evolving colour change is interesting. I wonder how much lighter it will be in another 6 years, or is there a point where residual colour stays?

 

 

building parts

Above, the first section completed. You can see the big difference on that worked section that the iron post modification made on the clear red of the original madder. (Post mod was done before stitching with quebracho rojo, cochineal and madder on silk and cotton threads.)

While i want the next section i’m working on to be a truer red, i want some nuance as well to riff the threads off. I tried post mods of soda ash, titanium oxolate and copper.

The soda ash dulled the red, the TO made it slightly orangey, and the copper, while darker and similar to the iron used before, is more what i wanted.

Though the lines are “obvious”, the threads chosen will soften the harder edges. Three shades of madder on cotton, silk and cotton, and a sandalwood on cotton should start me nicely.

I do have yet to decide which stitches i will use. I don’t want it as tightly massed as the finished section, but not really “open” and loose either.

Back to my Stitchionary for perusal and tests.

my drawers will never be empty (book review):The Art and Science of Natural Dyes

JUST when i had got all my dye stuff and tools and pots back down to the Dye Dungeon, this arrived in the mail 🙂 I pre-ordered this last July, the moment i heard it was finished, and have been anxiously waiting for it. I pretty much snatched it out of the postman’s hands!

The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments and Results  – Catherine Ellis and Joy Boutrup

I’ve already had 3 “AHA” moments, and i’m only half way through. It’s not a book you read once and then sporadically refer to, so fortunately, it’s also spiral bound so it stays open to the page you want. (Terrific, now i have to dig my book/magazine holder back out of the “donate” box….)

It’s not so sciencey that it can’t be understood, but it’s also not a skim it and do it manual. It covers the “classic” dyes, none of the usual beets, beans and berries nonsense, so don’t bother if you’re interested only in sauteing up some food waste, throwing in a cute baby onesie and staging artful photos for IG. If you’re serious about natural dyeing, and i don’t mean Total Scientist Mode but are a dedicated hobbyist/artist/small business owner, this is the book to explain WHY things work/don’t/happen. I still recommend Jenny Dean for basic, accurate dye recipes and processes, but this one will give you insights into the many variations that can and are encouraged to happen with skillful, knowledgeable hands.

There’s a small section on testing the dye potential of local foraged plants, minimal though helpful, but not the focus of the book. That being said, those tests could lead to work with those plants, following the advice for the classics. It’s all grist for the colour mill!

I’m not about to dissect any “recipe” in this reference manual: A.  buy the book, i don’t like spreading out the photos of pages i find interesting, as i’d rather you support the authors, and their research and B. the recipes are classic anyways, BUT with much new information that can be digested fully with the book in front of you 🙂

There’s a LOT of excitement about this book in the natural dye groups, and rightly so: it also supports all the things i, and others, have said about what constitutes solid, legitimate dyes and the techniques used to create these wondrous rainbows. I have to laugh though in one sense, because i just know that the new catchphrase is going to be “Welllll, Boutrup Ellis says……..” This book should be MANDATORY reading for anyone who goes near a natural dye pot.

It’s not a cheap book, but then it’s not a cheap book, like so many of the Popular girls are publishing right now. I’m about to settle in with another cup of coffee and a pack of stickit thingies to mark pages, and do a little dreaming and planning.

Edit: After 1000’s of hits to this blog post, it occurred to me that there really should be a link here to the book! Beware though–already some are claiming it in their “used but good condition” racks at two and three times the price!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EDIT: Feb 9/18WHOA! “#1 best seller” in dyes at Amazon, sold out of a lot of places, and the bloodsuckers have moved in with their jacked up prices because they bought several copies deliberately to re-sell. Good for the authors, not so much for the buyers!

working up some courage

Natural dyes and silk velvet have an affinity for each other, like a love poem whispered into a breeze, like feather soft caresses, cool water on hot naked skin, sensual and earthy, sharing the privacy of deep emotion and quiet solitude.

I’ve always had a secret love affair with velvet, coveting the “lavender panne velvet pant” described in a 1972 Vogue magazine ( i was all of 15 years old and it was certainly not either in my world of farm town, or in my 60cents an hour babysitting budget…) , but never really comfortable wearing any as i got older, feeling slightly fraudulent and as if i was demanding attention i didn’t deserve. But oh the slither of it, the voluptuous animalistic tactility, in the hand, on the back of the neck, under the legs…………

Ahem. Mystery and imagination, in deed, and in thought! Sometimes it’s sexy, too often it’s overblown and tawdry—what’s the expression? “Mutton dressed as lamb”?

Down to earth now. It’s also A BITCH to sew, by hand or by machine, so i’ve stayed far away from it, though once in awhile i pull out a chunk of rayon velvet i dyed some 25 years ago, when all i knew about was Rit. Odd bits of it have shown up in wearable art i made in the 90’s, some Hoodoo work when we first moved to Calgary and i was so enamoured of the spectacular rock formations in and near Drumheller, a few Christmas bits, but nothing really serious.

BUT, these from the last 4 days:

HOW could i not try again?

EDIT: Nov 21, i forgot to mention this is primarily using Quebracho Rojo extract (with the exception of the 2 greys/greygreens which are on osage), and are mordanted and modified with a few different processes. So all these colours from 2 dyes, and 5 mordants/modifiers!!!!!!!!

Now to dig through old sketchbooks.