Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dyeing done for the day

Today I used almost all the dyes I made yesterday, and since this batch uses no mordants, it was straightforward to do.  I varied the dye times from half an hour to three hours to see how much effect that had.  Not as much as I'd have thought.  

The Dorset buttons, though, were in for over 12 hours, and that linen and cotton thread really took up the color very well.  I arranged them temporarily on the Big Doorway piece just to see how they work.  

The thing about natural dyes is that they're so subtle that it's hard to make a clash of colors, so this redwood sort of shade works surprisingly well. I'm glad about this since they were the original reason I plunged into all this dyeing work to begin with. I have to make more buttons, and cluster them on here, dyed with a different shade, maybe the kale I didn't use yet.

I had a bunch of items -- a lovely Indonesian weaving in a natural shade, which has been waiting for years for me to dye it.  It came from Dharma Traders, one of the last of a bunch of weavings from an old weaver in Indonesia ready to retire from the fray.  It was fair trade, but still the price was amazing.  

I dyed the weaving in yellow onionskin dye, for about 45 minutes and really like how it took up the color. Here it looks paler than the dyed effect in real life, which is a light golden, warm color.

I also used a Habotai fine silk scarf, which I dipped in the red onionskin dye, hanging it from an arrangement of coat hangers over the dye pot in the sink, then reversing it to get that colored section in the middle.  About half an hour for each operation.

and tshirts in cotton.  

Everything was either white or ivory at the outset.  The colors are very muted but nice.  I can redye some of these if I fancy more color. Right now they're great to study. Left to right, dyes are: red onionskin,  marigold and red rose blossoms, Japanese maple, J maple and red onionskin, and yellow onionskin.

The shirt in the pot -- here you see how much of the dye it's taken up -- turned out surprisingly pale, very delicate pink. In fact it looks white in the pix.  

That was Japanese maple dye, must do more of this, and collect more leaves for more oomph in the dyepot. I also put in the rose blossom dye into this mix.

The rose blossoms I mixed with marigold, and though it looked glowing in the glass container, 

it came out a soft sort of golden tan on the shirt.

All in all, a good day's dyeing work for beginners.  

I now have a bunch of items I'm keeping for dyeing, since though today's materials were all food or close to it, it's a good idea not to get too casual about what you use in the kitchen for food and for dyeing.  I also had a window open and a fan going to keep a good cross draft going.

And I did the amazing thing of starting an actual notebook to record what I'm doing, or what I think I'm doing.  This is truly a first in my art history, and I demand a gold star.

This day's work, aside from getting Dorset buttons working on the Big Doorway and rehearsing dyeing for the backcloth for the smaller doorway pieces, was all about being very local.  

Every item of dyeing material was either already in my kitchen or a few steps out back to pick.  It feels a bit like eating only locally and in season!  and it was a calming and very good experiment for the purpose of slowing down and learning to take my time, so hard for me, but dyeing rewards patience.


  1. I like the subtle colour results. Have you ever tried pounding flowers? If not, try it. Fast results and not too labour intensive but perhaps a bit noisy.

  2. I have, in fact I taught it to a bunch of kids at an art festival. I liked it, all that hitting! Great fun. I wonder if it would fit into my current plans..

  3. your dyeing experiments have worked so very well, I do like that they are delicate shades

  4. Very nice. The shades being subtle does make sense as they are natural. Looking forward to your further adventures with the Japanese maple. I love that shade.

  5. I wonder why I now have 'bubble, bubble, toil and trouble' reverberating in my head. Interesting results from your experiments!


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