Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Eco-Dyed In The Wool

Last week my Spectrum Study Group (aka a small and very select group of friends) got together for our usual monthly meeting. There were only four of us available this time but we definitely managed to be productive! The theme was eco dyeing, a contact printing method using plant parts made popular through the books and workshops of India Flint from Australia. This time Leslie offered to share her wool jersey cut into scarf widths for us to play with. Several people brought foliage and natural dyestuff and we also foraged in my garden for leaves and flower petals to supplement the supplies. Unlike India's usual technique the wool fabric was mordanted with either alum or copper acetate (made by soaking copper pipe bits in vinegar for an extended time). The bundles we made were rolled up and either steamed in a colander or popped into a logwood dyepot and simmered. We all promised not to unroll the results for as long as possible.
Then yesterday everyone was madly emailing each other exclaiming rapturously about the results! Not wanting to miss out but I got busy and somehow managed to wait until today to unwrap my bundle:
The piece of wool jersey I got was mordanted in copper acetate and started out a pale green from that process. I added leaves from cranesbill geranium, weld, heuchera "Purple Palace", ninebark "Diablo", purple smoke bush and thread leaf coreopsis, plus sprinkles of dried marigold petals and crumbled purple onion skins.  I spritzed on a little vinegar (perhaps not necessary but what the heck) and the whole thing was rolled up around a stick and simmered in the logwood pot and then just left on the counter for four days.
The lines are from the string resisting the logwood dye and of course they only extend partway along the scarf though there's some logwood dye along the edges. The centre that was wrapped first on the stick is more plain but still very pretty. The leaves that usually give me purples and greens are here more tan and brown from the copper. The intense orange bits are from the purple onion skin and the gold flecks are from the marigold petals. I love how intense the colours are on wool! It was nearly dry in the last photo and they're still strong.
This dye technique is surprisingly easy to do and very forgiving. Even plants that don't work in an immersion vat will amaze you with colour. For an excellent detailed tutorial try this one from Wendy Feldberg, who also dyes paper with this method. Don't miss the comments section as there is even more info there. One of these days I'm going to get up the courage to include my rusty Kettle Valley Railway spike in a bundle. Soon.
Meanwhile I have been working on the bug nets for the van. I fixed the one for the sliding doorway and have the ones for the front windows cut out and pinned together. When I went to test them in place it started raining on me! Of course it stopped as soon as I gave up. Now the sun is out again. Sigh. Plus I'm still spinning white wool in my every spare moment. Three skeins completed now. Halfway.


Tobie said...

Thanks so much for this information. I've been trying to figure out how to do this!
To make the copper mordant--Is it important to have a certain amount of copper vs vinegar?
About how long to soak? And then once you have the solution, do you just soak your fabric
in it or do you cook it?

Louisa said...

Doesn't really matter the quantity of copper bits in the vinegar. It will only dissolve as much as it can and it takes weeks to months to accomplish. And I'm not sure what proportions my friend used to mordant. You do need to simmer it though as you would with the usual mordant methods. I'll have to ask but it really isn't an exact science when done with homemade solutions anyway. You don't actually need a copper mordant. That was just an experiment!

Melanie said...

WOW, this is absolutely gorgeous, but even more so after I know how you loved it into existence. Will you still do knitting, etc., while you are on the road? Or is this a stupid question?

Louisa said...

Hah-hah! Of course I'll be knitting! I navigate and knit all the way there and back again and sometimes I knit the more complicated stuff in camp as well. (When I'm not hiking or reading a book!) I've already packed most of the yarn and patterns I'll be taking. Plus the spinning I've been working on is for the big sweater project. I have to finish spinning, dyeing and winding it into balls before we go because there's no room for extra equipment!

Anonymous said...

great fun Louisa, wish I lived closer and could participate. Love the results, do you have a plan to use it?

Louisa said...

Jean, I just plan to wear it as a scarf, completely unfinished edges and all! I wish you lived closer too. That darned expensive ferry ride is in the way, isn't it?

Heather said...

So gorgeous! One day you and Jean and I will have to meet - maybe in Victoria at the Weaver's conference?

Louisa said...

Oh yes! I'm definitely planning to go. It's a date, Heather!