I returned from my holiday and checked on the jars that have been stewing gently on my conservatory windowsill. Since it has been very hot I decided that it was unlikely they would go any further – the liquid in the jars were all clear. I also want to try some more plants etc and there is a limit to the number of jars I have
As is soften the case with natural dyes some of the promise of depth of colour was lost when they were opened
This one is oak bark on alum mordanted cotton. It was originally very much like the birch bark from my previous experiments so I added some rusty nails. It has come out a pale mottled grey with some quite lovely marks including some tannish areas
This is the willow leaf and twig cloth I chucked in some copper staples which has definitely had some interesting effects
This one is the Forsythia mordanted with alum. This has come out a yellowy green – I was expecting more green than I achieved
This one is the cherry bark I was hoping for more pinkish tones but the mistake is mine. I added some vinegar when I should have added some alkali. I am going to repeat this experiment. I am still pleased with the results
Lastly and most interestingly I froze some elderberries last year. I kind of expected purplish colours and in the jar the fabric appeared black. I was surprised therefore with this result.
a beautiful shade of teal. I am well aware of the notorious fugitive reputation that elderberries have. I am interested to see whether the act of freezing has any effect on this. I am going to have another go with this years elderberries too without freezing.
I am working very much on the principle of the need to work with nature and not try to influence it too much. I am going to use what I achieve with no preconceptions and let it inform me of the next step. Thus if the fabric fades so be it I shall still use it.
I still have 2 jars of St Johns Wort, one jar of honesty flowers and a jar of birch bark which has yet to exhaust.
In the meantime I need to start thinking about how I am to work with my fabrics
Now that I was looking, I found some more St Johns Wort on the Common. I decided therefore to experiment with wool. The process of extracting different colours only works with the flower heads and I was able to gather enough for my purpose.
The idea is to boil the flowers until a deep wine colour is achieved
The result I got is the fabric at the top not green at all. The second colour is supposed to be a rich burgundy. I should say that my picture is a bit washed out so I ended up with not a bad approximation. I then went off piste a bit a put in some alum mordanted khadi cotton ( no 3 from the top) I was expecting it to come out yellow as with my bottled experiment but it came out a tan/rust. The fourth fabric was left in the pot overnight supposedly to mop up all the remaining red dye. Lastly another alum mordanted wool which was supposed to come out a bright gold. I would say mine was more of a butter yellow.
Not entirely a success. However natural dyeing is like that and I did like the colours achieved. I would be interested to hear from anyone who has had better results. I may also have another go maybe with larger pieces of fabric.
I was delighted to find some St Johns Wort on the Common yesterday. It is a magical dye for wool and one can achieve a succession of different colours on wool from the flowers. However since I could only gather a small quantity and I am working on cotton I decided to bottle it and add to my collection. I am hoping for a mustardy yellow.
If I have time and I can gather sufficient flowers I am going to try and experiment with some wool.
One of my aims in my study of the Common this year is to discover the range of colours that can be achieved from plants/tress/berries etc from the Common. Working with colour is not my usual remit so it should be an interesting experiment.
This became number 2
Following on from this I have added oak bark, cherry bark and honesty flowers. I am using the slow technique of leaving the fabric with the plant material in Kilner jars in the hope of getting as strong colours as possible. I am also hoping for some interesting marks. The jars will sit on my conservatory window ledge for most of the summer.
Following on from my success of printing with willow and in pursuit of a darker green, I thought I would try this
The jars of fabric and plant material are processed in exactly the same way as one would bottle fruit. This is in order to seal the jar and prevent mould from forming. Time will tell whether some of indeed any have been successful.
Thinking ahead I have been wondering what I should do with these fabrics. Musing about the Common and what images immediately come to mind I think it is almost always the row of beautiful Scots Pines by the underpass on the Avenue that were planted in commemoration of the First World War.
In particular I find the bark of these trees very beautiful
Today I found some pieces that had fallen off so I took them home
Not sure where I am going with this yet but food for thought
Its been a busy time,a lot is going on at present with interesting news coming in all the time. I have just been asked to make some journals for Hilliers which is very nice. I am also given to understand that there will be an extra day of the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. This set me off on a frenzy of dyeing and printing since I will still have a stand at the show ( reprising my partnership with Alison Hulme of last year) although I will be otherwise engaged as Embroiderers Guild Scholar.
The beauty of natural dyeing and printing is despite however many times you do it there are always surprises and something new to learn. This weekend I discovered the possibility of making beautiful prints with willow despite failing on many previous occasions.
I decided to seize the moment and had a bit of a willow fest.
I also discovered a red hazel in a friends garden
I love the navy blue from this one
Some old favourites printed particularly well also
For those who might be concerned that I might be dawdling over my scholarship work,this is certainly not the case. I have printed a mountain of paper of various kinds,plus fabric all with material sourced from the common. I have several jars full of various dyestuffs and fabric sitting in my conservatory in the pursuit of colour ( more of this later) I have also begun to make work.
Now the weather is warm I am hoping to take my sketchbook and camera up to the common for an extended session probably without the dog since he will be into trouble as soon as I take my eyes off him.
I have finally got round to stocking up my shop. All the items listed have been coloured using natural dyes. I have sat on them for a long time (at least a year) because I wanted to see what would happen with the passing of time and I am happy to report that they have remained the same as the day they were dyed. I obviously cannot vouch for long term light/wash fastness but this is probably true for all types of dye whatever the source. Here is a sample of some of my stock;
silk perle threads
Click here to go to shop or on the link at the top of the page
Along with the paper, I have been busy printing on fabric, since the first leaves of the season give quite distinct results to those gathered later on in the year. All the leaves were gathered from the Common.
The most interesting prints achieved so far are from the willow. The photo does not do it justice.