Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Domestic Art

Wool fabrics, pre-mordanted with tanin simmer-steep from sumac leaves, then mordanted with alum simmer-steep from grocery store alum and cream of tarter.

This is a post about my natural dyeing over the last week. Just warning you. Photos of domesticity coming up - clothes lines, cooking pots, etc. and way more words than usual.

What is simmer-steep? Cover the collected plant stuff with water, bring to a simmer, keep simmering for one hour, turn the heat off and allow the plants to come to a cool temp in the water. Takes about 24 hours. "tea" made from abundant plant material and boiling water to see if colour is released. From the left, pine needles from forest floor, blackberry brambles from the beach, crushed winterberries. Fabrics can be steeped in cool temps 24-48 hours. The length of time is important.
However, some natural dyes do require heat.
I've learned that sumac and willow only release their colours if heated with the fabrics and are allowed to cool with them. Goldenrod however, can do a cool or solar steep with good results. Willow on silk/wool blend with alum pre-mordant. Goldenrod on wool, linen, rayon and cotton with tanin (sumac) pre-mordant followed by an alum mordant. The pale fabric on the right is silk that had no mordant - as a test.
The goldenrod dye is still going strong, made three weeks ago!

(tanin pre-mordant is supposed to increase the ability for plant fibres like linen and cotton to accept the dye colour) sumac and willow on tanin and alum pre-mordanted fabrics - including wool, linen, and cotton. The sumac responded to the pre-mordants much better than the willow did. The brightly coloured piece of cloth is rayon that had been dyed with procion mx - and overdyed with the natural dyes. Some of the red from this fabric has bled into the wool during a pre-soak. Blackberry colour - After two simmers and one steep.

This post is really a note to self. I am keeping a record book with swatches, but this photo essay will also help me to remember what I've done. If you are doing natural dyeing this fall, as so many of us are, I hope that they help you as well. I am not an expert at this stuff however. I am a student.
Off to strain the brambles. Have a good day.


  1. oh my... oh my... first, I will have to stop back when I have more time, this is something that I want to study... but lol over the domestic goddess disclaimer at the beginning of your post...
    I feel I need to do that on my blog whenever stitching is involved with paper... lol

  2. Anonymous3:16 pm

    I so enjoy these posts. I jot them down as notes for later....as in a good many years from now.

    good day to you too Judy.

  3. love seeing this as I keep track of nothing when doing natural dyeing. I only dye small amounts of cloth, nothing like what you have hanging on the clothesline. I did some avocado dyeing today and am soaking some eucalyptus leaves.

  4. Today's post was perfect for me...''Lots of words". I am still sick and in bed (I don't know how much more of it I can take!) I am not sewing or drawing or dying. Just lying there going in and out of sleep. Missed my collage class this afternoon. Well thanks for all those words and advise n dying. Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. Wonderful note-to-self.

    The goldenrod dye color is beautiful!

    Someday - like once I buy India Flint's book, I KNOW I will get hooked. The forest here is full of good dyes and the water is very irony and the hemlocks full of tannin. So, its all set for when I get it together....

  6. I have to admit to domestic envy of your space, outdoors, pots and materials. Now that I'm back in a small apartment in the city, I am limited to the use of my one big soup pot, and two smaller pots--all of which must stay clean enough for food production--so no chemical contaminants, only vinegar so far since I'm not sure what's safe to serve the dual purpose. i use big and little glass jars for storage after straining and do most things by soaking for a long time (days) before straining and cleaning. And, like Deanna, I do only little bits of cloth. Since my stitching patience has not gone viral, I wouldn't attempt a big cloth work, unless I were using paints. And really, space doesn't accommodate it here. But I love looking at your work expanding. And, about the mystery illness, I agree with your diagnosis. But it was surely worth it for the loosening of all those memories of that long friendship, and maybe even for the hallucinatory and inspiring dreams too.

  7. Oh dear me--so sorry---that last phrase "And, about the mystery illness, I agree with your diagnosis. But it was surely worth it for the loosening of all those memories of that long friendship, and maybe even for the hallucinatory and inspiring dreams too" was not meant for you or this post. So sorry. I was multi tasking and I'm no good at it. Back to one thing at a time.

  8. Lovely post. Looking forward to seeing what happens to all that beautiful fabric.

  9. 're a great teacher, one has the chance to learn a lot, thanks for sharing your wisdom greetings

  10. Lovely selection! about the note taking--happy accidents get written down too, just in case they can be duplicated :)and the strangest things work!
    i envy you the Ontario flora--Alberta's is less than inspiring sometimes, but it makes me work more experimentally :)


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