Monday, November 17, 2008

Natural dyes

I was preparing some pages in my sketchbook by colourwashing them and came across some old jars of natural dyes that I'd prepared about a year ago in a workshop with ATASDA. The workshop had been about dyeing natural materials (wools and cellulose based fabrics) with dyes prepared from Australian vegetation.

gumnuts from various eucalypts

One dye I came across had been made from eucalypt leaves (of course, what else in Aus) so I thought I'd briefly describe how we made it in case anyone is interested:

About 250g of dried leaves put in a net bag (to make the straining easier) and placed in a 15l lidded saucepan with approx 10l water. Boiled for 1 hour. The bag was removed and an optional mordant added - in this case 30g (50/50) mixture of iron sulphate and alum. The sample pieces of fabric were added and boiled for a further hour before being removed rinsed and dried. The photo shows how this dye was taken up differently by a group of fabric swatches (silks, cottons and linens) in the workshop.

Getting back to the sketchbook, the dye was still pretty strong in colour and I had to dilute it down quite a lot for the pages. Most of the dyes were of a green, brown or yellow hue as you'd imagine I guess but occasionally you'd get a lovely pink and not from red flowers.

Sadly, I found that the wonderful purple/blue jacaranda flowers here only give a boring brown dye.
I found a pot at the back of the cupboard that had fabric swatches steeping in a mixture of ammonia and lichens - amazing markings - more on that later!

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