Saturday, June 27, 2015


I fear my last post left the impression that I was totally unhappy with eco-print dyeing.  Though the results were a far cry from what I expected.....I'm actually over the moon with every piece.  In fact, I think the designs will be very adaptable to my work.

I have lots of photos to share and am trying to organize them to provide as much information for you as possible. 

First let me mention.......we understood we needed to mordant our fabric.  Both alum and unsweetened soy milk seemed to be recommended.  So our fabric was soaked in one or the other.  We saw no difference in the results. Another recommendation was to keep the bundles rolled tightly. Check...we did this.  We also read that it was helpful to spray the foliage with vinegar or vinegar/water once it was placed on the fabric.  Check.  

There was a lot of conflicting information about how long to process the bundles:  everything from burying them in dirt for weeks, boiling with other organic materials for days, or placing in a steamer with plain water for as short as 2 hours.  We used steamers and a large pot on the stove with water.  After that failed, on day 2 we switched to simmering the bundles for about 2 hours in our iron solution on the stove and in an aluminium pan on a hot plate.  
Kate removing bundles from the iron solution - wrapped on PVC pipe, wood dowels, folded bundles with rubber bans, and a GREAT idea....sections of flexible tubing that could be bent to fit in the pan!!

It was our intent to keep a written record of every step/material/timing etc.  But after opening the first bundles and seeing nothing but blank fabric, we threw caution to the wind and just played.  However, we did 'try' to take some notes. I'll admit to giving that up at some point since there really didn't seem to be one constant that we could count on.  

So.....let's see how one specific piece was processed.
 Regular readers will recognize this fabric....yup...I STILL have some of that peachy colored National Non-wovens woolfelt that I didn't care for.
 It had been soaked in alum & line dried. Then sprinkled with ground turmeric and curry powder, covered with fresh pine needles and spritzed lightly with vinegar (mainly to keep the spices in place). With help from one of my pals, it was tightly rolled onto a wooden dowel.  Tied and placed in our iron solution (made by steeping rusty iron pieces in 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for 2 weeks)..
 Happy dancing and lots of squealing went on as I unrolled it.
 Great, isn't it?
 Yes, this really is the same's too bad it didn't retain the look straight from the pot, but of course as it was rinsed, it took on a much more rusty appearance.  In person, it's actually quite nice....sorry the photo didn't do it justice.  It was a surprise to realize....pine needles turned our fabric blue.....yeah!!!!
I brought the curled, cooked pine needles home which needed to be washed twice to eliminate the Indian curry smell.

Pretty soon they were calling to I decorated the top of a felted bowl.....

More to come....thanks for visiting


Judy Warner said...

Glad that it all turned out great in the end, Mary. I took a workshop a few years ago and loved it...but haven't followed through on my own. Hope to get back to it some time.....So glad that you persisted and had a good outcome.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Goodness, the ultimate waste not want not by re-purposing those pine needles. Love the way they finish off your felted bowl.

As for the eco-dyeing itself, you are confirming what I already know about it - it is a whole lot of work! And you will not be surprised that I like your piece better after it was rinsed out. ;-)

One of the fascinating things about natural dyes is that you usually do not get the color you would think, as you are finding out, and that the kind of mordant you use can also change the end color. No wonder dyeing was such an art before the advent of synthetic dyes.

margaret said...

your piece worked so well and the good thing about your dyeing is that each piece is so unique and can never be repeated

Judy Ferguson said...

Goodness, what a project. Not sure I could endure the process, but it sure paid off for you. Love that felt pottery.

Angela said...

Fun! I can't wait to see what you do with it!

Gwyned Trefethen said...

I learn so much from your posts. Surface design and dying are something I admire but have never been called to myself. Seeing what you achieve with left over fabric, a few spices and pine needles - well it is tempting. What an ingenious way to upscale the pine needles at the end. They make the pot.

Norma Schlager said...

Fun results! I like the washed out version, too, but if you wanted a piece of fabric that looks just like it was out of the pot, put it on your printer and copy it onto a piece of fabric. I also like the felted bowl.