Using Copper as Color Changer (NOT)

I have checked out every library book on natural dyeing I could find at my local library, and in several of them, I read about achieving the color of green through using pomegranate dye with copper as a color-changing mordant.  I was eager to try this experiment.

You might think it would be simpler to acquire the plants that are known to turn cloth green or yellow-green or moss green.  Unfortunately, I have not found plants in the city, such as Queen Anne’s lace, sour grass, or many of the others mentioned in some of my dye books.  Most of the dyes I acquire are natural dye powders purchased on-line, although I do use my homegrown rose leaves, coreopsis, geranium leaves, etc. for eco-printing.

linen (left side) and silk (right).

After creating the pomegranate dye and soaking my cloth in the bath, I created a copper dip pot and an iron dip bowl to see if I could achieve the color green.  And the answer is NO.  I did get a range of beautiful tans, some deep browns with sienna and gold tones.  Beautiful!  One square even turned black!  But nothing close to green.  I tried the experiment twice, since there were directions suggesting adding vinegar to the mix. With or without vinegar, no green.

Cotton swatches double-dipped in pomegranate then iron or copper or both.

And I don’t know that I would use copper crystals again, as the pot surface looked like Mars after dyeing. More experiments to come! (I don’t give up easily).  BTW, that tiny small weaving with attached cotton threads above was already green.


Natural Dyeing Results: Quebracho Red & Birch Bark

Natural dyeing results are rarely what you expect, but I am rarely disappointed.  The colors will most always be muted, sometimes bright–but usually not.  What I love about natural dye colors is that they all work together.  So your gray and pink and red and blue, tan and yellow will all look cohesive when viewed side by side.

The Quebracho red exhaust was definitely muted but I expected same with an exhaust bath as opposed to the original, which was brighter.  I love the mauve-gray tones achieved with this bath.

Quebracho red exhaust samples
I slipped in an un-mordanted piece of ramie just to see what would happen! This looks the same as the birch bark piece…little to no change in color.

Birch bark left the cotton cloth just slightly colored with a light yellow, which is about what was expected.  Birch bark dye may not knock your socks off, but it also acts as a natural tannin, which may be used in place of other mordants.

After finishing with the birch bark and quebracho red exhaust, I decided to experiment with black beans.  I had read you could use the soaking water from black beans to dye cloth.  I tried the black beans boiled, black beans with soda ash wash and black beans with an iron dip.

black bean dyed ramie with iron dip

Guess my fave?  I’ve already started two new dye pots.

Next up:  Pomegranate and copper mordanting for color change.

Finished Woad Tunic & More Natural Dyeing

Finished woad dyed cotton jersey tunic

I can’t believe the summer has ended, and I feel sorry I did not do more natural dyeing.  However, the dye season is not yet over.

When our silver birch tree was pruned a couple of weeks ago, I asked for the cuttings, which have been drying out in my garage.  This morning, I peeled off some of the bark and started a small dye pot.  Birch will turn a pinky brown, but it is not advised to peel the bark from live trees, as damage to the tree is possible.  So I have been patiently waiting for dropped birch flakes (didn’t happen) or pruning.

I also started a pot of last season’s saved Quebracho red dye exhaust boiling with some pre-mordanted cotton lawn.

Next time, the results.

Quebracho red dye with mordanted cotton
Birch bark steaming in a pot for natural dyeing

Woad-dyed Sewing Project

Recently, I made my first woad vat and–although the vat depleted too quickly for my taste–I did get a few pieces of cloth for my efforts.  I had in mind a sleeveless summer top made from woad-dyed organic jersey knit, which turned out to be just enough for the project.

In the past, I have struggled with sewing any kind of knit fabric and have experimented with different methods of sewing, including using a ball point needle, a twin needle, and zigzag stitching.  At one point, I became so frustrated with the process that I decided to sew a garment by hand.

This time, I once again consulted my Janome sewing machine manual; but this time, I discovered a new page (an insert to the manual) I had not noticed before.  It showed appropriate stitches for various projects and the proper settings, and there was something called “knit stitch.”  I tried it and it worked.  It basically looks to me like a “serger”stitch, that overcasting stitch seen on some sports apparel (see below)  The only problem I found with this stitch is that it gobbles up an amazing amount of thread, and I have subsequently almost run out of my Gutermann light blue thread.

Next time:  The finished woad dyed knit tunic.

woad-dyed cotton jersey


Second dyeing with woad: organic cotton jersey on left, linen yardage on right.

knit stitch on cotton jersey

International Day of Peace, 09/21/17


“Peace is not a relationship of nations. It is a condition of mind brought about by a serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.” — Jawaharlal Nehru

Other information about the United Nations International Day of Peace may be found here:

“Collage It” with Naturally Dyed Cloth

I’ve been trying to reconstruct in my head how I go about the process of making a cloth collage.  The slow-stitch, hand-dyed kind.  It’s always more about the process than the product, but what is the process?

Disclaimer:  This is not meant to be a “how-to-collage primer.”

So yes, I begin with scraps or patches of hand-dyed cloth, in this case, Bengala dyes, natural mineral dyes from Japan.  If I am making a 9-patch as the basis for the collage, then there’s re-arranging of cloth, pinning, then stitching seams.  Sometimes the background cloth is chosen first, and sometimes not.

Indigo dyed linen. Just right for the 9-patch backing. Ready now for SunMoonStars.  
Playing with hand-dyed cloth for a 9-patch

The stitching could be by hand or by machine, depending on my mood.  Once the patch is placed on the backing, I use the Jude Hill glue-stitch.  (See SpiritCloth Blog for details).  In looking back, at some point I decided to add suns, moons and stars for Jude Hill’s challenge.  But I do not have a photo of the in-between process from sewn 9-patch to decorated 9-patch with hand-embroidery.  Sometimes you get wrapped up in the process and forget about photos.

9-Patch Growing
Pinning, stitching seams…

The final results:  Is a piece ever complete?

Global Warming “Art Quilt” Completed, but not really…

The Woad Vat & Global Warming

Over the Labor Day Weekend, I finally was able to make a woad vat.  It’s a complicated process, but I had purchased the necessary ingredients and followed the directions carefully.  There was not much out there on the internet; whereas, if you were to google making an indigo vat, you would be astonished at the wealth of information.

I did not have the luxury of using my own stock of woad leaves, but maybe next year.  Instead, I purchased the woad powder on-line, as well as the necessary additives to create a successful vat.

The blue shades were as predicted–lighter than indigo and tending more towards blue/greens.  I was pleased with the overall results, but was displeased with the vat production.  It was quickly exhausted after dyeing two scraps (see photos) and two pieces of yardage.  I let the vat sit overnight on my deck to see if it could be resurrected, but subsequent dyeing attempts were dismal.

The Woad Vat
First dyed scraps with water shoes
Second dyeing with woad: organic cotton jersey on left,
linen yardage on right

Still, I did enjoy the experiment and there will be others.

Global warming will be continued. It’s not over…not by a long shot.  The new buzz word is “storm surge.”