First Eco-Printing of the Season

Due to an extended vacation in Norway, I am late getting started on natural dyeing.  My dye plants were late getting planted.  And so I found myself at the beginning of July without having eco-dyed or printed.

To the rescue:  my younger sis, Shar, has been wanting to learn to eco-dye and print, so we scheduled a session last weekend.  Everything was set up here, and she scoured her T-shirts as directed.  When she arrived, we immediately mordanted her cotton clothing, allowing an hour or so for the process.  Yes, we could have used additional time, but we needed to get moving on the printing process.

I had previously prepared a pot of black walnut and pomegranate liquid, to which I added hot water and a pinch of logwood powder (Shar likes dark colors).  She rolled one shirt with fresh plant leaves only, using a bit of iron solution for dipping.  She rolled the second shirt shibori style with tiles, CD’s and other mark-makers.

We didn’t have all day to wait for the pot to do its magic, so I sent her home with the pot and instructions to leave all materials overnight. Results:

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Eco-printing: Upcycling and Recycling

Giving new life to old things–it’s eco-conscious, and it’s a very good thing.  We may throw our unwanted belongings in the trash, or donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army or other worthwhile charities. But we may also consider up-cycling, giving new life to old items.

Recently I  have been using eco-printing as a way to make use of garments that I had shoved to the back of my closet.  There was nothing wrong with any of these three tops, but I simply wasn’t wearing them.  Why?  The Gap cotton T-shirt was very comfortable to wear–100% organic cotton–and I believe GAP products give value for the money.  But the color was puce, a color which was unflattering to me.

Another top–one by Tahari, modal fabric and versatile white–was a bit too clingy and a bit too sheer for my taste.  The third top was sleeveless, viscose, ivory, flowing and very flattering–but it wasn’t too exciting.  So I decided to eco-print the tops, and at the same time, continue my experiments with natural dyeing of cellulose fibers.

I gathered my leaves and flowers one day–all tops had been mordanted previous to the eco-printing session.  First up was the sleeveless viscose top, which I bundled with a variety of leaves from my deck garden, including geranium, mint, and smoke bush. I simmered the top in plain water, along with a few other scrap pieces of fabric, which I use for slow-stitching projects.

In the second, larger pot, I simmered pomegranate exhaust bath along with some spent leaves from previous dyeing.  I rolled the Tahari top with loropetalum, plum and smokebush leaves. The GAP T-shirt was sprinkled with Japanese maple, rose and smoke bush leaves.  Both pots simmered for an hour or so and then cooled overnight.  The next morning, all fabric was removed from the dye pot

Sleeveless top eco-printed with leaves
Sleeveless top eco-printed with leaves

and allowed to rest.  But because I am so

Abstract detail on Sleeveless eco-printed top
Abstract detail on Sleeveless eco-printed top
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GAP T-shirt printed with Japanese maple leaves

impatient, I did unroll the still wet sleeveless top first.  I set aside the other two tops to dry, but couldn’t resist opening the GAP top later in the evening.  The Tahari top was allowed to dry for two days, and then was unrolled.

How did they turn out?  You can see from the

Detail GAP T-SHIRT (Japanese maple leaves show green)
Detail GAP T-SHIRT (Japanese maple leaves show green)

photos below.  I am pleased and thrilled with the rebirth of my garments and am happily wearing all three–but not at the same time.

 Tahari top with smokebush leaves detail
Tahari top with smokebush leaves detail
Eco-printed Tahari T-top (loropetalum leaves front and center)
Eco-printed Tahari T-top (loropetalum leaves front and center)

Eco-printing with Leaves in a Pomegranate Dye Pot

So many beautiful summer plants and flowers, so many possibilities for botanical printing!  With my coreopsis in full bloom and a surprise gift of smokebush leaves from a Texan friend, I fired up the dye pot (turned on the gas stove) to experiment with a different kind of dye bath.  Usually I use plain water to allow the plants to bring their own beauty to cloth, but this time I used pomegranate powder with a pinch of iron.

First I arranged a sandwich of cotton sheeting, homespun linen scrap, and a couple of small card stocks.  Wrapped in a square, it was clamped and set in the dye pot.

I  also rolled up a couple of copper pipes with various vintage linens and cloth scraps, using a few coreopsis and pink cosmos flowers, along with rose leaves.  I threw in a couple of smokebush leaves for good measure, rolled with cotton string and added to the dye pot.

After boiling for an hour and letting sit overnight on my deck, I unrolled the next morning to find a variety of effects.  I’m already thinking of the fun I will have with my next brew!

Full view coreopsis and rose leaves on cotton sheeting, eco-print clamped
Full view coreopsis and rose leaves on cotton sheeting, eco-print clamped
Smokebush and rose leaves on card stock
Smokebush and rose leaves on card stock
Coreopsis and rose leaf eco-printed on cotton sheeting
Coreopsis and rose leaf eco-printed on cotton sheeting
Wild rose leaves, coreopsis and cosmos on vintage buck towel
Wild rose leaves, coreopsis and cosmos on vintage cotton Huck towel
Eco-printed cotton sheeting in pomegranate and iron bath
Eco-printed cotton sheeting in pomegranate and iron bath

Natural Dyeing on Cellulose Fibers

I incorporate natural dyeing with plants in many different types of fiber arts.  I use mulberry silk skeins for hand-embroidery, wool roving for felting, silk ribbons and yarn for weaving. But I also enjoy “slow stitching,” and so it’s always good to have a small collection of cotton squares and crochet pieces for incorporating with free-form stitching projects, such as shown in these photos:

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Cellulose fibers are treated differently from protein fibers when dyeing with natural plants.  Mordanting involves several different processes, depending on your preferences.  There are 2-step tannin/alum mordanting and 3-step involving tannin/alum and tannin again.  Some folks I know use soda ash or calcium carbonate in their mordanting process.  It all depends on preferences, water quality in your area and the types of dyeing you intend to do.

I experimented with alum acetate and calcium carbonate as mordants in preparation for using a saved madder exhaust bath and a newly prepared pomegranate dye bath.  My intention was to build up a larger collection of hand-dyed pieces for stitching projects, as well as having extras to trade with other fiber artists.

Here are the results of the madder exhaust.  You can see in the photos where the dye “struck” first, leaving a variety of madder shades–from salmon to deep pink–almost red–and a hint of raspberry.  I included cotton scraps as well as vintage cotton crochet pieces from my stash to be dyed.

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My second dye pot contained pomegranate, which came out in the photo below a bit lighter than in reality.  These pieces are also cotton, and may be over-dyed later with other plants or perhaps eco-printed as samples in future experiments.

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In any case, the pieces are bagged and labeled and ready to be used or traded.