Friday, 13 September 2013

More Silk Scarves Contact Dyed with Plant Material

One real success from my first attempt at contact dyeing with plants spurred me on to try more. The weather is turning, but there are still plenty of flowers going strong in the dye garden.  Picking them all once or twice a week over the summer seemed brutal, but the plants have bloomed more and continued later than I expected.  My usual approach to dead heading is random - when the mood takes me. 
Since the best result came from the simplest method, I have pretty much followed that again.  Two scarves left in the cupboard.  One was unevenly dyed with woad last year, the other was the last untouched one in the packet. Both were mordanted with half a teaspoon of Alum dissolved in water, put in at 60 degrees Centigrade, left overnight, rinsed and kept wet in plain water.

I thought the soft gray pattern I got on my successful scarf would make the blue much more interesting.  Here it is, laid out wet with a modest sprinkling of red geranium petals and two double magenta hollyhock flowers.  
Rolled around the same piece of driftwood I used before, again, tied up tightly with wool that had been soaked in a jar of vinegar that has rusty nails in it.  

My original flower colours on a white scarf, rolled longitudinally and steamed, were not great.  I used too many petals and got big, unbalanced areas of single colourways without a unifying theme.  
For my last scarf, I mixed the same hollyhock petals with a few coreopsis flowers.  The scarf was rolled around a larch branch which had had most of the bark peeled off last winter.  I know larch bark soaked and simmered gives a brown dye on wool and hoped that the bits of bark remaining around the knots would give a pattern through the layers of silk.  This time, the wool I tied it up with was soaked in a jar of copper pennies and vinegar.  Copper usually gives green on wool.
Wrapped in several layers of clingfilm, both have had two weeks in the green house.  I gave them twice as long, since we have had a fair bit of sun for the time of year in Wales, but it hasn't been as hot as during my first attempt.  Today, I unwrapped them from the clingfilm and will give them a couple of days to dry out before unrolling.

And the results ...

On the left, this time, the iron soaked wool tie did not give gray edges. Instead, there are more diffuse brownish markings.  Wonder if that has to do with the background woad colour or clingfilm wrapping direct, instead of over the top of a bowl as I did before.  Or something else entirely.  Could have done with a few more petals.
On the right, mixing the petals and rolling from the short end has given a better effect.  The remaining bark on the larch branch knots did make a repeating brown spotted pattern.  No evident effect from the copper on the wool tie, though the wool went greenish.

Neither scarf is breathtaking in itself, but they both look rather good when put on. 
The subtle patterns on the blue one are very pleasing close up.  

Time to get back to spinning wool now, I think.

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