Friday, 4 July 2014

Contact Dyeing Silk Eco Bundles with Leaves by Steaming

A good outcome always generates enthusiasm.  After the dramatic result of a geranium petal dye bath plus contact dye with geranium leaves, those plants have been quite brutally pruned for further experimentation. The suggestion of steaming an ecobundle without a dye bath sounded a very good way of finding out the true colours of hardy geranium leaves.  I laid some out on a piece of silk chiffon, rolled the bundle round the drainpipe just as before, this time, tying it up with plain string and only putting an inch of water in the pot to provide steam.

I left the lid on overnight after steaming the pot for an hour.  In the morning, I took the bundle out and let it dry for a day or so. The outermost silk must have been dyed by colours running in the dampness of the steam.  When I unrolled the whole thing, the inner layers were still white with the palest yellow leaf prints just detectable.  For one who had been rejoicing in the possession of a well established garden plant with great contact dye leaf print potential, this was a heavy blow.
"All an illusion, Beaut.  You thought you had something, now you think you don't.  Nothing really changed except your ideas."
Elinor Gotland can be a surprisingly deep sheep.
"So what is the truth of the geranium leaf, then, oh wise one?"                                               
"No-one can know a noumenon, Beaut.  Just piece together the phenomenon from your what your senses tell you and call that a geranium."
I sighed  "Not sure I follow, Elinor."
"Bit harsh.  I thought you were a friend."
"Immanuel Kant, you moody muppet."  Elinor pottered off to add fertiliser to the shrubbery, singing 'Rock on ancient queen...' sotto voce.  Not a bad imitation, if Stevie Nicks had had a Welsh accent.
Pondering on how to apprehend the inner reality of a plant through dye prints, I suspect deontological ethics may have no application here.

Not giving up on the contact dyeing ecobundle steam bath process, I picked a variety of material to lay out on another 1.5m alum mordanted silk chiffon.  Little sprigs of coreopsis plant and weld leaves and flower spikes, fronds of bracken, lady's mantle leaves and some purple pansies.

Plus a couple of geranium leaves. On the left, this is how they print.  On the right, the bracken came out quite well.
The whole thing looked like this, once unfolded.  Small, deeper orange marks from coreopsis, brighter yellow smudges from weld and blue splodges from the pansies. However, during a soak and a rinse, the background cloth took up a pale yellow and the blues turned greenish.  Steamed plant prints clearly are not dye fast.  
I cut both pieces of chiffon in half, to make four scarves and spent an evening rolling the edges to hem them.  The pale geranium only one really didn't justify the effort.  In a last ditch attempt to relive the glories of my earlier success, I put one of the pale scarves in hand hot water with a teaspoon of iron vinegar.  The colour darkened before my eyes. I probably should have whipped it out sooner, because all trace of leaf print has been subsumed, but I rather like the grey result. 

Here are Gold Dust and Pale Shadow of a Dragon.  And Elinor, my philosophical friend.

1 comment:

  1. I love watching your experiments. Thanks for sharing them, the results are fascinating. I like that grey too.