Hardly had the heating on this autumn, it's been so mild, so far. I've noticed a few trees changing, but Wales seems to have missed out on the classic blaze this year. Checking a favourite sycamore, the remaining leaves were just drab tatters about its branches.
Freshly fallen leaves are supposed to be best for contact dyeing. Last year, I had a go at steaming some in between wet sheets of watercolour paper, pressed under a big stone. Naturally, I picked up the most colourful varieties, expecting they would give the best results. Wrong.
Nothing from the ivy, speckledy brown from those bright red oval ones, touch of green from the red maple. Most sheets were an obscure mess.
Oak leaves are particularly rich in tannin, which may account for why they made the strongest marks with the sharpest detail, but I don't understand why they dyed paper so much better from their undersides, compared to their topsides. The ginkgo leaves did much the same one sided dyeing.
Having an afterbath leftover from a run of Chamomile dyeing, I thought I would try contact printing silk with oak leaves, same method as with geranium leaves.
The silk was mordanted with alum and soaked before laying on the leaves and rolling it round section of plastic downpipe.
The string was dunked for a minute in a jar of vinegar with rusty nails at the bottom.
The oak leaves made an orangey brown print, with the iron producing darker details. Along the edges, the yellow chamomile dye bath had shifted to green with iron seeping out of the string and working as a modifier. The bigger leaves made a pale speckled print. Still wondering, are the oak leaves printing better because of tannin fixing their dye, or are there particular dye molecules at work?
Clearing the borders, I found remnants of dye plants with a bit of life left in them. Rather than the compost heap, they went into the remaining dye bath for a simmer. Ages ago, I bought 10m of tubular silk jersey, thinking it an online bargain, only to find it had a fishy smell I couldn't stand. Apparently, unprocessed silk contains a silk worm gum called sericin which causes this.
My silk noil went through the washing machine twice and had a day on the washing line and still was whiffy when damp, even after I sprayed it with febreeze and mordanted some of it with alum. I cut a 30cm strip and put it though the oak leaf contact dye process in the rebooted dye bath. It had an hour or so simmering, a day soaking and another day drying out.
After a final wash the smell had gone! The silk jersey isn't very stretchy any more, but at least I know I can live with it.
The tubular scarf looks rather good on, though the prints are fuzzier on this fabric. While freshly fallen oak leaves are still thick on the ground, I had a go at contact printing them on cotton jersey, mordanted with alum acetate. The dye bath was beefed up by simmering a heap of Japanese Indigo plants I had been steeping to eke out the last of the late season indigotin. I've read that this gives pinkish dyes, but who knows what contribution the elderly plants made to the cocktail of oddments in that bath.
Whatever, there was enough going on in there to provide a soft grey background to my last oak leaf contact dye trial. Putting a double layer of leaves in the roll, half facing up and half facing down, printed both sides of the cloth. Cotton jersey doesn't fray and is warm enough for a scarf.
Three seasonal scarves.