Sunday, 14 December 2014

Contact Dyeing with Iron Solution Painted on to Leaves

Frost is finally here, searing the foliage off perennial plants.  My hardy geraniums have had to work especially hard putting up new leaves, since I found out last June how well they work in contact dyeing.  The weak remaining afterbath from an evernia prunastri lichen dye was lurking unwanted in a pan on the patio.  Time to find out what the dye and the last leaves had left. 

Given that the iron modifed colour was unlikely to be as fetching as the original pink from the lichen, I thought I would try to minimise the effect by painting the iron directly on to the leaves, rather than dosing the whole dye bath with vinegar which had had rusty nails soaking in it.  I painted the back of the leaves, having seen how much better this worked with oak leaves, laid them out on alum mordanted, wet chiffon, folded the fabric up and wrapped it round a section of downpipe, then tied it up with jute garden string.
Here is the bundle, before and after an hour's simmer and an overnight soak in the dye.

After rinsing, the pink was weak.  Lichen dye had not penetrated fully through the layers and the iron did mute it.  However, I thought the final effect quite sophisticated and subtle.  The leaf prints were dark and very distinctly defined, I wondered if painting iron on to any leaf would give results as good.

Foraging round the garden for anything still green, I pressed a selection of leaves between some spare floor tiles, so they would lie flat on the fabric.  My remining piece of chiffon was already an uneven purplish colour, from being used to contain japanese indigo leaves then the fermented lichen while I was brewing up previous dye baths.  It had never been mordanted, but I thought the iron itself should do that. 
Here is the bundle before and after simmering in plain water.

And here is the result after washing.  The only really effective prints came from alpine strawberry leaves and lycestra, the rest just left dim orange rust stains. 

The roar of a sports car engine is rarely heard on our suburban street.  
I should have guessed it could only herald the reappearance of my erstwhile companion, Elinor Gotland.

"Where have you been all these months?  I've been worried sick!"
"Made a right dog's dinner of that chiffon, haven't you, Beaut?  Few more bags to come, I told the chauffeur to drop them in the hall.  Put the kettle on, there's a love."

I am so very glad she is back.


  1. Welcome home Elinor - what are you knitting?

  2. Nordic knitwear as Art, lovely girl. A modest installation I call The Ontological Yarn Bomb. Beserk.