Tuesday, October 28, 2014

- On the learning curve: More lessons in dyeing

I'm calling this a good first pass at dyeing experimentation since there were a lot of lessons learned, chief among them: save a piece of the original cloth for comparison (or look back at this post to see what the tan sheeting looked like ... or look at number 9, which did a whole lot of not much).

Photo taken mid-morning under an overcast sky
Note: the colors in the photos are somewhat less intense than in "real life"


The four cloths in the top row were wrapped in copper wire. I particularly liked the avocado pits, which almost look like they discharged the tan, leaving a pale lavender/pink in its wake ...


The red onion also did well with the copper, leaving soft greens and peaches ...


The cloths in the middle row were wrapped in fine steel wire, which left its mark along with the avocado peels ...

Likewise, the iron in the steel brought out stronger colors from both the yellow onion skins ...


and the red onion skins ...


The cloths in the bottom row were treated to a dose of grocery store alum, which did virtually nothing with the avocado pits and peels, but provided the most dramatic yellow onion skin results ...


and red onion skins results ...


I was less successful with my last minute stew of acorns, windfall lichens, tea bags, onion and avocado skins in a copper pot with a selection of vintage white cottons and linens ...


To my eye, they are a pretty unappealing lot, with the exception of a tiny patch of lichen orange ...


So it's back to the drawing board ...

14 comments:

Marti said...

Hey Liz, not so fast...yes go back to the drawing board but not because these are ho hum results BUT...

because there are so many possibilities awaiting your discovery and THESE are simply wonderful varied results, especially #'s ,2,4, 6,8, 11 and 12. Your cloths are so much better than my first attempts. I too documented like crazy and then sort of found my rhythm by just tossing all concerns to the wind and going for it, trying everything and anything, even raiding the freezer for frozen berries, etc.

Oh and for those cloths that didn't give you the color you had hoped for, two words, Over Dye!

When I use tea, I use about 6 tea bags or maybe half a cup of loose tea but I don't like to use the loose tea too much unless I don't like the flavor and then I don't feel like such a spendthrift. I let cloth sit for a long time in the tea, at least several days until I get the depth of brown that I desire. (The thing that I like in using loose tea is that oftentimes, the bits of tea leave interesting imprints while giving off color.)

My one and only time dyeing with windfall lichen is my one and only time! I found windfall lichen on a trip to a state park in TN in the dead of winter. Researched and decided that I would use ammonia but didn't have anything so in further researching, I learned that urine was often used so you guessed it...I won't go into details but suffice it to say that after the lichen had been in my glass jar for a week, shaken three times a day, I poured the whole thing into my cauldron and heated it on the stove...thought about using the BBQ outdoors but it was simply too cold. As the lichen dye warmed in my kitchen, the sneezing and gagging that occurred caused me to open all of the windows in the house and did I mention that it was the dead of winter, snow on the ground, outside temps about 22....in the end, the peachy color that I got was not enough inducement to continue with lichen but then I found other things and so it goes, this madcap journey of foraging, wondering, doing and continuing...as I've said many times, for me, it is the process not the end result that is my deepest joy.

Liz Ackert said...

I agree, to wit:
2, 4, 6, 8 ... steel wire wrap is really great!
(sorry, I couldn't resist)

And thank you for the pointers ... which are deucedly hard to ferret out online.
Overdyeing is definitely in my future ... as is some lichen fermenting (I'll use ammonia, thank you), cochineal harvesting, persimmon testing ... and who knows what else ...
Now if I can just figure out a way to keep my cotton-pickin' fingers out of the canning jars every two weeks and then preserve my back whilst decanting them ...

BTW, let me know if you and Grace would like some Texas windfall lichen sent your way ...

Marti said...

You are very kind to offer the lichen Liz but I only use materials that I can source locally in keeping with my foragers instinct. The farthest afield I have gone for materials here in New Mexico is to grace's house, about 87 miles away.

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

continuing on from previous comment (on last post)

at first glance I like some results better than others and appreciate how you must have felt a twinge of disappointment at a couple of them, a natural dyers life is a tough one..........the thing is, apart from following Marti's advice on re-dyeing, you might also come to find a use for the less spectacular dye results; what I'm trying to say is, in combination with other fabrics the more subtle colours might work a treat! I've often noticed at how I work more freely with fabrics I'm no too precious about....

how lucky we are to have Marti to guide us along and offer us useful tips, f.e. how not to waste personal waste:-)

Saskia van Herwaarden said...

oh, and I wonder about lichen, is that like moss or not at all? 'cos we have moss in abundance here and maybe that could work as a dye in combination with pee?

Liz Ackert said...

Just let me know if your territory ever expands into Texas (wink)

Liz Ackert said...

There's more on lichens than you'd ever want to know here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichen (and I confess I haven't read all of it)
I wish I had written it down, but somewhere I read that not all lichens are useful for dyeing and one way to determine their potential was to scratch the surface and apply bleach (?) to see if it reacts. I haven't tried that, but one of the lichens that appears on our tree branches actually turns orange after a rain and it also turns orange when I use it for dyeing ... others that I have tried to use as dyes have not worked.
I also read that because lichens grow very slowly, they should not be harvested ... so I don't use our rock lichens. But in the case of fallen tree branches, which have to be cleared to avoid being a fire hazard, the lichens would be lost to the burn pile ... so I feel fewer ethical qualms about using them.
In any case ... I'm pretty sure you must have lichens in your neck of the woods ... it's just a matter of recognizing them.
Hope this helps ...

Liz Ackert said...

And about those twinges of disappointment ... they weren't nearly as strong as my delight that some of the dyes actually worked. I'm now encouraged to continue experimenting and to figure things out systematically rather than throwing everything together in a pot (that will come later, once I know which thing does what ... kinda like cooking I'd say)

Mo Crow said...

love the numbers on the frayed fragments and the safety pins

Liz Ackert said...

Sometimes I manage to be spontaneous in spite of myself ...

beth from still life pond said...

Great record keeping. Did you say that you'd worked in a library? Me too--that detail obsession... I especially like seeing the onion with and without alum. Very interesting! I've had some jars going since mid September and have so far restrained myself from opening. I got distracted by black walnuts.

Liz Ackert said...

Ah ... what kind of libraries, I wonder? I've worked in a diverse lot: historical museum (Colonial Williamsburg), public school (middle, high and elementary school, in that order), and academic (Texas State University). Lucky us being paid to work with books all day!
I'm realizing that gathering time is critical as some things seem to disappear overnight ... another reason that keeping track of prime times on the blog helps.

beth from still life pond said...

Libraries: university, public, art museum, and community college. I loved tech services. Nothing finer than unpacking boxes of brand new books.

Yes, timing. I've concluded the notes are important because a whole year might pass before I can try some things again. But I am happy with a vague sense of what worked because I suspect there are endless variables. I remember reading India Flint saying "time is your friend". You might get color in your liquid quickly but it might take some time to really penetrate your cloth.

Liz Ackert said...

I was on the public side, but my inner cataloguer got to come out and play when I worked in the public school libraries.

As for time, patience has never been counted as one of my virtues. But perhaps the wisdom to wait will come with age ... or not ;)