Friday, July 29, 2011

What's Cookin'?

For the past several months I've been reading blogs of artists who have been eco dyeing their fabric -- and recently I purchased India Flint's fabulous book, Eco Colour.

This week I actually began a few dyeing experiments with botanicals.

I don't plan to go into a lot of the details here -- I highly recommend you buy India's book yourself if you're interested -- but I will say a few things about the differences between "eco" or "botanical" dyeing and "natural" dyeing, which I also experimented with at length a few years ago.

But first, the photos.  Protein fibers including silk do not need to be premordanted before dyeing with botanicals -- although you might want to add a mordant of some type during or after dyeing to shift the resulting colors.  However, cellulose fibers DO need to be premordanted with either protein or alkaline.  There are numerous non-toxic sources of both.  And as with the plant materials I'll be using, I plan to focus on mordants that are close at hand or very inexpensive to purchase.  The two jars above are mordanting cotton and linen scraps.  I've used a fairly weak solution of soda ash in water for the alkaline, and unsweetened, off-the-shelf soy milk in water for the protein mordant.

There are numerous processes for extracting and applying the dyes -- the one in the second photo is called hot bundling.  I made packets of fabric wrapped around plant materials and steamed them for 30 minutes.  The third photo is the bundles after steaming and cooling, sitting in a plastic bag outside where they'll remain until I unwrap them late next week.  More time = greater color development.  I think I can wait.

These are what I see as the biggest differences between "eco" dyeing and "natural" dyeing ~
  • natural dyeing relies on a few specific plant materials -- typically logwood, fustic, brazilwood, madder, cochineal (bugs), indigo, weld, and I know there are others.  With eco dyeing, you can use virtually any botanical stuff that isn't poisonous -- leaves, bark, acorns, berries, fruit, vegetables, anything.
  • the mordants you use with natural dyeing are typically metallic salts, which are toxic.  With eco dyeing, you can derive the same mordant results with any number of things that are NOT toxic -- including fireplace ash, seawater, packaged soy milk, plant materials high in tannic acid, lemon juice...the list goes on, or even metal dye pots (aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel, iron) or small pieces of metal.
  • natural dyeing with the typical dyestuffs requires that they be purchased from elsewhere, and much if not most of it is imported from afar.  I'm not sure whether any of these materials are endangered, but being that brazilwood comes from Brazil, I can only imagine rainforests being cut down to get dyestuffs.  One of the beauties of eco dyeing is the intention to use materials that are at hand or easily gettable.
I'll reveal this first batch of eco dyed fabrics late next week.  I also have a cold bundle going -- similar to a hot bundle but not steamed, just left for a good long time...  I plan to wait a month for that batch to process.

Have a great weekend!


Pat Vivod said...

Excellent article. I shall have to explore your blog and find out what else is cookin'!

Deborah Levy said...

oooh, this is going to be some pretty fabric Connie!

Irene said...

I can't wait until the big reveal.

Lynda Howells said...

You too sound hooked! l love eco-dyeing and an loving the results and love experimenting. Thanks to india..she opened a whole new world for me.xxlynda

Bea Bernasconi said...

Hi Conny, thats really amazing! I'm up in my mountain house for a month of holidays with all the necessary I need for eco dyeing that I wanted to try! Tua is for sharing thouse prescious thoughts. Looping forward to see more from your bundels.

Emma said...

I really thought that natural & eco would be the same so thanks for the info. I've got a Eucalyptus just waiting for me to find the time to bundle it up!

frazzledsugarplummum said...

I don't know that I could wait. lol. Thanks for sharing the information. It was very interesting. I look forward to seeing the results.