Category: Dye Bath Processes

22 Mar

Comfrey Soy Waxed Roses

Comfrey Over-died - Wax Resist Roses on Habotai silk

Experimental use of soy wax with stencils of rose shapes, [link to wax stencils] in cold comfrey dye bath.  Wax cracks in the cool liquid which can be explored. (see floating wax fragments) I emphasised crackled result by gripping rose shapes with centre point at top of finger hold, to ensure there was a crackled pattern bursting from the centre.   This technique has good potential for an overall soy wax design or florals painted on silk before immersing in a dye bath.

Petal Bundle Dye Preparation

Comfrey dyed rose wax stencilled Habotai silk with Khafir Lilly petals, common pink Mallow and dried wild thyme purple seed heads.  Several silk pieces can be prepared and added to the same bundle dye.  I also added an Ahimsa silk piece from a previous weak woad dye.

Silk pieces are sprayed with household vinegar and carefully folded and wrapped into a bundle, rolled, and tied tightly with string.  Not every petal produces strong colour in final outcome, which depends on pressure applied within bundle. A solid tight string casing may be better.

LEFT:  Result on Ahimsa silk, purple blurred petal impressions, possibly due to piece being in centre of bundle, and/or previous woad dye on that piece.  RIGHT:  Result on Habotai silk, scanty light red petal impressions.  (impressions were less than imagined, probably due to loose string tied bundle.)  A large spread of many petals may be needed for more final impressions.

21 Mar

Rose Antique and Burgundy Kimono

Silk and Satin Kimono Dress ' ROSE ANTIQUE' with coordinated hand Silk Painted top front and lower patchworks

Extra large size up to 44" bust (loose on dummy) created over burgundy polyester satin long shirt/nightshirt to form lining.  Existing collar and button welt are utilised on the outside, while patchworks are created exactly to fit over shirt shape.  Colours chosen to coordinate with burgundy satin which has a pink rose print.  Sleeves have been extended some inches, with darker purple Ahimsa silk borders left over from a previously logwood-dyed silk.  Heart shaped buttons are new, wood and painted.

Top Silk Painting:  Comfrey dyed Habotai silk with hand painted Roses over pale soya wax resist, Celtic Triskels and red motifs from one of the prints.   The cream silk looks antique in tone laid over the darker burgundy.

Lower Hem Silk Painting:  Hawthorn dyed Ahimsa silk with bundle dyed texture of Sycamore leaves, then hand painted over with leaf outlines and roses, with painted motifs copied from a coordinate.  [links to silk painting] More below...

LEFT Centre:  Triskeles and Roses on Habotai silk. 

 RIGHT Left: Sycamore leaves and Roses on Ahimsa silk.

COLLAR:  Utilised from lining shirt. The outside of the shirt becomes the inside lining of Kimono.  BACK:  Burgundy colour scheme echoed in intricate centre print on voile.

Side Views

The two different silk painting pieces created to coordinate with all chosen fabrics for patchwork.

Sleeves are extended from underlying burgundy shirt to create 'kimono' style.  Dark purple remnant of a silk painting forms wide extended border.  Lined with colour coordinating viscose in lilac cloud print.

The original outline of the shirt tail slits is followed.

SLEEVES  -  Lining is viscose which extends to outer sleeve to form a border with dark purple, logwood-dyed, Ahimsa painted silk patchwork.

FRONT BUTTONING - Upper - Middle - Lower    BUTTONS - Heart shaped painted wood.

HEM BOTTOM LAYER - Original curved slit outlines followed of underlying burgundy shirt (as lining)

Techniques used in Silk Painting preparations

SOYA WAX RESIST:  My own photos were used, all enlarged to similar size, to make paper stencil cut-outs, for comfrey-soy-waxed-roses.  Rose petal areas were roughly painted in hot soya wax.  When wax was well set, the silk was placed in a cold comfrey dye bath, which showed cracking of wax after immersion, so I squeezed the roses slightly around a centre point, which produced the cracks as lines from the centre of pale rose shapes.

STEAM PRINTED PETALS and seeds are imprinted by bundle-steam method. Result is a few colour imprints of colour in areas between the roses.  Rose petals shapes were lost by the cracking effect, so they were painted finally with a more stylized curly petals.  Triangle was cut out where something was stained.  This was utilised as neck area on kimono construction.  CONCLUSION:  This technique would be good on darker backgrounds, to be tried!

Sycamore Roses Steam Printed Leaves and Painted Roses on Ahimsa Silk

Sycamore leaf steamed bundle print produced a brown texture, interesting by itself; however for this garment, I added more over painting to match with patchwork fabric designs.  The red  outlines weren't needed; a blurred background to bring out the leaf areas would have sufficed.

11 Nov

Silk dyed with Comfrey leaves

Comfrey Dye Bath Preparation


Shibori stitching for resist of dye penetration.

Double rows gathered - lines, wavy lines, circles.  Can be prepared while leaves simmering


Dye Bath Process

  • Soak comfrey leaves for 24 hrs - simmer for an hour, watching water level.
  • During simmering there is time to do some shibori on the silk: double stitched rows, pulled, gathered tight, as rings, or lines. [link]
  • Remove from pan, squeezing excess dye liquid from leaves, or press through colander.
  • Soak pre-wetted silk in hand hot (never boiling hot). Stir for first 5 mins.
  • When colour did not darken anymore, after a few hours, I lifted the silk out, added some rust water (or ferrous sulphate) to dye bath as a modifier, then lowered half the silk piece in, to achieve a partly dyed piece.
  • The difference in tone when dry was much less than when wet, so its best to always allow dye to go darker than wanted, as it will always rinse out lighter.
16 Sep

Alder tree cone dye

Alder cones stored in dry box

Alder cones fall off the trees in strong winds and are found in the grass below all year.  Newer cones side by side on twigs are green and hard.  Store the brown cones in dry boxes and they last a long time.

Alder cones fall on grass
Alder cones on tree

To make dye bath soak cones, twigs and leaves together in a mixing bowl or pan.  The water will go dark brown.  Boil up then simmer for one or two hours.  Keep checking water level.

Adde silk to dye bath, but only when temperature had lowered to hand hot, or silk will roughen.  Never boil silk.  Stir frequently for even dye coverage and leave overnight to finish absorption.  In most cases, colour deepens the longer silk is left.

A secondary paler colour can be achieved in a new silk sample if added to dye bath for 24hours.  I would enhance the absorption ability by pre-mordanting in powdered allum.

Alder cones removed from dye bath after boiling
Silk after removal from dye bath of alder cones, leaves and twigs.
Silk dyed result after soaking in alder dye bath

So many natural dyestuffs produce a range of creams and beige, fawn and gold tones; all very different.  All neutral tones provide an excellent background for silk painting. The Ahimsa peace silk or Habotai silk takes up any natural dye nicely.

This piece will be used in a fashion garment and link posted here in future.

15 Sep

Walnut Husks Dyed Silk

Walnut Husks Dye Process

  • Walnuts were soaked for several days before boiling up and simmering until liquid was dark brown.
  • Remove husks and decant liquid to bowl.
  • Add wet silk pieces
  • Agitate frequently then soak overnight
  • Silk takes up the brown dye bath quickly but keep turning and agitating occasionally while soaking. (I don't boil Ahimsa silk as it would roughen surface) Soaking is adequate for obtaining a reasonable colour.

There is a lot of pigment left in the dye bath which can be stored in jars or used for additional fabrics.  Fill to brim to avoid mould forming. It could also be used to add to creams and golds to strengthen.

Silk Samples of Gold Variations

Walnut dyed silk is the darkest gold, gold-brown/bronze colour so far obtained from seeds or plant dyes. Left samples on both images).

Walnut Tree

Walnuts were found on the ground where they had had been decaying under a walnut tree on Bossington Green, Porlock, North Somerset.

21 Aug

Logwood Dyed Silk

Two Logwood dye sessions with very different results

1st Session Logwood Dye Bath - Deep aubergine result on Ahimsa Silk - Shibori technique test

1st Session result with shibori stitch resist partially successful
Test - Shibori stitching pulled tight before dyeing to leave areas white


Double rows of loose stitched threads are pulled tight as much as possible, before dyeing; creating a tightly drawn ruched area which creates a resist against dye penetration.

1st Logwood dye bath
Silk removed from dye bath

DEEP VIOLET DYED SILK achieved.  I expected lilac, so I used too much dried logwood.  Silk could have been removed from dye bath after 20 minutes of initial uptake.

Experiment with dried dyestuff quantities as percentages of weight: ratios fabric:dye stuff.
Butterfly shibori test result
Shibori area: leaf vein result


Strength of dye penetration resulted in some of the white lines being dyed, so I applied dye discharge paste (dye remover) to shapes, which gave an interesting partial fade result.  See leaves below.

Note:  Shibori stitch technique works well if fabric excluded enough from dye bath - so use thick embroidery silks or string type thread. Simple cotton thread gathered tight was not thick enough.

Applying discharge paste to leaf areas needing distinctive paler tone
Leaf areas of design discharged out with brush and fabric

The simple butterfly and leaves are not a sophisticated design; only used as a test work over dark dyed background.

Shibori resist white outlines of leaf vein and butterfly edging needed definition.  Fabric discharge paste was brushed on to leaf area, where the batik had not been successful.  

Bleaching out background dyed silk is an idea for muted toned designs. It could be useful for a background to forest or sea; but would need stronger white areas made with tie dye and shibori, for contrasting tones.

Discharge paste cannot be guaranteed to bleach completely; another colour may result, as seen above.

Gutta lines added to second wash out after discharging leaf and seed areas
Colour added between dried gutta outlines seen through light

Gutta resist outlines were applied to contain more colour.  I used dark outlines by adding dye to neutral beige gutta paste, but neutral gutta would be best if marking out along the shibori technique lines, to retain the white.  Dark on dark is also too murky.  Hold silk frame up to light to check for integrity of blocking, to avoid leakage of liquid dye colour when applying.

Colours were chosen to match planned coordinated fabrics as patchworks.

Adding colour between gutta lines
Butterfly painted
Repainting leaf over discharged area either side of 'shibori' leaf stem
Silk sample painted to coordinate with other fabrics for patchwork
Silk burnt by foil when steamer ran dry
Fabric coordinates for dyed sample


Unfortunately, the steamer ran dry and fabric burned with burnt newspaper inside foil wrapping. Be careful to watch water level after so much work!

Nothing will be wasted.  The small unburnt strips  will be used as small patches within the colour scheme.  Silk may also be cut into butterfly or leaf shapes to applique on paler fabric.  By stitching over, the silk will be stronger in case of weakness from the dried overheating.

2nd Session  Logwood Batik

The second session produced a pleasing lilac background with motif of nigella seed pod, butterflies, banana leaves and textured background. The 'daubed' shapes are the result of using a long brush end.

Session Two: Lilac result after batik soaked in remaining dye bath overnight

Batik preparation experimentation

The dye mixture was weaker, the natural pigment much depleted, having been absorbed into first soaked fabric, so a subtle result of lilac-beige silk texture after wax removal and washing out.

Hot wax applied to silk
Hot wax design
Shibori stitching
Waxed silk in dye bath
Waxed silk rinsed
After wax removel

Applying bees wax design motifs and texture to silk, with brush end and brushes. (My first ever batik!)

  • Use water solluable pen to draw design outlines.
  • Keep heating up the wax so that it forms a good resist.  The centre area which was applied hottest, came off easily when ironed.  Feint brush marks do not give enough solid cover as a resist to the dye.

Removing Wax from silk

  • Place thick type brown parcel paper over silk and wax; iron several times, with fresh paper each time and hot iron.
  • When no more wax comes off, turn over and repeat, to be sure.
  • Wash silk in hand hot soapy water.   Any stubborn waxy stickyness can be scrubbed very lightly with a soft brush, to loosen.
  • NOTE: wax batiking in this way for fashion, is not ideal on Ahimsa silk I used, which is like cotton and absorbed wax. Canvas would be a firmer base for general artwork where it wouldn't matter if some residue of wax remains in fabric.
Batik silk ready to be painted for a dress. Fabric coordinates being decided.
Nigella seed pod center, pansies around, with butterflies and banana leaves. Embroidery used to highlight seed pod tendrills, and add stitch lines to pansies in reds.
Fabric coordinates chosen to create dress with silk painting

See final afternoon tea dress post: Butterflies and Pansies

21 Aug

Mullein Dyed Silk

My Grand Mullein 6ft. tall

Magic of Mullein

Mullein plants have been used for centuries both as medicinal and as a wick for natural torches. 

The leaves here give a good light gold on Ahimsa silk after steeping in dye bath from several leaves.  Stem of plant not yet trialed. 

Plants seed themselves in the fruit and vegetable allotment: thousands of seeds but just a few plants, biannual.

Click on any photo to view enlarged Photos Gallery

Mullien leaves soaking boiled
Dye bath after removing leaves
Silk soaking in mullien dye bath
Silk absorbed mullein dye
  • Fully cover dyestuff leaves with pond water, and stand to soak for 24-48 hours.
  • Boil up in 2 or 3 inches of rainwater for 10 mins then simmered for at least an hour until the colour reaches full strength. Dip piece of soft white tissue in to test strength from time to time. it may be necessary to add water if simmering a long time.
  • Remove dyestuff leaves.  Allow dye bath to cool until barely hand hot to be gentle for the silk.
  • Immerse silk and agitate for 5 minutes then leave to soak, stirring every 20 mins or so. Some dyes absorb immediately; some need longer overnight soaking.
  • Absorption of colour depends on whether the silk has been pre-mordanted in alum crystals; which is not always necessary.
  • Silk piece is washed out gently in warm water until water runs clear. Hang out to dry without squeezing too much.
  • Steam iron when almost dry to remove creases.

[This silk will be incorporated into a Shamanic Nights garment and linked to here in due course]

14 Aug

St-Johns Wort Plant Collecting and Dye Bath

Foraging along the Tarka Trail

Yellow Flowers of St. John's Wort are found along grass verges. Many changed to orange seed buds, which helps identify them from other yellow flowers and which may be attributable to the golden colour result.

Collecting Dye Plants (St. Johns Wort in basket) along a decommissioned rail track Barnstaple to Bideford: my 10 mile foraging route using Jenny Dean's plant spotter book.   Late summer finds many of the traditional dye plants along grass verges.

St Johns Wort - Dye Bath Process

  • Soak flower tops and seed buds overnight in rain water. I use pond water.
  • Boil up and simmer for an hour. Press fibres with potato masher. Remove from vessel.
  • When cool enough not to roughen silk, add and soak silk, stirring occasionally.
  • Colour appears soon, but leave overnight to absorb dye colour fully.
  • First silk takes most dye pigment.

1st Woad Dye Session

2nd Woad Dye Session

  • Most pigment its taken up with 1st session, but there is always some left.  Remove 1st silk piece.
  • Add dyestuff again and heat and simmer dye bath for 15 mins.
  • When cooler than hand hot, add 2nd piece of silk and leave overnight, to absorb all dye pigment.
  • Second soak actually used up remainder of dye pigment leaving water clear, with paler silk result.

3rd Dye Session- Iron Modifier

Use remaining dye liquid to add iron (ferrous sulphate) for a greyer or greener result.  Colour mix is involved: cream dyes will turn pale grey, the stronger orangey St. John's Wort dye produced green-grey. Other dye baths may produce a pale grey/dull brown results.  Iron can be added by a little rusty water, made by soaking rusty nails in a jar. Small amount needed to tip the colour. Avoid using too much as iron can weaken silk fibres.

Hand Dyed Silk Samples

  • LEFT:     Rosemary - St. Johns Wort Light/St. Johns Wort strong gold - Comfrey Light - Comfrey Dark
  • RIGHT:  Top left St. Johns Wort gold, Green/St. Johns Wort iron modified contrasting with the other natural dye results.
Images copyright Amelia Jane Hoskins Please email for use permission.