Tag: dye bath

26 Jun

Hawthorn Berries Three Rivers Dyed Silk

Hawthorn Berries 1 - River Taw

Berries from Tarka Trail foraging trip along River Taw found by ditch and field growing through hazelnut and willow trees with briars and nettles.

Hawthorn (1) - Dye Bath Process

  • Soak berries for 2-3 days.
  • Boil then simmer for 1-2 hours.  Add water and re-simmer if evaporates.
  • Mash berries, remove pulp from dye pan.  Cool to hand hot.
  • Soak silk in dye bath pot overnight or for two days.
  • The longer soaked, the darker and stronger the colour.

Steeping in dye bath

Silk absorbs dye colour immediately, but some hours of soaking will deepen the tone.  Move silk occasionally to ensure all parts even

1st silk can be left in a bowl to dye stronger overnight, while keeping back some dye liquid to soak a 2nd piece, which will have a paler result.

Hawthorn Berries 2 - River Otter - Dye Process

Soak berries and simmer as Hawthorn (1).  Two silk samples were added to dye liquid when cooled and soaked in a wide copper pot for a day and a night. One was cream. The other was dull pale grey (failed woad dyed piece) which resulted in a browner result. (Colour mixing: grey + hawthorn = brown)

Comparisons - Rivers Taw - River Otter berries

Taw berries result is golden.  Otter berries result is dull fawn.  Unknown whether the different river soils affected the dye colour, or if the copper pot had an effect, which is likely.

Hawthorn Berries 3 - River Exe - Dye Process

Hawthorn Berries River Exe Sessions1,2,3,4 give 4 colour variations

Silk 1 - Lime green.   Silk 2 - Medium mauve.   Silk 3 - Silver.  Silk 4 - Pale peach

Fascinating variations obtained by use of mordants, or washing out methods, or how fresh or old/exhausted the dye bath becomes.

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 1. Mauve turns Green

Large long piece of silk soaked a few hours in pre-mordanting Alum beforehand.

Good Mauve result.  Washed out in tap water, with added soap. Turned GREY, then gradually GREEN!  (Far left)

Was it the tap water?  Was it the soap?

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 2.

Two dress top shapes. NO premordant alum.

Steeped 24hrs in remainder dye bath pink sludgy liquid.

Washed out in tap water - stayed a medium MAUVE. (presume due to no alum).

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 3.

One long silk piece with a hem.

Placed in previous dye bath (1. and 2.)

Turned mauvish, but dried out SILVER! (Right)

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 4.

Silk pre-mordanted with Alum and Cream of Tartar.

Cider vinegar from pre-soaked apple peels added to dye bath.

Placed liquid and fabric in copper pot.

Result overnight - pale peach.

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.
22 May

Ladies bedstraw Dyed Silk

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Ladies Bedstraw growing wild above Bideford marshes River Toridge
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The roots showing tan red
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Roots dug out and flower tops

Lady's Bedstraw is found in waste ground or unused areas and near the coast.  This particularly large and well established plant rambled on the River Torridge embankment above the Bideford marshes along the Tarka Trail cycle path (N. Devon).   The reddish roots are used for dyeing: family is Madder (Rubiaceae) a well known red dye. Not easy to pull out the roots, and most were left for next year's growth.  It was immediately apparent why it is called 'bedstraw' as plant sprigs were 'springy' in the hand, making it ideal for mattresses.  Bedstraw has many herbal uses too.

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Soak roots in water for many days
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Dye bath boiled up
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Roots taken from plant ground need soaking for several days to soften, before boiling up. (I soaked mine at least a week).

Roots of plant produces a red dye, the longer soaked the deeper red. The red dye appears while soaking, and would probably dye without even boiling up.  Photos show the dye was absorbed onto the pan sides, which I believe lost dye pigment strength available; so pans must preferably be steel. Copper pot might also assist with tan tone.

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Silk is soaked in dissolved alum

Some dyes will work without soaking cloth in a premordant.  I usually do two tests. The second piece was not mordanted, and is some shades lighter on drying, but probably only because the first piece absorbed most of the pigment.

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Red dye bath with second silk soaking. First silk out.
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Two silks dyed. One will be weaker when dry
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First silk dyed removed
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Silk dyed being rinsed
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Steam press silk before bone dry to reduce creases. (don't squeeze out too tightly). The patchy areas do not show in the final dried sample.

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Contrasted with Comfrey dyed
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Bright peach tones achieved
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With Comfrey samples
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Bedstraw reddest of gold samples
Images copyright Amelia Jane Hoskins Please email for use permission.