Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Dyeing silk with blueberries, logwood, and onionskin

Time to make some end-of-schoolyear gifts for the kids' teachers! 

I started with a dozen 8m/m 11" x 60" Chinese habotai silk scarves. (I know, not at all local, but great for gift-giving and a nice size to allow me to experiment with different dyeing techniques.)

I wet them and treated them with mordant simultaneously: with a silver dollar sized dollop of gentle shampoo, 3 teaspoons of alum, and no cream of tartar. (Alum is completely nontoxic - it's also used in pickling.) I warmed the bath to a bit hotter than lukewarm, then let them sit for 4.5 hours.

Next I squeezed them out, then folded, twisted, and tied. Then the gloves went on and the dyeing began.

Ready to go. 
The juice left over after cooking enough wild blueberries for a deep-dish pie.
A single boiling-water extraction of 4 pinches of logwood chips. You can be really miserly with your logwood, and it pays off in not having to spend forever rinsing your fabric afterward. 
The logwood-dyed scarves after their first round in the dyebath.
I left them in there for about an hour, with the heat on low.
(Full disclosure: when I was done rinsing the logwood-dyed fabric,
the sink was faintly discoloured and needed a quick scrub.)
The blueberry-dyed scarves hanging to dry from a socktopus in the shower stall.
After rinsing, most of the redness is gone and the colour tends toward a greyed mauve.
The wool scarf you see is from another project, dyed first with rosehips (an extremely pale peach) then mordanted with alum and dyed with birch bark extract (yellow-beige, mostly tannins I think).
Hanging in the sun for photography after drying indoors. The purple is logwood; the yellow one was dyed with onionskin, which I forgot to photograph. It was about a third of a small mason jar's worth of mixed yellow and red onion skins, extracted with boiling water, to get this colour. L-R: marble-and-elastic resist; wood-block resist then accordion-pleated for second dip; accordion-pleated; folded into triangles; marble-and-elastic resist. The one that was tightly twisted around a pencil (not shown) was mostly white space and is a good candidate for more shibori techniques.
Blueberry dyed, hanging in the sun for photography. L-R: twisted then tied; folded into triangles (gave a cool snowflake/diamond pattern!); accordion-pleated; marble-and-elastic resist.
The exhausted logwood dyebath the next day, after leaving a vintage cotton scarf in there overnight. With this little colour and all that sediment, it was safe to dispose of in my garden compost pile.
Note: All three of these natural dyestuffs are fugitive; that is, they fade with time, wear, and exposure to sunlight. Using alum as the mordant will help them stick around a little longer, but I expect all of these scarves will change their appearance as they are worn and gently washed.

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