Wednesday, 30 September 2015

natural dye - costmary

     costmary - (Tanacetum balsamita) is a giant plant growing at the side of my house!  it smells like mint, so that's nice, but apparently it doesnt taste like it.  i have never tried, but my aunt has, she said it makes nasty tea.  it has formerly been a pretty much useless and large perennial just growing there.

    i have however been doing a bit of looking up on some of the plants in my area and noticed something... the costmary has little yellow button flowers, which are kinda pretty, but kinda reminded me of a certain common dye plant.. tansy!  and the latin name for tansy is  Tanacetum vulgare!  this just screamed that this plant had tonnes of potential as a dye plant!

     and it does!  it makes a lovely yellow dye.  i think it actually is brighter than this picture shows it to be!  (from left to right - soaking in hot tap water overnight, steeping in hot water, and then in simmered dye)

     the plant also has lots of potential for ecodyes!  i have always had success making prints with the leaves.  usually bright yellow leaf prints.  the leaves can be rather large but the ones higher up towards the flowers can be more tiny.

     costmary success!

Monday, 14 September 2015

the fun with turmeric continues - dyeing & SCIENCE!???!

     i had posted that i had inadvertently discovered that turmeric mixed with washing soda turns a bright red colour!  i had done a little experiment to figure it out by rubbing a piece of wet cloth with turmeric and then sprinkling it with washing soda on the left, baking soda in the middle and alum on the right.  (i did this because i had originally discovered this when i sprinkled it on some cloth that i had previously sprinkled all 3 and didnt know which one had caused the colour change)

     the washing soda turned bright red instantly!  the baking soda had a slight colour change after a few min, and the alum did nothing.
     well, i left the house and when i came back i was surprised to find that where the baking soda had been was now also very red!  i didnt have my camera with me at that time so i was not able to get a picture until the next day when the fabric had fully dried and the colours had faded a bit at that time.

   interesting!  but that's not all!  i was doing another spice dye experiment and in this one i also was sprinkling spices and i used the washing soda and baking soda and the turmeric, i also used some salt and some rusted metal and decided to try spraying some diluted apple cider vinegar mix on the whole thing at the end.  WELL!  look here:

     where the apple cider vinegar hit the turmeric it turned BRIGHT yellow!  obviously turmeric is highly colour sensitive to pH!  so interesting! 
     i wonder why i have not heard about this more????  if anything it's a fun experiment!

Sunday, 13 September 2015

spice dyes & fun with turmeric!!!

     i discovered something by accident!  i have been doing some experimenting lately in the dyeing area that has led to some interesting results, one of them involving spices!  i decided to try dying some fabric with spices by just sprinkling them all over it and then wrapping the whole thing up, tying it and then boiling it for awhile.  it's not something i had read about anywhere, but it sounded like a good idea to me.  i had some unmordanted fabric and i thought, hmm.. why not sprinkle some other stuff on this thing as well, so i also sprinkled some alum and washing soda on it, and some baking soda too for good measure.  the spices i had were turmeric (which is the only one i had tried using for dyeing before), ground sumac powder, paprika and cinnamon.  so, here is the mess it looked like when i was done:

     fun!  i had only sprinkled on half, so i folded the other half over, then folded it up a bunch and tied it into a bundle.  i then boiled it for an hour or so and let it cool in the water, then took it out and let it sit on the shelf for a day or so before opening it up and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and rinsing and finally washing it.

     it turned out pretty interesting!  lots of yellow, which is too be expected, i used a lot of turmeric, but it was also blotchy and fun.

     so what's the fun with turmeric part?  well!  you see the bright red parts in the package there?

     originally i had thought they were from the ground sumac, after all i had never worked with it before so i didnt really know what colour to expect from it.  well!  tonight i was doing a second spice dye experiment!  this time i was going to try and do enough fabric to make a shopping bag and i want to use less spices so that it wouldnt be covered but have bits of white showing through (i also was going to try steaming it).  i started pretty much in the same way though, i sprinkled the wet fabric with alum and then some baking soda and some washing soda and then i sprinkled it with turmeric and ....

     !!!!!  in spots the turmeric was turning bright red!  well.. a bright burgundy red!  it was the turmeric all along!  so...  the turmeric is reacting to something?  either the alum, the washing soda or the baking soda!  i had to finish up with my dye experiment and do a more controlled test to find out which!  so i did!
    i got myself a small piece of cloth and wet it and rubbed turmeric into it and then sprinkled it with the powders ...

     from left to right you have washing soda (sodium carbonate), baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and alum (ammonium aluminum sulfate).  the w.soda changed the colour instantly!  it was quite impressive!  the b.soda altered the colour slightly after a min. or 2, and the alum did nothing to the colour.
     interestingly, cloth that i have dyed in turmeric (by boiling it in the turmeric) that has been premordanted it alum and washing soda is still yellow...

     i do not know why this picture is loading vertical?  it is not a vertical picture and i do not have the energy to go and try and edit it right now.  anyway, you can see, yellow.
     perhaps the heat damages whatever it is that causes the ~red~ reaction?  you can see that the final cloth is not too red.  also, it seemed that steaming took out a lot of the colour as well, though i have not unwrapped that package yet.  i wonder if just rolling it up and letting it sit for awhile would let the colours seep into the cloth enough to dye the fabric or if they would just wash out super quick? 
     anyway, the really really fast yellow to bright red reaction was a really neat surprise!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

planting succulents

     so!  i had all over online how you could propagate succulents super easy just from a little leaf!~  neat!  however i did not have any succulents to get any leaves from.  at the beginning of the summer when i went to the greenhouse to look at plants however they had a whole bunch of them!  i was looking at them thinking, ..i could get one and probably turn it into a whole bunch.. well, i picked one up to look at it and noticed that the trays below them were filled with tonnes of broken off leaves!!!  so... i grabbed a bunch of the the little leaves off the bottom and stuck them in my bag and brought them home!
     at home i put them in a little tray on top of some black earth that i had a bag of and gave them some water and waited.. well, they started to grow!  and they grew quite well!  i did not photodocument this whole thing, so no pictures, but it worked.  little plants started to grow from the old leaves!

     fast forward to now, they have been sitting in that tray for awhile and it is time to put them in their own little pots and hopefully they will develop further into more healthy little plants.  i had taken a lot of little leaves, i didnt know how well they would do!  so i have a lot of new little plants and i need a lot of new little pots!  they actually ended up being rather hard to transplant, they were quite fragile and their little leaves tended to break off quite easily.  (this was not helped by the fact that i was doing this with my 4 year old niece who was not very gentle!)  so, harder than it looks!

     i managed to get 8 planted!  i need to get some more pots!  so cute!!!

    i also put some more dirt in the little pan that the rest of them were in and gently replanted them in that!  and then i put all the new little tiny broken leaves in it!  cause, hey, it worked the first time!  though, i dont really have high hopes for these ones, they are too tiny!!!!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

natural dyeing - greater celandine

     greater celandine (Chelidonium majus) - is a weed i found in various places around my back alley.  i was not sure what it was but was intrigued by it's pretty yellow flowers!  (and also those weird little bean like appendages)

     i did a little looking up online and found out what it was, apparently it's toxic!  but you can also buy it all over in tablet form for various health reasons???  i also read that if you break the stems it seeps out a bright orange goop!  this i wanted to check out!  (i just took pictures before, did not pick)

    ... it's also a dye plant.  i did not get great results from my experiments though.  it did dye a light yellow.  i probably did not use enough plant material, sometimes you need a lot and i did a ratio of 1:1 weight of plant to fiber for the test.
     here is what i got, from left to right is #1. no heat, #2. with heat, steeping with plant, #3. simmering.

     once again i think my best result was with #2, the steeping.  perhaps my simmering is too hot and i am more boiling, i sometimes dont pay a lot of attention and go do other things while all this is happening (so much to do!).  these results do actually have a very light yellow to them.  ..i think you need more plant material than 1:1 for this stuff!  it did however stain my hands quite well!

Friday, 4 September 2015

natural dyeing - colour potential method & russian comfrey

     i have been really interested in natural dyeing lately!  it's amazing that you can take a handful of leaves, boil them down and get a totally different colour!  you'd think you'd get green right?  but nope!  (green is actually not easy to achieve as far as natural dyeing goes)  it is a little unfortunate that my interests started now when my grandma is gone.  my grandma lived her whole life on a farm and did a lot of artsy crafty things including dyeing, and spinning her own yarn and then knitting or crocheting (probably both) lovely things from it and also weaving wonderful wall hangings and lots of other things!  many for which she even won awards for at fairs!  i am sure she could have taught me lots of things about what plants produce good dyes and methods of extracting them, but i guess i will just have to use the good old trial and error method and read stuff online and in books.

     to start off my natural dyeing experiments i decided to do 'colour potential tests' based on the method described in the book Colours From Nature by Jenny Dean (a pretty well known name in the natural dyeing world).  this is a three step method:
#1. the first step involves just letting a sample of the fiber you wish to dye soak with the plants in water overnight to see if that will extract any colour.  if it did, then yay!  and continue with steps 2&3, if not, ok, you still have steps 2&3.
#2. the second step involves steeping a sample by heating it but not allowing it to simmer (the same one as step one if it did not work, or a new one if it did) ..with the plants for about 45min - 1hr and then letting it cool in the pot overnight.
#3. the third step involves simmering the plants for 30min or so and then straining them and then adding a new sample and allowing it to sit in the pot overnight.  you can also simmer the sample in the dye for 30min or so to deepen the colour.

     my methods may not be exact or the best, but they are experiments and have produced some results, so hey, why not!  for my fiber i went to fabricland and bought the ~cheapest~ 100% cotton fabric i could find!  it ended up being a kinda flannel feeling type thing, and it turns out that it frays like crazy!!!  especially because i am cutting it into small pieces.  but i did not want to be spending a lot just for little tests.  the best fibers for dyeing are supposed to be animal fibers like wool and silk but i do not do silk, it kills the worms and i do not like to kill things and peace silk which is supposed to be cruelty free is ~expensive~ ...and like i said, i wanted cheap!  (i found out later that ikea has cheap fabric by the way)  and wool is a little less cruel but a lot of people in my family are allergic to wool, so it has been something that we avoid.  so, cotton.
     i premordanted the fabric with alum and washing soda using a recipe/method i read somewhere (probably that same book actually) that involved weighing out the fabric and using a ratio of 20% weight of alum and 6% washing soda, bringing it all to a simmer and letting it cool and then to help strengthen the colour potential, do it all again with 10% alum and 3% washing soda (using the same liquid).  washing soda is not readily available here, so that kinda sucks, but you can easily make it by heating baking soda in the oven!  look it up!

     the first plant i decided to test was russian comfrey!  (Symphytum × uplandicum) aka the giant plant in my back yard by the alley next to the rhubarb.  this thing is HUGE!  and i figured, if it works as a dye plant then that would be super!  i dont think i really found much info about it for dye online, but oh well.

     it also has pretty little purple bell shaped flowers that bees really like!

     i just used the leaves though, and i chopped them up really small, which i later learned was kind of a mistake.  a lot of things i read (pretty much everything i read) said if you use small pieces to put them in a little bag so they dont stick to your fiber, but i figured that meant really small, and they were talking about sticking to things like yarns and unspun wool, not a piece of fabric.  ugh.

     these little bits STUCK!

     but i did get a result!  its not a HUGE result, but it was a result, so i was pleased.  it was kinda a beige-ish colour i guess.  i took a picture when i finished washing the sample.  one thing though i learned though is that the colour usually (always) lightens quite a bit when it dries, so sometimes a happy result after washing it is a disappointment the next day when it has dried.  boo.  (same piece wet on the left, dry on the right, next to an undyed piece)

     that is just the result with no heat, just soaking in the leaves overnight.  i then added a new sample and did the next test.

      see how much it is fraying?!  i have a little collection of all the frayed pieces in a little bag, you can see all the different colours in layers as i have added them, its kinda  neat!  i am not sure what i am going to do with them?  but i thought, why throw them out!
     so, here are the results.   from left to right is heat, #2.with heat and #3.simmering.  i think the best result came from #2, steeping the fabric with the leaves.  the colour is kinda beige, so not anything amazing, but ..better than white?  maybe!  different anyway!


Thursday, 3 September 2015

solar dye - sunflower seed scraps

   dye experiment - solar dye - sunflower seed scraps

     so this is my first attempt at solar dying.  one of my first attempts at natural dying at all really!  so, who knows if it will work?  apparently sunflower seeds are supposed to give a blueish/grayish dye, so hopefully that will happen!  who knows though!

#1. the seeds.

     were bird seed scraps.  so they maydo contain other bird seeds, and probably even some bird poop.  i did sort through them a bit and picked out some of the bigger pieces of other things.  i figured that the sunflower seeds are probably some of the lighter scraps, so i put them in a bucket and shook it so that all the heavy stuff would sink and the light stuff would rise up (thanks gold panning) and then skimmed off the sunflower seed husks from the top.  so.. not pure sunflower seeds.

#2.  the cloth.

     i got this remnant at the eco centre.  so.. i am not even completely sure what it is really.  i hope it is cotton, it seems like cotton.  i have mordanted it a few times, the first time in a mix of baking soda and alum, though i did not simmer it that time and i guess you are supposed to simmer alum mordants, oops.  i just let it soak at least 24 hours.  then a soy mordant, then an ash water mordant, then another soy mordant.

#3.  the process.

     i dampened the cloth and dampened some of the sunflower seeds.

     and then i spread out the seeds over the cloth and then folded the edges over.

     then i rolled it up

     i stuck the rest of the seeds into an old pickle jar and shoved the rolled up cloth inside.

     then i slowly filled it with water to get the water level up to the top.

     i stuck on the lid and gave it a good shaking to help redistribute everything.  after doing this the water level had lowered quite a bit, so i had to top off the water.

     after topping off the water, i resealed the lid and labeled it and put the date on it.  (July 15th).  and put it outside on my front porch to sit for the next month or so.  hopefully over this time these seed husks will dye the cloth!  if not then i will have had a pickle jar full of junk sitting on my front porch for a month, no big deal, i have had things sitting there longer!
    i had thought after that i probably should have rinsed the seeds first, oh well.

and the results....

     kinda a letdown.  i left it in there on my deck for a looooong time.  and it resulted in pretty much NOTHING!  ..except!  3 strange purple spots?

     what made these strange purple spots?  i have no idea, because i just dumped out the jar and dumped out all the seeds because they were kinda icky and smelly and not too pleasant.  if i would have carefully unrolled it i might have maybe been able to see what exactly was making contact in these exact spots that made the purple marks, but nope.

     maybe you need to simmer sunflower seed shells to extract any dye from them?  i know you need to simmer a lot of things to extract any usable dye from them?  who knows.  we get a lot of seed shells though, so i will probably try again, especially during our loooooooooooooooooong winter when there is lots of time to sit around and sort through seed shells.  fun stuff!