For the last week, my house has smelt like a sauerkraut factory. In fact, unless you are partial to the smell of boiled cabbage, the word you would probably use would be stink rather than smell. The aroma of stale boiled cabbage is NOT nice.
What was supposed to be a quick eco-dyeing experiment with Purple Cabbage, iron and eucalyptus leaves, turned into a week long obsession quite by accident. On discovering that I had run out of plain cotton fabric to insert between the layers of fabric and leaves, I decided to improvise by inserting sheets of ordinary copy paper before wrapping it around bamboo and simmering it in a pot of cabbage water and iron.
I expected that the paper would be a soggy mess destined for the compost pile, but no, there were some really lovely outlines of leaves on a soft aqua background …
Dry Eucalypt on 80gsm 2
Dry Eucalypt on 80gsm
So then of course I was hooked. I had to continue, with different weights of paper – 80gsm, 110gsm and 250gsm, and fresh leaves, dried leaves and leaves soaked in iron water. Endless possibilities.
Fresh E. citriodora
Dry unknown Eucalypt
Dry unknown Eucalypt
Dry leaf detail
Dry E. citriodora
At the same time, and in the same pot, I was trying fresh and dry Eucalyptus citriodora leaves on linen …
Fresh E. citriodora
Dry E. citriodora
And some unidentified dry eucalyptus leaves on Raw Silk
Every morning I bounded out of bed to see what unbundling suprises awaited me. But eventually, I had to stop, clear everything away, and simmer some citriodora leaves for a few hours to get rid of the stale cabbage aroma. I’ll be at it again as soon as I’ve caught up with my garden jobs.
I can’t believe that it’s two months since I last posted something on my blog. My excuse is that I hate cold weather and I have a tendency to hibernate over winter, only venturing forth on nice sunny days to prune something before scurrying back to the fire.
Winter hasn’t been entirely unproductive though. Two of my eco-dyed scarves won a prize at the Bellingen Agricultural Show. It’s not exactly the Sydney Show but who cares!
I made up an “artist’s book” of my paper and fabric dyeing successes (and failures) for display at our local library…
The display was mounted by the Mixed Up Artgroup as part of Readers & Writers week. The group held a bookbinding workshop in May, and whilst my bookbinding/sewing skills would benefit from some (a lot) more practice, the book held together and much to my surprise was featured in our local paper.
On rainy days, I have been experimenting with leaves gathered from the garden and on my morning walks. Some leaves were disappointing – yielding absolutely no colour – but others such as Ornamental Maple and Native Tulipwood rewarded me with soft silhouettes, Geranium varied leaf by leaf, steamed Purple Carrot worked well, but sometimes the bundle wrapping was more successful than the fabric piece.
The “compost experiment” failed primarily because I forgot about it. By the time I dug it out of my compost heap, the bugs had munched on the silk and the bacteria had broken down the fibres. Note to self: write a reminder in your diary!
One of my experiments using Native Tulipwood leaves on Habotai silk which was then dipped in a purple cabbage and iron bath – was particularly successful. Depending on whether the cabbage is permanent or fugitive, this scarf may be a contender for next year’s Bellingen Show. It’s all a bit of fun …
My new found obsession is just a little bit out of control …
The rack by the back door where I used to hang my sunhats and gardening accessories is now loaded with eucalyptus leaves (and the occasional hitch hiker) waiting for a dyeing experiment.
I’ve yet to organise a gas bottle for my barbeque so that I can simmer my cauldrons outside, hence my dyeing experiments are still taking place in my kitchen. Which makes it look somewhat like an amateurish meth lab (not that I’d know what one looked like!).
I’m forever stopping and staring at trees, trying to work out if the leaves hold any dyeing potential. I’m keen to try some Eucalyptus citriodora leaves from a tree in my garden, but it poses a bit of a problem, as the lowest leaves are ever so slightly out of reach.
I’ll just have to wait for a storm to send a branch crashing to the ground. In the meantime I’ve been having fun with Lemon Myrtle leaves, and various unidentified eucalypts.
Lilly Pilly t-shirt
Detail from Lilly Pilly t-shirt
One experiment produced a colour akin to radioactive urine (not that I’d know what that looks like either!).
I was tempted to call it a disaster and throw it out, but the results on bamboo fabric and an op shop men’s singlet were really rather wonderful shades of soft smoky lemon.
Eucalyptus t-shirt and bamboo fabric
Detail Eucalyptus t-shirt
Anyway, I need my kitchen back and I’m way behind on garden jobs, so today I dismantle the meth lab for a couple of weeks. Watch this space for more alchemy.
I’ve just spent a week at Bellingen’s annual Camp Creative, and I think I might be developing a new obsession – dyeing natural fabrics with plant pigments.
For five days, the ever patient Anne Leon guided us as we experimented with leaves, seeds, flowers, twigs and vegetables which we placed between layers of natural fabric and then wrapped around pvc pipe, folded, clamped or tied and dropped into simmering pots of lemon myrtle, eucalyptus, red cabbage and brown or red onion.
With mordant (setting agent) added, the magic started …
Red cabbage and Lemon myrtle
Our creations in the pot
Brown onion dyed wool
Brown onion dyed fabric drying
During the week we all learnt a new mantra:
“there are no mistakes, just unexpected results”
Here is a selection of unexpected results which I am happy to show off.
Brown Onion skin on silk
Eucalyptus & Davidson Plum
Davidson Plum on silk
Detail from Eucalpytus silk scarf
Cinerea & possibly Loropetalum
Perhaps the weeds in my ever increasing collection could be put to
a creative use instead of just being composted ?