Friday, May 5, 2017

An adventure in Eco Printing

Morning my dears - it all went a bit quiet for a while didn't it!?
Well as so often tends to happen, life distracted me away from our little online world and I have been busy in the garden - so much work to be done! Last year you may recall we were undertaking some fairly major demolition and over the course of the last few months no less than one hundred tonnes of concrete and rubble have been removed from our little garden! ( it is safe to say that prior to this there was little chance of growing anything at all! ) now we are left with a blank canvas which though inspiring, is also a little daunting! So we have been sketching away, dreaming up planting schemes, marking out raised beds and the like. A big consideration for me was to include plants that would be not only beautiful, but useful too. Whether veggies for the kitchen, herbs for teas, tonics and salves or for use in the dye pot. 
Dying fabric and wool for use in my dolls and around the home has always been exciting for me, the suprise of lifting out a skein from the dyepot and discovering the colours it has developed never grows old! Up untill now I have mostly relied upon a little set of eco friendly organic dye powders, blending them together to create the shade needed, and simply fixing with an acid ( typically vinegar ) This is an instant fix for colour junkies like me, results are seen in moments you can tinker and tweak over the dyepot to your hearts content - it makes for very spontaneous creations - which I love, and also allows a little more control should you need to match  a particular shade for example. However with the possiblity now of growing my own plants to use, I have enjoyed reading up on various methods of dying with plants in their natural state.
My main source for information has been from a book titled Eco Colour - botanical dyes for beautiful textiles by India Flint. It is a exceptional book with a wealth of knowledge of dye history, extraction and application - interwoven with personal stories and is visually stunning too ( pictures in a book are as important to me now as they were to me when I was a child! ) 
So - where to begin now?
Some of you may follow Juliane of "notes from bjorkasa" and enjoy her annual instagram series #onebouquetperday in which she collects a small posy of flowers everyday, noting the species and where they were found. I have enjoyed welcoming more flowers into my home ( even if they are now displayed in old jampots and teacups for lack of vases!) so with natural dying in mind, yesterday I set out with a basket around my home town to collect some foliage and flowers.
And now - for all of you so patient and kind as to have read this far 
( thank you - and sorry for waffling! ) I will share the pictures! Hooray!

 I collected as much variety as I could, paying attention to shape aswell as colour. 
The contects of my basket included:
Photinia, Aquilegia, Fern, Oak, Maple, Acer, Copper beech, Pieris, Forget me knot, Californian poppy
Dog rose, Oxalis triangularis, Sycamore, Red velarian, Ajuga, Herb robert, Daisy, Pansy, Buttercup, Alkanet and

 Plants were arranged over some premordanted heavy linen fabric, covered with more fabric and then bashed to release their colour. I was a little delicate as first, attemping a gentle roll with a rolling pin, then a careful tap with a rubber mallet, to eventually abadoning my concern, and whole heartedly pounding the fabric with a  hammer! The plants quickly bruised and offered some interesting pattern and colour straight away, the valerian and oxalis in particular stained with a deep turquoise when they made contact with the alkali fabric. After ten minutes or so when all the plants had been covered I realised that my neighbours might actually not be enjoying the happy sound of my dying cloth, so began the next step, tightly rolling the fabric and steaming. I sadly don't own a steamer, so a seive over a pan had to suffice.
The last step was undoubtedly the most difficult....

Waiting! Oh how I wanted to sneakily unwrap just a corner, just to take a tiny peek! 
A whole day and night is a very long time to wait when you are accustomed to the instant gratification of comercial dyes!
Finally - now breakfast has been put away, dishes done, laundry on, children at school, 
tea in the pot, finally I can see if this eco dye has worked!
  Unrolling the bundle I could see that colours had indeed taken to the linen, 
imprinting the shape of some of the foliage and flowers.
Colours were rich and bright, though not the same as when the plants 
had first been hammered onto the fabric

 Some plants left very clear impressions, here you can see californian poppy, valerian and oak leaves.

Overall I am really encouraged by the results, some good clear marks and nice variety of colour. I am hoping that I will be able to make some swatches next time to document the different plant species and the colours they yeild through different methods.
 Here is a nice comparison of the collected flowers alongside their finished ecoprint

So - there you are my dears - this is what I have been up to. Plans for little girls swirled up in swathes of flower dyed fabric are whizzing around in my mind - no doubt some will make their way to reality before too long! Much love to you dear friends, have a colourful day! xx

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