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Posts Tagged ‘cotton’

(Three posts in three days, yikes!)

My goal this weekend was to have a kitchen dye session, making more of my California poppy  fabric, dyed back in 2010. After each dye session I keep detailed notes on what colors I used in what amounts, so that if I wanted to repeat a color run I could. I’ve never tried though, always preferring instead to experiment and make new colors. This time though, I wanted to dye more of the same colors, so I referred to my notes to repeat the colors.

PicMonkey CollageHere’s my notes and the fabric colors. It was a Blue Green to Red Orange run, made with Cerulean Blue, Deep Yellow and Fuchsia Red.  I looked through my dyes and I had fuchsia red, cerulean blue, and shoot, no deep yellow on hand! But I had Bright Yellow, so figured that was probably pretty close, and started to mix up my colors.

Oops, not. Bright Yellow is NOT like Deep Yellow. The fabrics came out so different! Here’s a screen shot from Dharma’s website, using their super cool color comparison picker tool. The Deep Yellow is so much more golden, which is probably what made my original run so orange and made me think of poppies.

deep yellow

My colors I dyed this weekend were very red and blue. I don’t think the bright yellow quite had enough oomph against the reds and blues to make the oranges and greens I was hoping for.

IMG_8348I still love them though! They almost remind me more of dessert colors: cool reds and browns, bright pops of sky blue, and golden yellows.

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The yellows weren’t made with the bright yellow, those were using Marigold.

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So now I’ll just have to have another dye session to try to make more poppy colors, after I purchase some Deep Yellow!

IMG_8359The reds and browns remind me of Death Valley.

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What do the colors remind you of?

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Maybe I’ll make up some charm packs and post them for sale in my really really close to launching etsy shop!

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Here are the results from my natural dying with lupine and iris:

The lupine fabric is above, it dyed a slightly darker green, with the iris fabric below, dying a very pale pale pale green. You almost have to squint your eyes and imagine it to see it.

So what happened? Here are a few of my thoughts, and I can’t wait for another free day to get back to my dye pots and experiment some more.

1. Cotton is harder to dye than wool.

Cotton is a cellulose- or plant-based fiber, along with linen and hemp. The recipe I was following called for wool, which is a protein-based fiber, along with silk, alpaca, angora, cashmere, etc. Different fibers take on the dye molecules in different ways, wool, often resulting in brighter colors than cotton.

2. I skipped the tannin mordant step.

Almost every book I have recommends that when dyeing cotton, first mordant it in alum, and then mordant it in a tannin bath (think oak tree acorns!). I skipped this step, and is perhaps why I had less brilliant results. This is definitely something to try next time, as I am a quilter I will want to continue to dye with cotton!

3. Recipes vary.

I have been surprised at the great variation in recipes. One book will say simmer for 30 minutes, let sit overnight, another book will say simmer for an hour, sit overnight, simmer again for an hour the next day . . . Kind of like cooking, there can be many different ways to come out with the same result.

I followed the recipe in my Nature’s Colors, by Ida Grae book, which has you boiling the fabric with the plant matter for 30 minutes, let sit overnight, and rinse. Many of the recipes in the Harvesting Color book, have you boil the plant matter for an hour, let sit overnight, boil again for an hour, then put in the fabric and simmer. Then rinse. The book explains this is to fully extract all the color possible from the plants. Especially as I am working with cotton, this might be something to try, since the fabric won’t be taking up color as easily as wool.

4. Maybe cotton had nothing to do with it at all, and iris and lupine just don’t dye good colors.

Did I harvest the plants too late in the spring? Do wild iris produce lighter colors than cultivated iris? There are so many variables. My good friend Lesley who is also a phenomenal knitter is also interested in dyeing her yarn from natural fibers. Next time we are going to dye the cotton and wool at the same time, to get a sense of what color variation there is between the two.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt, which puts into perspective the challenges of dying cotton:

Secrets of the Masters

From about 1660 onward, when the cotton chintz craze began to sweep across central and northern Europe, textile printers felt pressured to duplicate the permanent, colorful designs of Indian imports, though they had neither the training nor the practical experience to do so. India’s master dyers had known for centuries – thousands of years, more accurately – that intense vegetable dyes will not penetrate into waxy cellulose cotton; they scatter on the surface and run. Not only did the masters have to find a way to treat raw cotton cloth to make it receptive to color, they also needed to make the dyes permeate the fibers to achieve colorfastness. Through trial and error, Indian artisans developed primitive but effective methods to do both, and they were not about to share their hard-won knowledge with foreigners. This secret wisdom, assiduously guarded, was passed from one generation to the next. It owed its science to bonding through molecular chemistry, but of course the ancient Indians knew only that they could trust the urine of goats and other barnyard animals to get the job done.”

from Big Cotton, how a humble fiber created fortunes, wrecked civilizations, and put America on the map, by Stephen Yafa

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I woke up yesterday morning with a hankering to go outside, and to dye fabric. A quick look through my Nature’s Colors book, revealed that Wild Iris dyes fabric a deep purple and Bush Lupine a vibrant green. We took a look at the map, found a high elevation meadow down a four wheel drive dirt road, and took off for a morning adventure.

Sure enough, we found cattle grazing in the meadow, and lots of wild iris. I went to collecting them (they are poisonous to cows, so I didn’t think the rancher would mind), and soon had a bag full. Next was lupine, and we found just enough at about 8,000 feet that hadn’t gone to seed already, along the road side.

Beautiful shooting star in the meadows with the wild iris. What a magenta color!

Back home, I weighed my plant matter. 20 ounces of iris and 6 ounces of lupin. The recipe called for a ratio of 6:1, so I could dye 3 ounces of fabric with the iris and 1 ounce of fabric with the lupin. It takes a lot of plant matter to dye a little piece of fabric!

Weighing the plant matter.

The iris recipe called for the flower heads to soak in water several hours before boiling.

Meanwhile, I per-mordanted my fibers with alum, the most environmentally friendly of the mordants, and least toxic to humans and the world. After an hour of simmering, I rinsed out the fabric, and prepared the pot for lupines.

Into the pot went the pre-mordanted fabric, the lupin, and just enough water to cover it all. This simmered for an hour, and then was left to sit overnight in its juices.

By now, the iris had been soaking for several hours. I added the pre-mordanted fabric to the pot, and simmered them for one hour. This was also left to sit overnight. Now it is the next morning, and I am headed out to the back yard to take a look. Will be back with pictures once the fabric drys!

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Day 2 began with rinsing the fabric from the two pots of alum and tannin mordants that sat overnight. I lay a plastic drop cloth in the bathroom floor, opened the window, and proceeded to rinse and rinse and rinse. All waste water went down the drain (remember the mordant part is the messy chemical part).

Then it was time to dye! I did my calculations, for every 100 grams of fabric . . . Dissolved the dye powder in water, and brought the dye bath and fabric to boiling. I then reduced the heat and let simmer at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

Multiple trips to the pot to stir and check the temperature.

I chose to dye with two plants, that I purchased in powder form from the internet: madder and logwood.

Madder is a perennial plant that has been used as a dye for over 5,000 years. The dye doesn't come from the leaves but from the root of the plant.

Logwood is a tropical hardwood in the legume family.

Madder dyes a red color, and logwood a purple color.

Stirring the dye bath as fabric turns red from madder.

And, after much boiling, simmering, and rinsing, the final product! With one dye bath, you can produce many colors depending on the different mordants used. From left to right: 1 – Logwood dye with tannin mordant, 2- Logwood dye with alum mordant, 3 – Madder dye with tannin mordant, and 4 – Madder dye with alum mordant.

Four lovely colors.

What’s next? I am going to test their color fastness. I also am going to try a third mordant, which is more involved, alum-tannin-alum mordant. I am on the tannin step. We’ll have to compare how the color comes out different. I’d also like to try collecting some plant stuffs myself, and creating my own dye colors. Maybe collecting dye stuffs locally, creating a color pallette specific to our region.

For this first experiment, I followed the instructions in “The Craft of Natural Dyeing” by Jenny Dean. Anyone else have a favorite dye book? I’d be curious to try other methods or to read more.

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This weekend I decided to dive into the world of natural dyeing. It is a long process, with a lot of measuring, boiling, and rinsing. The fabric needs to soak in the mordant bath overnight, so it is at least a two day process.

Day 1 began with scouring and mordanting.

It was 36 degrees outside at 11am when I brought the fabric out to scour. As you can imagine, it took a long time to reach boiling temperature!

Scouring is the process to get the fabric completely clean. After weighing the fabric dry (to calculate how much mordant I need later), I immersed the fabric in water with soda ash and laundry detergent, and boiled for 45 minutes. Then rinsed.

Stirring the fabric into the soda wash bath to boil. I set up a stove outside to have better ventilation during the mordanting process.

Mordants are substances that are used to fix dye to the fabric. Alum (aluminum sulphate) is the most common mordant used for cotton. Tannin (from oak galls) can also be used as well. So I tried both! After measuring the chemicals and dissolving in the water, I added the wet fabric, and brought the bath up to simmering, turned it off, and left it all to sit overnight.

My measuring station. All fabric and powders were weighed in grams on a scale.

Sounds simple, right?

Day 2 will be more fun, when I get to make colors!

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