Thursday, 8 June 2017

Sunny Day Dyeing

Solar Dye Jars with flowers from the garden

In my recent post about natural dyeing I mentioned solar dyeing. This is a really simple and easy technique with highly variable results. Essentially it involves filling a jar with fabric and dye stuffs and leaving it in the sun for a month or more.

My first jar

The rusted iron I added turned the water inky black

I tend to take a very unscientific approach to dyeing generally and solar dyeing lends itself well to this way of thinking as living in Cumbria the solar element is highly variable. I really like the unpredictable element of natural dyeing, I've had mixed results from my solar dye jars but as it's such little effort if I'm not happy with the results I can just stick it in another jar with a different set of leaves or flowers and try again. One of the main attractions is the funny marks and leaf traces that are left on the fabric.

Unwrapping my first solar dye jar

Beautiful patterns on the fabric

I've mostly been using cotton fabrics and silk organza for my experiments as these are the fabrics I use most in my work. The silk takes the colour much more readily than the cotton, even when a mordant is used, so I think my future experiments may involve using different types of silk fabric.

Sorrel leaves sandwiched between cotton and silk

In the jar with more sorrel. The fabric ended up a mink brown colour, much stronger on the silk than the cotton

A selection of jars at different stages

Some of the most successful pieces have been the ones where I've added bits of metal to act as mordants. When iron is used it alters the colour quite dramatically, creating rust tones (not surprisingly) and also lovely grey tones and turning the water an inky black colour. I have a rusty hammer head that I found in the garden that is my favourite thing to add into my jars, it's quite well rusted so gives lovely black tones rather than oranges.

Iron and geranium on silk (left) and cotton (right)

Iron and geranium on silk (left) and cotton (right)

Dock leaves on silk (left) and cotton (right)

I've been using a range of different plant materials to dye with, I love walking round my garden, picking leaves, flowers and twigs and wrapping them in fabric. I should really document what goes into each jar but it's much more fun just leaving it and being surprised by the results!

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