solar or sun kissed dyeing

filled jars basking in sunshine

filled jars basking in the sun

Solar, or sun kissed (my term), is a fun and natural method of coloring fabric using the energy and power of the sun. All you need is a glass jar, some botanical, alum, silk fabric, rubber bands, and water.

I’ve been saving glass bottles of various sizes and shapes for this purpose, and scraps of silk fabric remnants. As you can see, I love and used mostly silk in my work. Silk is an animal fiber, and like all animal fibers, such as wool is made of protein. It is the most desirable and versatile fabric to use for dyeing.

Do you know that there is a good source of natural dyes to be found in your own garden! For starters, you can use a variety of flowers, roots, berries, and nuts to get different colors. A few plants to use are calendula, marigolds, birch leaves, pansy, onions, and carrots. Solar dyeing is a fun way to experiment and enjoy the mystery of natural dyeing!

coreopsis flower and leaves

coreopsis flower and leaves

pretty and delicious in a jar

pretty and delicious in a jar

For this post, I used coreopsis, some dried eucalyptus, and alum as a mordant. Mordant literally means “to bite” in French. It is a chemical process that fixes the dye and binds the color to the fabric. You can find alum in the supermarket as it is a food additive, used in pickling and preservative for fruits and vegetables.

I will leave these jars with the silk bundles outside to bask in the hot summer heat, and will post the result in a couple of weeks.

a simple roll, fold, and tie method. The folding lines will acts as a resist to block the dye from coloring parts of fabric, thus creating an abstract pattern.

a simple roll, and fold Shibori-tied method. The folding lines will acts as a resist to block the dye from coloring parts of fabric, thus creating an abstract pattern.

jar filled with a teaspoon of alum, water, flowers, and folded fabric.

jar filled with a teaspoon of alum, distilled water, flowers, and folded fabric.

jar filled with a bundle wrapped in eucalyptus and rusty objects.

jar filled with a bundle wrapped in eucalyptus and rusty objects

just after a day in the sun, the color extraction is crimson red

just after a day in the sun, the color extraction is crimson red

corn cob drying in the sun--which I will use for bundling my fabric in eco printing--sustainable!

corn cob drying in the sun–which I will use for bundling my fabric in eco-printing–sustainable!

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.

sushi anyone?

top-bottom: these tiny bundles remind me of a platter of norimaki, maguro, tekkamaki, and tamagoyaki delectably arranged on a wood surface (tongue-in-cheek expression)

One weekend, I took a ride with a girlfriend of mine to a wholesale flower mart in downtown San Francisco. This place has over fifty vendors specializing in a large variety of cut flowers, foliage, plants, and floral supplies. It is one of the largest and the best place to be if you want to get fresh flowers. I got a bunch of  Galax urceolata,  a few stalks of Leucospermum or protea cordifolium, Cupressus funebri, or mourning cypress, and Eucalyptus. I especially love the Galax or beetleweed. The leaf is rounded heart shape with a shiny surface and it is use in making corsage and boutonnières in the floristry industry. Following are pictures of eco-print experiments I made with some of these plants.

Galax or beetleweed

Leucospermum, also known as protea cordifolium or pincushion. They are hardy plants and make for lasting flower arrangement.

silk bundles tied up in cut untreated wood, ready for the dye pot

Freshly steamed bundles, ready to be opened.

test #1: Leucospermum or protea cordifolium

deep prints from the leaves of Leucospermum or protea cordifolium

colors showing on both sides of fabric

mirrored image of leaf print

love the reddish-brown color—almost russet

test #2: Cupressus funebris, or mourning cypress. The leaf is flat and lacy and scale-like

streaks of sage green, with grey and white from tied string markings

I love every moment of this–unwrapping each fold to see what’s inside

Woohoo–the alchemy of eco printing is truly satisfying.

test #3: Citronella, or mosquito plant–a must have for the summer to repel bugs and mosquitoes

brownish and white prints from tied strings marking, leaf showing light stain

soft mushy leaf with little color print–not a good candidate for eco printing. However, the bundle gives out an incense-like odor

test #4: Galax urceolata or beetleweed

dark streaks and color migration–exciting

the spent leaf is jet-dark in color–almost like the Japanese nori in sushi

mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

sunny yellow against brownish and charcoal background with coal-black and white from tied strings markings

Today’s eco-dyeing experiment has produced some unexpected and amazing  results. The addition of vinegar (acetic acid) into the water in the dye-pot has caused a chemical reaction resulting in these beautiful colors.

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.

coreopsis and wild fennel on silk

freshly harvested 2 varieties of coreopsis from the garden

freshly harvested 2 varieties of coreopsis from the garden

A quick post on last weekend bundle that I had wrapped with coreopsis and wild fennel, a harvest from the garden. I steamed the bundle in a pot with some vinegar in the water. The aroma from the simmering dyebath filled the backyard with a distinctive smell of liquorice or aniseed from the fennel.

layout of coreopsis flower and wild fennel

layout of coreopsis flower and wild fennel

fennel fronds stained a sunny yellow

fennel fronds stained a sunny yellow

bright yellow prints with deep orange from eucalyptus

bright yellow prints with deep orange from eucalyptus

coreopsis gives a hue of brownish to burgundy

coreopsis gives a hue of brownish to burgundy color

washed and pressed

ghostly prints from coreopsis

ghostly prints from coreopsis

a pretty scarf for the summer

a pretty scarf for the summer

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.

eco print with lion’s tail

 

Leonotis leonurus, commonly known as lion’s tail or wild dagga is a native plant from South Africa; and a species of the mint family. It is an evergreen shrub with aromatic leaves and bright orange flowers.

Lion’s tail is known for its medicinal and recreational properties: the foliage is used as a tea for medicinal purposes, leaves are also used as a remedy for bites and stings, and the dried leaves and flowers give an euphoria and calming effect when smoked. I have not tried it myself and neither am I advocating it!

I love this showy plant simply for its beauty as it attracts bees and hummingbirds to the garden.  I have had this hardy shrub for almost twenty years. It survived all these years with my amateur gardening skills; as it had been moved from one spot to another when we landscaped the front of our house. It is not a fussy plant and it comes back each year more vigorous than before.

This summer, they are blooming profusely. I am curious to know what color it will give me on fabric and paper. Below are details of the results…the bliss of having a garden and able to use them for eco printing!

I used the whole stalk of it and wrapped up tightly and boiled for less than an hour

fresh out from the pot–lion’s tail on silk..it is printing yellow

close up of the entire stalk, notice the green from the leaves

the green is printing well on silk

a close peek here

the striking orange flower turned into a mush of soft brownish color, and prints yellow on the fabric

pretty lion’s tail, showing off its yellow print

washed and pressed

I used cold pressed, 140 lb. water color paper for this experiment.

just out from the pot

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.

purple eco print using Agonis

Agonis flexuosa, ‘Afterdark’ from UC Botanical Gardens at Berkeley

I found this tree in the parking lot of a restaurant where we had eaten dinner. It is a small tree with dark burgundy foliage consisting of narrow, willowy leaves. I am curious to find out if the dark colored leaves prints a deep violet color.

I cut a branch home and sent a picture to the nursery to identified the name of this tree. The name of the tree is Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark’  or After Dark Peppermint Tree. This past weekend I was touring UC Botanical Garden and just happened to see one of these plants for sale and quickly bought it.

With the branch that I brought home, I made some test samples with silk and cotton and steamed it for an hour. I was delightfully surprised when I opened the bundle. Agonis print with a palate that ranges from deep purple to violet. I did a few more samples with it together with eucalyptus and some rose leaves. I love the results and happy to share.

Agonis flexuosa 'Jervis Bay Afterdark on silk

Agonis flexuosa ‘Jervis Bay Afterdark on silk

close up view

Agonis with rose leaves

Agonis with rose leaves

close up view

close up view

Agonis themed with eucalyptus

Agonis themed with eucalyptus

horizontal view of a landscape colors in deep orange and purple

horizontal view of a landscape colors in deep orange and purple

close up view

close up view

behold a pretty scarf to have

a pretty scarf in vibrant colors

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.

hello, July

eucalyptus and pine needles against hues of copper and rust and orange background

eucalyptus and pine needles with shades and splashes of copper, rust and orange background

How many of us have at least an item of clothing in our closet that has never been worn or perhaps forgotten it ever exists? I must admit, that sometimes, I have the tendency to buy something that it’s either on sale or thought it would match an outfit at home.

Then, when you I got home, I realized two things; the item didn’t match an outfit that I thought it would, and it’s a hassle to drive back to the store for an exchange. Hmm, I wonder do guys have this problem.

I have this silk blouse that was hanging in the closet, still with its price tag. The fabric is a blend of 93% silk and 7% spandex, and it has a lustrous and silky sheen to it. I don’t know this name of the color on the blouse, and thought it was rather plain-looking. So, what did I do?

Here’s a quick post to illustrate the “before and after” to my pre-loved silk blouse. I bundled the blouse with a variety of eucalyptus and pine needles, then boiled it in a dye bath with barks and leaves for about two hours. This is my solution to bringing old to new with eco printing using botanical–a sustainable and eco-friendly approach to fashion.

layout and bundling, ready for the dye pot.

L-R: leaf depict a face looking, label, and back view

closeup view of collar

closeup view of collar

closeup view of right front

closeup view of right front

closeup view of left front view

closeup view of left front view of pine needles and seeded eucalyptus

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.

rose prints on madder

Scarf, concertina fold and clamped tight with resist and clips to create an abstract designs of folds and creased lines in shades of coral, orange, and brown.

Madder root is one of the oldest dye plant cultivated and used in Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years. Cloth dyed in madder was found in ancient Egyptian mummy wrappings; in the tomb of King Tutankhamun, and was used for dyeing the clothing of Libyan women (Berber) in ancient 500 BC.

Madder or dyer’s madder is the common name for “Rubia tinctorum”, a plant grown specifically for its root. The roots contain more than 15 chemical compound–Alizarin and Purpurin, the main dyes component of madder. It produces a variety of shades in reds, pink, purple, apricots to brown, depending on the mineral content of the water; the age of the roots, temperature of the water in the pot, and the mordant and fiber being used.

Rubia tinctorum, aka common madder of dyer's madder is a plant species in the genus Rubia. It is an climbing plant with spiky leaves.

Rubia tinctorum, is a plant species in the genus Rubia. It is a creeping plant grown for its roots. The leaves are hairy and bears cluster of small yellow flowers.

madder roots

dried madder roots

Sometime last month, a friend from the art gallery brought in a bag of dried madder roots for me. I am thrilled to see if it will give me the famous “Turkey Red” color that most of my dyer’s friends are raving about.

To make the dye, I soaked the roots in water to soften it before chopping into pieces. Then the chopped roots are left to soak in a pot with water overnight. The next day, I added enough water to cover the roots, and heat the water to a slow simmer for 2 hours at 140°F (60°C), before I placed the scarf to the pot. The bundle was left in the dye bath overnight.

The next day, I took the bundle out of the dye bath to see the results. I didn’t get the red color that I was hoping to get on the scarf–what I got was shades of coral to coppery browns, on a cream background (a result from the resist).

After the scarf was rinsed and partially dried, I layout rose leaves on the scarf, bundled it up again, and steamed it for about 2 hours. I did this to test the color resistance of madder, and if there were any changes after another cooking process.

I am surprised and pleased with the results from the rose leaves prints and the dye, madder. It was wonderful learning experience for me!

rose leaves on pre-dyed scarf with madder

rose leaves on pre-dyed scarf with madder

fresh from the dye pot-deep markings from strings.

rose, rose I love you

soft greens from rose leaves on coral and cream

I love the skeletal imprints from some of the rose leaf.

rows of round markings from wood board used for wrapping; and tied marks from strings.

I love the tiny rows of round markings from the wood board used for wrapping, and the string resist showing up in flowing white lines on fabric.

 

Voila, a scarf in colors of coral, greens, browns, and soft cream.

*Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happy”.