leaf markings, exbucklandia populnea

simple leaf blade, venation is palmate with pink, orange, browns-an Autumn palette

Being a member of the UC Botanical Gardens has it perks–I get to see and learn about the rare and unusual plants from different parts of the world; walk through different sections of the garden’s landscape; take endless pictures and jotting down notes of plant and its origin. Sometimes, if I am lucky the volunteers allow me to pick plants and leaves that they have removed from the garden beds.

An interesting specimen, I’d like to share is the leaf prints made from the leaves of this large and evergreen tree. Exbucklandia populnea, a plant member of the Hamamelidaceae (witch hazel) family, and is native to Bhutan, and Southeastern China, and Laos. The tree is famous for its valuable lumber and its heart-shaped, thick leathery, and glossy foliage. Without further ado, below are results from this wonderful leaf.

leaf the size of my hand

wet leaves on a piece of silk

after steaming for an hour in rain water collected from last year’s rain

it is always a pleasure unwrapping eco bundles!

silk fabric stained in colors of burnt umber to mahogany

the leathery leaf is still good for another experiment

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

freshly dyed, eco markings

A quick post before we drive to Monterey, on the pacific coast for the weekend.

prints from seeded Eucalyptus polyanthemus

Eucalyptus polyanthemos, or silver dollar gum

I found this weed growing in our backyard, creeping on my citrus and tomato plants. It has small white trumpet flowers growing on thin stems. I checked my garden books, and found the name of it. Field bindweed or convolvulus arvensis is a species in the morning glory family. An idea come to mind, what if it prints? The pictures below are results from this experiment.

bindweed with white trumpet flowers creeping on dried grass

into the dye pot it went!

L-R: sample results from silk and wool

And finally, here’s an eco teaser for next time….have a lovely summer.

Exbucklandia leaf print

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

sun kissed dyeing with amaranth


A weekend harvest from the few rows of amaranth gave me lots of seeds and flowers for this project. Amaranthus, or Amaranth comes from the Greek word which means non-fading, as its flowers heads last a long time. It is grown for its grain, vegetable and for dyeing. The seeds are eaten like grains, as they are nutritious, and the leaves are edible.

Amaranth is a tall and showy plant with it densely packed clusters of red flaming flowers; it attracts birds and bees to the garden. Once you planted this in your garden, you will be sure to have it popping up each year, as it reseeds itself.

flaming clusters of red flowers ready for harvest

black seeds from the flowers

filled jar with alum and flowers–vibrant red color

just after a day in the summer heat, a delightful crimson red color.

It’s been a week since the jar was left outside in the sun and thought today would be a good day to open it. Here are the results, and I am jolly happy!

fushcia pink color after a week’s in the sun

L-R: purplish pink on muslin, and light fuschia on silk

two fabrics displayed in a rosette (middle piece is silk, and outer piece is muslin

*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 happily.”

opening a gift from the sun

a rosette display of solar dyed fabrics with coreopsis dyebath

Following up last month’s post on solar dyeing, I left a few glass jars filled with coreopsis and eucalyptus in the sun. Today, I went to open the jars and found the bundles all mushy and smell funny. I think it is because I left it out too long in the sunlight. Anyway, it was fun to see what’s in store for me.

solar dyed shibori bundles in coreopsis dyebath

unwrapped bundles, dark and light colors

eucalyptus in rusty objects and vinegar dyebath

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

natural dyeing, cotton and linen

A good friend asked me if I have had good experience with natural dyeing with cotton fabric. I told her that I had some bad ones and a few fair to good results. Unlike silk, wool, mohair, and alpaca which are classified as protein fiber–cotton, linen, or viscose are cellulose fiber, they require extra preparation and usually don’t print as well with natural dyes. In order for it to uptake the natural dyes, the fiber has to be pre-mordant with one or more of the following chemicals: tannin, alum, soy milk, milk, and sea water.

To make the dye fix to the cellulose fiber, it is usually treated with a “mordant“. This is a chemical process which affixes itself to the fiber and in turn, the dye sticks to the chemical. The common method that most dyers use to mordant cotton and linen is “alum-tannin-alum”, which is a three-step process. I’ve tried this method before and found it was time-consuming; as the fabric needs to be aired dried between each step. See below for picture of the result from this process.

this piece was mordant using the 3-steps process. The fabric was folded in half to create a mirrored image of eucalyptus on cotton, the stain at the bottom was a result from a piece of untreated wood used for bundling the fabric

close up on the outline of eucalyptus

I thought there has to be another method, thus I was determined to find another easier and simpler process. I remembered an article I read about soymilk, and how one dyer in Japan used it to mordant cotton and linen. So, I’ve decided to give it a tryout last weekend with unsweetened soy milk from the grocery. I pre-scoured my cellulose fabric with washing soda to remove any chemicals, rinsed and then soaked it in the soymilk overnight. The following day, I simply wrung out the soy milk, and dried the fabric in the summer heat. Finally, I soaked the dried fabric in a solution of alum and rain water for a couple of hours; wrung it out and then layered plant materials on the pre-mordant fabric. When I am happy with the layout, I bundled it up tightly and boil in a simmering onion dye bath.

vintage linen mordant with soy milk and alum

closeup of eucalyptus prints--thrilled with the results

close-up of eucalyptus prints–thrilled with the results, notice the skeletal leaf on the right–a result of decay

I love the earthy hues of browns, bronze and hint of greens

cotton mordant with soy milk, alum, and salt water, and bundled with copper pipe

cotton mordant with soy milk, alum, salt water, and bundled with copper pipe

yellowish and skeletal prints from eucalyptus, a result from aged and decaying matter on leaves

cotton with eucalyptus cinerea, staghorn sumac and privet berries

prints from staghorn sumac leaf

deep prints from sumac, a result of the leaf that yield tannin, and yellowish to orange prints from eucalyptus cinerea

Save the best for last……

triangular-folded piece of cotton with plant materials in between layers, and bundled with iron pipe

peeling each layer to reveal nature secret of colors–my favorite moment

golden yellow to sage green from lime and orange leaves

spotted with yellowish prints from unknown eucalyptus, a result from alum

more gorgeous colors and prints in here-love the vibrant yellows, oranges and spots of sage green

peek-a-boo

I see you gorgeous!

a cornucopia of 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 happily.”

save those onion skins

The weather this past week has been unbearably hot. I can barely stand to go out in the garden it is so hot. Even our chickens were taking shelter under the pomegranate tree to keep cool. I wish it would cool off soon, as there is much to do before summer ends.

To avoid the worst heat of the day, I have been starting early in the morning. These are pictures of the two scarves, I made this morning, working quickly, I laid out the pattern, wrapped them and was boiling away before 8 and was out of the pot before 10. These prints were done using onion skins, it is a versatile dyeing material. Onion skins is called a substantive dye or direct dye source that does not require a mordant, to fix the dye to the fibers of the cloth. It works well with silk, wool, cotton, almost any fiber, cellulose or protein based.

Shibori or tie-dyed using rusty can lids and bundled with red and yellow onion skins. This piece is on posted on my store on Etsy.

this one was bundled tightly with rusty can rolled up with more onion skins and some eucalyptus

rust and onion skins give sage green and lines from can is visible in shades of grey, creating an abstract design

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

deep blue almost violet, my indigo heaven

coppery brown to burnt umber from eucalyptus prints and deep blue from indigo

This post was inspired by Pia Best, an online friend with whom I share my interest in eco printing and dyeing. Her indigo dyeing with eucalyptus and indigo is exquisite and stunning. I hope to meet her someday in person to learn her techniques.

I made this in viscose jersey (a tight weave fabric), with eucalyptus leaves bundled with a rusty pipe and steamed it for about an hour. Then, the bundle was removed from the pot; let to cooled and then dipped into the indigo dye. Here is the fun part that I love the most–as if by magic, when the bundle was removed from the dye vat, it changes color, from yellowish-green to blue after it had been oxidized in the air. I am happy with the result, and happy to share.

more

closer look–my indigo heaven!

love it

spots of brown are results from decayed and fallen eucalyptus leaves. I love the contrast of blues and browns

dark

deep indigo here

blue with tied strings markings

and here–with white markings from tied strings.

*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.”