indigo tote bags

I had a few days off from work this week. This gave me the opportunity to catch up on my list of “PHD” sewing and dyeing projects. By the way, the acronym for P.H.D, is piled high and deep. I made these tote bags using Shibori folded, stitched and clamped-resist techniques and then dyed them in indigo dye vat.

Indigo dyed denim tote bags made with Nui and Itajime Shibori techniques.

Nui or stitched Shibori technique

another stitched Shibori technique in angular designs

Itajime Shibori, a clamp-resist fold technique

another clamp-resist fold technique

when removed from the dye vat, the air oxidizes the indigo from green to blue

the magic of indigo

*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 happier, sew happiest.”

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wabi sabi, wasabi

contact prints from wasabi leaf on silk twill fabric

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese term to define the simplest art of finding beauty and grace in the nature of imperfection; and acceptance of the cycle of life and death. It has nothing to do with Wasabi, but I like the ring to it.
A few weeks ago, I made a promise with the owner of our favorite Japanese restaurant to trade a Wasabi plant for a Myoga ginger (Zingiber Mioga) plant that he has growing in his garden. Myoga ginger plant is grown for its young and tender flower buds, and is eaten as a garnish with sushi. Just like Wasabi, it is another ingredient that are quintessential to Japanese cuisine. With some luck, I found a farm up in Oregon that grows and ships Wasabi plants. I bought two from them–one for myself and the other for the Japanese owner. I was so excited when I received the package, and I planted it in a shady spot. I hope it will do well in our garden.
Wasabi (Wasabia japonica) is a herbaceous perennial that is native to Japan’s northern islands, for its cool mountain streams and shaded woodlands. Wasabi belongs to the family Brassicaceae, which includes broccoli and cabbage. It has antibacterial compounds that make it an idea condiment for Japanese cuisine. The tuberous rhizome is grated to make a green aromatic paste that has a distinct and earthy flavor and without a lingering, and burning aftertaste like the artificial Wasabi that makes your nose flare up like fire. The Wasabi that you find in most Japanese establishment and grocery stores are made with a concoction of horseradish, coloring, and other preservatives. The wonderful thing about the Wasabi plant is that all parts of the plant (rhizomes, leaf, stem, and flowers) are edible.

fresh heart-shaped wasabi leaves

With all the characteristics about this plant, I was interested to find out if the plant is a good source for contact printing. I’d tried a few experiments with the heart-shaped leaf by steaming it on watercolor paper; bundled the leaf in a silk fabric and boiled in water with iron solution. I was happy with the results and the photos below, document the process. I am glad to share the results.

fresh out of the pot

mirrored image of the leaf

closer look

peeling off soggy and wet leaf

unbelievable result…I jump with joy

faint outline and print on watercolor paper

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colors from rosella

Clockwise: merino silk; wool yarn; silk. These samples were simply soaked in the dye solution.

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) is commonly known as wild hibiscus. It is a tropical plant with yellow flowers. I remember in my childhood days, my mother used to make a syrupy drink from the dried fruits, and she told me it was Ribena. Rosella and Ribena are similar in color and taste, but they are two different fruits. The true Ribena syrup is imported from the U.K, and is made from black currant which is rich in vitamin C. It is a sweet and slightly tart drink and it’s great to quench your thirst on a warm day. It was a treat when my mother served us a Ribena drink.

Earlier this year, I was on vacation for a month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While I was there, I never missed my daily routine to the local wet market for breakfast. I love to visit the different food stalls  stocked with an array of fresh and colorful produce for sale. What I love most was the interaction with the local farmers, and bargaining with the vendors. It makes me feel so much at home.

One day, while I was eating breakfast at a noodle stall, I heard someone calling out “Ribena for sale.” I was puzzled when I heard the familiar word. I hurried and finished my noodle; got up and walked in the direction of the voice. There in the corner near the butcher stall, was an older woman selling dried Rosella. What a lovely coincidence–I walked over to her and bought all of it. She was taken aback and asked me in Chinese, “Why I want so much?”, I told her that I want to make a drink with it. She gave me a wide and toothless smile. I still remember the look on her face, it gave me such joy knowing I had bought all she had and she could go home early. She probably struggles each day to make a living selling a few herbs from her garden. 

In this post, I am doing two experiments: 1) Can I extract a useable dye from the dried calyx of the rosella plant. 2) Does different mordant solutions impact the resulting final color.

I started by steeping a handful of dried rosella, some wool fabric, yarn and silk fabric in a mason jar filled with water (see my earlier post on solar dyes plain and simple ). The next day the water had turned to a deep burgundy red color. I removed the wool and silk samples from the jar and they had all turned a deep crimson to burgundy red color. My first experiment showed that I could extract a useable dye from the dried rosella.

Wikipedia’s photo of rosella hibiscus

Rosella soaked in plain water

For the second experiment, I set out four small bowls of water, I then put a different  mordant ( about a pinch or a few drops) in each of the bowls the in the following order: aluminum sulfate, sodium bicarbonate, ferrous sulfate (iron), and vinegar. Then I dipped a strip of pH test paper into each of the bowls filled with the mordant solution. The results below show the pH measurement for each of the solution: pH 4 for alum; pH 7 for baking soda; pH 4 for iron; and pH 2 for vinegar.

L-R: bowls with dissolved mordants and pH strips (ph 4, pH 7 pH,4, pH2)

Next, I place my samples of pre-dyed silk fabric into each bowl of solution.

silk twill samples ready to be dipped in the solution

Here is the fun part and the pictures below are evidence that the resulting dye color is quite dependent on the type of mordant that was used. Using the pH paper allows me to estimate whether I have made too strong or weak of a solution. The silk samples shifted from red, to shades and hues of violet, teal blue and purple to crimson colors when reacted with the different mordant in the water. I am excited with the results and happy to share. Next, I am interested to know if rosella will be a good plant material for contact printing… more next post.

shifting of colors from mordants in solution

violet to purple and teal blue

purples and crimson red

pretty colors in a row

a nosegay for me

a posy for you

*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 happiest.”

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solar dyeing, plain and simple

my collection of jars with botanical

my collection of jars with botanicals

I have accumulated a small collection of jars and bottles in different sizes and shapes over the years. My favorite is Mason jars and plastic peanut butter containers. These containers will be put into good use this summer. The weather in California is pushing temperature of mid 80-100 degrees in some inland areas. This is excellent for using the power and energy of the sunlight as the heat source to set dyes from plant pigment onto fiber and fabric, derived from plant materials. It is an economical method of natural dyeing using plants and flowers from our garden.
After a morning’s work of pruning, I have an assortment of plant materials to fill up the containers. Inside each container, I put in a small piece of fabric and some wool yarn, plant materials, and water. After labeling each jar of its contents, I placed the jars inside a rusty old wheel barrow and set it out in the sun. The heat and energy from the sun would radiate and heats up the metal to warm up the jars. It also allows me to move the jars to where they can get the most sunlight. I will leave them outside in the sunlight for several weeks in the garden. In the interim, I will continue to add more to this collection, until I run out of jars or random ideas of plant to use. For the meantime, I will wait to see the results when I open the jars in a month or so. Check back soon, and have a cool and pleasant summer.

labeled and good to go

wheel barrow in good use

*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 happiest.”

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dyeing with bleach

spirals pale orange and black design

Here’s another one of my dabblings– transforming an old garment using bleach, a simple household item to create an interesting surface design of fabric. So, why black? Though black is the absence of all colors, as a pigment it is often created using dark pigments in high enough concentrations so as to create the appearance of black. By breaking down the dye pigments by various amounts, the bleach will create many different tonalities in the fabric.  Depending on the dye pigments used, the chemical reaction of the bleach with the pigment can result in a color different than the original pigment. In this particular case the resulting hue was in the reddish-orange-yellow part of the spectrum. Another black dye might result in a blue or greenish hue. It is not obvious what you might get until you’ve actually done the bleaching.

Steps to follow: I prepared a mild solution of 1 part of bleach to 4 parts of water in a plastic bucket. Next, the garment were folded using the Shibori technique and bundled with strings to create an abstract design. Then the bundle was dipped into the bleach solution. There is no rule as to how long to leave the garment in the bleach solution. I checked mine after 15 minutes to see if it is less black or until most of the black has been discharged. When I am satisfied with the results, I removed the bundle and rinsed in water and then again into a solution or vinegar and water to neutralized the process, and to halt the bleaching. Note: do not get bleach into your eyes or clothing. Wear rubber gloves, eye protection and old clothes!

front view of t-back tee shirt

back view

*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 happier, sew happiest.”

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hybrid eco printing

this mixed media portray vibrant orange background, white and colored prints from leaves

Eco printing or contact marking is the process of developing a print on cloth and other surfaces by using pigments derived from plants, roots, minerals and other natural materials. In this twist of printing, synthetically dyed fabric was layered with plant materials and another piece of fabric. When exposed to steam, the synthetic dye colorant was transferred to the other fabric, with the plant materials acting as a resist, and in some cases, providing its own colorant. The background and surrounding areas get their vibrant color from the synthetic dye, which creates a print with exceptional depth. This work was inspired by three of my FB friends: Olga Kazanskaya, Dina Ronina, and Alena Larson for sharing their knowledge and technique. Thank you.

peeling off wet and soggy fig leaf

peek-a-boo, here the leaf is a resist to the synthetic dye

an arrangement of eucalyptus leaves

strong color and prints from eucalyptus

sweet gum leaf

distinctive print from sweet gum leaf, the white lines are from twigs and tied markings

an interesting print from sweet gum leaf

a random arrangement of fig, sweet gum, twigs, and other flowering plants

*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 happier, sew happiest.”

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eco dyed and stitched

sunny, breezy and luxurious silk top with elastic neckline

I made this sleeveless dress top for myself over the weekend. It is a simple design with an elastic neckline. The fabric is silk twill, a light weight material with a smooth and silky surface. The fabric was first eco-printed with Dyer’s chamomile flowers from our garden; then it was cut and sewn together into this breezy top. It is light and cooling–just perfect for the heat of summer. It is the latest addition to my stash of sustainable clothing (aka eco fashion) that I have been accumulating since I’d started this blog.

buttercup yellow flower prints on silk twill

a wee close-up of a single flower bud and leaf print

the underside of the flower with its dome shaped center

*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, sew happier, dye happiest.”

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imprinting with daisies

freshly harvested Dyer’s Chamomile from our garden

Dyer’s Chamomile, is a flowering plant that belongs to the family of Asteracea. It is a bushy plant that produce pretty yellow daisy-like flowers. The common name for Dyer’s Chamomile are Golden Marguerite, Sweet Marguerite, Yellow Chamomile, or Ox-Eye Chamomile. The Latin name for Dyer’s Chamomile is Cota tinctoria or Anthemis Tinctoria. The word, “Tinctoria” is to impart color, as in dyeing, or staining.
If you are looking for a particular plant for dyeing, keep a look out for plants that has names that end with the word, Tinctoria. These plants generally yield colors, and are good for dyeing.
In this post, I picked some from our garden, and dipped the flowers in an alum mordant before I bundled them with different types of fabrics. Then the bundles were steamed for two hours. When I opened the bundles the following day–I was dazzled by the bright and sunny yellow color imprints from the flowers. It reminds me of lemon drops! I am pleased with the results and happy to share.

the underside of the flower with its dome shaped center

1st sample using organic cotton fabric

rolling, rolling

rolling over and over

warm yellow–the color of sunrise

daisies prints in a row

2nd sample using merino silk fabric

wet soggy daisy petals in deep yellowish orange

peeling to reveal it’s beauty

deep and warmer colors prints on merino silk

3rd sample using silk fabric

sunny yellow stains and prints

samples on display rack

L to R: silk, cotton, merino silk samples

*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 happiest.”

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serendipity

There comes a time when I just like to shoot pictures rather than write about what I do, and then just post those pictures on the blog. Something like a wordless or perhaps a photo post. Besides, don’t they say a picture is worth a thousand words? This post is definitely that…I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

ornamental pear leaf on viscose jersey fabric

distinct leaf and eucalyptus seed prints on viscose jersey fabric

eucalyptus seed pods, against purple from logwood dye background

contact prints from eucalyptus seed pods

purples from logwood dye, and pink to crimson red from lac extract

deep to dark purples and pinks on rust printed background–a result from rusty can

Here’s an accidental spill from a small amount of lac extract on the fabric. I discovered that this colorant is quite similar to cochineal bugs and the price is affordable. What a delightful and pleasant discovery, quite by accident.

Lac extract is a red dye extracted from laccifer lacca, a scaled insect, quite similar to cochineal as it yields crimson to red to dark burgundy.

*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 happiest.”

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bounty from the garden

Another loose-fitting garment made with bounty from the garden

Thanks to the lovely spring weather, the flowers are blooming in our garden. I am happy that the glorious season of sunshine is upon us. We’ve been in drought conditions for the past few years, so despite all the sunshine, I hope we get a little more rain to tide us over. I’ve already set out old pots and buckets in the backyard to collect some rain water–I am keeping my fingers crossed :)
Like most weekends, I spend the early part of the day puttering around in the garden weeding, pruning, and setting snail traps in the vegetable beds. By the end of the day, I had a pile of plant trimmings for the compost and natural dyeing. This post shows how I’ve made good use of the plant trimmings from the garden.
I bundled a piece of fabric with a selection of wilted flowers, leaves, berries, some madder roots, and black tea. I steamed the bundle in an old pot filled with more plant trimmings and some old cedar clippings.
At the end of the day, the aroma of cedar mingling with botanical trimmings steaming from the pot was exhilarating. Usually I would leave the bundle to sit overnight in the pot, before I open it the following day, but the temptation to open the bundle was too much to resist.

oakleaf hydrangeas, and brownish dots from black tea

close-up of oakleaf hydrangea and spots of tea prints

reddish-orange from madder root

more red color after fabric was rinsed and dry

rose leaf, a sprinkling of tea, and berries

golds, bronze–almost perfect for autumn

a single castor bean leaf

peeling off soggy castor bean leaf

A mélange of botanical creating a combination of colors in browns, purples, greens, and golds

After the printed fabric was rinsed and dried, the fabric was then cut and sewn into a loose-fitting garment to add to my wardrobe. This was a fun and gratifying project to do, when I have all the necessities in my own back yard. I am truly blessed, now let’s pray it rains.

*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 happier, sew happiest.”

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