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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indigo extraction from woad

color stained on silk fabric from woad pigment residue

woad pigment

woad pigment drying and peels off easily when dried. I love the Saxon blue color

Following last week’s post about eco printing with woad, I am back to tell you about my experiment extracting woad dye from second year growth leaves. The dye chemical extracted from woad is an indicant; a precursor to indigo. I followed the steps outlined by Teresinha Robert.
You will need the following: large stainless pot; bucket; thermometer; rubber gloves; secateurs (curved pruning shears) to harvest leaves; pH test strips; soda ash; ice cubes for cooling water; colander for straining liquid; glass jars with lids; electric hand whisk, turkey baster, non stick baking tray; a piece of Habotai silk (large enough to cover the baking tray).

DIRECTIONS: Inspired and adapted from Woad Extraction,” by Teresinha Robert.
Step 1-2: Harvest leaves closely to the base of the plant. I have harvested a 3-gallon bucket of leaves. The leaves are rinsed, and chopped into large pieces.

freshly chopped woad leaves

Step 3: Fill the pot up to two-thirds full with rainwater or distilled water. Put on stove and cook water on medium heat until temperature reaches 194°F (90°C) . Reduce heat to bring temperature down to 176°F (80°C). Remove pot from heat and add the leaves into the pot. Allow leaves to soak and steep in water for 10 minutes.

testing water temperature for best results

woad leaves steeping in water

Step 4: While leaves are steeping in the pot, fill the sink with icy cold water. Put the pot in icy water to cool the temperature. According to Jenny Balfour-Paul, the liquid must cool down quickly, in order to prevent the woad from breaking down. Keep stirring the liquid to help bring the temperature down to 131°F.
Step 5: When the liquid reaches 131°F,  place a colander or a sieve over a bucket. Pour the liquid and the cooked leaves into the colander and catch the liquid in the bucket. The soggy leaves are still quite warm to the touch, so put on rubber gloves and press hard on the leaves to extract most of the liquid. Pour the collected liquid back into the pot. The spent leaves are safe for the compost pile.

woad extraction in jars and spent leaves for compost

glass jars of woad extraction

blue residue left in bottom of pot

Step 6: Fill a glass jar with a cup of very warm water and add 3 teaspoons of soda ash. Stir well until soda ash is dissolved. When the woad extraction liquid cools to 122°F , stir in the soda ash (temperature is critical, if the liquid is to hot it can destroy the blue pigment). You will notice the liquid turns to a greenish-brown color almost immediately; at this point your pH test strip should be 9, when dipped into the liquid.

my pH range was 9-10

Step 7: The greenish-brown liquid is now ready to be aerated to precipitate the pigment. To do this, I whisked the liquid on high for about 15 minutes with an electric whisk until the froth turned blue, and then to green again. Let the liquid sit for about an hour or so, then gently spoon the froth from the top and discard. The solution in the pot is dark green in color.

greenish froth

Step 8: The liquid should be left undisturbed for a few hours, to allow the pigment out of the solution. Gently siphon (with the turkey baster) the top third of the liquid and discard. Pour the remaining liquid into glass jars. Cover the jars and place in the shade or cool place to let the sediment settle to the bottom of the glass jar (this can take 12-24 hours).

blue pigment settles at the bottom of glass jar, where I have place a white pebble for visibility

Gently siphon, or pour off the top clear layer of liquid until it is within an inch or two of the layer with sediment. Be careful not disturb the sediment layer too much. You can also use a turkey baster to siphon from the top of the jar. Do the same with the rest of the jars, then consolidate the contents from each jar into one.

siphon liquid with turkey baster

Step 9: After a few hours, you will see blue sediment settling at the bottom of the jar. Again, siphon or pour off most of the top layer of liquid away. Then fill the jar with clean water. Set the jar aside, undisturbed, to allow the sediment to settle out again. Repeat this procedure a few more times until the water above the blue sediment layer is clear enough to see.

Clear water on top of blue pigment

Step 10: Carefully, pour the rest of the clear water away, leaving the blue sediment at the bottom of the jar. Place a piece of wet silk over the non-stick baking tray. Pour the contents inside the jar on to the lined tray. Leave this out in a warm place to dry, undisturbed. After a day, the pigment dries up and you can gently scrap the blue pigment into a glass container for storage.

blue sludge spread on top of wet silk fabric to dry

dried woad pigment

I am excited and pleased with the results. The yield from this experiment was 4 grams of dry indigo powder extracted from woad. The next step is to convert the dry powder into liquid vat dye. More on that next time.

*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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eco-printing with woad plant

animated video depicting opening process

What is a woad you ask. The scientific name is Isatis tinctoria, or dyer’s woad. It is a biennial plant with low-growing clusters of leaves and yellow flowers. Bees are attracted to the fragrant flowers. The Woad plant has been cultivated throughout parts of Europe since the ancient times for its natural blue pigment for dyeing. History has it that the Celts painted and smeared the blue dye on their faces and bodies to frighten their enemies at war.

The Woad plant is grown for its natural blue color dye, which is extracted from its leaves. The leaves contain the same dye as Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), in a weaker concentration. The colorants from woad is a light and subtle shade of blue. The dye can only be extracted from the leaves during the first year of growth. In its second year the plant grows tall, flowers, seeds, and dies, but it is difficult to extract the dye.

I have a small patch in the garden where I had planted some woad last year. I was busy last summer and had forgotten to harvest the leaves for woad extraction. According to some of my dyer’s friends, the leaves yield little or no color when the plant reached its second year of growth.

woad plants in our garden

The plant in my garden now has grown tall and lanky, with flowers that are already starting to seed. Over the weekend, I harvested most of the leaves and flowers, and kept in a cool place to dry. I was curious to see if this plant would yield color or print when expose to heat.

In this post, I have bundled the woad with a piece of stretchy Lycra fabric and boiled it in a pot of simmering water. When the bundle had cooled down, I unwrapped and removed the soggy plant materials carefully. I was astounded to see a beautiful variety of colors had been transferred to the material. The results were surprising gratifying. It reminds me of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, curiosity is lying in wait for every secret. I now have another plant to add to my eco-dye repertoire.

Below are detail images from this experiment. It prints beautifully and the colors retains its original hue after washing.

woad leaf

strong print of light to deep green from woad leaf

revealing the entire woad plant

pinkish brown, almost mauve from stalks, and greens from stem and leaf

the prints from flowers resembles clusters of dainty mauve beads surrounded by small green leaves

beautiful colors and strong prints from flowers and stem

entire piece displaying mirror image of prints on either side of fabric

close up view of left side of print image

close up view of right side of print image

spent woad and flowers, ready for the compost

*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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natural dyeing, honeysuckle

yellow and pink honey suckle flower

Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica is an evergreen, and a fast growing climbing vine with fragrant trumpet-like flowers. Humming birds and butterflies are attracted to its sweetly scented creamy yellow and purple-tinged flowers. The dried flowers ( jīn yín huā, literally “gold silver flower in Chinese) are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat certain ailments.

Here is a glimpse of “before and after” from today’s post. The leaf stained green, perhaps due to tannin; the flowers stained yellow, and light to dark chocolate from the stems. I am surprised and happy with the results. I am thrilled to share.

layout on a piece of merino silk fabric for this experiment.

the greens are the outcome of tannin from leaf, and flowers a faint to light yellow

hues of green and yellow from leaf and flowers; browns from stems.

hues of green and yellow from leaf and flowers; browns from stems.

*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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