eco staining with muscari

stains of blue and green from freshly picked muscari

stains of blue and green from freshly picked muscari

Hello, I am back from a month-long vacation visiting my families in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was great to see them doing well and spending time together was just wonderful. I had my fair share of “pigging out” on the local fare, shopping and sight seeing in Kuala Lumpur.

It’s always overwhelming when you come back from a long vacation, and have to synchronize with the time changes and return to the routine of your daily life. In any case, I am glad to be home safe.

Upon arrival home, I was happy to see that some of my bulbs had started to bloom in the garden bed. The rows of Muscari armeniacum, or grape hyacinths that I planted last fall have already bloomed with spikes of violet-blue flowers, which resembles bunches of grapes–they are a pretty sight to see.

Muscari armeniacum, commonly known as grape hyacinth, is an early spring perennial

Muscari armeniacum, commonly known as grape hyacinth, is an early spring perennial

tulip in the prettiest pink this spring

tulip in the prettiest pink this spring

For this post, instead of bundling the flower and steaming it-I’ve decided to use a wooden rolling pin to get the color compression of the flower. With a handful of freshly picked muscari and a piece of old table linen, I am ready for this fun experiment.

a handful of muscari for this experiment

a handful of muscari for this experiment

ready to roll

ready to roll

colors are showing even after a gentle compression

colors are showing even after a gentle compression

I am happy with the results from this test. I am wondering if it will eco print for me? More on my next post.

*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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blue, violet, and green

The butterfly pea flower or Bunga Telang (Malay) is a fast growing creeper plant that is widely grown in tropical countries, such as Malaysia and other parts of Asia. The scientific name for it is clitoria ternatea, as the shape of the flower resembles part of a female genital. The plant is a perennial and bears a striking deep blue flower year-round.

freshly picked flowers from my recent trip to Malaysia

freshly picked flowers from my recent trip to Malaysia

dried pea flowers

dried pea flowers

The pea flower is commonly used as a natural blue food dye in Peranakan or Nyonya cuisine, and also to make a delicious blue tea. The blue color can be obtained using both freshly picked or dried flowers. Some popular Nyonya rice and snack dishes that uses this flower as a coloring agent are pulit inti, and bah zhang (click on link to recipe on my cooking blog). Pulut inti is a Malaysian snack made with glutinous rice and topped with coconut, while the latter is a sticky rice dumpling with a sweet and savory filling.

Nyonya bah zhang, a savory glutinous rice dumpling. The rice was pre-soaked in the blue dye before cooking

Nyonya bah zhang, a savory glutinous rice dumpling. The rice was pre-soaked in the blue dye before cooking

On my recent trip to Malaysia, I brought home some dried flowers and seeds to  try to grow in our garden. Alas, only one plant survived and grew into a thin and leggy vine, bearing tiny blue flowers. Nevertheless, I was glad to see them popping up in the garden.

An interesting observation that I’ve made with tea from pea flower is the blue changed to violet when I’ve added an acid such as lemon juice to the tea. This tells me that it is sensitive to ph.  This really piques my interest, and I wondered how it would react to fabric?

In this post, I had fabric samples dipped into the blue dye to get different results. In another test, I pre-dyed a fabric swatch in yellow with turmeric and then into the blue dye. The color changed to apple green. For violet, vinegar was added to the blue dye. Below are results from these simple experiments.

blue color from steeping dried flowers in boiling water

instant results of blue on a strip of wool fabric

instant results of blue on a strip of wool fabric

wool fabric: medium blue, without mordant

wool/silk: from blue to violet, a result from a shift of pH in the blue dye

silk fabric: pre-dyed in turmeric and then into blue dye

apple green from yellow and blue dye

blue, violet, and greens

shades of blue in shibori (resist-dyeing) on silk fabric

*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, pecan

This will be my first post for year 2015. Wishing all my readers a peaceful and joyous New Year!

Over the Christmas holidays, I found a pecan tree on my walk home from the library. It was quite by accident actually, as the normal path that I normally took was blocked for road work. The owner of the house was cleaning in the front, and I ask if I could have some of the pecan leaves. He told me to take whatever I could carry. The tree was bare with a few brown leaves on naked branches. I managed to salvaged a few green ones on the ground. As I was walking away, the owner of the house called me back, and gave me a bag of roasted pecan. I was overwhelmed by his incredibly generous gesture. A blessed day indeed!

In this post, I cut up two pieces of raw silk fabrics, and I eco-printed one piece with the freshly picked pecan leaves. The leaves were lightly dipped in iron mordant before I arranged them on the fabric. Then the bundle was rolled up tightly, and boiled in simmering water. The second piece was Shibori tied dyed with walnut hull and husks dye bath to complement the first piece that was dyed with pecan leaves. After the pieces were rinsed and dried, both pieces were sewn together to make this lovely table runner.

freshly dyed raw silk with pecan. I adore the shape and color of the leaves

freshly dyed raw silk with pecan. I adore the shape and color of the leaves

color hues in greens, yellows and browns

color hues in greens, yellows and browns

I love the way that the iron mordant edges and accentuates the stem and around the pecan leaves.

I love the way that the iron mordant edges and accentuates the stem and around the pecan leaves.

shibori dyed in walnut on the back side of the table runner.

shibori dyed in walnut on the back side of the table runner.

a half bitten pecan nut by the squirrel.

a half bitten pecan nut by the squirrel.

A song from Abba

*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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starburst, onion skin shibori

starbursts in a spiraling pattern

starburst in a spiraling pattern

The onion is highly nutritious as it is rich in vitamins, fiber, and minerals. An old remedy that I’d heard was to place half an onion next to the bedside table of someone who is sick to keep the germs away. There is no truth or scientific basis for this telltale story. I think it’s quite harmless in this sort of practice. Sometimes, I would leave my left over onions in the refrigerator to absorb stale odors.

Before you decide to toss those dry papery outer shells from a peeled onion, take this into consideration. Although the skins are not edible, the skins and external layers in onions have substances that are beneficial to one’s health. The onion skin contains Quercetin, a substance that has anti-inflammatory effects and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce blood pressure.

The dry onion skins also play an important role in my artwork. I collect them whenever I shop for groceries in the supermarkets. Thanks to my friends, I have an overwhelming supply of onion skins. I used onion skins for eco-printing and dyeing color on fabrics. Depending on the type and amount of skins used in the brew, you’ll get warm tones of colors from golden-yellow to a rich reddish-brown. 

Today’s post is a raw silk table linen printed with onion skins, eucalyptus leaves, and rusty objects. The fabric was bundled using my modified version of a Shibori folding technique by twisting and tying knots to create spiral pattern. It was then boiled in a pot of water with onion skins, and eucalyptus barks.

bursting ring of starburst in shades of dark grey and brown, surrounded with hues of yellowish and orange from onion skins and eucalytpus

bursting ring of starburst in shades of dark grey and brown, surrounded with hues of yellowish and orange from onion skins and eucalytpus

love the shades of yellows and orange, and ring of white around the dark ring starburst

love the shades of yellows and orange, and ring of white around the dark ring starburst

colors from red, yellow and white onion skins, the  random vertical lines are rendered from folds and creases from bundling.

colors from red, yellow and white onion skins, the random vertical lines are rendered from folds and creases from bundling.

white lines are prints from tied markings of strings

white lines are prints from tied markings of 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 happier, sew happiest.”

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twelve shades of colors

countdown to Christmas

countdown to Christmas

A compilation of past and recent posts in different shades and colors as a countdown to Christmas day. Each picture is linked to its original post on this blog (mouse over and click). Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I love putting them together for this festive season.

DAY ONE: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

close-up of 3-D needle felted bird

close-up of 3-D needle felted bird

DAY ONE: 2 Turtle Doves

L-R: 2 weeks old cochins and leghorn chicks

DAY THREE: 3 French Hens

naturally dyed eggs with flowers and leaves

naturally dyed eggs with flowers and leaves

DAY FOUR: 4 Calling Birds

sushi anyone?

DAY FIVE: 5 Golden Rings

yellow from eucalyptus on pre-mordant cotton

yellow from eucalyptus on pre-mordant cotton

DAY SIX: 6 Geese a Laying

deep rose color from just a dip in dyebath. This is the background that will be applied to a shibori technique

deep rose color from just a dip in dyebath. This is the background that will be applied to a shibori technique

DAY SEVEN: 7 Swans a Swimming

deep fushcia pink

deep fushcia pink

DAY EIGHT: 8 Maids a Milking

yellow from annato spice

DAY NINE: 9 Ladies Dancing

this is my favorite piece

this is my favorite piece

DAY TEN: 10 Lords a Leaping

cochineal….a bug that gives color.

DAY ELEVEN: 11 Pipers Piping

madder roots

madder roots

DAY TWELVE: 12 Drummers Drumming

blue grey background was the results of color shifting from vinegar in cochineal/madder. The design and color depicts variation and amorphorus of forms that swirls freely on the fabric, giving it a feel and sense of fluidity.

And finally, a warm wish for a bright and magical holiday season. Merry Christmas and

vibrant reddish orange from eucalyptus

…and a peaceful New Year!

Agonis theme with 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, felt happier, dye happiest.”

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holiday show

table linens, silk scarves, greeting cards, 3-D felt artwork on display

table linens, silk scarves, greeting cards, 3-D felt artwork on display

Last weekend, I had a booth at Mistletoe Madness, a craft show in San Leandro. It was a small event with over 60 vendors held inside a local community hall. It was a busy weekend with lots of questions about the magical process of natural dyeing/eco printing. Sales were good, and I am thrilled with the compliments and positive feedback from my artwork. I am truly inspired!

*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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natural dyeing, eucalyptus sideroxylon

clusters of deep pink flowers--striking

clusters of deep pink flowers–striking

Last week, I discovered a medium sized eucalyptus tree at the corner of the parking lot of a nearby shopping center. I walked closer to have a good look. To my surprise, it is a Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon), a species that is quite rare in this area. It is a beautiful tree with deep ridged trunks; long blade-like leaves and clusters of distinctive reddish-pink flowers with fluffy and showy stamens.

This tree was blooming with deep pink flowers, its branches drooping from the weight, so much so, the tips of the branches swept the ground. Bees, attracted by the scent and brilliant color of the flowers were hovering busily about the tree. As I watched the bees travel from flower to flower, I noticed that some of them were even attracted to the freshly fallen petals that laid upon the ground like some colorful carpet. Bees and eucalyptus–I am curious to know what the honey taste like.

freshly harvested  eucalyptus sideroxylon

freshly harvested eucalyptus sideroxylon

Following are leaf prints made on a raw silk table runner. The heart shaped prints are eucalyptus cinerea. I love the vibrant colors!

full length view--a display of Iron redbark and cinerea

full length view–a display of Iron redbark and cinerea

close up view of leaves and stem

close up view of leaves and stems

strong prints and color from the flower

strong prints and color from the flower

seed and leaf prints...stunning!

seed and leaf prints…stunning!

captivating!

captivating!

heart shaped prints from eucalyptus cinerea

heart shaped prints from eucalyptus cinerea

*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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staying warm and cozy

Following up from my last post on shawl wraps I’ve made for the cold weather, here are two more. The first one is made with a combination of eucalyptus, California pepper tree, and casuarina pine needles.

L-R: California pepper tree, eucalyptus cinerea, casuarina pines, and eucalyptus polyanthemos

L-R: California pepper tree, eucalyptus cinerea, casuarina pines, and eucalyptus polyanthemos

In this close up you can see the details that each of the leaves creates. The eucalyptus leaves dominates that pattern, the more numerous brownish green leaves are from young, recently harvested eucalyptus, whereas the larger, bright reddish orange color is achieved by using older and dried eucalyptus leaf. The casuarina pine needles create the “connect-the-dots” pattern that you see gently curving up from the bottom left to upper right side of this picture. Finally, the California pepper tree leaves create the spotted grey pattern you see on the right. You can see another example of the California pepper tree leaf here.

Close up view of #3, Aurelia (Latin name for golden, and the colors of fall)

display of prints made with 2 types of eucalyptus

close-up view of leaves arrangement depicts shape of an oval face

closer view of eucalyptus and casuarine pine prints

vibrant fan-shaped eucalyptus leaf

full length view of shawl wrap

This second piece is made with casuarina pine needles and eucalyptus.

L-R: casuarina pines, eucalyptus polyanthemos

L-R: casuarina pines, eucalyptus polyanthemos

Close up view of #4, Aspen (Aspens are poplar trees with dazzling fall foliage in shades of yellow and gold)

casuarina pines with eucalyptus

side view of shawl wrap

center view of shawl wrap, with striking red from eucalyptus cinerea

center view of shawl wrap, with striking red from eucalyptus cinerea

full length view of shawl wrap

side view of shawl wrap

*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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November highlights

The month of November is when the cold winds begin to blow and marks the beginning of winter. It is also a month where we celebrate “Thanksgiving”, a national holiday in the U.S. It is a holiday of giving thanks and celebration with family and friends. The holiday also reminds me of pumpkin, apple pies, and piping hot cider to keep the chill away.

This post highlights several shawl wraps that I have eco-dyed with the following botanical: eucalyptus polyanthemos, eucalyptus cinerea, and casuarina pine needles on wool. These shawls will keep me warm and cozy this time of the year.

L-R: casuarina pines, eucalyptus polyanthemos

L-R: casuarina pines, eucalyptus polyanthemos

Close up view of shawl wrap #1, Scarlett (printed with the above plant materials)

a spectacular display and prints from 2 variety of eucalyptus, casuarina pines on wool

a spectacular display and prints from 2 variety of eucalyptus, casuarina pines on wool

vibrant reds from eucalyptus cinerea

vibrant reds from eucalyptus cinerea

love the dark and light contrast from young and fresh eucalyptus leaves. The dark prints are from eucalyptus cinerea

love the dark and light contrast from young and fresh eucalyptus leaves. The dark prints are from eucalyptus cinerea

vibrant colors to beat the cold and grey of November

vibrant colors to beat the cold and grey of November

full length view of shawl wrap

full length view of shawl wrap

This second piece is printed with oak leaves, fir pines, and eucalyptus.

L-R: grand fir pine needles, southern live oak

L-R: grand fir pine needles, southern live oak

Close up view of shawl wrap, #2 Autumn

oak leaf, pines, and eucalyptus on wool

oak leaf, pines, and eucalyptus on wool

close view of oak leaf, love the different shades of browns

close view of oak leaf, love the different shades of browns

markings from Abies grandis (grand fir)

markings from Abies grandis (grand fir)

a single oak leaf

a single oak leaf

full length view

full length view

display of the full shawl wrap

more on next post…

*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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cat’s prowl and pumpkin gleam—trick or treat

yellowish color markings of cat cut out on banana leaf, and reddish-orange from eucalyptus (for pumpkin)

Halloween or “All Hollow’s Eve is a fun holiday celebrated on the night of October 31st. It is an evening filled with activities of dressing up in masks and costumes, houses decorated with spider webs and carved pumpkins, trick-or-treating for candies, and bonfires. The bonfire is an ancient belief of the ancient Gaels. The fire is bait for insects to attract bats to the area; the masks and costumes were worn in the attempt to appease the evil spirits.

To celebrate this holiday, I eco-printed this tee-shirt to wear for Halloween. I traced a drawing of a cat on a piece of banana leaf, and used eucalyptus leaves to depict pumpkins. Then, I bundled it up and steamed in a log wood dye bath.  Hope you have a scary and blood howling Halloween!

Prowling in the dark of night,
In the shadows, in dim light
The black cat’s hidden out of sight
But on this eco-printed Tee
A cat and pumpkin can be seen
It’s made to wear on Halloween
written by John Bower, 2014

front view of cat and pumpkin on a shadowy night

front view of cat and pumpkin on a shadowy night

back view--a generous display of eucalyptus in reddish orange and yellow

back view–a generous display of eucalyptus in reddish orange and yellow


*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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