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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natural dyeing, peony

deep violet to almost indigo blue, and yellowish stains from peony leaf on pre-mordant cotton.

deep violet to almost indigo blue, and yellowish stains from peony leaf on pre-mordant cotton.

Tree peonies or Paeonia is a flowering plant that can reach an average 4-5 feet in height. It is a woody shrub that is native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America. Peonies are an ornamental plant with large and striking flowers that comes in a variety of colors in white, red, and pink. The flowers bloom in late spring and early summer. It is a spectacular plant to have and to enjoy in the garden.

my 4-year old tree peony with big striking red flowers

my 4-year old tree peony with big striking red flowers

Below are results of eco-prints made with this plant on pre-mordant cotton. I used peony, pinweed, borage, and daisy flowers that were pre-soaked in a vinegar bath, prior to putting on the fabric. Then the bundle was steamed in water for about 2 hours in my dye pot. I usually set my bundles out to cool and aged for a couple of days. At times, I get impatience, as it’s hard not to take a peek :)

The highlight of the day was untying and peels open the folds of the cloth to see the results under the wet soggy plant materials. Today’s post was one of those moments! The results were great and unpredicted–it was truly another beautiful dyeing journey for me. The magic of eco dyeing is inspiring, and fascinating. I am enthralled by it all.

bundled peony foliage and pinweed in pre-mordant cotton

a yellowish-green from peony leaves

fresh out of the pot–peeling off soggy peony leaves

deep violet to almost indigo blue, and yellowish stains from peony leaf on pre-mordant cotton.

Here, is another experiment using the entire stalk of flower and leaves with other plant material on pre-mordant cotton.

peony with yellow daisy and borage flowers

more blues and greens

*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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repurpose clothing, grevillea robusta

a new look on my red acrylic tunic top

Grevillea robusta, also known as silky oak is an evergreen flowering tree with fern-like leaves, and striking yellow-orange comb-like flowers. Note: The flowers and fruit are poisonous and can cause skin irritation, so care and caution should be taken into consideration when handling this plant. Wear glove for protection, it is advisable to cook your bundles outdoor.

striking colors from comb-like flowers

fern-like shaped grevillea, robusta leaf

fern-like shaped grevillea, robusta leaf

I am always learning with my eco-dyeing, and fascinated with the results coming out from my dye pot. I called this my “dye pot journey”. I have had some beautiful pieces, and some bad and unexpected experiment. I never gave up, as this is all part of eco-dyeing–it is addictive! Below are results of grevillea robusta leaf prints on different types of fabric.

logwood dye and grevillea on merino silk fabric

logwood dye and grevillea on merino silk fabric

fresh out of dye pot

violet to purple and strong prints from grevillea.

prints on pre-mordant cotton

prints on 100% acrylic red tunic top.

I am fascinated that it print on acrylic–it must be the tannin from the leaf

*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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why do leaf decay?

decayed persimmon leaf on cotton. The spotted appearance is where bacterial colonies have started and they slowly grow outward creating an interesting design

Leaf decay is a complex mechanism involving bacterial, fungal and chemical processes. As the plant material is broken down, numerous intermediate chemicals are formed, some water-soluble, and some not. Organic acids and tannin also result in leaf decomposition. These new compounds are not present in the living foliage. They can stain or react with the cloth or paper fibers to create interesting, and provide a whole new palate of colors. The spotted appearance on the surface is where bacterial colonies have started and they slowly grow outward.

Acer macrophyllum, or big leaf maple, Oregon maple, or broadleaf maple is a large deciduous tree.

Acer macrophyllum, or big leaf maple on merino silk

Acer macrophyllum, or big leaf maple on merino silk

Whenever I am out gathering plant materials for eco-printing, I often look out for ones that were partially buried beneath old leaves and dirt. I’ve used them in my experiments, and was amazed with the results. I am in awe with Mother Nature–even the decayed matter of nature has a beauty and design of perfection!

It was a satisfying experience and I am happy to share them in this post.

Persimmon leaf on merino silk

Persimmon leaf on merino silk

persimmon leaf on pre-mordant cotton

wonderful texture and colors from leaf decomposition

wonderful texture and colors from leaf decomposition

another persimmon leaf print

yellowish-grey spotted leaf print

prints using decayed leaf on greeting card

prints using decayed leaf on greeting card

eucalyptus leaf on cotton

I see yellow :)

eucalyptus leaf on silk. This one was a recycled leaf from previous work. The design reminds me of hot air balloon.

the skeleton of nature at its best–this is one of favorite!

*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, stork’s-bill weed

this print was made using pre-mordant cotton bundled with pinweed seed pods and persimmon leaf on the right.

this print was made using pre-mordant cotton bundled with pinweed seed pods and persimmon leaf on the right.

Last weekend, the sun was nice and warm with a cool breeze. It was a perfect day to be outside this time of the year, weeding and cleaning up the garden. Some of our fruit trees are budding, and the chickens are busy digging grubs and insects in the dirt. It’s wonderful to hear the chickens clucking while John and I were busy working in the garden.

I found this particular weed growing in a warmer part in our backyard. I’ve seen it pop up before, and each time when I remembered to get some for my experiment, it’s either dead from the summer’s heat or eaten by our chickens.

pinweed, an herbaceous annual plant

pinweed, an herbaceous annual plant

Erodium cicutarium, also known as common stork’s-bill, or pinweed is an invasive weed. It is an interesting plant that is hairy and sticky, with pretty pink flowers and long seed pods. The seed pods are shaped like the beak of a stock; and the seed pod bursts and explode into a spiral when ripe, dispersing seeds into the air.

pretty pink flowers

pretty pink flowers

Below are the pictures using this weed for eco-printing. I am pleased with the results, and happy to share.

spiky weed on piece of silk fabric, bundled with a rusty iron can

spiky weed on piece of silk fabric, bundled with a rusty iron can

dark shadowy lines created from rust can

dark shadowy lines created from rust can

streaky rust lines and seed pods print

streaky rust lines and seed pods print

dark to umber colored and shadowy prints, a result from rust

dark to umber colored and shadowy prints, a result from rust

a fairly good print from the seed pod, and an accidental yellow from unknown plant material

a fairly good print from the seed pod, and an accidental yellow from unknown plant material

an experiment using paper

an experiment using paper

an alien looking print

an alien looking print

yellowish green dye from pinweed on cotton

yellowish green dye from pinweed on cotton

pretty colors in varies shades of browns, greens, and grey…love it

This weed now deserved a good spot in my flower bed, don’t you agree?

*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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batik painting

orchid on canvas

Last month, I took a class in batik painting at Jadi Batik Gallery, a handicraft center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The gallery is located in a busy street, where it is easily accessible to an array of fine dining and shopping for both locals and tourists. The owners at the gallery are really nice and welcoming to visitors with a cheerful smile. This is the place for parents to bring their kids to experience batik painting.

Batik is found in many parts of the countries, including Nigeria, India, China, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. The difference between Malaysian and Indonesian batik is that the former has larger designs of flowers, butterflies, and abstract designs in vibrant colors, while the latter are deep colored with smaller designs.

The instructors at Jadi Batik are mostly local Malays, who are both talented and helpful. I was given a set of brushes, paint, and a piece of canvas. I was given a stack of design templates to pick one that I like to paint. After I’d selected a design, I sat down to trace the design with a pencil on the surface of the canvas.

design outlined on canvas

Next, the instructor taught me how to use the canting, or tjanting with the hot paraffin wax to outline the design. The hot wax penetrates the fabric, thus preventing the paint or dye from spreading to the outlined areas.

it’s tricky to use this tool, and the wax is hot

brass tjanting in different tip sizes

painted flowers with white background

background color was the final step.

The final step was to fill the white areas with paint–this was the highlight of the class. After the paint had dried, the canvas was soaked in a chemical solution to fix the dye and then it was boiled to remove the wax, leaving a clear white outline along the design.

the store front has an array of cotton and silk batik for sale.

*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, muscari on cellulose fiber

Clivia Miniata, an evergreen herbaceous flowering plant native to southern Africa.

Following up on last week’s post, ‘eco stain with muscari, that focus on using a kitchen rolling-pin for color compression on a piece of fabric. I was delighted with the deep violet color from muscari by using this simple technique. This piques my interest to see if muscari will print or give color to boiling heat.

This post is an experiment using muscari or grape hyacinth, with other flowers growing in my garden. The plant materials were bundled in an old cotton sheet that were previously pre-mordant with alum and soy milk; and then put to boiled in simmering heat for about two hours. The bundle was taken out from the pot and left out to cool overnight, before I opened it the following day.

The most rewarding and exciting things I have learned in natural dyeing is that some dye source give amazing result. In this experiment, and quite by accident actually–a combination of brown, umber, and greens from the heather. Sadly, the clivia does not print, but merely stained light to faint hues of pink onto the fabric.

clivia, muscari, and scotch heather bundled in cotton, and boiled in simmering heat.

hues in pink, blues and greens

light to dark violet blue print from muscari; pinkish color came from clivia.

almost perfect

*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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