contact prints on leggings

peach, eucalyptus, onions skins, sumac prints on a blend of nylon/spandex leggings

I was out last weekend to shop for some leggings. With luck, I also found some plain white tights. They are just perfect for this idea that I had in mind for some time to try printing on synthetic fiber (blend of nylon/spandex). The tights were pre-washed and soaked in a weak solution of vinegar and water; and then contact printed with a mélange of botanical: peach, rose, eucalyptus, sumac, rue, oak, lemon, daisies, and onion skins. Then the bundles were steamed in water for an hour. The results turned out fabulously and we also made a video to record the process.

The exciting moment for me was when I opened the first bundle, which revealed that the process I used had worked wonderfully. Below are pictures of the different types of plant materials used in this project.

peeling off a single peach leaf

green prints from peach leaf, and reddish orange from Eucalyptus

green, red, browns, yellow–the colors of autumn

bold colors from rose and Eucalyptus prints

rose and Eucalyptus leaf prints

green from rue leaf and reddish orange from Eucalyptus

Ruta graveolens (rue, or herb-of-grace, is an old fashioned garden herbal plant

clear green prints from dahlia; reddish, orange from Eucalyptus & onion skins

Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak) leaf print with heart-shaped Eucalyptus

prints from long & narrow Eucalyptus radiata leaf

this is recycled and decayed Eucalyptus camaldulensis (red gum) leaf

bold prints of speckled and decayed matter on leaf

Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

another interesting print from recycled & decayed Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

another interesting print from recycled & decayed Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

bold print from decayed Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

Save best for last, my homemade movie of the process. For a larger view, click on to the icon below, found next to the word, Vimeo.

Contact printing on leggings from melinda tai on Vimeo.

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

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colors from black bean

A selection of my samples from black bean dye bath in various shades of blues

While cleaning out the kitchen cupboard, I found a large bag of dried black beans tucked in the corner behind the canned foods. This reminded me of a thread I had read in one of the Ravelry discussion groups about the variations of color people get from using black beans as a blue dye. I thought it would be interesting to find out for myself the color and dye potential of black beans.

This post discusses the results of my experiment using different types of water and various modifiers to see how they interact in the dye-bath. Modifiers are chemicals and minerals that assist in dyeing. They can shift or alter the pH in a dye-bath from acid to alkali (and vice versa) to enhance colors. The modifiers that I used in this experiment were: washing soda and baking soda. Other common modifiers (which I did not try for this experiment) are alum, iron (alkaline), and vinegar or citric acid (acidic) in most of my dyeing.

Following are results of the different combinations that I used.  It is definitely worth experimenting, as I have discovered there is a vast difference in color and hue depending on the combination of  water and modifiers. I am pleased with the beautiful results that can be achieved with a simple kitchen staple; the black bean. Below are detailed photos and notes, documenting the various process.

Part I: wool and silk samples; tap water; baking soda modifier

First, I started off by soaking the rinsed beans in a pot filled with enough water to cover the beans. After a few hours of soaking, I noticed the liquor (bean juice) was already showing a dark murky color; a result from the water absorbing most of the pigments from the black beans. The pot with the black beans was left to soak overnight. The next day, the liquor (bean juice) was drained off to another pot; the soggy and plump looking beans were tossed into the compost. Then the liquor (bean juice) was poured into two Mason jars. In one of the jar, I stirred in a tiny amount of baking soda, and left the other jar plain without modifier. Then, I placed into each of the jars, the same amount of wool and silk samples. The jars were then left out for another day before I opened it the following day.

Results from wool and silk samples; tap water; baking soda modifier:

shimmering sea-foam green on silk–black bean and tap water with baking soda modifier

grayish teal on wool–black bean and tap water with baking soda modifier

grayish-violet on silk–black bean and tap water without modifier

Part II: cotton samples; rain water; washing soda modifier:

After seeing the results from the first experiment, I am also curious to see the effect and the difference in color when using soft or distilled water instead of tap water. I was fortunate to have had collected a container of rain water from last year’s rainfall. I bought a pound of organic black beans in the grocery store. The beans were rinsed and soaked overnight in a large pot filled with rain water. The next day, the liquor (bean juice) was drained off from the beans and poured into two separate containers. This time, I kept the soaked beans to make a chili dish for dinner (don’t tell John).

I have two pieces of cotton muslin and some cotton trimmings: one piece of fabric and trimmings was pre-washed in plain tap water (first batch); another piece of fabric and trimmings was pre-washed in washing soda (second batch). After they were rinsed clean, I placed the first batch that was washed in tap water into one of the container; and the second batch of samples into the second container. The solution in the first container remained unchanged as I immersed the cloth samples in the liquid. As I manipulated the samples, I could see they were turning to various shades of blue.

Results from first batch of cotton samples, washed in tap water:

pretty powdery pale blue cotton and trimmings

cornflower blue vintage lacy table linen

cerulean blue color, next to dark blue ceramic sculpture made by our son

Results from second batch of cotton samples, washed in washing soda: here you can see the extreme color changes from white to bluish purple (fresh out of the pot). This was the highlight of my day!

colors of my wisteria, bluish purple

a lovely color for a vintage lacy table linen

Collage of pictures to see, touch, smell, and savor

~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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yellow and green shibori

This is the concluding post of my dye experiment using tansy flowers. See my previous posts: “yellow from my dye pot, and mordant testing on tansy dye bath.”  For this part of the experiment,  I started with two silk scarves that were previously dyed yellow with tansy. These scarves were then over-dyed with indigo, which resulted in a beautiful forest green background. The yellow pattern is a result of using two different Shibori resist techniques (Nui, and Itajime) of folding, creasing, stitching and shaped resist-dyeing before dipping into the indigo vat.

A brief description about the different techniques. Nui Shibori designs are created by hand stitching in a straight, curved, or parallel lines on the fabric; the stitching is then drawn together and secured tightly before it is dyed. The folds and creases of cloth between the gathers form a resist from being dyed. This technique is a little time-consuming, but the end results are quite rewarding.

stitched, clamped and ready for the indigo dye vat

stitching removed, revealing yellow and indigo oxidizing in the air from blue to forest green

diamond-shaped designs in yellow and forest green

Itajime Shibori is a shaped resist-technique by sandwiching two pieces of wood or plastic templates between the folds of fabric. The stack is held in place by securing with strings or C-clamps. The shapes act as a resist and prevent the dye from penetrating the area that is covered by the templates. It is very important to make sure the top and bottom templates are in alignment with each other so that the exact shape of  templates is transferred to the dyed fabric.

Itajime Shibori, color shifting from blue to green within 8-10 minutes when exposed in the air

L-shaped resist-dyeing in yellow and forest green

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

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mordant testing on tansy dyebath

silk samples in 3 different mordant

Following last week’s post, I was curious to find out what other colors and shades could be coaxed from the yellow dye bath by using different mordants. The word, mordant or mordre, literally means “to bite” in French . Thus, a mordant is a chemical that fixes a dye by combining with the natural dye pigment to form a permanent bond to the fiber.

For this experiment, I used three different mordants: ammonia, iron, and alum with samples that were previously dyed in the tansy dye bath. I was excited to see the different colors as a result of using different mordant/dye solution. I am happy with the results, and the photos below, document the process.

olive green from iron mordant

an earthy yellowish brown from ammonia

yellow from alum

L-R: ammonia, iron, alum

more experiment about tansy on next post….thanks for viewing.

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

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yellow in my dyepot

pretty clusters of golden yellow button-like flowers

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), also known as golden buttons, bachelor’s buttons, or buttons of gold, is a tall green leafy perennial, bearing clusters of aromatic yellow round button-like flowers. Unfortunately, this aromatic medicinal plant is considered invasive in some parts of the country. Despite, the fact that Tansy is an invasive weed,  I was interested in growing this plant, as it is an excellent source of yellow dye.

The flowers have an unusual scent, similar to that of camphor. A friend told me that she makes a tea from the flowers and stems to spray around the house to repel flies, ants  and mosquitoes. Tansy, besides being a natural repellent, was also been used for medicinal purposes and in companion gardening with certain crops to repel bugs and insects.

My tansy plant has grown tall and is in full bloom, the stems are heavy with the flowers, that are drooping to the ground. This morning, I had to cut most of the foliage and harvested a basketful of flowers; tied them in bunches and hung them up to dry in the shed.

I kept a handful of fresh flowers for today’s simple experiment. First, I cut up the flower tops and simmered them in a pot with water and boiled them for about an hour.  I then placed some pre-mordant silk fabric in the pot and let it simmer in the pot for another hour or so. The fabric is now an intense yellow shade after only an hour of simmering.

an intense golden yellow dye bath from freshly harvested tansy flowers

rinsed, and ready for the next step

I’ll be completing my experiment later this week, drop by to see the final results.

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

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natural dyeing, lac

vibrant crimson red from lac scale bugs

Laccifer or Kerria Lacca or Lac is a parasitic scale bug that feeds on the sap of certain tropical trees and secretes a sticky resin. The resin-like secretion hardens when exposed to air; it forms a protective crust around the insect as it dines on its host plant. The twigs of are cut down from the tree in order to harvest the crust. This is called stick lac and consist of two components, the resin and the dye. Shellac is made from the resin, which is used in food, cosmetics, and clothing industries. The dye component is colorants extracted from the resin and is used for dyeing. India and Thailand are currently the largest producers and exporters of lac extract.
Lac is quite similar to the Cochineal scale bug that produces a dye colorants in shades of crimson, red to burgundy, violet and brown. These color variations are predicated and modified by appropriate choice of mordant used in the dye bath. Unlike cochineal, the price for lac dye is relatively affordable compared to the former. With all the characteristics about this wonderful bug, I was interested to find out the different colors it yields and if the color is colorfast.
In this post, I hand dyed these silk scarves using a Japanese technique, called Itajime shibori.  Shibori is Japanese for shaped resist-dyeing using different cut shapes of circles, triangles, and squares. John cut me a set of L-shaped design from ABS plastic. I folded the fabric into a bundle and sandwiched between two plastic shapes; secured the bundle with C-clamps and placed the bundles into the lac and alum dye bath. I am happy with the results, and the photos below, document the process.

dyed bundles in dark red to burgundy color

opening process…I am excited

white on deep burgundy background

a beautiful twosome in scarlet red and burgundy, still has specks of lac on wet fabric.

rinsed, ironed and ready to wear

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

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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. I love the deep and rich blues of indigo dyes.

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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