Kimono-dress ‘Tasmanian Blues’ with bark-dyed silk AND shortie dress tunic ‘Nigella Blues’

Hand made patchwork dress in blues – featuring hand dyed silk collar and nigella seed pod appliques

Deep Gold natural dye achieved using Tasmanian eucalyptus bark
Dress available on ETSY Shop Shamanic Nights. ‘Tasmanian Blues’

Story of golden Tasmanian eucalyptus tree bark dye

Name ‘Tasmanian Blues’ is derived from Tasmanian origin of the eucalyptus bark (found in Hillier Gardens, Hampshire), used to create a dyebath. Silk collar and patches on garment are hand dyed (Habotai Silk 10) which took the dye bath so well – just soaking for an hour. Bark was previously steeped 24hrs then boiled, simmered for 2 hours, before removing from heat and adding silk.

A very deep gold was produced with the eucalyptus bark dye, which shines incredibly richly in sunshine. Lace pieces were left in the dyebath overnight and even though mixed fibres, took on a gold tone. Seed design applique motifs uses the lace dyed with eucalyptus bark. 

Gold dyed Habotai silk was painted on with Kniazef steam fixed dyes. The gold dye was so strong, that painted dye colours were hard to see, and needed redoing. Even specialised bleach for silk dyes did not work, so well is the eucalyptus dye fixed!

Habotai silk dyed with eucalyptus bark –
Left piece, modified with iron afterwards. Right piece original dye bath only.

Original dyestuff is bright gold in sunlight, but darker indoors. The darker gold piece is modified afterwords with iron sulphate (rusty nail liquid). Bottom right shows lace pieces dyed in cold dyebath overnight.

Story of patchwork blues.

I chose the blues to go with the gold silk, because 3 of the prints have gold areas with blues. Blue and gold are a classic mix, setting off one against the other.

Front buttoning strip features Chinese style print of Phoenix bird (right side) and tail of dragon (left side) which looks attractive as a focal point.

Two fabric prints have animalistic feel: the leopard or cheetah in blue/grey/black, and the navy blue/white ‘pheasant’ feather print. The blue lace was the right colour to add in. The light blue with text also has navy and some brown which blends in. By putting a variety of fabrics together, a new design idea comes alive. Phoenix and seeds could be a new theme.

Applique seed motifs

Bark dyed lace seed pod appliques, with silk dyed pieces added in centres

Using the eucalyptus dyed lace, emulated the texture of dried seed pods. Centre seed capsule part (in shadow from photo/drawing) is shown in dark gold dyed silk remnant on right-side garment, and left-side garment shows a lighter silk, bundle dyed from various seeds and dried flowers.

Making steps: ‘Tasmanian Blues’

Garment started by using a polyester dress as LINING. I kept the cross-over ‘V’ neckline and fitted my fabrics to it. NOTE: its useful to have neckline and shoulders of a lining garment to start off with. Once patchwork is attached to that, patchwork can simply continue down to hem. Its very useful to use a bodice top from another garment as lining to fit sleeves to. I often make an under bust, high waistline seam below the length of an upper patched piece, darting under bust; also optionally at back for better fit.

The lining dress only has short sleeves, so I used other polyester fabrics to lengthen them in patchwork. Outside sleeve fabrics are viscose floral print and others, seen in making photos. Last four photos show cuff addition to lengthen sleeve and give print interest. black fused interfacing ironed on. Fold extension over to show other fabric as an edge border contrast. Fold down outer onto lining. Pin cuff extension to outer sleeve patches. Machine or hand stitch down.

To give a fuller underarm, similar to kimonos; after inserting sleeves, I left underarm and side seams open, and cut strips for underarm gusset, using viscose fabric outer and navy lace inner: an elongated triangle about 4 inches to a point from underarm centre into sleeve length. (the lining dress was small size, so these inserts also enlarged fit up to 38″ bust.) Darts can be seen at front and back of bodice sections.

Back neck facing and simple front facing cut to fit dress front neckline.

A curved frill piece was used from the original lining dress to create a fit, which curves around back neck and fits to front edge of ‘V’ neckline. Cutting adjustments made to allow a shape that would extend the curve from centre back neck (left side photo 1.) continuing around to fit to dress front V neckline, and produce a simple fold back collar only at front. Once the under-fabric was established, an identical shape was cut in white cotton, to use as copy pattern for upper fabric patchwork, (which incorporates the eucalyptus dyed silk). Photo 2. ‘Collar/facing was firmed a little with fine fused black interlining.

Finnish kimono dress lower patchwork making:

Once upper bodice is completed (with or without sleeves), the lower skirt part of kimono dress is made by cutting rectangles and joining until there is enough to fit around the high waistline. This is the stage to consider which colours to juxtapose in lower garment. You may save some special pieces to show at front. Symmetry is a good idea: working from centre, to sides, repeating colour/shades similarly on either side. Start at the centre on the back, and work to the sides, adding patches until the desired width is reached, in correspondence to the upper bodice of dress. I describe an ad-hoc method of choosing fabric patches one by one, until enough are made. Alternatively, by calculating desired length of dress, and desired size of patches, you can calculate how many patches of each fabric colour or printed pattern will be needed in advance of cutting and machining. Lay them out on a table to desired colour juxtaposition, keeping in mind how the front and centre back will look. Work similarly from centre back, adding patches across and down, until length is reached. Create the patches in columns, then machine down the long rectangular panels, onto the under lining. (Fabric, or garment used as lining base). Allow 2-3 inches more at front and back, which can be gather-stitched to fit before seaming the bodice and skirt parts together. This could be darted if preferred. I darted the kimono-dress.

Tunic top ‘Nigella Blues’ in my ETSY Shop

There was enough blue themed fabric left to make small tunic dress. Again, patches are stitched onto an existing garment; a cream/white/brown/blue flora design A-line short sleeved flared top, which becomes the lining. The beige and blue on creamy peach work well with the blue patchworks, and also provide a light background to the blue lace patches, contrasting the lace: see top back photo and front lower side. (Light coloured lace can utilise darker backgrounds.) Short sleeves are unlined patchwork with bound viscose print hems.

The armholes were large, for a Plus size, so I darted the lining from armhole to bust point, and did same with upper patchwork. I cut down the centre due to extra width, and folded over edges for front facing firmness, still having enough to overlap for buttoning.

MAKING – bound button holes;

Making – Bound Button Holes

  • Mark width of button, add a little more. Sew a rectangle over button size area on right side of fabric.
  • Machine around, cut centre, cut into corners
  • Fold rectangle through to wrong side, Press flat with folds meeting, as shown.
  • Hand stitch lining to bound edges.
  • Top stitch on right side (optional). I did so here, due to fraying of lining fabric.

Applique motifs are inspired from Nigella seed pods grown in my allotment. Photos and drawings simplified for cut and sew. The centre silk has been dyed with eucalyptus bark before painting on (same silk as ‘Tasmanian Blues’ collar above), although darker due to after-modifying soaking in iron (rusty nail water makes a considerable darker change). Right photo seed pod has silk centre of bundle dyed silk with seeds and petals. Lace seed ‘pod’ fabric has been also dyed with eucalyptus bark, left overnight after initial silk dye has taken up most of the colour. Its always a good idea to see how deep a colour you can dye in the ‘left-over’ dye bath. See eucalyptus dying blog:

Avocado – Natural Dyed Silk

Habotai silk dyed in Avocado pits, Hydrangeas 2018-06-22 - 002 edited annotated

Habotai silk dyed by emersion in an avocado pit dye bath.

Final colour after simmering and soaking for 2-3 hours.  A subtle light, dusky champagne-peach.  A colour which can coordinate with all other colours in my patchwork garments.  A good base for silk painting in stronger colours.

Avocado pits 2018-06-22 - 001 - edited annotated

Avocado pits collected over the years.  I used about 50 (half my storage).  They will hopefully provide another dye bath.  No mordant was used, to enable me to see the natural colour obtainable.  More tests with mordants will follow.

Avocado pits and dyed silk 2018-06-22 - 002 - edited annotated

Avocado pits after using and dyed silk.

Habotai silk rinsed after avocado dye bath 2018-06-21 - 002 edited annotated

Rinsing out silk after the dye bath.  Hardly any colour washed out.  The take-up was good: this is because there is a natural mordant in the avocado pits.

Final colour accurate, habotai silk, avocado dyed, basket, window 2018-06-22

The silk – accurate colour, which looks different in different lights.  In the shade it is more dusky pink, in sunlight – more creamy gold.  Dye absorption was very even.

Avocado dyed habotai silk, pink-white geraniums 2018-06-22 - 002 edited annotated

This avocado dyed silk will blend well with creams, pinks, peaches, jade greens and greys.     Colour co-ordinations of new garments made with this silk and other patchwork fabrics will appear here when completed….

Kimono-Dress or house-dress ‘Purple Shimmers’

Purple and print patchworks

Back view
GMP ANNOTATED - Finished (VVG FRONT LENGTH) 2018-03-27 1000px
One pocket at front
GMP annotated - Finnished, (VVG BACK DRAPED) all length, shadows and light 2018-03-27

Shape is cut for fitted bodice front and back with bat-wing (kimono – like) sleeves extending from shoulders to high waist.

Front lacing over gusset, adjusts bust size from 36″ to 40″

Sleeves have cuffs which will turn back at the seam for tasking.

GMP annotated - Finished (VVG LACINGS) collar close up 2018-03-27

Notice collar, although a proper one, is caught down into high waist seaming at front, which could be thinner if copying idea, and stitch down to a point where it meets gusset (which I would do for a smaller summer dress)

GMP annotated - Finished, (VVG FRONT, SLEEVES)clear bright right sleeve 2018-03-27
Gorgeous patchwork colours form treasure trove arrangement.  Generous fit up to 40 bust:  Sleeves are kimono style loose, starting from below bust line.  Lace ties ensure fit under bust.  Back bodice top is already fitted to body, with gathers below

To buy ‘Purple Shimmers’or to commission similar, visit ETSY shop

Purple Patchwork Kimono-Dress – Creation Journey

Purple fabric collection on floor - 800scale_2018-01-29
Purples ‘collection’ as garments from charity shops.  Plus bottom right hand plant-dyed silk
Purple fabric collection_edited_2018-02-03

Three or four plains and three to four prints, with maybe another contrasting plain works well.  At least 7 different fabrics are needed for a good patchwork result.  I used all these fabrics except for the hand dyed silk 3rd from right.  (It will go into a similar one)

Charity shop fabrics, purples, hangers_2018-01-15_ 002 - annotated
Charity shop finds to match existing purple fabrics.  The shiny dress will become lining.
WDPS Purple line dress, collar, button welt cut- off

When cutting up garments for patchwork, cut up along the sides of all seams.  Sometimes cotton and linen seams can be ripped undone, and more fabric saved.  Overall, unpicking is not worth the time it takes.

WDPS Purple, black, green blouse, cut-away at seams_2018-02-13

Sometimes there is fabric strain near darts or side seams as there were in this blouse.  In such case, don’t undo the seam where stitches have pulled.  This blouse had strain around the front dart seams.  Due to inherent weakness in the loose weave, this fabric will be quilt-machined onto a thin cotton backing, to ensure it stays firm.

Many parts of a garment can be recycled into a different new garment, such as this lace-styled neck.  It won’t be included in the kimono, but it will form the start of another dress, likely to be with navy, if only the lace is used, or navy and pink if the print is kept.

This top is from a stretch cotton fabric, so will be quilt machined onto a cotton, for firmness, to be similar in weight to the linen and taffeta.¬† If used only in its stretch state, it may cause a slight ‘baggyness’ in parts of the patchwork.

Cutting of patchwork pieces to follow soon¬† ……….

Butterflies and Black Lace Patchwork Dress, ‘Love Never Dies (I)’ – Making process

‘Love Never Dies’ inspiration taken from autumn floral printed T-shirt patch, used in dress centre front.  A second version ‘Love Never Dies II’  is available, same patches, lined, with white fringed hem.

Bandeau top inspiration: slice cut from ethnic printed skinny stretch dress.

Dress USE - FRONT daylight - edited.png

Patches made and joined in strips of three, then join those to make a length as shown in picture on floor.

Patchwork section attached to stretchy cotton bandeau top, by hand stretch back stitch shown in MAKING INSTRUCTIONS below.

Seams are overlapped one quarter inch – one half inch, and zig-zag machined to avoid bulky inside seams.  6 different patchwork fabrics are used making up a large rectangle of 11 patches x 3 patches.  Keep adding strips (here strips are 3 patches long).  Make strips until there are enough to join up around hips: add 2 extra patch widths to create fullness when attached to bandeau top.

NOTE:  black lace patches are made by fixing over lighter fabric base.  There are possibilities of using different backgrounds for lace, for more subtle effects.

Bandeau patchworks, machined.png

When choosing fabrics, 6 seems to be a good number of alternative fabrics.  They can be either contrasting, as here, or similar in tone.  Dark – Medium- Light is a good mix.

Muted schemes are more satisfactory and versatile than multi-rainbow colour themes.  The size of fabric areas cut from garments, dictates the size of the patches.  In this instance it was the ‘Love Never Dies’ T-shirt print I started from, giving me two patch lengths when cutting.

Bandeau patwork arrangements.png

I was originally going to position the patchworks in diagonal formation over a bias cut lining, but they weren’t cut square so it would look odd.  I therefore turned it to straightforward vertical arrangement.  Recycling 6 different garments, and cutting at least 8 patches from each, is a good start.  I cut more if I like a scheme and want to make another similar.

These patches are 12.5cm x 18cm cut (approximately 7″ x 5″).  Decide the length of garment skirt section needed, from seam under bandeau top, then divide by three for length of patchwork strips: to be either 3, 4, or 5 patches deep. 3 is enough for this short dress.

Dress USE - BACK CLOSEUP - edited.png

To buy ‘Love Never Dies’ or commission new one please email ameliajanedesigns@icloud.com to discuss.

Close up of back, shows butterfly prints, and zig-zag seaming flat overlaps.

MAKING INSTRUCTIONS

Bandeau patchworks mcahined zigzag.png
Zig-zag machining of patches: overlap quarter inch,
making two rows at each overlap (note it is flat,
no folded seams).
Bandeau, pinning bandeau lower front to pathworks.png
Pinning patchwork length equally along bandeau bottom

on the inside.
bandeau-patchworks-pinned-evenly-to-bandeau
The patchwork top folded over and pinned in place, 

ready for stitching by hand.
Bandeau, front pinned, back not.png
How the pinning looks after pinning one section to sew.
More to follow.....
Hand sewing Patches to bandeau A stretch stitch completed two rows.png
Hand stitched back stitch which gives full stretch result.
Photo of stitch process omitted but IS SHOWN BELOW when
attaching lining to this seam join. (Note: I could have
machine-tacked lining to patches first, then stretch
stitched them both together, but I needed to experiment)
Hand sewing Patches to bandeau B stretch stitch outside.png
Outer view shows small hand stitches (stretch back stitch)
showing through.  Quite acceptable appearance;
could even be larger, as a feature.
hand-sewing-lining-c-stretch-stitch-lining-to-dress
Stretch back stitch: holding work this way, each needle
insertion is towards you, hand underneath can test for
flexibility of stretch, to ensure same stretch as patches
fabric.
hand-sewing-lining-a-stretch-stitch-from-left-to-right
Working left to right, back-stitching into patchwork
section above, and lining section below.  This lining
(taken from a dress), is on the 'bias' which aids
stretchiness. It would need to be same width as 
patchwork section sewn to, to give equal stretch.
Hand sewing Lining B stretch stitch lining to dress.png
Needle comes back to lining back stitch from upper
stitch. Needle goes in right to left, but stitches
complete to the right.
bandeau-hand-sewn-stretch-stitch-inside-bandeauside
Finished stretch stitch: inside of dress, just below
where dress patchwork attaches (also stretch stitch)
to bandeau.
lace-trim-turn-over-pinning-easing-in-fullness
Join strips of lace for hem trim.  I used a neck
frill and sleeve edges from a lace dress (4 cut
lengths). Press quarter inch in then pin to dress hem.
lace-trim-zig-zag-machining-turned-in-pinned-to-hem
Machining lace edgings to dress hem.  Zig-zag.
bandeau-inside-dress-after-zigzag-machining-over-topside-frill-edges-folded-in
Finished lace trim attached (inside view).
NOTE: dress fabric was turned under and pressed
towards front beforehand.
bandeau-lace-trim-machined-to-edge-of-patchwork
Finished lace trim showing front and inside back.
love-never-dies-5-fabric-border-added-to-lining
Fabric hem sewn to inside lining:
to sit behind black lace.
love-never-dies-6-bandeau-top-elastic-inserted
Top of bandeau is folded over and narrow elastic
inserted.  Stretchiness is preserved by using
stretch backstitch instead of machining.

To buy ‘Love Never Dies’ dress/skirt please email: awhile Shamanic Nights Online shop is under reconstruction.

Natural Plant Dyed Silk – Walnut Husks – Beige Gold

The brown husks contain the dye pigment. These were found on the ground where they had had been decaying under a walnut tree on Bossington Green (Nr Porlock, North Somerset.)

Dye Bath Preparation

  • Soak walnut husks with walnuts in, including broken husk pieces, in water for two days.
  • Boil for 30 mins and leave soaking for another two days.
  • Boil again and leave to cool a little.
  • Remove husks and decant liquid to bowl.
  • Add wet silk pieces
  • Agitate frequently then soak overnight

Dye bath is quite dark after walnut husks soaked in water.

Longer soaking might even produce darker dye bath. There is a lot of pigment left in the dye bath and dye can be stored in jars. Fill to brim to avoid mould forming. it could also be used to add to creams and golds to strengthen.

Silk takes up the brown dye bath quickly but keep turning and agitating occasionally while soaking. (I don’t boil Ahimsa silk as it would roughen surface) Soaking is adequate for obtaining a reasonable colour.

Silk dyed rinsed wet hanging to dry – always dries much lighter.
Walnut Light – Walnut Dark – Comfrey Light – Comfrey Dark

Silk samples show differences of colour between Walnut dye and Comfrey dye. Walnut dye result is the darkest gold, more of an envelope buff tone, achieved with natural plant dyes.

Logwood bark – Walnut dark – Walnut light – Comfrey leaves – Hawthorne berries – St. Johns Wort flowers

The dyed samples will be painted on with silk dyes, to become garments or quilts. Walnut died pieces will be shown here again when painted.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

Natural Dyes on Silk – Ladies Bedstraw (Galium verum)

Lady’s Bedstraw is found in waste ground and near the coast. The reddish roots are used for dyeing; family is Madder (Rubiaceae) a well known red dye. The plant I found is growing along the Tarka Trail cycle path (ex rail track) opposite the small town of Bideford, N. Devon. Not easy to pull out the roots, and many were left for next year’s growth. This seemed a particularly large and well established plant. Bedstraw has many herbal uses.

Lady’s Bedstraw Ahimsa silk results: 1st soak strong peach – 2nd soak light peach.

Dye bath procedure

Roots need soaking for several days to soften, before boiling up.

Boiling roots of plant produces a red dye, the longer soaked the deeper red. Photos show the dye was absorbed onto the pan sides, which loses dye power available, so pan must be aluminium. Predicted colour is scarlet, so use stainless steel.

1st silk sample has been pre-mordanted in Alum for a day before putting to soak in hand hot dye bath. Rinse away plant debris and extra dye: result after rinsing and drying is a strong salmon hued peach colour.

1st silk sample Rinsed. Has been already soaked in dye bath one day. 2nd silk sample in cooled dye bath which was reheated with bedstraw to obtain more dyestuff.

Red dye liquid is drained off into glass bowl to soak silk.

1st silk sample: Strong peach result after washing out. Steam iron while still damp to help smooth out creases, or don’t squeeze out water.

2nd silk sample Rinsed. Result when dry is a light peach.

Dry Results of Ahimsa Silk Samples

1st and 2nd soak in Lady’s Bedstraw dye bath.

These samples will be matched with recycled fabric prints, and painted on before becoming part of a new garment.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

To be continued….

Natural Dye on Silk – Hawthorne Berries

Hawthorne dyed sample in centre, appears bright yellow golden in sunlight. (Samples – St. Johns Wort to left, logwood to right)

Hawthorne session 1. Using berries from Tarka Trail foraging trip along River Taw – found by ditch and field – growing through hazlenut, with briars and nettles.

Hawthorne Dye Bath Preparation 1.

  • Soak berries for 2-3 days.
  • Boil and simmer for 2 hours, adding water.
  • Mash berries, remove pulp.
  • Soak silk in dye bath overnight or two days.
  • The longer soaked, the darker and stronger the colour.

Natural golds – hawthorne 2nd gold sample from right

Logwood – Walnut dark – Walnut light – Comfrey – Hawthorne bright yellow-gold – John’s Wort mid gold.

Hawthorne Session 2: Using berries from River Otter banks (South Devon)

Hawthorne Dye Bath Preparation 2.

Hawthorne berries soaked 2 days, boiled, mashed and drained to leave brown liquid. Two silk samples added to dye liquid when cooled to hand hot (to avoid roughening of silks) – soaked in a wide copper pot for a day and overnight. Wash out in gentle hand wash liquid. One sample was cream, and one was a weak dull pale grey woad dyed piece, included to change to a stronger colour. This gave a browny-khaki result.

Both sessions used pond rain water. I may have left the berries soaking longer, or the different Hawthorne trees literally produce a different colour, from being grown by two different rivers. Additionally the copper pot may have had an effect (another dyeing of River Taw berries in copper would prove this).

Left and right samples were stained with blue marks from being placed together in copper pot dye bath, where woad dye was present right sample.

Yellow gold centre sample from 1st session using Tarka Trail berries. Browner samples used River Otter berries.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

These silks will be used in garment making in due course, with links here.

Natural Silk Dyes – Woad Blue (Isatis tinctoria)

Woad plant is blue green leaves with yellow flowers, behind the tomato leaves.

Two samples of successful silk dying with small harvested amount of woad leaves. First dye session: two pale blue results.: Left: 2nd weaker soak, pale blue. Right: 1st soak, pale pastel blue.

Woad Dye Bath Process – 1st Session

Boil woad leaves – liquid is sherry coloured – Images (2, 2a, 2b) Add soda crystals until alkalinity reaches 9 – Images (3, 3a, 3b) – Whisk liquid until froth forms. Takes 10-15 mins. Liquid can also be poured from one pan to another, making bubbles. Images (4, 4a, 4b, 4c) Froth is achieved at (5)

Heat dye bath to 50 deg again. Set aside 20 mins. Add desert spoon sodium dithionite to remove oxygen. Add enough until dye bath turns limey green. Place silk in liquid carefully without creating air bubbles. Submerge. Leave for 20 mins. Image (6) (it starts to work soon if some fabric is left out in the air (see 2nd Session below).

Remove fabric and rest. Watch it turn blue in air. (mine went turquoise on ahimsa cream silk using pond water) – Images (7, 8) Rinse out when colour as dark as will go, hang out to dry. (9)

Woad Dye bath process – 2nd Session

Woad colouring occurs quickly after exposure to air, following soak in woad leaf dye bath, which has had oxygen removed by sodium dithionite.

Woad Dye Bath Preparation

Woad leaves are cut up and soaked before boiling and simmering for an hour. Remove leaves, then dye bath needs soda crystals, before whisking for 10 mins until froth forms. Woad dye bath is ready when there is a pale blue or (in this case) pale green froth. Reheat dye bath to 50 deg. then add spoon of sodium dithionite to remove oxygen. The water goes limey green.

Turquoise appears when all silk is added to air after 10 mins soak

The dye was uneven, so I re-heated the dye bath again, added the same chemical again, and replaced the fabric, but the magic had gone, the blue disappeared! The result was a pale grey blue, which looked dark in the rinse sink, but dried quite pale.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

To be continued…..

Natural Dyes on Silk – Comfrey Leaves

Comfrey dye bath makes an ecru cream-beige, which becomes duller and darker after dipping in iron modifier, after dyeing.

This sample experimented with shibori stitching prior to dyeing which resulted in several vey pale wavy lines of resist made by where the stitching gathered the cloth to prevent dye entering.

Result after dyeing shows Shibori stitch-resist as pale wavy lines. (Stitches are removed after full dye process.) The idea to make ‘waves’ by stitching in ‘curves’ worked, but contrasts poorly on pale colours. Large pegged sample shows dye-bath original tone at bottom right, and darker result top left, after adding iron modified. (black marks are the iron water splashed as I poured in iron solution, so take care with fabric proximity)

Preparing dye-bath with comfrey leaves

Cut up comfrey leaves and soak overnight. Also soak silk in alum mordant overnight or for some hours beforehand. Silk often dyes well without mordant when using some plants. Lighter colour at left, darker tone after longer soaking. Best to leave soaking over night to ensure good dye absorption. New pieces can be dyed in dyebath afterwards, and will be paler, but always a good starter colour for painting, or re-dyeing over.

Boil up and simmer for an hour. When just hand hot, drain comfrey out and put dye liquid in a bowl to soak the silk. (I never boil this ahimsa silk as it becomes matted in high temperatures) Agitate to distribute dye equally for first 15 mins, then leave to soak all day, redistributing in dye occasionally to ensure even dyeing.

Dyed and washed out, the ahimsa silk has an ecru beige colouring where first dyed (top left) – with additional dulled, more grey colour where half of cloth was soaked into iron modified dye bath. Out of the sunlight, the iron modified sample is quite dull and darker, to be used as one would a grey.

Sample (gallery top right) compares comfrey colour dye result with Ladies’ Bedstraw, peach. Samples (gallery bottom right) show iron modified comfrey sample in centre; between (left) Hawthorne dyed silk (left) and natural, ecru result of non-modified comfrey dyed silk in second dye bath. (right).

Note: A second dye-bath was made by reboiling liquid and leaves leaving overnight to stand. Heated next day, added fresh un-mordanted silk. Left to soak for a day and overnight 24hrs. This produced a pale but warm ecru silk.

Below: Comfrey dyed silk in centre – dull tone is result of iron modifier. Silks look duller indoors whereas they come to life in sunlight. The range of colours obtainable is fascinating.

Conclusion: Comfrey gives a very good neutral tone suitable for use with any silk painting over. Longer steep in iron (ferrous sulphate) would make it greyer, as needed. Experiment with quantities of iron added. I use either water from a rusty-nails-jar as well as purchased powder.

Images for other dye procedures with plants can be found on my Pinterest Board – Natural Plant and Earth Dyes

This piece will be silk painted over in a design, to become part of a garment in due course… updates will be posted here with link to the garment in making.

Natural Dyes on Silk – Lime Yellow with Tansy

Tansy growing prolifically along the Tarka Trail; tall clumps with rosette grouped flower heads – from my dye plant foraging trip.

Dye Bath Procedure

  • Cut up Tansy flower tops and soak overnight in water (pond or river if available)
  • Boil up in stainless steel pan, then remove plant dyestuff and allow dye bath to cool to just hand hot. (cotton can be simmered, but silk may get matted if boiled).
  • Soak silk for some hours in orange coloured water The colour of the dye bath water is no indication of the final outcome on dry silk. Remove soon if you want a pale colour; leave overnight for stronger colour.

Agitate silk in dye bath occasionally, redistributing evenly in liquid during first 15 -30 mins to ensure all areas are covered when first absorbing dye. Use an upside down lid to keep silk beneath surface.

Silk soon absorbs the dye colour in the strong Tansy dye bath. As this silk can be matted slightly by over heating, and simmering, I only introduce it to a hand hot dye bath. I left it soaking overnight to achieve best strength of colour before rinsing out several times in warm water, until water runs clear.

Wet rinsed silk – drying. Do not squeeze out too hard, or twist creases may occur which don’t completely iron out. In summer silk dries fairly quickly and can be ironed smooth while still slightly damp before any creases set in.

A few dark ‘spots’ are splashes from another dye bath with iron I was doing simultaneously. Only do ONE dye bath at a time.

This lime yellow is very vivid (see comparisons with other gold colours), so I will overpaint with silk dyes or bundle leaf prints. However, it could be useful to over-dye with madder to give a good orange, or with woad for a turquoise blue. The future life of this piece will be posted here….

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

This lime yellow was over-dyed in November, used for another test with leaves bundle-dyeing.

Natural Dyes on Silk – St. John’s Wort – Dye Plants Foraging – Tarka Trail

St. John’s Wort yellow flowers easily available at nearside verge to path

The Tarka Trail old rail track – Barnstaple to Bideford was my 10 mile route for foraging – using Jenny Dean’s plant spotter book. Late summer finds many of the traditional dye plants along grass verges, especially in areas untouched for ages.

Click photos for Gallery view…

St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) easily produces a good gold and is also well known historical herbal use for depression

Preparing the Dye Bath

Processing for dye bath

  • Soak flower tops overnight in rain water. I use pond water.
  • Boil up and simmer for an hour
  • When cool enough not to roughen silk, soak silk, stirring occasionally.
  • Leave overnight to absorb dye colour
  • Dye a second piece of silk using up remainder of dye

Stunning gold colour achieved by soaking silk in dye bath all day, and overnight.

  • First dye bath absorbs a lot of colour.
  • Second silk piece added on top through the night.
  • 2nd day: Remove first stronger dyed silk piece and rinse out, not squeezed too much and leave to dry.
  • Drain seeds and flowers and heat remaining paler dye bath. Add second piece again for half a day.
  • Rinse out when water completely clear. Colour was blotchy, so I cut it in half.
  • Heated dye bath again, allowed to cool, before adding tablespoon of ferrous sulphate for third final cut piece of silk. (for khaki colour) Silk must not be exposed too long to iron mix as can weaken it. Colour change is immediate so 5 mins sufficient.
  • Silk dyed with no mordant = GOLD: Silk modified after dyeing with iron + KHAKI
  • Notebook: I bought the iron (ferrous sulphate) specially, but you can make your own. I generally experiment with adding water from a jar of rusty nails and screws; about half a tea cup to turn grey or khaki. Top up jar as rusty liquid is used. Even a spoonful dulls a colour adequately.

Finished Dried Silks

Image one – three varieties with St. John’s Wort dye bath. L-R (a) first strongly dyed silk (b) Second paler dyed silk (c) Third dyed silk after iron dipping as modifier produces khaki.

Image two St. John’s Wort centre golden sample. Left – Woad dyed 2nd dye bath soak. Right – Woad dyed stronger piece.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

Future silk painting on these dyed pieces and clothes making will be linked to here in the future.