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 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.
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.
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.
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
These samples will be matched with recycled fabric prints, and painted on before becoming part of a new garment.
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).
Yellow gold centre sample from 1st session using Tarka Trail berries. Browner samples used River Otter berries.
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….
The Tarka Trail old rail track – Barnstaple to Bidefordwas 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.
PROJECT: Experimentation with beeswax batik resist as background texture for silk painting
I made two samples with silk pieces:1st logwood dyebath produced strong purple after drying (but it got burnt when the steamer boiled dry, so I made another one), 2nd logwood dye bath using the residue of first dye bath, which resulted in light-dull grape colour. Useful to discover; means can use a small amount of logwood for paler tone.
Result: 1st Logwood dye bath
Gallery: Deep purple dyed silk shows where shibori technique worked (scrunching up with gathered threads) leaf vein and butterfly edging. Leaf areas did not work as resisted, so dye bleach was applied to design area. This is ironed out when dry, and worked only partially. It seems logwood is almost impervious to chemical bleach.
Design areas were outlined again with a dark dyed gutta for more emphasis of, before adding fresh dye colours to images. Silk sample burnt in steaming, will feature in another dress from strips salvaged. (Gallery)
2nd Logwood dye bath – Batik preparation
BATIK: Silk piece stretched to frame. Design drawn with blue water soluble marker pen design drawn. Applying bees wax to silk, with brush end and brushes.
Design drawn with water dissolvable blue marker pen. Wax is applied as hot as possible. The centre motif worked best (and lightest outcome) where wax was hottest. Keep heating up wax by placing dish over boiling water pan. Other surrounding wax markings with brush end dabs and hog bush worked less well. The clearest resisted area is in the centre, where the wax was originally just off the boil. It also came away the easiest when ironed after dyeing. So I would not recommend using weak, faint brush marks when applying wax. It won’t form a strong enough ‘cover’ and the dye will seep behind which can be seen in image below, although a feint texture was achieved.
Shibori test techniques
1st logwood dye bath test created white resisted butterfly outlines (above) after stitching threads very tightly together. Rows of loose stitching, and threads pulled as much as possible, creating a ruched area which creates a resist area against dye penetration. 2nd soak in same dye bath (when most dyestuff had been taken up) revealed poor resist, using shibori stitch gathering (shown on waxed piece). Note: Shibori works well if fabric excluded enough from dye bath – so use thick embroidery silks or string type thread. Simple cotton thread was not thick enough.
Removing batik wax
When dyed fabric is dry – iron over thick brown paper (parcel paper type) placed over silk and wax; iron several times, with fresh paper and hot iron. When wax seems all removed, wash silk in hot water and soap. Any stubborn wax can be scrubbed very, very lightly with a soft brush, to loosen. (Note: wax batiking in this way for fashion, is not ideal on silk) Cotton is a firmer base for artwork where it wouldn’t matter if some residue of wax remains in fabric.
Result: 2nd Logwood dye bath with Batik Lilac-beige silk texture – subtle result after washing out logwood dye, and removing wax.
Fabric co-ordinates: Blend and contrast ideas with batik colour result prior to silk painting. (View Gallery)
Fabric co-ordinates: Final choices of fabric colours to create patchwork dress, to go with half finished silk painting.
Dulled pinks and dull brown with lilac seemed best combinations for the silk batik ground. The pink taffeta has a lilac sheen.
Choosing the pansy print as a co-ordinate allowed the addition of pansies in the silk painted design. This design didn’t really have a preconceived theme, only to use the nigella seed pod as a motif, and for the batik background experiment. Adding maroon silk seemed a good darker linking colour from the pansy print.
The green butterfly came from a photograph I took, and the red butterfly came from another printed fabric design.
Painted silk design result with co-ordinated fabrics chosen for dress.
Embroidery added to finished silk painting for added textural effect
Added embroidered lines on pansies give sparkly effect. Nigella seed pod is enhanced by dark seeds inside pod (arial view) and light embroidery on the pod ends. …The banana leaves would benefit from embroidery also.
Silk Painting ‘Nigella Butterflies’ made into dress centrepiece
Pink silk top – fabric co-ordinatetaken from a blouse: colour is similar to the palest background in the logwood batik. Pink bodice top sewn to silk painting just under bust; simple overlap stitching. Original V-necked pink blouse was cut on the cross, so will stretch over varied bust fullness.
Fabric co-ordinate Brown cotton with lavender-pink design – added to bottom of silk painting, and usefully some dress parts could be utilised for armhole bands, as an additional design feature.
Front bodice – Contrasting armholeband taken from neckline of co-ordinating fabric (dress). Pinned to pink silk bound edged armhole for stitching join by hand.
Back bodice – Contrasting armhole banding cut from back and underarm of co-ordinating fabric (dress).
Decided to add sleeves, a petals bundle died silk for upper sleeve, just enough silk; adding sleeve frill from original up-cycled pale dusky pink dress. Overall effect is balanced but the banana leaves on painting need deep crimson stitch decoration.
Dressmaking process: Silk painting summer 2019 – Dress finished September 2019, but decided to add in sleeves February 2020. Slow fashion!
Pink silk top is on bias stretch, so adjusts to size. Suitable for parties, weddings. To be added to ETSY shop May 2020… [£175.00] Value is assessed on only the silk batik/painting/embroidery (not on making time)
Dress size: 36/38″ – max 40 inch bust. Length: shoulder to front hem 36″, shoulder to back hem 38″.
I collected this bark from 2 trees; Eucalyptus viminalis, Manna Gum, and Eucalyptus Archeri, Alpine cider gum (Tasmania) in Hillier Arboretum, Hampshire, UK.
Eucalyptus bark soaking in dye pan.
Break up bark and leave to soak for a day or overnight. I added 3 leaves to ensure a colour result (as dye instruction books use leaves for strong result). I heated to boil, then simmered for 1hr to 1hr 30mins. Remove bark and put silk in pot. (I pre-mordanted the silk by soaking in water with alum in a bowl overnight; although not necessary with Eucalyptus). It wasn’t necessary to reboil and simmer the silk in the pan as it took up the dye well immediately, and quickly grew darker. After about an hour of soaking, frequently moving around, I heated it for about 10 mins and again left it to cool soaking.
Silk rapidly absorbs bark dye
Silk absorbs bark dye very well, and quickly. I left it in cold dye bath for 1 hr then simmered the pot for 10 mins.
Lace fabric on fist placing in dye bath (content unknown; likely cotton/polyester mix.) It rapidly takes up the dye, although it was not pre-mordanted.
Lace fabric on fist placing in dye bath (content unknown; likely cotton/polyester mix.)
It rapidly takes up the dye, although it was not pre-mordanted, like the silk was.
Lace fabric having taken up the dye after an hour or so simmering
Washing out dyed silk, to remove excess dye.
Final colour is a rich gold: silk looks very bright in sunlight; a deeper old gold tone indoors.
Silk dyed with bark, rinsed and dried.
Adding rusty water (iron) deepens the colour of silk and lace in two more samples.
Second silk sample modified after dying with rust water.
To follow up… a new garment using both silk samples with silk painting is in the making. Colour combinations of blues with deep gold highlights, picking out colours in the prints.
The design will be used in kimono-dress, with the added lace pieces; also dyed with the eucalyptus bark
Seed designs steamed into dyed silk. A new discharge paste brushed on to the seed head areas did not work on the natural eucalyptus bark dye! To be re painted with contrasts.
Large poppy seed heads: (discharge paste did not work to bleach the eucalyptus dye from those areas). Test piece for general design idea, to be repainted with darker seed heads.
Practice piece painting over eucalyptus dyed silk. Discharge (bleaching paste) did not work through eucalyptus dye – interesting! Seed heads to be repainted darker, for contrast.
Outlines are drawn with acid dye into gutta resist (blue lines). Background texture in maroon are created with collagraph printing:- Seeds flattened and glued to cardboard, then used as a print stamp underneath silk, pressed from upper surface. (Details to be added)
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 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 after using and dyed silk.
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.
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.
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….
Plants and trees that we can use in dye baths, with and without mordants (which make colours stronger) easily dye cotton, linen and silk.
Just a simple collection and boiling of plant matter, then simmering with fabric steeped.
Very bright yellow, or ocre yellow achieved with Alder plant matter, leaves and twigs. A pre process mordant is soya milk which the centre linen was soaked in. Its a little too bright for my taste so I would use without mordant.
The left lace is with nettle dyebath, a very subtle dark cream, with hint of yellow-green in reality.
Flora used same weight as fabric.
Left: Ahimsa silk, folded in triangles along folded strips, to create ‘resist’ non-dyed areas.
Right: Habotai silk scrunched and rubber band tied, to create abstract, cosmic or marbled effect.
Either of these can be used as a background, to hand paint over with other colours; this is a technique I will explore in the future as preparation for silk painting designs. Flora’s workshop used plant based mordants (colour intensifiers) but metallic mordants would produce different shades.
Stripes achieved by folding fabric and using rubber bands to keep tight, preventing dye penetrating fabric.
Ahimsa silk folded and clamped to resist dye penetration, results in pattern.
Cotton lace rolled and 2 rubber bands used to achieve resist un-dyed stripes.
My bundles kept overnight, steamed next day; allowing time for dye impregnation.
My sample, after steaming; strong madder and hollyhock dye colour on thin silk.
Thicker silk gives less strong colour results; lilac, purple, ocre, using the simple method. The seed remains are visible before washing. Silk sampling is with ad-hoc arrangement of colours. If fabric had a resist paste or melted wax in some places, the dye would not penetrate and that would make a design left in white.
Plant dye workshop I attended to make my samples was run by Flora Arbuthnott at Forde Abbey Garden Festival 2017. Details of flora’s work and workshops below:-