Natural Dye Sample Test no. 2 2016


Hello everyone, today I am sharing my second round of dye samples this year. This time I tested a couple of different techniques and mainly dried goods. I also decided to test some larger pieces of fabric as in the tests I did I wanted to be able to see more surface effects than smooth even dyeing.


Last time I believe I mentioned trying out solar dyeing. I read about this technique in Sasha Duerr’s book last year. At the time it didn’t really capture my attention as it appeared to give the same results as a proper dye bath, resulting with an evenly dyed piece of cloth. I suppose it might be a great thing to do on scorching hot days if you were wanting to do some dyeing then… But I think on those days I would not be focusing on dyeing. I would be focusing on staying cool and sunburn free. But maybe I will try to harvest some of the sun’s energy in dyeing this year.


I digress, solar dyeing did capture my attention as something I would like to try out when I saw other solar dyeing samples with these complex abstract surface designs. And with some hot weather coming up this week I’ve decided I wanted to do some tests with that.


For the first test I wanted to try out the dried pink hibiscus flowers that I have. They were given to me by a family member, as we are not house plant savvy enough to do flowering plants. For this test I just did the water soak (no mordant), like from my previous dye test post, to get some even dyeing.


Starting off I used around half the amount of flowers I had (maybe around 8 blossoms) as I wanted to save the other half for either another test or an actual project. When I started the test I wasn’t expecting colour to start leaching out right away with these flowers but it did. Within an hour the water had turned this rosy colour (by the end of the soaking period the colour was a deep wine colour):


I left them to soak for about five days (mainly because I was busy with other things). But then I only soaked the fabric samples for a day (normally I tend to leave the scraps in test baths for a few days). And man was I shocked by the results!


The flowers were pink, the dye was deep red, and my fabric came out green! I was not expecting that at all. And the green is not even essence or suggestion of green it is a true green! (Look I even put the swatches next to some leaves for proof):


Among my samples it didn’t seem to be so much about the scraps being mordanted with alum or not it was more about if the fibres were protein or cellulose. In natural dyeing more often than not protein fibres absorb more pigment than cellulose. And that proved to be true for the hibiscus samples. Whether or not the fibres were mordanted seemed to have very little effect on the results.


The second test I did was a proper attempt at solar dyeing and attempt for surface design. I tested two things in the same jar. I did Saskatoon berries and onion skins. With this type of solar dyeing you add your mordant into the jar. I added some alum salts to mine. And I tested two types of fabric, linen and silk noil, so a cellulose and protein. My thought before the dyeing again was that the silk would have a deeper colour and I was right.




(The paler fabric is the linen and the deeper fabric is a silk noil)

I decided to go for these two dye materials because they are simple and are sure to give some sort of result (and I knew the colours they would give before this test). And I did get a bit of surface design. It isn’t as complex as I was hoping but I believe that is because I limited the amounts of dye materials I used (I didn’t want to use up all of the dye materials in one test), just enough to cover the surface of my fabric.


The results showed me that it is possible to get the surface designs that I want. But maybe next time use a smaller jar so that my fabric is more compressed and forces more surface contact between the dye material and fibres or use more dye material.


Then for the third test I tested mayday flowers on silk. I thought maybe just maybe I would get some surface design on this sample. But that didn’t happen… Just a plain even dye job.  The colour that I got was much brighter than the mayday samples I got last year because this time round I had the alum mordant in the jar.


Also I was surprised by how bright the yellow was considering the fact that the blossoms I used were ones I had dried from last year. And this bright yellow was the colour I was hoping to get from my fennel test. But I was happy to get it from mayday flowers just as well. And next year I hope I can gather more of them (I missed then this year) to dry and use!


But all in all I am happy with these results as a first solar dyeing test run. Also and I am happy to share that it seems that solar dyeing does not produce the same funky smells that heated dye baths do. So if your nose gets easily offended (like mine sometimes) I recommend this method.




That is all for now, until next time,





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