Solar Dyes: From Purple and Red to Green

Spring brought the peonies, one of which had deep red petals which went into a dye pot with pieces of silk, wool and cotton.

Peony-picture.jpg

Painting of Aoraki – Mt Cook behind the flowers is by John Horton.  These peonies were a gift from Viv and Nancy!

This is the amazing colour that appeared…Peony.jpg

My next test was with a ‘new’ kumara variety called Purple Dawn.  [Kumara is a sweet potato, which Maori brought with them to New Zealand.]  My friend Casey Macaulay told me how she had experimented painting with the red cooking water and how when vinegar was added the liquid turned bright green – I just had to try for myself.  The silk and cotton absorbed the red colour, but the paper was different as seen below.  I forgot to wash the kumara, and I think the ‘bits’ in the dye came from the skin.

The green-yellow fabric at the top is old cotton t-shirt rag, I had the same pink/green result when I dropped the dye onto the surface.  The dark dye brush mark is with vinegar added, the pink mark is straight out of the solar dye jar.  Note how the silk and cotton stay pink.

Purple-Dawn-Kumara-1.jpg

For the next test I cleaned, peeled and shredded the kumara, and added some sodium acetate to a separate portion of the dye.  The vinegar (sodium acetate) did turn the dye green, but the colours were so different. I probably should not have prepared the kumara quite so much!   Casey has different water to us so that may explain the paler green results I had.

 

Purple-Dawn-kumara.jpg

By this time I was getting really confused by these results – you probably are too (!); I did a further test in my workbook to see if the paper there gave different results.  When I put a blog together I try to get the photo image colours correct (via Photoshop).  Here however,  if I alter the pink, the green is wrong.  So I would comment that in the scan of the workbook page below –

The top left blob has a distinct dark purple edges and the overall colour is slightly green with a purple tinge

The top right hand brush stroke should be pinker

Both the Kumara No 1 tests colours should be bluer

The Kumara No 2 tests; neither should be so green…the one on the left is a pale brown.

Kumara-workbook1

If you are still with me, there is more!

My next solar dye was with the paler red peonies (in the photograph at the top). The silk and cotton took up the dye with no problem, but the addition of some vinegar brightened the colour on the silk and cotton.

Pale-peony.jpg

Hollyhock petals were collected during the summer of 2013/2014 in the old garden; I kept these in the freezer.  I tried  India Flint’s ice-flower dye method as described in her book Eco Colour whereby you place the frozen petals directly into warm water, but the water I used was hot.  The result was almost instantaneous – a deep dark red.  I put silk and knitted cotton in the solar dye.  The knitted cotton only partly submerged and what emerged was a mix of pink-red and green – again.  I also added some vinegar and salt to portions of the dye.  Images below.

Hollyhock.jpg

The bright green mark at the centre of the knitting was caused by the sample left to dry over a piece of metal.  The grey colour that appears sometimes is where the material was not completely submerged but some colour has been transferred by osmosis it would seem.  I do fold or scrunch up the cloth as well and for these tests am not bothered by colour variations .

Hollyhock-test.jpg

Later I used the original dye for further tests.  Just great colour harmonies here.  Green and blue-green marks made by copper pipe.  The paper is kozo.

Hollyhock-2nd-test.jpg

Hollyhock-Kozo.jpg

 

Hollyhock-copper-pipe.jpg

Hollyhock-green.jpg

In these tests, all the silk and cotton was originally white and unwashed, no mordants used, just the salt and vinegar added afterwards to separated amounts of dye liquid.  The chemicals in the paper seem to affect the dyes.  I could try applying soy milk to the paper and letting it dry before painting  on the dye.

Green dye from Black Turtle Bean

Following on from the previous post about black bean dye –

The next day, bicarbonate of soda was added to the Black Turtle Bean solar dye.  Colour changed to green and this colour transferred to the un-mordanted silk and cotton scraps.

This test needs to be redone; the bicarb was added to the original dye which was probably a bit tired – the beans were ‘going off’ at the time.

 

Black-turtle-bean-green-1

 

 

I also added to the solar dye pot some rolled-up paper, but the green disappeared into a brown-green when applied to paper.   Something in the paper which is photocopy paper reacting with this dye.  Where the pools of dye were deeper the green colour is just apparent.  This paper is stuck onto the test page and covered the swatches in the above image, hence the change of page direction!

Green-turtle-bean-on-paper

 

 

 

Black Turtle Bean, dye

Saw Grackleandsun‘s blog on black bean dyeing, so I thought I would add this information on my recent test.  I used Black Turtle beans – not sure if these are the ones used in dyeing by Grackleandsun, but according to Wikipedia – “Black turtle bean is a small, shiny variety of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), especially popular in Latin American cuisine, though it can also be found in Cajun and Creole cuisines of south Louisiana. They are often called simply black beans.”

I coloured mordanted cotton and non-mordanted silk and also used the dye straight from the solar dye pot on the page.  it gave a lovely colour.  Eventually the jar did rather pong!

Anyway, here’s the page from my test book;

Turtle-Bean-dye-test-page

Red Freesia Solar Dye

Freesia red

In November, when I was clearing the dead spring bulb foliage, I kept a few dried flowers from some of the freesias we had grown this year.  The thought crossed my mind – I wonder if they will provide colour as the dried flowers were still orange-yellow.  As you can see the freesia flower was a deeply coloured red.  Below is a photo of the solar dye in progress.  The colour appeared almost immediately.  You can see that the stalk was still green, just the petals were dry and papery.  Inserted in the jar was a piece of unmordanted folded woollen fabric.

freesia-solar-dye

The colour  on the woollen fabric was rather dull, and seemed to attract a brown coloration on the fold.  I noticed this also occurring at the edges of the colour when applied to paper.

red-freesia-wool

Red-freesia-on-paper

Cotinus Dye Journey

Dye Pre history:

29 January 2013

Solar dye created with Cotinus coggygria and a small iron nail.

Cotonus-jar

Added pink silk and white cotton bundles containing honesty seed pods, aquilegia seeds and lupin seed pods.  Cotton fabric on top held under water with a cotinus twig.

2 February 2013

Bundles removed, inspected, and the silk returned as very little dye taken up in the centre of the bundle.  To brighten the colour I added some hypericum and hydrangea sola dye to the cotinus/iron brew.  The opened cotton bundle is below:

Cotinus-solar-cotton-bundle

ecoprint--cotton-continus

This is what happened to the silk bundle.

Cotinus-on-pink-silk-1

The ‘cotinus’ dye bath was not abandoned at this point but I put it in a larger jar to accommodate a linen bundle.

28 February 2013

Linen added.

Linen-cotinus-sequoia

Sequoiadendron giganteum cones, dark red prunus leaves and sequoia bark in a scarf length of white linen (mordanted previously in alum) and bound with linen and cotton thread, was next placed in the Cotinus leaf solar dye, but this left little colour, even after the linen and dye bath were simmered for one hour.  Even though the colour of the dye was dark perhaps I had exhausted the dye content.  I think it was worth the effort, the gentle colours – blue grey, pink and palest brown.

Cotinusdye-sequoiabundle

Steam and Solar Dyes – New Zealand Plants

In this post I collect together the New Zealand plants I have recently used in steam and solar dyeing.

Hebe species.  Steamed bundles

Hebe-plant

Hebe flowers and leaves were laid out on opposite sides of two silk bundles, with hebe twigs for the core. After steaming the leaves produced yellow and the flowers a mix of blue and a grey-pink-brown as is shown in the smaller bundle below.  Although as the silk used was already dyed a pale ‘salmon pink’, this background colour does not look very pink in the photograph…

Hebe small silk

Good colours, but not much definition of leaf or flower shape, and I still had the heat too high causing damage to the silk as you can see at the top the image above.  The photograph below shows part of the larger piece of dyed white silk.

Hebe-large-silk

Beech Leaves – Nothofagus species.  Solar dye

Nothofagus

I placed the leaves in water in a large jar.  No colour emerged, so  I decided to simmer the leaves, but unfortunately damaged them by letting the water in the pot dry out…

In 1849, when the British settlement of Canterbury started in earnest, the area named Oxford  by the early surveyors was covered by a large forest – Harewood Forest, which has been described as ‘the most magnificent stand of virgin bush in Canterbury and unique because of its variety.  It originally covered 56,000 acres [22,662.40  ha] and was the magnet which attracted the sawmilling community from which the present town grew’  (Oliver A Gillespie, Oxford, the first hundred years).  The forest  was logged for timber for the growing settlement around Christchurch and was nearly destroyed in 1898 by a fire which swept through the area, fanned by the strong winds that occur in Canterbury.  The last sawmill closed in 1912.

I will repeat the solar dye at some point, as I am lucky enough to have these trees growing in the garden.  There are still clumps of the forest remaining close by – and we find seeds from these oases arrive via the birds and grow well in the undisturbed parts of the garden.

Kapuka – Griselinia littoralis.  Solar dye

Griselinea

This tree is found in lowland and subalpine forest throughout New Zealand.  Griselinea has small flowers, which are green in the female and yellow in the male plants, and the berries are black when ripe.  For my test I used the green leaves which I cut up, and tied a knot in the alum pre-mordanted silk.  The berries are now on the trees, and ripen from March to June.

Griseliniesilksample

Wharariki, New Zealand Mountain or Coastal Flax Plant – Phormium cookianum.  

Steamed bundle and solar dye.

I think the flax plants in my garden are cultivars of P. cookianum.  The leaves have distinct colours – either green, yellow, pink and orange, or in combination, each plant being different.  The flowers are small and, characteristically for this plant, the seed pods hang downwards and are more or less twisted.  Our flax plants have not flowered yet this year so I wonder if they flower every year.  (See more details here :  <http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/plants/ethnobotany/weaving-plants/information-sheets/harakeke-and-wharariki> )

This piece of silk started life as a steamed bundle containing a fallen Magnolia bud, but very little colour came from this (here the silk is still wet).  Taking this silk I  rolled up a new bundle containing just yellow flax leaf pieces and put it on to steam with the Hebe bundles mentioned above.  The vein down the centre of the flax leaf left a good red mark on the silk.

P1170291

P-cookianum-silk

Makomako or Wineberry – Aristotelia serrata.  Steamed bundle and solar dye

 The plant is found throughout New Zealand in lowland and subalpine forest, especially in clearings.  The solar dye liquid has a sweet, wine-like smell.

Aristotelia-serrata

Incorporated into a steam bundle of mixed flowers and leaves, were some Flax, Wineberry and Griselinea leaves, and Hebe flowers.  The Wineberry leaves gave a good imprint.  This is seen in the two images below.  The purple-grey marks are from the leaves which are thin and translucent.  (The pink in the background of the second  image below is from hollyhock flowers.)

wineberrybundle

Wineberry

The berries, which are edible, are red when mature and black when ripe.  I picked black berries and solar dyed the cotton shown below.  The colour of the dye is very strong.  This entry in my workbook is shared with a eucalyptus solar dye.

Wineberry-solar

The Eucalyptus (I think it is blue dollar gum) shown above, leads nicely into my next post which I intend to be about my other solar dyes.

For information on the plants I referred to NZ Flowers and Plants in Colour by J. T. Salmon, edition published in 1986.  Some of the plant nomenclature has changed since then, but I have used the current plant names.  All plants come from the garden.

Solar dyeing – Hypericum

For one of my first solar dyeing experiments, I used St Johns Wort, Hypericum, from the garden. My plant is one of the many varieties of Hypericum.

St Johns Wort flower

On 6 January I placed the buds, leaves and flowers separately in three glass jars, filled with tap water (Oxford bore) and placed a weight on the top to keep the unmordanted cotton cloths submerged.

The following image is the dyed, scrunched up cotton from the jar that contained buds and two stones, one of which must have had a generous amount of iron in it as it introduced a black colour.

Hypericum buds

The resulting green, blue and black was very nice to see.  The cotton from this and the next jar was removed on 17 January.

The jar with the chopped up hypericum leaves contained a Waimakariri river stone to weigh down the leaves and three folded and tied cotton bundles with different contents.  In the photograph below, the top scrap of cotton was folded on its own.  The lower scrap enclosed more hypericum leaves and some Acacia melanoxylon bark.  The leaves in this bundle came through as a pale green-yellow, just visible in the image.  The thin strip on the right is 300 gsm Fabriano paper, folded and placed in the jar with the bundles.

Hypericum leaves

The third bundle containing flower buds is below.  The yellow buds did not seem to change the colour; I do not know where the grey marks came from!  Interesting that the iron caused such a different colour to appear in the first jar.

Hypericum

The third jar containing hypericum flowers and a piece of wire that I thought was copper was left until 28 January when I removed the cotton.  Some brighter traces of yellow appear, perhaps through contact with the wire.

Hypericum copper

On 19 January I started to record my solar dyeing tests and to date I have 35 of them.  No wonder I have not had a chance  to sit down at the computer.  The weather has been hot and mostly dry for about three weeks,  even now at 5.51 pm it is 27 degrees C in the studio (built as a greenhouse).  I recorded 47 degrees C one day on the shelf by the windows were I place my solar dye jars.  The garden is full of flowers and I could certainly never need to go out further afield in search of material for dyeing. I hardly know where to start.  I would prefer to concentrate on New Zealand native plants and have solar dyed with Harakeke the New Zealand flax plant – Phormium cookianum; Griselinea littorals; Hebe; and Wineberry – Aristotelia serrata.

I have been reading Richard Mabey’s book Weeds; How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature, published in 2010.  Chance and serendipity are rife here at the moment – I found this book in the library by chance – and I was also concurrently very curious about a weed that was new to me.  I eventually found this plant on the internet by using the search terms ‘tiny white flower weed’.  The plant is called Galinsoga parviflora and has the common names of Gallant Soldier or Potato Weed.  Well, it is growing in the vegie patch and appeared last season – near the potatoes.  Then I discover from the Contents that Mabey’s book  has a chapter entitled Gallant-soldier!   It so happens that this plant, a member of the daisy family, arrived at Kew Gardens in 1793 from Peru and was named after the ‘splendidly ennobled’ Spanish botanist Don Mariano Martinez de Galinsoga.  This plant has the tiny-est flower I have ever seen.  It escaped Kew Gardens in the 1860s and eventually found its way to my garden.

Another serendipitous moment arrived when I read in this book that in 1748 ‘a celebrated [British agricultural] improver,  William Ellis, who farmed at Little Gaddesden in the Chilterns […] was experimenting with different methods of weed control and pasture management’.  Ellis used clover as an effective way of controlling weeds. This nitrogenous crop could be ploughed in so was also a great cost saver as hand weeding would not be required.  I expect my ancestors from Little Gaddesden took to straw-plaiting to supplement their incomes, no longer being required to weed the Corn (wheat) fields.  Actually, we have also used clover as a weed suppressant – we have a bricked area that we despaired of – after two years hand weeding between the  bricks we once tried the chemical way but not really wanting to do this gave that idea up pretty fast (and it didn’t work really for the weeds came back quickly).  We finally decided to just mow it!  It works wonderfully, and is a haven for the bees as the clover is taking over.

Much to my comfort, Mabey also talks about Hypericum perforatum.  “Each leaf is covered in tiny transparent dots (the perforations of the Latin name…) and held up against the sky the sun’s rays prick through, like dapple in a springtime wood.”  A good connection with embroidery there…

This is miles away from eco-print and solar dyeing… and the dye from Galinsoga is a pale straw colour.