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.





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!





A print book

Time for this has been scarce recently, so I thought I should try to get another post in before 2014.

Some of my eco prints on paper have been made into artists books.  This one is a ten-page ‘concertina’ book.  It is a little difficult to present these books; however, here is a scan of the cover and the last page…


The cover image is printed onto handmade paper by Mark Lander.  The wood-block type of print (using a plastic block and a Dremel tool) was made in 2012.  The pages each have a line from the poem by Robert Frost – Gathering Leaves – and I have written these words with ink from Harakeke, the New Zealand flax plant.  The autumn leaves all come from our garden here in Oxford, and are a collection of prunus, oak, sycamore, cotinus, acer, pin oak and ash leaves – the coloured deciduous leaves all providing good elements for transfer to the paper which was dipped in alum first.  The dark brown on the pages below is provided by a piece of harakeke seed pod.


Dyes on Paper

As the main purpose for starting solar dyeing with plants was to find more organic colours that I could use on paper, I record here some of my recent paper experiments.  This first one is on kozo (mulberry)  paper, and coloured by a pomegranite skin solar dye.  I squashed the folded paper into the jar, and really like the way the scrunched and twisted paper keeps its shape when dry.  I am not sure where the dark marks came from.


I have also experimented with Knotweed – Persicaria.   Knotweed grows in my veggie patch.  There are two varieties – one smaller than the other.  The smallest one, P. maculosa, has been used here.  It seems simpler just to scan my test book pages! – here they are:


This is the page for Privet berries.   They are poisonous, by the way.  The colour has lasted well in the solar dye jars, and each brew is different.  I have not achieved a blue which you can get with adding alum and salt.  One source said the berries had to be ripe in order to do this.  I collected two lots, the second one of which is this test.  The berries were round and plump, seemed to be very ripe, but apparently, perhaps, not…


This next page is abut Viburnum tinus.  I solar dyed the drupes which are a beautiful steely blue.  It is interesting how the colours change according to type of paper or textile to which they are applied.


Autumn colours eco print

I have been trying to catch the autumn leaves before they all blow away!   This post was started a few weeks ago, and I have published others before getting round to finishing this one.

The leaves have been used for eco prints on paper and cloth. I have been using lots of different mordants to soak paper and cotton – alum, washing soda, copper, tannin, gelatine and acorns, both alone and in different combinations.

Here is a collage of the the result on various pieces of cotton fabric, pre soaked for a few days in tannin, alum and washing soda and iron water.  I added iron filings when I put the packages together – was a bit heavy handed – but which produced a beautiful result where they touched Cotinus coggygria leaves.  Leaves used were acer, cotinus, oak, acacia both fresh and frozen, and iris and rose petals.  The fabrics were folded or rolled and weighted down with ceramic tiles.


A wood block depicting a pin oak leaf was printed on to Pescia cotton 300 gsm printmaking paper which was later soaked with the cotton fabric. I rolled this paper and some of the fabric in layers around a wood core, using Phormium tenax or harakeke roots in the final layer of cotton. The same leaves were used as in the cotton bundles above, except with the addition of iron filings, vinegar and some Hypericum solar dye bath to which had been added salt and vinegar for a wool and thread dye experiment. My usual over-enthusiasm…

I managed to cram all of this into the steamer – there is a new, larger setup now.

The Pescia paper print, overprinted with cotinus and iron filings at the top and various other leaves below, follows.


The reverse of this Pescia paper roll – showing an iris petal and rose petals still attached.


The winter flowering iris plant that grows in the garden.


Here the cotton has picked up the green of the iris petal.

I was delighted with the result on this pre-used cotton poplin type fabric.  A mixture of defined and watery images.  The bias binding has taken up the colour extremely well.  It is an unused, old roll and quite stiff, so I wonder if it is starched.


Here is another view.  The rusty red came from a pink rose petal.


Another view of the blue-black colour created by the iron filings.


Autumn Leaves on Paper and Cloth

I had the opportunity to collect leaves from a friend’s garden. She has the most wonderful collection of shrubs and trees, all good candidates for natural printing.  I made three separate bundles using paper from three different pre-steam soaks.

Pescia 300 gsm paper  was put in a brew of brown rain water and ivy branch and leaves which had collected in a rusty wheelbarrow. The paper was there for nearly three days. Secondly, and for the same amount of time, I placed Fabriano artistico 360 gsm paper, (synthetic) lining fabric and pre-used poplin cotton in another mordant – an alum and washing soda bath.

Thirdly, a piece of white paper was soaked in a rust bath.  As usual the planned method of preparation flew out the door when I then added a little of the rusty water from this water + vinegar and iron objects on to the lining fabric which was on top of the second soaking pile.

All the leaves were from the freezer. The full sheet of Pescia paper I folded to fit the steamer, as I wanted a large complete sheet for a project that is part of a forthcoming group show. Into the rolled paper and fabric from the alum bath, I put more of the same leaves and bound them up with unmordanted wide cotton bias binding at which point I introduced some dried harakeke roots (NZ flax plant, Phormium cultivars).  The image below shows these two  bundles in the steamer.


Below is the alum Fabriano paper on its cylindrical cardboard core again.  I make sure I roll the wet paper and leaves tightly when rolling up the bundle.  I do find the bias binding works well.


Unwinding this bundle.  It contained vine leaves, cotinus, acer, maple, sycamore and other deciduous leaves – I have to consult the owner about the more unusual plants…  The vine leaves were a glorious blend of reds, greys and black, so I was interested to see the quite stunning result – for me at least!


Another view of this bundle of two sheets of paper – it is the left hand side of the image above, the vine leaf removed.  Some of the vine leaf is still stuck to the paper.  It was removed when dry.


This is a further image of the still wet papers.


I particularly  like the shape of this leaf, which I think is from a tulip tree – Liriodendron.


Here is the lining fabric and the cotton bias binding from the rust paper print.  (If you sew, you will know what that is!)


All the above image are when the material was wet.   So today I photographed the dried and ironed fabric.  Immediately below is the lining fabric, and another image of the same piece.  When I iron the fabric I like to keep the embossing from the leaf veins.



The definition of the leaves is a lovely instance of chance – the darker areas behind the leaf giving the appearance of depth.

Finally, below is the cotton fabric from the alum and washing soda mordant bath: the leaf shapes not distinct.


The tannin bath print (two images below) was not so spectacular as the ones from the alum bath; but still quite subtle.  The definition on the printing paper – Pescia (56 x 76 cms | 22 x 30 inches) – is not so good, but I think there was not enough pressure on the package even though it was well weighted down.  I wonder if the one hour steam was too long, so I will experiment with a shorter one.  It is almost as if there is too much water accumulating between the sheets of paper.  I may have soaked the paper for too long as well.  I should try taking off the excess water by pressing between sheets of butchers paper before laying on the plant material (as you do when printing).  This image was taken when the paper was dry.


This is the ‘back’ below.  I do to know why it is so very mono-colour, but possibly the absence of the vine leaves explains this.  And the alum which always seems to give a yellow/green cast to the colour range.


Here are other papers from this steam.  This is the third bundle, bound with bias binding.  The outer paper was the rust print.


In the photo below, the paper with the oil based ink dry point (to the right)  was included in the tannin bath.  All papers are dry.


I have to say, my rust prints are very rusty.  For a couple of days nothing seems to happen, then there is more rust than I would like the next day.  This is what I mean.  This is the other side of the paper above – and the leaf print is very black!


The top sheet of paper here has some lovely, abstract detail.


This was an exciting outcome for me.  I just love this process.  Many thanks to Faye and Dave Marshall for providing the leaves.

Cotinus Dye Journey

Dye Pre history:

29 January 2013

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


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:



This is what happened to the silk bundle.


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.


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.


(Mis)Adventures in Eucalyptus Eco Printing (2)

Testing eucalyptus on silk and cotton again.

Eucalyptus leaves

Last week I collected some more dried, fallen, eucalyptus leaves from the same tree as before.  You can see what beautiful colours these dried leaves have.  The green leaf on the left by the twig was a fresh leaf blown down by the recent north-west gales.  These leaves were placed on dampened, un-mordanted silk and rolled up in close contact with the cloth.  The eucalyptus twig formed the core of the bundle which was bound with cotton knitting yarn.

I made three more silk bundles with eucalyptus leaves, the smallest one was rolled up on itself with no eucalyptus twig in the centre. Two cotton bundles were also steamed.  I used some more of the cotton fabric as in the first tests, but this time it was mordanted with soy milk.  One of these cotton bundles contained only a small stem of daphne leaves and pink-red flower buds.

eco  bundles

I used the colander as a steamer basket with the pot lid to cover.  I steamed the bundles for one hour as this basket arrangement was not very air tight.  At one point the water nearly dried up, and I think the temperature in the pot became too hot as the silk fabric on the outer layer along one side of the largest bundle is stiff and ‘fused’ together.  One cotton bundle also showed signs of heat damage as well.

I finally managed to get more colour on the fabric pieces!  Still not what I would have expected, as is shown by the large silk bundle pictured below (left).

Lge silk bundle

This is the small silk bundle. Colour from the leaves and bark has been taken up by the silk quite well.

Silk e eucalyptus

This is the soy mordanted cotton fabric.  The bundle contents were daphne leaves and flower buds, and an eucalyptus twig core.  The cotton has absorbed quite a lot of colour.

Daphne on cotton

The following day I had another go… A post to come soon.

(Mis)Adventures with Eucalyptus eco prints

Plunging in with eucalyptus and silk.

In early December 2012, I started to try using eucaplytus leaves on silk and cotton fabric.  I went down the road to where a gum tree planted by Mrs White in the late 19th century towers above all other trees.  I collected dried, fallen leaves and fresh-when-cut leaves; see pods; bark; twigs from the prunings by the tree frog machine that took place a fortnight earlier.  Using India Flint’s method on page 264 of her book Second Skin, I rolled up in the silk the leaves etc around a bark covered twig for the core of the bundle of fabric.

First silk bundle

In a stainless steel pot I simmered the following for 30 minutes:

One bundle of leaves, bark twig, seed pods all tied up with a polyester piping cord.  An extra piece of eucalyptus bark; extra eucalyptus leaves; coil of aluminium wire 1 mm dia x 170 mm long; a piece of aluminium foil 80 mm x 200 mm; a used tea bag; tap water from kitchen, with a top up from laundry tap as necessary (untreated Oxford town bore water, no chlorine).

I was a bit nervous nothing would happen.  I was correct!  Well, something did happen, but not what I desired.  This is typical art progress!

After 30 minutes I turned off the heat and left it until the next day.  Without  removing all the cord, I had a peek to see what was happening when the bundle was cool.

First silk bundle

Apart from the resist created by the cord and plant material, very little colour came through from the eucalyptus, the whole piece being dominated by the dye water, as far as I understand.  I also wondered if this material was, in fact, silk.  I have had it for about twenty years and it was an old piece when I was given it.

Undaunted, you might say, and buoyed up by India Flint’s Eco Colour, I researched and read the internet – more very useful information from Alice Fox in the UK,  Wendy Feldberg in Canada and Cassandra Tondro in the USA  – thanks SO much for this.  I re-read the information to sort it all out in my mind into an ordered format so that I could at least intend experimenting in a reasoned fashion and record the tests in my workbook.  I made ash water from the wood burning stove ash, and then got jars of copper, alum, rhubarb and iron water underway.

The ash water had been strained through an old cotton pillow case, so I thought I would put this mordanted fabric in a hot dye and used the left-over silk bundle eucalyptus brew.  This still contained the leaves, aluminium foil and bark, and I also put in some Sequoiadendron giganteum bark from the garden as well (another tree planted early on in Oxford’s history) and a small dash of the rust & vinegar water I had used in my earlier paper experiments (just for good measure).

The cotton bundle contained an old rusty nail as core, lemon balm leaves and  one eucalyptus leaf at the end – all tied up with the cord previously used.

Eucalyptus cotton iron

I also put in a sheet of paper, concertina folded, enclosing another eucalyptus leaf, and held together with two rusting bulldog clips. Later I added another folded sheet of ordinary printing paper.

Euc thread Bond

Euc fold

As the experts will know, the water got very black!  I did not record how long I left the contents heating, but must have been about under an hour.

The results:  the cotton dyed fabric is above showing the black marks from the nail, and I think the eucalyptus leaf is showing at the top where I laid it across the hemmed fabric.  The two paper experiments are the smaller images – the bulldog clip marks are seen in the left hand image.