My friend Anne gave me a huge paper bag of gumnuts which I’ve recently rediscovered after cleaning out the dyeing cupboards. Another friend and I have been invited to participate in the opening of a new arts hub in Inglewood, Western Australia, displaying our natural dyed fabrics and yarns. Space will be limited so I decided to demonstrate the many effects that plant dyeing and printing can have even if the dye-pot has just one ingredient (well, almost just one; more later).
I soaked the gumnuts for about two weeks in tap water. They went a bit grungy on the top but this disappeared shortly after I started simmering them yesterday.
Two types of fabric were used. One is a cotton canvas of medium weight acquired on the closing of a curtain manufacturer [COT1] . The second was a set of recycled damask cotton hotel table napkins [COT2].
The cotton canvas was treated in myrobalan as a form of tannin (I should have used a clearer tannin because the myrobalan [MYR] did give the fabric a yellow cast.) Then I mordanted with aluminium acetate [AA].
The damask napkins were mordanted in a mixture of iron, alum and lime [IAL] so I expected they’d produce some darker colours and they did.
The fabric samples in the image above are in the order they were done, starting at the left.
Sample 1: COT1/MYR/AA, stitched with pin-tucks lengthwise and put into dye-bath as is, no wrapping or clamping. Simmered two hours. Result: a subtle light brown shade made more interesting by the resist pattern.
Sample 2: COT1/MYR/AA, stitched with narrower pin-tucks cross wise and immersed as for 1. Again, the somewhat unexciting shade of the dye-bath is compensated for by the resist pattern.
Sample 3: COT1/MYR/AA, pleated and clamped around wooden tongue depressors and treated as for 1 and 2. Ditto ditto.
Sample 4: COT1/MYR/AA, with “flowers” made by enclosing wine bottle tops within the fabric with elastic bands. Immersed as for 1, 2 and 3. Ditto ditto. Pattern wins; colour not so much.
Sample 5: COT1/MYR/AA, sprinkled with frozen coreopsis flowers and frozen carrot tops then wrapped tightly around a plastic wrap covered rod, bandaged, and tied with string. Immersed as above. What a great colour! I expected yellow but got a marvellous orangey red, brighter than the image shows. The carrot tops seem almost to have discharged the colour of the fabric but it may just be that they print pale yellow….
Sample 6: COT2/IAL, pleated around rusted lids of cans. What a change! Iron in the mordant and iron in lids equals a DARK print.
Sample 7: COT2/IAL, sprinkled with frozen coreopsis flowers, carrot tops, oxalis flowers and leaves and some blueberries, then wrapped tightly around a plastic wrap covered rod with bandages and then string. There is iron in the mordant and by now perhaps also in the bath but it’s only served to enhance the impact of the prints of the plants rather than darken the background.
Sample 8: COT1/MYR/AA, pleated and clamped around rusted lids of cans. This is an interesting contrast to Sample 6 in that the myrobalan/ aluminium acetate has given the background a warmer hue.
Sample 9: COT2/IAL, a sprig of grevillea leaves with orange flower and some oxalis and blueberries wrapped tightly around a rod , bandaged and tied with string. Still not enough iron present apparently for a really strong dark print of the grevillea leaves.
Sample 10: COT1/MYR/AA, pleated and inserted with oxalis and leaves of Agonis flexuosa. The whole bundle was then wrapped around a rod. Interesting that the yellow of the oxalis came out well but the peppermint tree leaves didn’t print despite there being, by this time, a considerable amount of iron in the bath, as evidenced by the take up at the edges of the pleats. I found this surprising. Note that the yellow of the oxalis is paler than the yellow of the coreopsis in Sample 5.
I will be taking this series to the opening of the new Arts Hub to show what pattern and colour variations can be obtained on fabric even if the dye bath is a simple gum-nut one.
To jazz up the table a bit I’m also taking a small quilt (about a metre square) and two covers I’ve made for large sized notebooks. Both illustrate how naturally dyed and plant printed fabrics can be mixed and matched. As is the case for the most recent dyed collection, the fabrics are all reclaimed form old clothing and napery, including bed sheets.
Wow you have been busy
Love all the effects you got