Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Alchemy indeed ....

I bought this book earlier in the year, fully intending to experiment in the summer when nature is at its most abundant, but, as always, life got in the way. I was talking about the book to my friend Helen last week ,who just happened (as you do!) to have a container of frozen elderberries in her freezer that she kindly donated to me. So today, rather than get on with the household chores, and having been reading India and Arlee's blogs, I decided to play.

The elderberries, contained in the foot of a popsock and still frozen, were immersed in water in my copper dyeing pot and, very slowly, heated on the stove until barely simmering. While this was going on, I pre-mordanted various different types of cotton fabric in diluted soy milk. In an ideal world, the fabric should have been pre-mordanted, drip dried and left to 'cure' before being dyed but the berries were already on the go before I read that page!

When the dye bath had a good bit of colour to it, I decanted some into an empty coffee jar, scrunched in a bit of the soy mordanted cotton and that is destined to sit on the kitchen windowsill to see what will happen to it in the next few weeks. (all the colours in the photos on this post are much brighter in real life - had to use the flash as it's so grey and gloomy today)

The rest of the cotton (bar one piece that wouldn't fit in but more of than later) was immersed in the dye pot:-

then heated back to almost simmering and left for an hour.

This is what I ended up with:-

The pieces seem to have taken the dye differently - the muslin is much darker than the recycled cotton sheet - and I think a bit of polycotton has inadvertently slipped in as one piece of fabric is very pale. Anyway, I'll leave it all in the dye pot for as long as possible to steep. It'll then be drip dried and left for a few days before rinsing and we'll see what I end up with.

So, that last bit of mordanted cotton - what to do with it? Common sense said to let it dry and cure so I'd have something all ready for dyeing in the future but I was on a roll and wanted colour on that cloth today! Outside I went and gathered some of the fallen leaves from the garden, spread them on the cloth and then rolled it up tightly and secured it with elastic bands. A bit of unmordanted, dampened cotton got the same treatment, as did a piece of habotai silk (but with more carefully placed leaves from the Acer palmatum atropurpureum in the garden). Break out the so-far-unused-but-now-dedicated-to-dyeing electric steamer!

After an hour's steaming, this is what I had:-

Just look at the colour and patterns from the Acer leaves on that silk!

Now I have to be patient and leave the bundles alone, still tightly wrapped, until I can't stand the suspense any longer!

Alchemy indeed......