Category Archives: solar dyeing

Garden Dyeing Again

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Garden dyed skirt

This linen skirt has been in the dyepot several times since it was made. The link shows the original undyed colour of the linen.

The lines and dots were made by painting with egg. The final dye was made from dock leaves taken from plants that were seeding. It gives a much deeper yellow than leaves taken earlier in the season but I think the build up of the various dyes helps too.

I’m planning to stitch along the lines with variegated silk threads. It will be a long time before I finish this skirt.

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Tunic Dyed with Sage

This tunic was made from a sheet and has undergone several transformations.  I tried printing with sage leaves and loved the yellow colour but it came out in blobs rather than leaf shapes. That’s what encouraged me to dye the whole thing with sage. It’s been in the dye pot in the greenhouse for six days which is quite a short time for solar dyeing here, but the weather has been exceptionally hot.

This is it rinsed in cold water and hanging in the shade; once dry, I will put it away for a week or two before washing it (gently!). I’ve noticed that the dye stays in better if the fabric gets a good rest between each stage.

The marks on the tunic were made by the copper pipes coming out of the hot water tank. Originally accidental, I liked them, so I made some more.

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Some garden dyed samples

These pieces of cotton fabric were originally white and were solar dyed as follows:

Top left used dock leaves from seeding plants.

Top right is from dock leaves pre seeding.

Bottom left is Earl Grey tea.

Bottom right is dandelion flowers. I was suprised by this as they produced a brownish shade on the skirt and a very brown shade on the painted parts of it.

If you’re interested in mordants, some pieces of fabric have been treated with alum but most have been soaked in dilute (slightly sour) milk and washed in washing soda before dyeing. They have all been left to dry between each stage and some have been stored for several weeks.  Alum is the only “normal” mordant I use. The others worry me somewhat and I prefer milk followed by washing soda.

Pieces of old sheet have picked up the dye really well without me adding any mordant. I think that is because of the number of times the sheet has been washed before it became part of my stash. I think there’s a build up of washing soda or something similar.

If you are interested in more detail, please let me know. I will do my best to answer any questions. All these are experiments inspired by India Flint. I think it will take years before I will be able to call myself a dyer but I’m enjoying the journey.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

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Some Dyeing and some Dresses

My Merchant & Mills Curlew dress.

The colour is more realistic in the photo taken on the stairs. It’s made of the undyed Irish linen and I’ve used Earl Grey tea to get the gold colour – I am so pleased with it!

The Facts:

Pattern Changes: I shortened the sleeves. I made the top so I didn’t make a toile.

Sewing: I sewed most of the seams by hand and the rest using my 1930s hand cranked Singer. The dress is bias cut so my wonky handsewing holds it quite well. I could have used my modern Pfaff with its zigzag stitch but I wanted to take my time over it.

Dyeing

I made the dress first

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This is the original colour.

Then I made Earl Grey tea with about fifteen used bags (store them in the freezer until you have enough), strained the tea and heated the dress with the tea. Left the dress to cool in the tea and then hung it in the shade to dry. Left it two days and then rinsed it, spun it gently and left it to dry in the shade.

I like the Earl Grey colour better than the more orangey shades of English Breakfast tea and I think I’ll try it again for something else.

I don’t usually post everything I make but I like this batik dress. it’s getting a lot of wear in the warmer weather we’ve been having.

The Merchant & Mills Bantam dress.

I’ve also made tops from this pattern. They are really good with jeans and don’t take much fabric so leftovers are used up.

The Bantam has a shirt style so the back is lower than the front. I quite like that, what do you think?

And here’s one of my attempts to cheer up every day wear.

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Just added for fun!

No pattern. This is just rectangles tucked to fit.

And for those of you waiting for the tunic

The colour doesn’t show up well on the actual tunic so I’ve included the parcel I made for leaf printing to get a better idea.

The sage leaves became blobs (pretty deep yellow blobs though!) rather than leaves when I tried to print with them. I don’t think I bundled them up tightly enough. If I had enough sage I would use it to dye a whole garment – the yellow really is beautiful.

I got interested in the marks the copper pipes from the hot water tank – so I made some more by wrapping the tunic around the pipes. I think the copper enhanced the yellow rather than made a dye themselves, although if you know about this I’d be glad to hear from you.

The tunic is in store waiting to be decorated further. I think it would benefit from fancy threads to enhance the pattern the copper pipes made.  I’m thinking about it.

So that’s it. I haven’t been keeping up with what you’ve been up to so I’ll be around to your blog to check up on your activities very soon.

Have a lovely week.

Norma x

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Slow Sewing and Dyeing

The start of leaf printing – I hope! Those are sage leaves taken from a plant outside the door and laid out on the tunic. It looks white here but it is a pretty, pale yellow. I have read that garden dyes are hard to photograph unless there is plenty of sun: unfortunately, it’s been dismal here this week so I’ll have to make do.

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The tunic parcelled up ready for steaming.

The tunic is very damp and sitting in the cupboard with the hot water tank. It’s not really drying so I’m thinking about opening it out and using the iron to dry it. I’m in unknown territory here so I can’t quite make up my mind. Interestingly, the copper pipes in the cupboard are leaving their mark on the fabric. I don’t know whether it’s permanent or not. I’m recording everything in detail so I can post about it afterwards.

And this is the result of painting with egg:

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The white strip (actually pale grey) shows the before colour of the linen contrasted with the dyed colour.

After two weeks sitting in a pot with dandelion heads the painted lines have absorbed most of the dye. I am thinking of adding another colour to the skirt – one that’s too pale to colour the painted lines further but will add a little something to the background. Maybe dock leaves?

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This is the dress I’ve made from the same roll of Irish linen as this top and the painted skirt. It’s the Curlew dress pattern from Merchant & Mills: a lovely bias cut pattern. I’ve made it mostly by hand but used the Singer hand crank for staystitching and also (oddly – no idea why) for the the bias binding round the neck. I’m planning a milk mordant this weekend and then it’ll probably go into the solar dye pot with bramble tips (expecting a pinkish colour but we’ll see).

It has been lovely to slow down the sewing in this way.  I’ve thought about every step so carefully and it’s limited the unpicking. Am I the only sewist to race away with my machine only to unpick later? It seemed very simple to ease the sleeve into the armhole by hand whereas it’s a stressful process for me by machine.

Well, I think that’s all to report. Please feel free to ask questions as I haven’t put lots of detail into this.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

 

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More Garden Dyeing

The same tunic  – before and after. Made from an old sheet and solar dyed in daffodil heads.

The colour is actually more yellow than green – rather like these primroses:

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For those of you who would like the technical details, here goes:

10th April left in sour milk overnight and dried in the shade without rinsing.

11th April Left overnight in water and washing soda. Dried without rinsing.

12th April As 10th April.

13th April Rinsed, soaked in cider vinegar previously used to pickle eggs – not sure why but it seemed like a good idea. Added the daffodil heads and the warm water they had been heated in. I covered the pot with a sack and left it in the greenhouse. I stirred it daily until:

27th April Removed from the pot, rinsed it in warm water and hung it undercover to drip dry. The result is a very pretty pale yellow that’s hard to convey in photos.

It’s now in a drawer to mature until I’m ready for the next stage – probably leaf prints.

This is a probably the dullest skirt in the world as it is but I’m hoping it’ll soon be much more exciting. I made it from the Irish linen I had to buy so much of last year when I was making the OneYearOneOutfit top. This piece was mordanted in milk when I made the top and has been sitting in a dark place ever since. I’ve also soaked it in warm water & washing soda.

I used the brown thread for some decorative hand stitching – oddly the thread was still in good condition when I found it in an old box full of sewing stuff. It’s important to me to use these old things and I’m thinking of using some (probably 1960s / 1970s) press studs to fasten it.

Incidentally, I used my 1930s Singer to sew most of the seams. It’s hand cranked and I keep wondering whether I could find a treadle to put it in. I think it might be easier to use that way.

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The skirt is currently cooling in another pot of daffodil dye. I think next time I will solar dye as the smell of the daffodils cooking is awful and can’t possibly be doing me any good.

I will update you when I see the result.

If you would like to see more frequent but brief postings, please follow me on Instagram – find me by clicking on the photos at the side of my blog.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

P.S. I have since looked up daffodil flowers and find that they are poisonous if eaten.  I wore gloves to process and covered the pot because of the smell. For future reference I think solar dyeing is the way to go for me.

 

 

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Enjoying the Slowness

My Tumbling Blocks quilt is growing: albeit very slowly. I’m really not far from finishing the top.

The bright white tunic – previously a sheet – is sitting in a pot of daffodil heads. They were flowers that needed deadheading so I popped them in the dye pot before going to the compost heap. I’m relying on solar power to dye the top. I heated it up when the solar panels were working and the pot is now sitting in the greenhouse. It will probably be there for 10-14 days. It’s not bright white anymore and I’m hoping for a pale yellow as a base colour. We’ll see!

The silk skirt is progressing well. I took it out of the dark and dyed it with onion skins today. I’ll rinse it once it’s dried – in some dyeing traditions this is done to help the colour to take better. I can see it from the window and it’s looking a lovely dark orange now. If I like the colour when it’s rinsed I’ll put it away in the dark for a couple of weeks before wearing it.

And then there’s my dress. Remember this top?

It’s Merchant & Mills Curlew pattern and I’m going to make the dress version using some of the big roll of undyed Irish linen I bought for OneYearOneOutfit. I’ve traced the pattern and I’ve been debating how to make it – machine or hand? I bought some undyed looking cotton to use the machine but now I’m not so sure. I enjoyed last year’s slow progress and wear the top a lot. The hand stitching is holding up fine. And if I do it at speed I’ll probably then make another dress – but I don’t need one.

What do you think?

I will be dyeing it once it’s made – usual slow methods.

Well, that’s the update. Hope there was something there to interest you.

Have a good week.

Norma x

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More about Dyeing

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Wool yarn immersed in Marigold Heads July 2016 

The Spring Equinox is now behind us, days are slightly longer than nights and so garden dyeing can begin again. Perfect time, as we’ve just been having some lovely sunny weather.

The wool yarn has been in that jar since last July until a week ago. I expected orange but got pale green. I wonder if that is because I didn’t rinse the jar beforehand? The vinegar from the pickles may have made a big difference to the outcome. It’s a happy accident anyway.

This is the orange silk skirt after being simmered in (used) tea bags. I keep them in the freezer to stop them going mouldy before I have enough to work with.

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After tea dyeing on the left, original colour right

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Herringboned hem – made to show on the outside

The colour is much better now but it’s in the dark awaiting a brown dye. I picked up pine cones from the garden this morning with the idea that they might provide the dye I need.  More to follow on that.

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Curing in the sun

Looks like a medic’s uniform? A tunic made from part of an old cotton sheet with the express intention of dyeing it with various materials over the summer. I think the fact that the sheet has been washed many times will help it receive colour better but I’m taking no chances. The thread is cotton straight from the reel and it hasn’t been washed before – it would be horrible to have bright white thread on a hand dyed garment. It’s had an alkali dip (washing soda) this afternoon, to be followed by a protein dip tonight (slightly sour milk saved specially in the freezer). I’ll do it all over again a few times before I dye it with the first layer – probably daffodil flowers that have died off.

In my dyeing adventures I’m using India Flint’s book “Eco Colour” as a guide. I love her work and I’m enjoying using some of her methods adapted as best I can for the vegetation and less sunny climes of Mid Wales.

Have a fun week.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

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One Year One Outfit Top

Details:

The OneYearOneOutfit Challenge: To make an outfit using local natural fibres, threads and dyes.

Fabric : Natural Irish Linen

Thread: Taken from the linen and run through beeswax. I also dyed a piece of fabric with the top so that I have matching thread for repairs & alterations. There are no commercially made natural fibre threads which fit the criteria of OneYearOneOutfit.

Dye: Garment dyed five times. Solar dyed three times with dock leaves, mark making with English marigolds and overdyed (in a pot on the stove) with onion skins. I think it looks much better in real life than in the photos.

Pattern: Merchant & Mills Curlew. Bias cut and sewn entirely by hand.

Will it go with the skirt? I’m not sure. I have noticed that dyes taken from the local landscape do sort of go together. I’ve got a theory that if you wear stuff from your own landscape it should always go together – as nature’s colours do. We’ll see. In any case, I think it goes well with my black trousers so it will get worn.

Do I like it? Yes. I think it will get worn a lot. I might need to shorten the sleeves but I’m going to wear it a few times to be sure. I plan to make the pattern again sometime.

Thanks for stopping by,

Norma x

 

 

 

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Solar Dyed and Upcycled

Now

Transformed charity shop blouse – frills cut off, buttons changed, colour changed, white polyester stitching covered over with new stitching, fully mended.

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Then

Colour – It smelt of dead badger after being dyed with onion skins so I left it in coffee for a week in the greenhouse. The colour looks much paler here because of all the amazing sunshine we’re having – I’m not complaining. To get some idea of the colour, the wall you can see behind it is yellow. The blouse is coffee cream and still smells a bit. To solve that, I have a small bottle of cheap vodka to make into a spray – Frankie Beane kindly found the idea on the internet for me.

Buttons – the cream square ones are probably vintage and were found by a friend in a charity shop, but there weren’t enough so I’ve mixed in some others.

Polyester thread just won’t dye using normal methods and most shop bought clothes are sewn with it. The solutions are either unpicking or sewing over the top and making a feature of it.

More solar dyeing

I got some more dock leaves for the linen top and it’s now getting its third dunking. the sun has been strong this last few days and I plan to dry it and then do some berry dyeing.

In case anyone is wondering, docks are a weed, grow abundantly here and are often sprayed to get rid of them. I wouldn’t use anything scarce.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

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More solar dyeing

I’ve had two attempts at solar dyeing my oneyearone outfit Irish linen top. It is now vaguely yellow but not yet the colour I hoped for. I am thinking of using berries for the next stage – you can see reddish patches on the wet fabric and I think I would like more of those.

Dock leaves stink when they’re soaking so they spent time in the greenhouse rather than the house. Oddly though, the smell went after I left the top out overnight. I am leaving it untouched until I find the right dye. According to this book:

Eco Colour by India Flint

the longer you leave the dye before rinsing the better. And I think the book is wonderful, so I’m following the instructions as carefully as possible.

Much smellier is this:

This is a charity shop blouse (frills now cut off) that I’ve solar dyed in onion skins. It was left for 9 days in the greenhouse and came out that lovely orangey gold. You can see it’s covered in flies & I’m really not suprised. I left it out for 24 hours but have now washed it in soap flakes. It’s clean, pale cream and smelly – worse than the decaying badger I ran past today. Not onion but just horrible. Will it go? I don’t know. It’s still pegged to the covered washing line – I’m trying to keep it in the shade to avoid more fading. It’s a pretty colour now but not wearable because of the smell.

So, no especially successful projects so far but I’ll keep trying & let you know what happens.

Thanks for dropping by,

Norma x

 

 

 

 

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Local Clothes?

I have decided to take part in #oneyearoneoutfit 2016. The aim is to make an outfit from local materials, some buying is permitted and so is secondhand. Have a look at This is Moonlight for the “rules”.

There are sheep in the fields around here and I know that a lot of their wool sells for very little.  Wool has been replaced by polyester for so many purposes and we can get other natural fibres from around the world for very little money.  It’s seeing all these sheep that’s made me feel that I would like to try using local fibres to make my clothes.

I don’t really know what’s available yet. The photographs above show a shawl I am knitting from wool raised and spun in the UK and the fabric for my new skirt which is Welsh wool. The knitting yarn is almost certainly not natural dyed and I don’t know yet about the fabric. The #oneyearoneoutfit rules specify non-synthetic dyes readily available in the locality so at the very least the shawl doesn’t qualify.

All sorts of questions come to mind:

What about thread? Footwear? Buttons? Are there non-wool fibres available too? Can I get good colours from the plants in my garden? What area should my “fibreshed” cover? I wasn’t able to source Irish linen for my 1930s dress, so will I find another source? – linen I can dye myself.

If you have ideas and opinions I’d love to hear them. Please let me know what you think.

Here are some of the colours I’ve managed to get from my solar dyeing experiments. Docks, coffee grounds and onion skins are my favourites so far. All of the fabrics are made from plant fibres so I soaked them in milk as a mordant. I wonder if I can extend this from scraps to my potential wardrobe. I’ll be giving it a try.

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x

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