"--you're WHAT?! Dying?
No. My dyeing project. You know, it's a project. Dyeing fabric?
--ohhhh...your DYEING project.
Yeah. My dyeing project..."
this was a real interaction, I swear.
Wanting to make some of those crocheted cushions all one color, I decided to go on a natural dye adventure. In hindsight, I definitely picked the wrong month to move forward on such an endeavor. I hadn't thought about how the majority of the process would involve a huge, hot and steaming pot of water to sit on the stove-top for hours and hours. Filling the apartment with hot and steamy air--and we don't have air conditioning. And we live on the second floor. And we live in North Carolina. It was hot. Anyway, here was my adventure. I'm showing you pictures of my successful run (there were other runs which I'll tell you about later...).
I started out with some onion skins. It took a whole bag of them, and whole lot of boiling to get the dye bath ready. Meanwhile, I had fabric steeping in a bath of water and pickling alum. According to my research, this was to prepare the fabric so it could accept more dye and so it would be colorfast. This element is called a "mordant." I guess you can use a variety of different metals, but this one seemed like it was the most non-toxic and environmentally friendly one.
When the dye bath was ready and fabric was "alummed," it all went into the pot. And almost immediately, the white fabric took on this glorious gold color! I stirred it with a stick, and Peter called me a witch. I told him it was a safety precaution, just like the rubber gloves and crude face mask; you're not supposed to use pots or utensils that you use for cooking food--alum can be slightly irritating to skin, I guess. "It's for YOUR safety that I'm doing this!" He continued to make fun. In hindsight, and out of the steamy kitchen, I did look like a witch.
The end of the dye process. After simmering the fabric in the dye bath for about an hour or so, it was rinsed slowly (first with warm water and gradually getting to cold), and hung out to dry. I love the color!
So...here is my final product. The dyed onion fabric is actually the very center. During the drying process, it faded to a light cream color which was pretty but not as vibrant as I'd hoped it would be. In fact, all of my dye experiments, though it all looked really dark immediately after dyeing, all somehow turned to this same cream color--no matter what I used to dye it! In this cushion, I used sheets dyed by turmeric (far left section, a little brighter cream--was supposed to be dark gold, but faded in the sun), the onion, AND beets (the far right section). Turns out if you use beets for your dye bath and use alum for your mordant, you get "khaki"--not red. This was a surprise to me. I was going for the red, originally.
So, what I learned, is that you can give me anything to dye with--blue berries, blackberries, indigo, madder--anything! And I'll get yellow. It's a gift that I have.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I started a printmaking class yesterday, and this is my first piece! It is quite different than much of the artwork that I have done in the past...we'll see how I end up liking it as the weeks go by (it's every Tuesday night). So far, I think it's really fulfilling to have such a "finished-looking" little piece after the whole process is said and done. But I'll keep you posted!