Thanks to Terri Simon aka Meterrilee on the forum for sharing her eco printing experience today.
Today, I would like to share my experience with eco-dyeing. Most, if not all, of our blog hosts and many followers have experience with eco-dyeing, but it was a first for me and I loved it! I decided to take an online class with Nicola Brown from Ireland. She is a wonderful teacher—very thorough in describing the process in an online format, including several videos to illustrate further. She was available daily for six weeks to comment, problem solve, and encourage us as we journeyed through that week’s lesson. Like other online classes, there are “chatroom” areas to post pictures and ask questions, and to comment on one another’s creations. The online environment is available for six months and all of the lessons were downloadable in PDF format. Additionally, Nicola created a Facebook page for us to continue communication. Thanks, Nicola, for a great online experience!
As a dyeing newbie, I had to assemble equipment. At a nearby thrift store, I found an aluminum fish cooker with all kinds of inserts for steaming, an iron stake, and a length of copper pipe which I cut into pieces to fit into the fish cooker. We had an outdoor fire source…a propane tank and hook-up for deep frying a turkey. It worked perfectly on my covered back porch (this is Southern Oregon’s rainy season). Here’s my equipment:
All for $20. Not bad!
I ordered a bunch of silk, silk/wool blend, and 100% wool scarves from Dharma Trading, which had a good selection and reasonable prices. I also made pieces of felt to experiment with. For vegetation, I used rose leaves, loose tea, red and brown onion skins, strawberry and blackberry leaves, Japanese cut leaf maple and eucalyptus, donated to me by a friend who has several trees. The rest came from my garden (and kitchen.) There are lots of different “brews” for obtaining the prints. Some involve rust water, others vinegar water and other things thrown into the cooking pot (different metals, plants…). And of course, there are multiple ways to prepare the fabric for dyeing, none of which use harsh chemicals (the harshest chemical used is vinegar). I really like this aspect of eco dyeing…it’s all very natural. I am amazed that the beauty of a leaf can be imprinted substantively on fabric, right down to the intricate veining.
This turned out sort of dark and muddy. These are Japanese maple leaves. The scarf actually looks good with the right outfit, but the prints are very subtle and not what you want when you are just starting out (at least not what I wanted!).
These are pieces of handmade felt, with eucalyptus (the skinny and bright orange leaves) and strawberry leaves. The purplish looking circles are cut from red onion skins.
Next is a blend of wool and silk. You can really see the details of the onion skins on this fabric.
The scarf below is 100% silk. The print is much softer looking. I like the tie lines produced when wrapping the bundle.
Finally, I made some felt placemats and while they are interesting, I am not a fan of the muddy yellowish background. I found out it was operator error for not keeping the heat up high enough for a long enough time. I had to go out for a bit and turned off the flame under the pot, letting the placemats sit for about an hour until I got home to untie them. My mistake! Had I kept the heat up for the full five hours, I would have produced a much clearer print, such as the example pieces I have included in this picture. But, they are still pretty in a muted way.
I highly recommend Nicola’s classes. She is an excellent teacher, very thorough and organized and she has a delightful wit as well. You can find more information on Nicola and her classes here: http://www.nicolabrown.ie/