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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Eco-dyeing with Fall Leaves

 Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay. 

Robert Frost

Nothing gold can stay.....unless you capture the image!  Autumn gives us all a thrill and I knew I could preserve some of it when I was seduced by eco-printing.  My friend Barbara must take full blame for my obsession with this technique as she wore the first scarf I ever saw done this way and I pestered her until she revealed the secrets.

I have posted some note cards I made using a similar process but several readers have asked me to do a blog and explain more!  I will do so now. Keep in mind that I am far from an expert but that with an adventurers spirit anyone can give it a try.  If you take a notion to try please reference "eco-dying" or "steam printing leaves" on google or pinterest.  You will get lots of helpful info.

Gathering the leaves, foraging, is the fun part although it is trial and error as to what will print.  Wool and silk (proteins) are most easily printed after mordanting with an alum mix that is dependent on the amount of fabric you soak.  This was a fun way for me to learn my leaves and trees and the most dependable in western NC are sumac, sassafras, beech, alder, japanese maple, sugar maple (actually almost any maple), geranium, red cabbage leaves, marigold petals and rose leaves.  Oak was a bust for this experiment.  

After the mordanting process we stretched out the wet silk and arranged the leaves, "earth side down," on top.  Sometimes we just scattered, other times I tried to intentionally make a design.

two silk undershirts

Then the fabric and leaves get rolled tightly around (for us) a PVC pipe or a length of branch.  This is secured with a tightly wound string.  Now processes take a twist.  Barbara's instructor seals the bundle in shrink wrap which is really cool.  My notes never indicated that as necessary so I skipped it.

sorry no pics of using the shrink wrap

Now if you have an electric turkey roaster that you can dedicate ONLY to dyeing drag it out.  I, on the other hand, jerry-rigged a steamer with an old covered roaster, glass jars to lift the fabrics and a hot plate to heat it all up.  Again, methods differ: immersion dyers set the entire bundle in the water, steam dyers prop it up out of contact with the bath.  I have done both and see very little difference.  

my pseudo-electric roaster without lid

Heat it up to a good steaming and....again, methods differ: if wrapped in shrink plastic steam it good for one hour; I have done the 2 hour method.  Some artisans swear you should leave and open in the morning (which I do with my paper prints), others urge opening as soon as cool to the touch (which is really fun if you are impatient like me).  

unrolled shirt with leaves still on it

Everything I read however does agree on one thing: do not rinse or wash your fabric for at least 48 hours after unrolling.  I have never done otherwise so I cannot say with any certainty that the print will disappear if you wash sooner.  Why risk it?

silk scarf drying

Since I like to use silk products I noticed that they seem to lose the "hand" after this process (the soft, draped feel of silk) and I discovered a product called Milsoft NB.  Used as directions suggest in a final rinse restores the gorgeous fabric to its original texture.  I buy most of my scarves and shirts from Dharma on-line.

So what do you think my precious daughters-in-law will say when they get these for Christmas?

Probably "yuck!" It is an acquired taste....but hey, these are undershirts, right? no one ever has to really see them and yet those sweet gals will be all warm and comfy.  Or if they take up deer hunting they will have their camouflage ready to go.  

I'm thanking Barbara over and over again for opening this magic window for me.

However you celebrated Thanksgiving I know that you had much for which to be grateful. Wishing you creative weeks ahead.

Foraging for Color,

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