Ecoprinting – mordanted habotai silk cooked in onion skin bath

I have a few pieces to show from my ecoprinting session back in January.  In the same onion skin bath as these samples, I put a second roll.  This one used mordanted 8 mm habotai silk as a base.

I bought the silk yardage from Dharma Trading.  The quality is just right for my experiments.  I chose the 55″ wide option because this makes a great scarf length should I choose to hem it.  The final product is a challenge to photograph so I’ll show the results in parts.

The silk was scoured before mordanting with 25% WOF (weight of fabric) food grade alum.  There are a number of opinions on mordanting with alum.  The process I used was provided by a course instructor and took three days in total.  Even though it is considerably longer than many recipes, I am really happy with the outcome so the length of time and amount of handling was worth it.

The dry, mordanted fabric was soaked in 100% vinegar for about an hour before wringing out and laying out plantstuff.

The plantstuff was laid out on one half of the 18″ width, the cloth folded over and then I’m pretty sure this was rolled onto a 1″ copper pipe rather than a PVC pipe.  I believe it’s the copper that is helping with all the interesting colour variations!  The roll was simmered for at least an hour and maybe a little more.  When removed from the bath, it was unwrapped, plantstuff removed, allowed to dry and cure for one week before washing and ironing.  No, it doesn’t have to cure for a week, but I’m experimenting!

Plantstuff included rehydrated maple and oak leaves, dry raspberry leaves, fresh eucalyptus (an oval-shaped leaf variety that printed yellow), grevillea (printed delicate lines), barely rehydrated sumac, dried hollyhock blossoms (purple blotches), dried rose petals and a small circular slice (beetlenut, I think) that resisted rather than printed.

I will show the plant side of the resulting cloth first.  The first image is the beginning of the roll (righthand side is start) nearest the copper pipe.  I can’t recall exactly but it is possible the maple leaf was dry and not rehydrated as it is printing differently from the other maple leaves. The second image is the end of the piece (lefthand side) that is tied.

Silk habotai 8 mm – plant layout side – beginning of roll

Silk habotai 8 mm – plant layout side – end of roll

These next images are of the reverse side of the fabric.  At the end of the roll, half the width of this fabric would have been in direct contact with the dye bath which is why it is so dark (second photo, top left).

Silk habotai 8 mm – outside – beginning of roll

Silk habotai 8 mm – outside – end of roll

I’m really happy with the outcome even though it is clear I could do a better job of rolling and tying so as to avoid creases.  Thanks to Lyn and Arlee for contributing the plantstuff used as well as Lyn for creating and tending the dye bath concoction!

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Ecoprinting – mordanted cotton cooked in onion skin bath

Thanks to my friend Lyn suggesting an ecoprinting playday back in January, I finally got around to ecoprinting on cellulose fibres.   I wanted to try mordanting cotton fabric with aluminum acetate before printing.  I am really pleased with the results!

I started with Maiwa’s instruction sheets which outline a three step process for cellulose fibres involving tannin, aluminum acetate and chalking.   I typically start with Maiwa because I live in Canada so it is economical for me to get dyestuffs and additives from them.

I also referenced the Botanical Colors instructions.  Because aluminum acetate is an expensive proposition, I decided to do a combination of the two because I liked Botanical Color’s idea of having an aluminum acetate bath that I could reuse.

The mordanting process took two days.

Step 1:  Followed Maiwa’s tannin instructions for my scoured fabric.  My tannin was gallnut (oak gall) so I used their recommended 8% of weight of fabric (WOF).  After heating, I let the fabric sit in the solution overnight.

Step 2: Mixed up a 5% WOF aluminium acetate bath and heated it to 110F.  Added the wrung out fabric which I inserted into the bath using an accordion fold technique so as to minimize air bubbles.  After heating for 45 minutes at 110F, let the fabric sit in the bath overnight.

Step 3: Followed Maiwa’s instructions to “chalk” the fibre.  I know it is possible to get calcium carbonate from the hardware store but I used cosmetic grade calcium carbonate because it is finer, has no impurities and dissolves easily.  I left the wrung out fabric in this solution for about 30 minutes before removing and wringing out again.

The first samples I show were printed on cotton sheeting I bought at the thrift store.  This was previously a king sized duvet cover and for a mere $6 has provided oodles of fabric for experimentation!

With the still damp, mordanted fabric, I went straight to laying out the plantstuff for ecoprinting on one half of a piece.  Then immediately folded the fabric in half and rolled tightly around a 10″ long 3/4″ diameter piece of PVC pipe.  I rolled two pieces, one after the other.  String was used for the tie up.

Plantstuff was generously donated by Lyn from her stash and included rehydrated maple and oak leaves, two types of fresh eucalyptus purchased from the grocery store (small circular shapes and oval shapes all printing yellow as well as some berries printing with brown outlines), and dried rose petals (printing yellow-green).  According to Arlee who was playing with us, there are many kinds of eucalyptus which all print differently and many factors, including how the plant is handled after harvest, that impact ecoprinting qualities.  That explains why there are no reddish-orange prints from those leaves.

The first sample rolled onto the pipe (18″ wide by 22″ long, after curing for one week, washing and ironing):

Cotton sheeting – inside where plantstuff laid

Cotton sheeting – backside and on outside of roll

The second sample rolled onto the pipe (18″ wide by 16″ long, after curing for one week, washing and ironing):

Cotton sheeting – inside where plantstuff laid

Cotton sheeting – backside and on outside of roll

The rolls were simmered for one hour in a large pot of water with onion skins, rusty water, a rusty piece of metal and vinegar added.  My friend Lyn has been tending and reusing this bath for some time so it is now quite a rich, dark colour.  Any pinkish tinges detected are due to my careless handling of this roll after removal from the bath by placing it near some other rolls that were cooked the same day in a lac (magenta-coloured) bath.

After removing from the bath, the roll was unwound, plant stuff removed and the fabric set aside to dry and cure for one week.  The fabric was washed and ironed while damp.

I now have two vats, aluminum acetate and chalk, ready for my next mordanting session!

Henna – third use of dyebath

Today I decided just to dye wool because it has the best takeup of dye so far. I had read that it is a good idea to strain a henna dyebath before dyeing wool due to the possible existence of impurities in the henna dye.

I tried two recommended methods: a coffee filter and, as a substitute for cheesecloth, 4 layers of cotton gauze.

The coffee filter method is tedious and the filter gets full of henna powder pretty quickly. The gauze alternative ends up removing dyestuff from the bath. I think because the possible impurities are things like straw and twigs that a coffee filter or fine sieve is not appropriate. I did discover that my henna powder does not have anything extra in it and I probably could have skipped this step.

Fabric/fibre = merino prefelt and Merino Wool / Mulberry Silk blend sliver (87.5% / 12.5%) from World of Wool (see Materials tab)

Fabric preparation = none. Both were added to dyebath dry.

WOF = 60 grams

Liquid = 6 quarts tap water (softened) at room temperature

Dye = Henna powder (see Dyes, Additives and Mordants Tab for Henna Powder [1]) leftover from yesterday’s dyebath and the first day of henna dyeing which started with 55 grams of henna.  With filtering, I estimate 1/3rd of the original amount was removed.

Mordants and Additives = none
Dyeing Container = non-reactive

Cook time = in covered pot, slowly warm to 195 Fahrenheit, hold for two hours stirring occasionally, remove from heat, let cool overnight, remove fibre and wash out. Total time in dyebath approximately 18 hours.

Results:

Wool prefelt is on the left and sliver is on the right.  The prefelt is considerably lighter than my experiments for the two previous days.  I really like the caramel colour.

I estimate the protein-based fabric and fibre dyed over the three days from a single dyebath at around 100 grams.  This means, at 55 grams, I had considerably more henna powder in the first days’ dyebath than I needed.  This is why I am still getting colour as I continue to use the bath.

Henna – dyeing with residual dye bath

Recipe = Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour book (see References Tab)

Fabric = mix of scraps of cotton, merino prefelt

Fabric preparation = cotton sheeting and blue broadcloth were scoured, merino prefelt had no preparation; cotton was also soy-soaked four times in soymilk powder solution (1 cup powder dissolved in 20 cups water) and dried between soakings

WOF = 60 grams

Liquid = 6 quarts tap water (softened) at room temperature

Dye = Henna powder (see Dyes, Additives and Mordants Tab for Henna Powder [1]) leftover from yesterday’s dyebath which started with 55 grams of henna

Mordants and Additives = none
Dyeing Container = non-reactive

Cook time = in covered pot, slowly warm to 195 Fahrenheit, hold for three hours stirring occasionally, remove from heat, let cool overnight, remove fabric and wash out. Total time in dyebath approximately 18 hours.

Results:
Top is cotton sheeting dyed yesterday at 50% WOF. Middle is soy-soaked (and dried) cotton sheeting dyed in henna dyebath leftover from yesterday. Slightly darker than fabric dyed with no preparation. Bottom is unbleached cotton dyed yesterday at 50% WOF to show how dark I have been able to get cotton to dye in henna thus far. Click to enlarge for details.

Left is Testfabrics Cotton 419 (mercerized cotton broadcloth) dyed blue with fibre-reactive dyes. Right is same fabric, soy-soaked (and dried), dyed in henna dyebath leftover from yesterday’s dye session.  Colour is slightly darker with some medium brown fragments.  Click to enlarge for details.

Right is merino wool prefelt dyed yesterday at 50% WOF in henna dyebath.  Left is merino wool prefelt dyed in leftover henna dyebath. Colour is slightly lighter and more caramel.

When it comes to wool, a little henna goes a long way!  Tomorrow, given the results for the merino prefelt, my plan is to dye silk/wool sliver and another scrap of prefelt in the remaining dyebath. Also, I plan to strain the dyebath before using it.

Henna – no mordants or additives

Recipe = Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour book (see References Tab)

Fabric = mix of scraps of cotton, linen, rayon/linen blend, silk, merino wool

Fabric preparation = cotton broadcloth and sheeting were scoured, merino felt was washed and remainder had no preparation

WOF = 110 grams

Liquid = 6 quarts tap water (softened) at room temperature

Dye = Henna powder (see Dyes, Additives and Mordants Tab for Henna Powder [1]) measured at 50% WOF or 55 grams dissolved in small amount of water to make a paste and then added to dye bath

Mordants and Additives = none
Dyeing Container = non-reactive

Cook time = in covered pot, slowly warm to 195 Fahrenheit, hold for three hours stirring occasionally, remove from heat, let cool overnight, remove fabric and wash out.  Total time in dyebath approximately 18 hours.

Results:

Top right is handmade merino felt (white before dyeing) and bottom left is white merino (21 micron) prefelt from World of Wool.

Top right is plain weave raw silk (unknown source) and bottom is patterned raw silk from Dressew Supply (Vancouver, B.C.)

Silk charmeuse from Dharma Trading (white before dyeing) – Shiny side is at top right and crepe side is middle right.  Scraps from Ujamaas Grandmas Annual Fabric and Yarn Sale dyed same colour.

From top to bottom right (all white before dyeing):  cotton broadcloth (Testfabrics 419), damask tablecloth, cotton sheeting.

Top right is 50%/50% linen rayon blend from Dharma Trading (white before dyeing), bottom is unbleached cotton from Dressew Supply (Vancouver, B.C.)

Paint chips used for colour matching are from Canadian Tire and are for the Premier paint collection.

Next experiments will use left over dye bath from this experiment without refreshing with henna powder.

Welcome

I have been doing a fair bit of fabric dyeing recently and decided it was time to capture the results of my experiments — the good and the bad!  Posting will be sporadic but will relate to dyeing or using dyed materials.  I have a substantial library of books on dyeing as well as websites of other dyers.  I will reference any recipes I’m using from those books and websites.  Feel free to comment but realize I am not an expert.  That means I won’t be able to answer questions about how to fix your dyeing challenges.  I will, however, share what is working for me and my specific environmental circumstances.

I am located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and using city water for all my experiments with drainage to the city sewer system.  In my household, that water is softened but when I am using our local glacier-fed, hard water straight from the cold water tap, I’ll be sure to point it out.

If there are any other environmental details that would help, please ask in the comments.