I have a very strong visual sense of how things should look and I love to plan. Put both of these traits together and you've got someone who's not very good with surprises. This can be a bit of a challenge when it comes to eco-dyeing as there are so many variables including the pots, metals, water and plants used. Relying on plants for your colours means differences depending on season and location. So far, my eco-dyeing adventures have been filled with surprises and my latest foray was no exception.
I planned to make a scarf coloured with orange leaf prints from cineria on a purple cabbage background. I was really excited by this idea as I've yet to manage a leaf print. I still don't know what that bundle (which was wrapped around a copper rod) looks like as I left it in the dye pot for four days and now it's drying out. I do know that the purple cabbage in the aluminium pot with the copper rod made a blue/grey dye. I'm completely in love with the colour and fervently hope I can recreate it.
I often have trouble letting go of my expectations and plans but this time was different. The surprise was a welcome one as I actually preferred the colour the pot created to the colour I had imagined. And on the other scarf I dyed, I finally got a leaf print. HOORAY! I was so excited when I unrolled the bundle, peeled back the eucalyptus leaf and saw a print. To make things interesting, I have no idea what tree the leaves were from as they were random leaves I found on the ground. I love the idea of doing more eco-dyeing outdoors and using whatever is to hand at that moment in time to capture the season, the light and my mood.
For those of you interested in the bundles:- My first bundle had acacia pods, wattle blossoms, wattle leaves and cineria leaves scattered over it. I wrapped it around a copper rod and put it in an aluminium pot filled with chopped purple cabbage. It's still curing. I'm being patient by putting it in the laundry sink, closing the door and pretending it's not there! The second bundle which I have unwrapped had random eucalyptus leaves, acacia pods, wattle blossom. It was also wrapped around a copper rod and put into a steel pot with cineria and eucalyptus leaves.
I premordanted all the fabric with ash water then soy milk. I also soaked some of the leaves in hot water for 10 minutes or so before laying them on the fabric.
My girls also made bundles and theirs had all sorts, rusty metal, cabbage, onion skins, cineria leaves, eucalyptus leaves etc. I love the abandon with which they craft and seeing how they put things together without lots of preconceived ideas. Their thinking is a lot freer than mine and they are a lot more experimental. I have all sorts of rules like this scarf will be all native materials, and this one will have these colours and so on. They on the other hand, grab whatever takes their fancy, scatter it over the fabric and then bundle it all up.
My oldest girl even dipped her bundle in the oxalis pot before putting it into the cabbage pot, an idea that hadn't even occurred to me. Mixing dye pots? Crazy! Crafting with other people, especially kids gives you the best ideas!
I've got two big lessons from my latest eco-dyeing adventure. First lesson - use lots and lots of twine to wrap the bundle really tightly. That way you've more likely to get a leaf print.
Second lesson is to use lots and lots of lovely rusty metal. My inner clean freak was a little put off (okay, totally grossed out is a more accurate description!) by using old rusty metal on beautiful fabric. However, seeing Max's amazing print on paper that was wrapped around a very rusted metal can has completely changed my mind about rusty metal. Bring it on I say!
There's so many other lessons too. Persistence, anticipation, hope, curiosity and faith just to mention a few. As a craft, eco-dyeing is very rewarding and very challenging. Just like all the best things in life.