The warm summer sunshine was already in evidence as we arrived at Bucklers Hall Farm for our eagerly awaited dye day. The chairs had already been arranged beneath the trees for protection. Michele, as ever so well organised, had prepared a wet area in the shade of a small barn. She had packaged up a range of silk and cotton samples plus some scarves for those brave souls, who were planning a project as well.
For the first time, I encountered home-made mordants:
Alum: aluminium foil immersed in a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar for 3 weeks.
Iron: rusty nails in the 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar for a year.
Copper: a piece of copper pipe in the 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar for a year.
The mordant was then diluted for use.
We each had four samples of either silk or cotton or both.
Silk with no mordant, Cotton with alum mordant
The wet sample was laid out and dried onion skins were placed on one half of the cloth. The fabric was folded in half and rolled tightly round a short piece of broomstick and then simmered for an hour.
Result: a mirror image print of oranges and golds where the onion skins had been. The crinkled surfaces of the onion skins had imparted a texture to the fabric. The silk was much brighter than the cotton.
Leaves of different plants were pre-soaked in the iron mordant. They were then placed on the wet, unmordanted fabric, folded, rolled and simmered as before.
Result: The leaves gave a grey/purple to the fabric
Both the cotton and silk were iron mordanted.
The dry leaves were placed on the wet fabric, folded rolled and simmered as before.
Result: The fabric was opened to reveal mirror images of the leaves in a dark purple/black colour. The prints were very clear and it was possible to see the veins as well as the shape. The edges of the leaves appeared as tiny dots of colour.
Both the cotton and the silk were copper mordanted.
Dry leaves were placed on the wet fabric as before and the process was repeated.
Result. The silk showed some colour but the cotton sample had poor results.
Project 1: I then used method 3 on a narrow silk scarf, using fresh rose, blackberry and raspberry leaves along the length of the scarf.
Result: The leaves were printed in extraordinary detail with a slightly different effect from the top and undersides of the leaves. In future, I would place the leaves alternately up and down to get a good balanced pattern.
Kathryn then dipped her scarf in the copper mordant as an afterbath, which caused the dyed areas to turn a yellow/green colour.
Project 2. Finally, I alum mordanted a silk scarf and then dyed it with madder. After it was rinsed out and redipped in the alum mordant, I placed oxalis leaves on one side, then folded, rolled and simmered it for an hour.
Result: The oxalic acid in the leaves had discharged the madder from the contact areas and I was left with a line of perfect leaf shapes. In hindsight, it would have been better on a smoother silk. Mine was too open a weave and some of the pattern was lost.
What a great day this was. The weather was perfect, the company was great and Michele is such a good tutor.
We are a group who enjoy learning and improving our skills and are genuinely interested in sharing these skills with each other and any one who would like to join us.