Sunday, 27 July 2008

Polygonum Tinctoria

A week or so ago I used the leaves of one of my dyers knotweed (Polygonum tinctoria) to get that most elusive of colours for natural dyer -turquoise. I principally followed the method that I found on the net as below :
I picked the leaves of the one plant that has grown indoors , which weighed 96g.
I rinsed them
Put them to drain
Then chopped up the leaves with a pair of scissors. It was then I realised that my hands were going turquoise , a very good sign I thought. I found a reference to this technique in Dominque Cardon's book Natural Dyes and she said to add 0.7litres to 50 g of leaves. So I added 1.3litres and then kneaded the leaves with the water going green . I added 125ml of 10% acetic acid ( in proportion to 50ml of 25% acetic acid /20 litres) .
I strained the liquour off and then ran into difficulties not quite understanding the instructions but kneaded the leaves again with added vineagr. I am not quite sure if this was right prehaps I should have jsut kneaded the leaves in the original dyebath I am not sure here.
At this point my dyebath should have gone much darker but it did not. I put my pieces of silk in anyway and went off to have a cup of tea. Whne I returned half an hour later the silk was turquoise. Hooray! I put it back in three or four times and it slowly went darker,
Today I tried again with a magnificant 1.2 Kilos of leaves from Enys' greenhouse but I have got a pale green rather than a turquoise and not very much of that. :( I think that in retrospect I did not knead the leaves enough. I will try again soon! As soon as I have enough leaves that is.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Natural Dye Inks

My new Natural Dye Inks which I have been developing over the last six months are now on my website for sale. These are the inks I now use for painting the covers of my dye books and also for painting the pictures that are the start of the process for creating a new landscape in naturally dyed felt, and machine stitch.

As I view the photographs above I feel frustrated as despite my best endeavours they do not show the richness and complexities of these beautiful colours.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Dyers Chamomile Anthemis Tinctoria

Today Enys and I picked 1.7 kilos of Dyers Chamomile from her garden where it grows better than in mine-why I don't know.

Dyers Chamomile is apparently a European plant that spreads as far as the Himalayas but was not much used in Europe as weld and sawwort were considered better dyes and this probably explains why, although Dominique Cardon1 has a section on the plant pigments found in Dyers Chamomile, she does not have a section of recipes, but nor does Jill Goodwin in the Dyers manual or Su Grierson in Colour Cauldron so maybe it also was not used or does not grow in Scotland or the North of England. John and Margaret Cannon in their lovely Kew Garden book with the beautiful illustrations -by the by one of my favourite and frequently turned to dye books- mentions that Dyers Chamomile was used to dye the Turkish carpets2 although Dominique Cardon says that this was the wild chamomile . Jenny Dean in Wild Colour 3has a page for dyers chamomile and also used the plant stem and leaves to get a soft green , something I must try this year.
All those who do talk about Dyers chamomile say that it is easy to grow which it is. You can often get it in garden centres as it is very pretty plant to have in the garden. It also dries extremely well with no apparent loss of pigment in the drying process but is considered to have a poorer light fastness than weld. My own light fastness tests were done a few years ago when I kept my samples for a year in in a north facing window when there was a significant loss of colour. Now I follow a more standard procedure mentioned on Natural Dyes Online and expose to light in a southwest facing skylight for a month with a standard indigo dyed sample alongside as a control. This I need to do this year .

I have been reading about the chemicals that give the dye colours in these plants. The general group the dye pigments come under is the Flavonoids and when these are dilute they are almost colourless. It is only when the molecules are clumped together or when they are bonded to metal ions that they appear yellow. A mordant therefore not only bonds the dye molecule to the fibre but is also essential in intensifying the colour and this would explain why John and Margeret Cannon commented that wool without a mordant was almost colourless.
Like so many dye plants dyers chamomile has a number of different plant pigments, Apigenin (which was the only pigment in wild chamomile) and is also found in weld, and luteolin also found in weld. Apigenin and luteolin are flavones. I mention weld as I wondered why when dyers chamomile shares at least two of the pigments found in weld which produces one of the most light fast yellows that dyers chamomile is not as light fast. Apparently according to Dominique Cardon from whom most of this information comes, this is because minor variations in the structure of the molecule is highly significant. The other pigments , according to Margaret and John Cannon in Dye plants and Dyeing are the flavonols quercetagetin, and one I can find nothing about, patuletin. The flavonals are more light sensitive. I went into all this because I was reading a paper about growing Weld (reseda Luteola) Dyers knotweed (polygonum tinctoria) and Dyers chamomile written by Anna Hartl and Christian Vogl ( The Potential use of Organically grown Dye Plants: experiences and results on cultivation and yields of Dyers chamomile, Dyer knotweed and Weld published in the Journal of Sustainable Agriculture 23(2) 2003. Here the author said that the main components of dyers chamomile had have not yet been identified,which I found most surprising and what started me off on reading my various books.

I can understand why Dyers chamomile would be considered as a source of yellows for the organic textile trade as it is easy to grow and apparently to harvest. Think how gorgeous fields full of dyers chamomile would look too so I hope that it does happen.

In the meantime I have put 200g of flower heads into soak ready to be a demonstration for members of the WI who are to visit the garden tomorrow.

(My footnotes with the titles of the books will not transfer over- why I don't know -sometimes blogging is so frustrating!)

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Going grey! and a school visit.

The black pot is going grey. At least the water is and the wool at the bottom is going a pale grey. Of course I realise that this was a very unscientific experiment. I should have had known weights of leaves, fibres and so on and I will do this. In the meantime WE HAVE HAD NO SUN to speak of and all my solar dyeing is looking fairly miserable-very little colour and the madder pot looks a bit on the brown side. I think we need some good hot weather-Oh I wish ! To those readingthis from parts other than the UK we have had a winter in the middle of our summer or that is what it feels like!

Today I had a visit form my local primary school , Bodfari School , with whom I did a workshop in March. We made a banner and next week I shall go to the official unveiling and hand out an Art prize. I loved having the children and showed them a few plants. We found plants that gave red, yellows ( what a surprise) blue, purple, red orange and black but no greens. When I counted them I find I had 42 different dyeplants which did include things like nettles I have to admit but still I was impressed! I had no idea I had so many. Next week the Wi are coming and following that another group. I have a good introduction planned. "This is a working and wild garden" I shall say grandly and hope that this means they will overlook the rough edges. DH has been busy and tidying stuff up but as always it needs lot of work.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Solar dyeing & black

I was getting a few pots ready today for solar dyeing and it occurred to me it might be fun put in leaves from all the tannin bearing plants and a bit of wool , add some iron and see if I could get a good black. So I picked eucalyptus leaves, purple loostrife, lythrum salicaria, and some from the staghorn sumach ,whose latin name escapes me at the moment rhus something, and put it it in my sunny spot. A couple of hours later I realised that the leaves from the staghorn sumach and lythrum salicaria leaves were all edged in black. But not the eucalpytus leaves from what I could see.