It started when we harvested our Concord grapes and I saw all that beautiful purple juice. My husband was trying his hand at making grape jam, but all I could see was another way to dye fabric, so I confiscated some of the skins and juice and set about experimenting. My results, on cotton (left) and silk (right:
|Dyed with grape skins and juice|
With this new passion ignited, I started looking for possibilities. Aha! Black walnuts from my son's backyard. When the outer hull (yellowish-green) begins to turn black and peel away, what's left is an inky black, fibrous substance surrounding the nutshell. It really stains! I filled a bucket with them, added water, stirred, and made "walnut hull stew" for fabric dyeing!
|Cotton, bundled for dyeing|
|Walnut-hull dyed cotton|
|Cotton sateen, walnut-hull dyed|
|Late-season flower harvest|
|Flower petals and leaves on cotton|
Nothing happened. I missed a step! I forgot to mist them with vinegar water, so I did, and got them pretty wet, and steamed them for another hour. Here's one of the pieces after it air-dried.
Finally, I moved on to ice-flower dyeing, a method developed by India Flint in her book Eco-Colour. I used flower petals I'd collected during the summer, then placed in plastic bags and froze. I choose some frozen fuschia-colored peony petals, placed them in a Mason jar, and added lukewarm water (and vinegar, to promote the red color). According to India,
"the temperature shock of immersion assisted in the rapid release of colour.Freezing plant material has the added benefit of breaking up thestructure of the plant, as the moisture contained within thecells expands while becoming solid." (p. 138)
Unfortunately, my results were less-than stellar:
|Cotton, ice-flower dyed (with peony petals)|
Lessons learned: Patience is a virtue. There are no guarantees in life. Keep playing and experimenting. There's always more to learn.
* The magic of Mud Pies and Other Recipes: Though I didn't really play with dolls (except for Barbies), there was something about foraging in my own backyard that totally absorbed me. At my pleading, my mom bought me a stack of 3x5" index cards, and I hand-copied every recipe in that book for my own collection. (Oh, how I wish I still had that collection!) I can still recall the magical feeling evoked by Erik Blegvad's illustrations; they take me back to the smell and feel of bright, hazy Mid-Atlantic mornings.
From the book's foreword:
This is a cookbook for dolls. It is written for kind climates and summertime.
It is an outdoor cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared. They love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue. The market place, then, will be a forest or sand dune or your own backyard . . .