This last October I took an eco-dyeing class with local Fort Collins artist Ayn Hanna. It was just a whim to try something new, and this process is very different from anything I’d tried before. Ayn is very organized and had class notes and worksheets all ready for us. She also had various leaves, natural dye baths and a couple of steamers heated up. The plant knowledge needed for this type of dying is more than I can describe in this blog, but there are several good books on the subject. I highly recommend taking a class from Ayn or someone in your area.
Preferably starting with wool or silk, start by soaking your natural fabric in water. Then wring the piece out, lay it flat and place an assortment of leaves on top. Using a dowel or copper pipe roll the fabric strip tight and bind with cord before placing the bundle in a steamer or dye bath. You can see the cord binding on the bottom edge of the dyed cloth where the dye bath is also the strongest. After soaking for several hours minimum, the bundles sat in my garage for about 3 weeks until I unwrapped them to see the magic.
Why are some of the leaves black and some orange? Well that is where the knowledge and experience come in. Strangely enough, eucalyptus leaves dye the fabric orange, but I didn’t get consistent results on this first try.
The piece above had some raspberry juice added, and I love the colors!
One of the challenges for me with this type of dying is the washability of the textile. Setting the dyes is not as sure as when using fiber reactive dyes. I made about 20 pieces of varying success that weekend and plan on experimenting with setting the dye on some of the rejects first. Will I use this dye process in the future? Well I might take the class every year! The set up was extensive with 5 dye baths and two steamers for about 8 of us to share. If I did this at home I think I would need to choose just one or two dye baths…maybe onion peel and walnut. Steaming worked well, but more pastel and I like a deeper color palette.