Monday, 28 February 2011
on my weekend away earlier this month, we had a lovely morning tea with em's very crafty granny-in-law. we talked about quilting, papermaking, pottery and she showed me the most amazing blanket, crocheted in gorgeous shades of reds, raspberry pinks, yellows and browns. she told me the yarn had been dyed with eucalyptus and i was totally intrigued. i love dying fabric and have been interested in using natural dyes for a couple of years now but it all seemed like a bit too much work. i did some quick research on eucalyptus dying and was particularly interested in this page that talked about not using any mordant at all and still getting good lightfastness. the results mentioned were all on knitting wool but i thought i'd give it a try on fabric anyway, without any huge expectations. a walk through the local park yielded a good sized bag of fallen eucalypt debris. i filled two large tins with equal parts water and plant material, one with broken up pieces of bark and one with broken up dried leaves and whole gumnuts, and left them to sit in a sunny spot for about a week, stirring every now and then.
on friday i enlisted mae's help to strain the leaves, bark and gumnuts out and pour the deeply coloured water back into the containers. i added scraps of natural linen, raw silk and white cotton and left them immersed overnight. on saturday we fished them out and i was completely amazed by the colours that emerged.
i was expecting some degree of red but got shades of purple from the eucalyptus bark and an array of greys from the leaves and gumnuts - sooooo much better than i could have hoped for! the white cotton had the lightest results and i was expecting the raw silk to be the deepest colour (something i read about animal proteins accepting dye better) but surprisingly, a thick, coarsely woven linen took up the most colour. i have no idea how these would hold up to a traditional wash in the machine (will test it out soon) but the colour held through a thorough scrub in cold water to remove any bits of plant gunk so i'm hopeful. i absolutely LOVE the colours and am super excited to experiment further, the element of surprise is just too good. this little exercise comprises so many of my loves so well - nature, foraging, dyeing, fabric and colour. excellent.