Companions on the “Silk Roads”: Madder, Logwood and Osage Orange

Several recent eco-printed textiles (8 mm silk habotai) were inspired by the colours of this midwinter landscape, similar to “Silk Roads 6”, below:

Silk Roads 5

Red cabbage, Ceylon tea and safflower:

Some pretty greens happen with the safflower yellows and cabbage blues mingling, while  the amber browns come  from tea, not rust.

Silk Roads 7 
Some more midwinter colours, as for Silk Roads 5, but with rust (and vinegar to activate the rust strongly). The colour differences due to the rust and vinegar are quite striking.

In the landscape of my winter garden, the large dried mopheads of “Annabelle” hydrangeas and the leafless vines of the arctic kiwi (arctinidia) provide the rusted orangey-browns we see in the iron rust prints above.

Now for some of the colours of warmer seasons, with madder reds, logwood purples and Osage orange golds combining with Red cabbage blues, safflower yellows, iron rusts,  tea blacks and red-browns:

Silk Roads 8

To the familiar combo of Red cabbage, black and brown tea, safflower and rust, I added a quarter teaspoon of Madder Rich dye extract powder to 2 0z water and dribbled that mixture over the textile once the other dyestuffs had been laid down. The Osage orange, basically a rough sawdust, was sprinkled thickly in places, like cheese on pizza. Bundled in rusted iron and steamed for an hour or so.

Silk Roads 9

  Logwood purple-blue added to the mix, along with some unintended cuddling up from  madder bundle in the dye pot. The logwood was sprinkled dry (while the madder had been was dissolved in water first) onto the textile after the other dyestuffs were laid down. Bundled over a length of rebar and steamed for an hour or so.   

A few “Silk Roads”

Eco-printed with madder (reds and pinks), logwood (deep blues and purples) and Osage orange for deep orangey-yellows.  Blacks and rust from iron; brown from teas; lavender blues from Red cabbage; greens from blue-yellow mixes.

Next post: A few favourite details from January’s work


Eco Print Adventures with Dye Extracts and Associates

More trials with dried dyestuffs, regular and irregular, on 10 mm silk habotai and modified post-printing with iron. 

1. Top: Osage Orange with madder (rich) Bottom: Ditto, modified with iron.

2. Left, Osage Orange, modified with iron, post-printing; Right, the same Osage Orange. Bundled over driftwood.

3. Left, Osage Orange and cochineal, modified with iron post-printing.Right, Osage Orange and Cochineal. Bundled over copper.

4. Collection: Osage Orange, Shizandra Chinensis with dried lemon tie-dye(beiges and tans); ditto, modified with iron to give greys and khakis.Second left, a fragment of silk chiffon printed with Tel Aviv park eucalyptus leaves, simmered in dried lemons,  modified with iron.

Dye Sources

1. Rubia tinctorum (madder rich) and cochineal (Dactyopius coccus) concentrated extracts (from Maiwa/Couleurs de Plantes)

2.Maclura pomifera (Osage Orange), woodchips/sawdust (from my stash). Interesting history of use recorded by Rita J. Adrosko in “Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing”, an authoratative reference (much misquoted, it seems to me).  

3. Dried lemons. They look like wee black walnuts and are actually small limes. From my kitchen cupboard via the mid-east grocery.

4.  Black Tea (loose Assam/Darjeeling) the darkest I could find.

5. Schizandra chinensis ( schizandra berries, ground). Often referred to in less frequent dye literature as a tannin-rich mordant. “On Special” at the health food store along with other intriguing roots and leaves with dye associations like  calendula, hypericum perforatum, nettles, calendula, etc. Among other claimed health benefits, an aphrodisiac in Chinese Medicine. Various colours claimed for this dyestuff so one needs to experiment with mordants, modifiers, heat, length of cooking time, etc.

Next post: Travelling further along the “Silk Roads”

Eco Printing more “Silk Roads”

January 12, 2012

Outside the snow is falling and the dye garden is asleep:

Inside, the studio consoles. I have a shipment from Maiwa, Vancouver (via Couleurs de Plantes, France):  a collection of powdered natural dye extracts, mostly colours I cannot obtain  from my Zone 4 garden,  like some reds and purples. For my “Silk Roads” collection, I would like  to extend the lavenders and sky blues I obtain regularly from Red Cabbage.

I tried the dye extract Madder Rich (red) and Logwood (purple)  in a non-traditional way: instead of dissolving the dye powders in water for an immersion dye bath, I sprinkled  the powder onto dampened silk fragments , pushing the powders around with a small paint brush, then bundling the silk over a copper pipe and steaming as usual.

“Madder Rich” dye extract on silk habotai 8 mm

Wow! That red will rack the eco-bundle colours up a notch. As it happens, today I received a late, long-anticipated Christmas gift in the mail: India Flint’s new book,  “Second Skin”. In Chapter 10, India describes her use of a dye-sprinkle technique to obtain madder reds in her eco bundles. That gives me confidence to try the technique further. One stands on others’ shoulders to see far…My aim with the madder experiment was to see if the elevated water temperature (above 200 in a steam bath) would bring out the browns in the madder, as it is reported to do in a boiling water immersion bath. As far as I can tell with this one small test, the madder reds will stay fixed.

Logwood dye extract on silk habotai, 8mm.

Exotic serpent? I folded the silk lengthwise in half and rolled that around a copper pipe before steaming. After these little tests, I feel ready to try some dye extract powders in my “Silk Roads” collection.  One thing worth noting:  no excess dye washed out in the rinse water. 

Now three more panels from the current “Silk Roads” collection:

Silk Roads 5.

No rusted iron, rooibos tea or vinegar in this  ecoprint, just Red Cabbage, safflower and black tea leaves. The results are a range of strong ambers complemented by lavender-purple (not blue) from Red Cabbage, but no blacks or very dark browns and greys.  Where the purples and the ambers mix, lightish greens appear:  


Silk Roads 6


Rusted iron from a reliably rusty corn stick muffin pan and a vintage flat iron (oval rust prints);  Red Cabbage, safflower petals, black tea, rooibos tea. Soaked briefly (20 mins?) in 5% vinegar after bundling, steamed for 2 hours. Greens – chartreusey ones- appear where the safflower and red cabbage meet.  A detail:

I think of Turner ‘s cosmic, abstract, oilpainted sky-scapes when I see how these colours work together to create wonderfully expressive markings.  The iron shifts the colours and especially the values, typically darkening the marks and enriching the range of lights and darks.

Silk Roads 7

The corn-cob shapes appear as bright orangey-rust prints. A fresher Red Cabbage might have given deeper colours of blue and purple but the lighter sky blue still charms gently. The cabbage that  printed the previous three panels was at least a month old.  Two more details:

Silk Roads 7 (detail 2)

Note where black tea, normally a dark brown, prints nearly black in the presence of iron. Safflower and Red Cabbage together make more greens. In “Silk Roads 5”, the same black tea prints deep amber brown in the absence of iron. Rooibos tea holds its own as a rusty red-brown here. I use whole dried tea leaves for the black tea eco print, not the ground leaves we might find in tea bags, e.g. for the rooibos.  One last detail:

Silk Roads 7 (detail 2)

These dye sources in combination give a full range of colour values, dark, medium and light, with some “betweens”. The darker values are coaxed out by the iron in combo with tannins in the black tea. “Silk Roads 5”, without strong value contrasts (lower contrast is not always a colour sin),  communicates subtlety. It allows a third colour, green, to emerge brightly from the mix of Red Cabbage and Black Tea. 

Always delightful surprises. Which is why eco printing is a fascinating field.

Next posts

Eco printing with dye extracts plus direct printing with plants .

Sorry about the whacko formatting. Word Press and I sometimes do not get along.

Eco Prints with Eucalyptus on Paper, Silk and Wool

I had heard that sometimes soaking eucalytpus leaves for a while before printing can help to release the colours into the paper or textile, so over the busy-busy-busy Christmas holidays I left  some plant material to soak  in water in separate containers until the Twelve Days were up.

After soaking, the leaves looked like this: (Starting at top left): 1. Seeded Eucalyptus , larger oval leaf 2. Seeded Eucalyptus, smaller oval leaf 3. Israeli Eucalyptus (variety TBD) 4. Silver Dollar Eucalyptus (rounded leaf) 5. Baby Blue (centre) Eucalyptus

              Each kind of eucalyptus (with bits of bark, too) was sandwiched between two sheets of watercolour paper and stacked for steaming as usual. The “What If..???” for this session was to insert some silk chiffon (see later) in between the papers, to trap the leaves and stalks and to catch some colour.

I liked the print made by the stalks, as well as the range of colours.

Note the colour variation on the Seeded Eucalyptus: large oval leaves gave chartreusey yellow; smaller ones gave bright red orange, as did the seeds and stalks. The brown blotchy parts are from some aby Blue that began to slime up and compost in the water. The soaking seemed to coax more orange-reds out of the seeded eucalyptus on to paper.

Browns, tans and sagey greens from this variety (TBD) collected as both fresh and dry specimens from a park in Tel Aviv. Now this lot was not pre-soaked for I received it as a gift on New Year’s Day only.

OOO, Eye Candy! The sunny yellow eco print on paper from this variety (E. Globulus?) is pretty much the same intense colour as the one obtained on silks and wool (see pics below) without prior soaking but with longer cooking.

Baby Blue Eucalyptus eco prints (like strings of rounded fruits) on handwoven wild silk dupioni (lots of slubby texture), modified with iron liquor (rusty nails in vinegar) to shift the yellows and red-browns to greens and greys. Some  Seeded Euc is on the left. The panel has the feel of an oriental scroll –  I look forward to stitching this one.

The semi-transparent silk chiffon pieces that were  sandwiched between plants and papers are layered here for a painterly look. I am planning to stitch them in to some woollen pre-felt to create a new textile  from ecoprinted fragments layered over  wool.

Last fall, Baby Blue E. (no pre-soaking) gave bright yellow on wool jersey in an eco bundle with Black Walnut (brown).

More Fall 2011 prints: Silver Dollar E. (not pre-soaked) gave yellows on silk charmeuse (centre), and golds, oranges, and orange-reds on silk-wool blends. 

  For Seeded E., a shortish steaming (two and a half hours) brought orange-reds on both paper and silk when the plant material was pre-soaked; and chartreuses whatever process was adopted. Steaming for as long as four hours (and certainly not less than two) , seems to bring out the orange -reds in Seeeded, Silver Dollar and Baby Blue E., at least in my practice so far. 

Next posts

1. Some more updates to my Dye Plants page. In January, month of snows, what better way to brighten  dark, late afternoons than look at the images of a summer garden?

2.  I have broken down and bought some Couleur de Plantes natural dye extracts from Maiwa in Vancouver…I could no longer contain my curiosity about madder, logwood, etc etc. Can’t wait to see how – or IF! – they will work with  my  usual dye stuffs in the next collection of eco prints on silk habotai.

Happy New Year, Bonne Annee 2012!