Slow Clothworks: curing, washing and rinsing eco prints

Arlee Barr’s eco-print washing-out adventures have inspired this post! Thank you to arlee the unvarnished.

A Spring 2012 review of my inventory revealed a box of vintage cottons and linens, eco printed in June 2011 and left to cure, unwashed and unrinsed until now, some twelve months later. The long curing, I must admit, was more by accident than by design because for the most part, I had simply let my June 2011 dyed and eco-printed textiles dry in the summer sun then washed them out right after that.

(And should I also admit “gloating over my hoard” instead of the slight fiction expressed in the above sanitized “review of my inventory”? With 30-odd years of the virus Academia in my blood, Strict Honesty, as in “Unvarnished and Unembellished Truth” dies hard, dear Readers. We need to have our answers ready for the question: What isTruth?)

Back to eco prints!

What would be the effects of long waiting before washing out? Would they ose the colour? and if so, how much? Last summer’s posts detailed the post-washing results for many similar linens and cottons mordanted, dyed and printed in the same manner.This week, a “cured” collection of eight met an (overly-thorough?) half capful of Synthrapol and two tablespoons of Orvus paste in a washing machine filled with cool water, set to two rinses.

Note that I normally unbundle my eco prints when cool, immediately after printing or dyeing, thus, so far, I have not let bundles “cure” before unwrapping.

Mordants

The little stash was mordanted June 2011 by soaking (not cooking) in a classic (from the traditional dye lit.) three- step alum-tannin-alum sequence, with tannin from fresh sumac leaves, garden-gathered, simmered in water to cover, strained, then cooled. The alum was the food grade variety from Bulk Barn.

First was the preparation of the mordants: sumac-tannin mordant and alum, then the cool soaking period for each step of the mordanting – 24 hours at least for each -IOW, until I got around to the next step…

Indeed, the process was Slow. Could have been Slower, too, if I had let the bundles sit for some time before unwrapping.

Plant materials

The leaves for the eco prints were (variously) perennial geranium, Purple Sandcherry (prunus cistena) purple pansies, dried red rose petals (from rosebud tea), dried hibiscus petals (from hibiscus tea), willow leaves and sumac leaves. Most prints in this collection were obtained early in the season by steaming, while one 2011 leaf print was sumac-mordanted earlier then bundled and dyed in black walnut juice in September when walnuts were available. The sumac soak acted as both tannin mordant and as a light yellow-green dye, so the prints are all somewhat yellow-based. (FYI : A colour- free tannin mordant can be obtained as powder from Maiwa in Vancouver…In late fall, when I was out of fresh sumac juice, I switched to this second source of tannin..BTW, the tree barks I used in June 2011 were tannin rich too, but more on that in later posts.)

Here are some images showing the Before and After of the curing- washing-rinsing phases for this collection of Slow Cloths

1. Before: Willow leaf on linen (Black Walnut dye – note the bundling string marks plus the labels I wrote …you think you will remember the printing details? NO way…I write a quick set of material and process notes on a label and pin that to the cloth. Make your own labels or buy a box of manila ones)

After:

Detail : a willow leaf print…

 

2. Before: Purple Sandcherry with one willow leaf.

The Before pic shows a deeper colouration than After, I think, so I see some loss of colour even after a year of curing in a box in the dark.But can we say more mellowing or a patina than a loss…(see what I mean about the way we can varnish the truth?)

After:

 

3. Before: Purple Sandcherry and Perennial Geranium with purple pansy:

After: Some fading (truthful observation!) I think, but not major, and some “blooming” of other colours. That may have happened because another textile in the wash had been post-mordanted with iron.

4. Before: Sumac, hibiscus petals (dried), rose petals (dried), perennial geranium leaves and flowers. The dark speckles are dried rose bud petals which had pretty well pulverized in the tea. The pinks are from hibiscus, large dried petals from tea. Dabs of purple came from the geranium flowers.

After: A loss of the pinks and purples due to the iron in another textile washed with this one. Iron turns hibiscus pink to grey. I took a chance washing the collection together in one batch..so this colour change was a result I had anticipated.

 

5. A few details of another print, post-wash (no Before pic ): perennial geranium on sumac dyed cotton, I found little fading after washing. Amazingly strong print from the geranium.

More detailsl: layered prints.
The greens are from the P. Sandcherry which give both green and purple, depending in the time of year. Later in the season, post-June, I observed more and deeper purples, especially on silks. The darkest lace is from the rosebud tea prints. The vintage cottons and linens do indeed develop a kind of patina.

 

 

A last note from a lovely willow leaf, later in the season.

 

Next post: More on the eco printed stash as I prepare to select Art Cloth for the July show in Ottawa.

Cheers

Wendy

 

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About wendyfe

I am a fibre artist working in mixed media textiles with a focus on vintage cloth reworked with stitching, natural dyeing, eco printing and rust printing . My work can be seen at www.wendyfeldberg.ca.
This entry was posted in Art Cloth, Eco Prints, Natural Dyeing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Slow Clothworks: curing, washing and rinsing eco prints

  1. connie rose says:

    Great experiment, Wendy!
    So here’s my experience with washing ecodyed fabric ~ everything cellulose that I dye is premordanted in soymilk. Most of my fabric stash hasn’t been washed because I see no need to do so, as most of it will be used in quilting or mixed media work.
    But, I have a big white men’s shirt that I ecodyed and a white t-shirt, and I washed them within a few weeks of dyeing…with NO loss of color or print.
    Try soymilk as a mordant.
    Have a great summer!

  2. Louisa says:

    Lovely results, Wendy! I’ve been pruning The Geranium That Ate Vancouver and here I could have been using it to eco-dye instead. Good thing there’s lots left!

    According to expert John Marshall, soymilk acts as a natural polymer (glue) rather than a mordant. But it definitely works! You can’t use the packaged soy drinks though. You have to make it fresh from soy beans. I’ve used it to make fabric paints with powdered pigments and natural dye extracts but haven’t tried it with the direct plant parts. Yet.

    So many ideas. So little time.

    • wendyfe says:

      Yummy! Do you Have pics on your blog?

      Wendy

    • wendyfe says:

      Yes, great info on soya milk, Louisa. It ‘s now on my TRY THIS list…And re that monster geranium: indeed, prunings will never be the same in my eyes after working with eco prints…e.g., Two big paper bags of garden clippings are sitting out there in my yard and me obsessing: So many plants, so little time…Will I ever, ever commit to reducing The Stash?

  3. dyefeltsool says:

    Thanks Louisa for the extra info on soymilk. Lovely prints Wendy! The willow leaves are beautiful. I noticed someone got a lovely pale pink from willow, No idea how they mordanted or dyed but would love to try it. I haven’t washed out my newly dyed silks, they’re so pretty right now and I’m afraid that they’ll all fade horribly. But seeing as they’ll be scarves soon I spose I should. Not good if your scarf leaks šŸ™‚
    Happy dyeing!

    • wendyfe says:

      Yes. MS, DFS.

      I think washing wearables is in order. Rusted pieces, too, even if not wearable – rusetd linens are tough to get a needle through.

      Soy mili, here I come. Have you good recipe for DIY soy mordant?

      Wendy

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