Blooms and green leaves aplenty in the May garden! How rich might they be in pigments, though, so early in the season? Especially if printed on linen, a cellulose fibre- which can be challenging to print if new. I was thinking that some of the colours would be weaker this season.
To get the best colours, I like to refer to the dye books for advice. The trad dye lit recommends a three-step mordanting process for cellulose fibres: alum, tannin, then alum again. I used alum acetate as the linen mordant – it needs no heat, only a soak overnight. The tannin came from fresh young sumac leaves in my garden.
I cooked a pot full of leaves with water to cover along with a length of white linen at 180 F and obtained a yellow liquor (a dye as well as a tannin mordant). I skipped the usual first alum soak and put the tannin-mordanted linen straight into the alum bucket (having used one tablespoon of alum to each half pound of dry-weight fabric in water to cover) Within half an hour, the linen had become bright yellow-green! Hmm. Had not predicted quite such a vibrant yellow!
The sumac tannin bath: yellow for sure!
Layered with a selection of May blooms and leaves:
Dandelions and spent tulips :
Purple Sandcherry (Prunus cistena):
Bundled into the steamer for an hour or so:
After the bundling: Diffuse marks.
Lots of blue-green teals with deep yellows on this layer; pinks and purples from the tulips; dark, dark blues from the tulip anthers; deep blue-green from the crabapple red-purple leaves; ditto, the sandcherry. The bright yellow is from the pink crabapple blossom: the dotty blues from the lilacs and teal blue from the violets. Way more blue than I predicted. Looking now for some shapes and forms to complement the range of colours obtained, I laid out more plants.
The linen was layered again with the same selection of plants plus some rose leaves:
This time, the fabric was torn into smaller pieces and layered flat in the steamer, in the same way that I eco print papers.
With this result:
..and with a stalk of Coreopsis verticillata (Threadleaf Coreopsis) – that is the bright red on the right over the sumac leaf that prints golden.
And now yet another layer, this time with more Coreopsis Verticillata to give precise form and brightly contrasting colour- the Orange-Blue opposition is one of my favourites. But first, just look at the red in the jR on the left here! Within half an hour, the coreopsis stalks in the jar had given up this much dye in a jar of warm water with half a teaspoon of alum acetate. On the right, the jar contains fresh stalks in plain water. The incredible red colour is from the leaves and the roots: later, when the blooms arrive, they too will print bright red.
Sumac and coreopsis for the third layer, to give colour contrasts and precise botanical forms:
With these results:
The first four samples were modified with iron before the final layering: that had interesting effects all over the piece. Note how the sumac print yellow-greens have become blue.
The sumac imposed its yellow over the base and made bright yellow patches when it came in contact with the lilac:
Compare the green sumac print (below) with the blue sumac print, iron-dipped, above. The next few samples were not treated with an iron dip.
Next post: Some of these same prints modified with iron and over-printed with sumac and coreopsis. Plus some embroideries, as promised last time, and lots of eco prints on paper using the same range of plants.