Friday, January 25, 2013

dyeing with St. John's Wort supplements

 It started with a tomato plant, a stray seedling that popped up uninvited in my anise starts, and another day of the temperature weakly venturing above zero.

I haven't ventured outside much lately besides my daily chicken and duck-tending and I miss my walks.  And I miss gathering things for dyeing.  So when my eyes landed on the tomato plant, I thought hm...maybe I'll do a little indoors dye-gathering.  I did experiment with the leaves and when they gave very little color I started tossing other things into the pot.  Ultimately what gave me color and a pretty good surprise was something I had in my medicine cabinet.  St. John's Wort pills.


I knew that the plant itself can be used for dyeing but I wasn't sure if the supplements would have the same effect.  I started pulling the capsules apart and dumping the contents in the dye pot (I wised up a little later in the process.  If you do this, cut them with stout scissors lengthwise, much faster).  I didn't have any pre-mordanted fiber on hand so I just sprinkled some alum and cream of tartar in the dye pot, stirred it all up, and added my wool, cotton, cotton floss, and silk.  I let it simmer for about 30 minutes and lo and behold, color!


The silk took up the most color, turning very dark green, almost black, but the cotton performed well too giving shades of olive green that are more vibrant and lovely than they look here.  The wool took on a more brownish shade of green which too, isn't reflected well in the photos.  The color on the cotton faded quite a bit in the drying process so I'm going to let the pieces sit in a sunny window for a few days and see how fugitive the colors are.  



It makes me wonder what other colors are in my medicine cabinet.  If someone hasn't already done it, someone please visit your local herbal supplement aisle and dye with everything you can find.  It isn't the project for me, but oh how I'd love to see a piece constructed with medicinally-dyed fiber.

 
I should mention that there was another unexpected side effect of this particular dye pot, and that is the lingering aroma.  It was very reminiscent of marijuana.  Just the smell though, no other "effects".  Thought I'd mention it so you can plan accordingly if you decide to try this.  I would schedule that dinner with the in-laws another day.

Have a great weekend, everybody.  I hope you get a little time to experiment too.
 

17 comments:

susan christensen said...

Fascinating post, Lisa! I love your experimental spirit. Very inspiring. xxoo, sus

Ann Pocklington said...

Just be careful how you shop! I went into the local pharmacy for potassium permanganate crystals to dye fabric cinammon. The counter assistant said yes they had some, but they didn't sell it often and she needed to check the sell-by date. Without thinking, and in one of those quiet moments that happen in noisy places just to embarrass you, I said loud and clear 'Oh that doesn't matter, I only need to for dyeing'. There was an intake of breath in the shop, and the pharmacist shot out of his dispensary with 'Assisted suicide' written all over his face. I had to convince him I was into dyeing not dying)(Oh, and pot.permang. does a good job on cotton but can rot silk - and dyes your hands bright purple, wear gloves).

Lisa at lil fish studios said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Thank you Sus! xo

Oh Ann, you have me laughing out loud over here with the assisted suicide! My kids talk about their mom "dyeing" quite often and it gets double-takes from lots of people. Interesting about the Potassium permanganate. I had no idea. Thanks for sharing.

Scrapiana said...

Ha! Love your dinner-planning advice! That's funny.

I'm astonished by those colours! Nice job.

Sonia / Cozy Memories said...

Beautiful results, specially on the silk !!!
Thank goodness in French the translation for "dyeing" is really different from the one for "dying" LOL
xoxo

Betty the Wood Fairy said...

I like natural colours - that was a great experiment and gave good results, very adventurous!

Erin said...

Oh Lisa, this is amazing - both your experiment and the result!! I love all these colours!
I had never thought of looking into the medicine cabinet. lol
You always think outside square and see everything in more creative ways, love it!
Have a great week end.x Erin

Valerianna said...

Wow.... love the experimentation and beautiful color. I also love the idea of someone doing medicinally-dyed cloth. One could also wear the cloth to get the "spirit" of the plant in a healing way. I like that idea!!

joanie said...

I love your adventurous nature. Not sure my in-laws would recognize the scent, but you never know, they could surprise me ;)
I really love the colors too!

Els said...

What a very interesting experiment, Lisa, though I don't think we have that kind of pills over here ... lovely colours,
Ha ! smiled about the smell-warning !!!

prpltrtl946 said...

I wanted to dye my hair black for Halloween and to see how it looked back in the 90's. My friend convinced me to let her use a "Natural Henna Dye." HA!!

It turned out greenish gray and I smelled like a PLANT for a week!!! Sheesh!

I ended up using Manic Panic's Fuchsia Shock to make it a Pretty Fuchsia/greyish/blackish plant smelling mess.... 8*)

Margie Oomen said...

i find that st john's wort plants really irritate most people's skin, a sort of contact dermatitis. Did you have any problems with the dye pot solution irritating your skin? Or perhaps you were too high to notice, ha ha.

Sarah Policastro said...

This is such a great idea! I have to chime in to say I love looking at your dying experiments so much. Today when I saw how much iron rust sentiment was at the bottom of our cast iron tea pot, I just had to save it! We usually have it full of water on top of the woodstove. Have you ever dyed with rust?

Also, in response to Margie, I wildcraft St. John's Wort every summer with my kids for oil and we have never once had an issue.

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Margie - I didn't have any of the skin sensitivity, thankfully. Nor any of the highness. I did have the munchies though...

Sarah - I haven't used rust on wool roving but I have used it on cotton, silk, and wool fabric and it does some cool stuff. Especially on the cotton and silk. I also use a rust solution made of vinegar and steel wool (basically, rust in vinegar) as an after-dip and on some natural dye stuffs it does amazing things. My favorite thus far is how it behaves on cotton with red onions. There's a blog post on here somewhere about it, but it turns the cotton a great olive green. It also helps turn red cabbage a deep blue. So, good call on not tossing it. Have fun with it!

julochka said...

that is an amazing range of color you produced. i love alchemy.

marilyn buss said...

I was interested to see your project using the supplements. They turned out well! I tried fresh St John's Wort last summer, hoping for that red you get infusing the flowers in water or alcohol Instead, I got a great chartreuse--no mordant-- among other colors. There are apparently a lot of color variations with this plant. It inspired me to dye more for some projects, and to get into plant dying again. ( I have been dying with mushrooms exclusively for 6 years.) This lead me to the idea of dying with medicinal herbs, which I will explore more when mushroom season is over. I tried comfrey, which was lackluster. I crocheted a "happy hat" for my daughter, who, as a teacher, has days she could really use it. Thanks for sharing all your ideas and dye/fiber projects. Marilyn B

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