Wednesday, July 27, 2011

dyeing with flower petals

Our oriental lilies have been in full and fragrant bloom for the past few weeks.  Blooms are just now starting to wither and drop and I thought I'd try using them for dyeing.

I placed the petals in an enameled pot with a little bit of water and simmered them for about an hour until eventually the water took on a lovely rose color.  I added my wool, some cotton floss, and a bit of vintage lace that I had mordanted with alum and let them steep for a few hours on low heat.  I was excited about the color that the wool seemed to be taking up but then when I removed it from the pot...this.

The wool is a pale grey with a slightly violet tint and the cotton floss picked up a very slight pink hue. 

Not exactly exciting stuff.
So I tried something else.  I ground up two iron tablets and put them in the dye bath and added new wool and cotton floss.  The addition of the iron turned the rose color to a dark aubergine color.  After steeping overnight this is what we have.

Here's the two side by side.

Yeah, not exactly my most wow-inducing experiment.  I'm saving the dye and will try again on silk, just for grins.

A few weeks ago I picked an assortment of petals and plants from the yard for dyeing and it's been steeping on my windowsill since.  I have some marigolds in there, lily petals, assorted yellow weeds, and some Virginia Creeper which is supposed to make a peach color.  I figured I'd end up with a tan color because of the mix of colors I had chosen.  I didn't have any alum when I put this batch of flowers on simmer so I added salt instead.  I poured the whole mess into the jar with the fiber and set it on my windowsill.  The color, as predicted, slowly turned a pale brown color.

Pale brown is fine but since I now had alum on hand I figured I'd pour this melange back into the dyepot and add some alum just to see what I got. (because I'm precise like that)  This is what I ended up with...

... a natural yellow color that I really like.  It's more subtle than the parsley-dyed yellow I've gotten, but more  yellow than onion skins.  I'm guessing the marigolds were the strong flowers in this bunch.
I love the experimentation aspect of natural dyeing even when they're not wildly successful, and I'm glad I made a little time for it, I hadn't realized how much I missed doing it.  I'm sure you'll be seeing some of these colors in my work very soon.


lynn bowes said...

I've found that when I deadhead my purple daylilies, it stains my hands. Wonder if those would ship since I'm sending a package tomorrow?

k said...

always interesting to see other people's natural dye experiments. i'm sure you'll find some use for these subtle colours, although it is fun when vibrant results are seen too. was surprised at your comment that you only get a soft yellow with onion skins? is that just white onions? i have gotten a very vibrant yellow-orange with yellow onion skins, and also a wonderful bronzey colour with red onion skins (both mordanted with alum). but i know there are so many variables with natural dyeing too.

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Thanks Lynnie, can't wait to see the purple!

k - I do like the subtle tones but I was convinced that the wool was holding more color than it did. I've never worked with silk, and have wanted to, so this gives me a good excuse to try it. And, actually this yellow isn't more vibrant than the onion skins, just more towards a true yellow. The colors I've gotten from onion skins has been more of a gold ranging towards copper. This color is like a banana yellow. The parsley was a bright yellow, with almost a chartreuse tint to it. Always interesting.

ai said...

I'm fascinated but for some reason I can only see the picture of your flowers, all the rest are missing. :(

Tara said...

I enjoy seeing natural dye experiments. The colours always seem so pretty, even if unexpected. I love the photo of all the flowers smooshed into the jar.

Margie Oomen said...

for the plant based fibers you might want to treat them with something that has a high tannic acid concentration first like pomegranate, tea, sumac or even just tannic acid itself. It will really help the fabric or fiber grab on to the dye molecules.
But then again I love subtle colors too.


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