Monday, November 07, 2011

clay dyeing cotton

A few weeks back, while I was busy slaking clay from the yard, I set aside a handful to use as a dye.  My instructor Nancy from the Woodland Pottery class I took had mentioned that it could be used as such, and I figured I'd give it a whirl.

I had a plain white t-shirt of my own, and a pale yellow shirt for my daughter to play with.  I found a how-to on Prairie Fibers' site, and I followed her instructions for immersion dyeing, mostly.

Much like any natural dye process, there was scouring and mordanting to be done.  I didn't have the recommended soda ash for scouring so I used washing soda instead.  The instructions called for tannin to mordant with and I used acorns since I had tons of those on hand.  I simmered them in water for about an hour, strained them out, and added my shirts.

After prepping the fabric, the clay is dissolved in soy milk and the shirts are allowed to sit in the mixture for a week or more.  Here's where I got a bit sloppy.  I probably added a bit too much clay, and definitely didn't stir my fabric around enough (I had a pretty narrow vessel, next time I'll use a more open bucket), as evidenced by the blobs of clay and bare spots on the fabric.

I let my shirts cure for about a week out on the line then rinsed them well...really took some effort to get the clay off.  I brought them in and handwashed them, and I was left with a mottled pink/beige color.  I wondered how it would wash up in the washing machine, so I tossed it in with a load of laundry.  Since it was raining it also went through the dryer instead of being hung on the line.  I thought for sure that I'd be back to a plain white t after that treatment, but surprisingly, the pigment held.

The result is pretty interesting.  I really like the mottled look to it, but it's a little too close to my skin color for me.  I'm wondering what would happen if I overdip it in a different dye color, maybe a black walnut, just to deepen it.  I also thought of doing some Alabama Chanin-style applique work to it.  I'm just not sure.

Any ideas?

At any rate, not bad for a handful of mud.  I'd like to try this with again with a different color of clay.

Have a great start to the week, everyone.


lynn bowes said...

Interesting. And here I spend my washdays trying to get the clay stains OUT of tee shirts. Maybe it's time for me to just 'go with the flow' and call them clay-dyed?

k said...

I love this idea! Would be great to age band shirts! Gonna have to try it out!

Anonymous said...

I would have NEVER thought about dyeing with clay ! Now this is very interesting ! I love it the way it is, but overdyeing sounds like a fun idea indeed !

Glo said...

Don't worry about it being too close to your skin tone. Wear it as is, but put a bright pink or orange scarf around your neck. I bet it will look wonderful.

kristin said...

i think it looks beautiful lisa! but i know what you mean about matching skin tone...i'm not fond of that either. a dip in a black walnut bath would be great, as long as it wouldn't even out the color too much, it looks so great all mottled-like xx

Elizabeth said...

I love this mottled effect. I'm thinking at this time of year it would have to hang on an indoor line or the clay would come off when the morning frost drips off. Of course that might be an interesting result too.

Anonymous said...

I really like that mottled, nature-enhanced look. I say Go For It! with the overdye...maybe in green or red??? Worst case you have a new rag and start over on a new t-shirt. Super fun, Lisa! = )

Margie Oomen said...

i love it as is but also think an over dye with walnut or
even just a little bit of a iron post mordant would be interesting.

Unknown said...

Gosh, Lisa - you are always up to the most interesting things! I say, overdye away! A while back, my future daughter-in-law went to Korea and came back with a gift jar of clay dye for me, which I am now inspired to play around with. Thanks! -sus

Terriea Kwong said...

Very organic and eco-friendly.

Tara said...

I love the mottled effect and think applique would look interesting as well. PEI has famous red soil. For years, tourists have been able to buy PEI dirt shirts. Now I know how it is done. :0)


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