Today’s plant dye vats are a bit smelly. Partly due to the mordants I have used and partly to a long fermentation (mostly because I forgot about them and left the dyestuff solution sitting outside for several weeks). This could be a good thing though, as fermentation helps to extract the dye from the plants.
Birch Bark Dye
30 grams of chopped Birch Bark
Steeping in a jar for several weeks. The dyestuff has turned a nice shade of pink. I put the dye stock into a dyepot filled with water and let it simmer for several hours.
Then I added pre-mordanted handspun flax into the dye pot, let it simmer for 2 hours and turned the heat off. I left the yarn to sit in the dyepot overnight. Wonderful colour!
There was still a lot of colour left in the dyepot so then I put a cotton tote bag into the pot.
A few weeks ago, I discovered what looked like Sarcodon imbricatus (that grow under pine trees) or Sarcodon Squamosus (that grow under spruce trees) fungi growing amongst the bark mulch in our garden. I couldn’t identify which type of bark mulch we have so don’t know whether these will yield any nice colour, but this will be a good experiment none the less.
In Norway, fungi dyers have had good success in producing green and blue dyes using Sarcodon fungi. I had heard that Sarcodon produce better colour when picked in the late fall, so I thought that perhaps freezing them would help to bring out the dye pigment, if there is any. I cut the fungi into small pieces, put them into a plastic container and added a bit of water – and into the freezer for a few weeks.
When I took them out of the freezer, I added a few drops of ammonia to change the pH to alkali, and let the fungi sit outside for a few weeks.
After this fungi mixture had fermented, I strained the fungi into a mesh bag and put it all into a dyepot filled with water to simmer for a few hours.
Disappointing grey/brown on handspun bleached flax. The plant dye world doesn’t always produce colourful results, but interesting to try.
After a particularly windy night, I took a short walk along the Canal near our house. The wind had knocked down a lot of tree branches that were covered with lichen. I gathered some of them up and took them home. I am not very familiar yet with lichens of the UK, but I think this is xanthoria parietina, which should produce yellow dyes. I scraped the lichen off the branches and put them into an organza mesh bag.
I put the lichen dyestuff into a dyepot, added water and let the dye stock simmer for a few hours.
Some Xanthoria parientina have 2 dye pigments, yellow and red. The red pigments can also produce pinks, plums and blues when fermented in ammonia. To test whether the xanthoria will produce the red shades, add a bit of household bleach to the lichen. If it turns red, then the dyestuff can be fermented.
The cotton bag didn’t turn red but is a pretty shade of soft pink. I suppose a lot more lichen would be required to get deeper colour.
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