Sunday, June 16, 2019

Experiments with natural dyes and quilting cottons

Donna Brown's "Can you Dig It" natural dye class was an eye-opener to putting nature's color palette on cloth.
Dobby weave cotton cloth hand dyed with logwood and osage orange.

I have some experience fabric dyeing with synthetic dyes, but the time had come to learn about pre-1856 colorants—natural dyes, extracts and pigments—for coloring textiles. So, for the class supplies, I gathered cuts of several quilting cottons that I generally use for sewing, garment making and quilting, along with a few rubber stamps, stencils and brushes, to learn about natural dyes and techniques for applying these colorants to cloth. Here are the results.

Immersion Dyeing
The class spent time weighing and mordanting the fabrics prior to the dye process. Dye pots were prepared and the coloring began.
Osage orange (yellow) overdyed with Logwood (purple) on
a white textured yarn-dyed cotton from Diamond Textiles.

Logwood (blue violet) took nicely to a printed batik from Majestic Batiks.
Notice the flower motifs of the batik design.

Pomegranate (yellow) overdyed with Logwood (purple) on a
pintuck cotton from Diamond Textiles.

Direct application of natural pigments
We learned about mixing natural dye extracts and pigments with tragacanth so the colors could be directly applied to textiles. Various tools can be used to create patterns and imagery to make complex art cloth.

Stencilling on Tweed Thicket, a yarn-dyed cotton from Diamond Textiles.

Rubber stamps and stencils on silk broadcloth.

Initially, the colors were from the pure pigments. However, with a room full of artists, painters and a few experienced dyers, the workshop participants quickly began creating and sharing elaborate and beautiful "custom color" dye mixtures.

Pigments mixed with tragacanth for direct application techniques.

Direct application of pigments with a foam brush
on embossed cotton (Diamond Textiles).

Stamping with a wood block on cotton knit from Art Gallery Fabrics.
The highlight colors applied to select leaves with pigment pastels.

First layer: monoprinting with a Gelli plate
on white cotton [ColorWorks from Northcott].


Silk screen (central motif) and stenciling on a batik from Majestic Batiks.

Silk screen, stamping and direct application on various quilting cottons.

Once cured (about a week for the direct applications), I'll be excited to begin working with these samples!
Natural dyes on quilting cottons. Photo credit: Yvonne Martin-Kitt

Not one "mean girl" in the bunch
Natural dyeing is a combination of history, chemistry, and art. I enjoyed all the ingredients and aspects of the recipe. Thank you to Donna Brown, a knowledgeable and generous instructor, for taking me on my maiden voyage with natural dyes, extracts and pigments! You made me and everyone successful in our creative textile endeavors.
Donna Brown (left) and I at Shakerag Workshops 2019.

And to the fellow artists who graciously shared in this learning experience with me, your talents, friendship and thoughtfulness are without limits. Thanks for a wonderful experience.
"Can You Dig It?" natural dye workshop. 2019 Shakerag Workshops.
Photo credit: Yvonne Martin-Kitt.


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