Dyeing Silk with Brazilwood Shavings

8 05 2017

My friend and master violin bow maker Lee Guthrie gave me some shavings from Brazilian Pernambuco wood, which makes a stunning crimson red dye. Known as Brazilwood by dyers and favored by bow makers, it’s also an historically important dye material. The name for the country of Brazil is actually shortened from Terra do Brasil “land of brazilwood”, since it was so important to the economy. Brazilwood dye can also refer to a related Asian species of Caesalpinia or Sappanwood. See the Wikipedia entry for more background information.

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Simmering Brazil wood shavings

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Shades of red from Brazilwood dye

To make the dye, I poured boiling water over a big handful and let it sit overnight. I soon discovered that it’s a very strong dye, so I removed some shavings and simmered the rest for about 1 hour. The silk scarves were pre-mordanted with alum, then brought to a simmer, turned off and cooled overnight. Shavings can be dried and used again for lighter shades. Iron darkened the color to a burgundy. Eco printing with leaves was done after dyeing.

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Silk Scarf dyed with Brazilwood and eco printed with local leaves

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Brazilwood dyed silk scarf with iron


*  View my available scarves in the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP. *


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Eucalyptus Color Tests for Eco Printing

18 02 2017

I love to experiment!  It takes a certain amount of discipline and organization, but I’m always glad when I take the time. I mostly use my local leaves for eco printing, but I also love the colors and shapes of Eucalyptus leaves and seeds. Australian Eucalyptus, in the hands of India Flint, inspired the eco printing process, at least as I understand it. Since I’m a long way from Eucalyptus country here in Minnesota, I buy bunches from Trader Joe’s.

When I recently gathered up all my dried materials to move into studio space so I could spread out, I discovered quite a few dried Eucalyptus bunches I had stashed away!  (Is there a support group for Eucalyptus hoarders?)  The color from Eucalyptus leaves can vary from brown to orange to red, depending on many factors, including the type of Euca, growing conditions as well as the eco printing process. Knowing what color they will print is helpful when I want more control over design. So I decided to test my leaves for color, by taking a few leaves from each bunch. The tricky part was tracking which bunch the leaves came from… Here is my process.

  • Habotai silk fabric, Test 1 pre-mordanted in Alum at 20% WOF (weight of fiber); Test 2 no Alum
  • Bundled dry so I could track which leaves came from which branch.
  • Silk soaked in fairly weak rusty iron water about 10 minutes, as I’ve found a bit of iron brings out the richness of the colors in Euca leaves.
  • Plastic layer to TRY to keep the prints separate. (Interesting result, see below.)
  • Steamed 2 hours, over just barely simmering water. (My roaster was sluggish.)
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8 bunches of Eucalyptus (plus misc. leaves on right)

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Test 1: Eucas on silk pre-mordanted with Alum

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Test 1 Results

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Test 2: Silk no mordant (Eucas +2 poinsettia leaves on right end)

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Test 2 Results

RESULTS:

  • Leaves at 5 cm and 11 cm produced the strongest color. I think the leaves at 5 are the large Silver Dollar Euca.
  • Round leaves tended to produce more reds, although not all the round leaves did.
  • Alum pre-mordant didn’t make much of a difference. This was interesting, as I’ve heard you can’t get red from Euca leaves if you mordant with alum. Hmmm….
  • Plastic layer: All the strong reds snuck right through the plastic and repeat printed! The red prints on the far left end of both pieces are repeat prints from leaves at 5 cm. That was surprising!

So… keep some fabric scraps handy and keep experimenting!

Euca Maple scarf

Silk scarf eco printed with eucalyptus and maple leaves

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** View available scarves in the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP.**


 








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