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. *






Indigo and Eco Printing Workshop with Pia Best-Reininghaus

25 02 2017

Here are some images from a great workshop I took with Pia Best-Reininghaus, assisted by her daughter Maria, on combining eco printing with Indigo dye. Robbin Firth of Heartfelt Silks in Hudson, Wisconsin organized the workshop and it was held at the Textile Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has a great dye lab. Fall 2016 workshop.

We dyed and printed on cellulose fibers (viscose rayon, cotton & linen) as well as silk, incorporating rusty iron for some stunning results.

Here are a few of my favorite results, indigo dyed and eco printed leaves on rayon, cotton and silk:

This was a good introduction to indigo dyeing for me, only the second time I had access to an indigo vat. I ended up taking home some of the leftover indigo dye. After finding a big used pot with a burner so I could heat it up outside, I was able to revive the indigo and dyed more scarves and fabric, plus tried some Shibori folding techniques.

The vat froze pretty solid over the winter in my garage here in Minnesota, so I’ll see if I can revive it when it warms up. No idea if that’s possible! This leftover vat used thiox and soda ash.  I dislike the strong chemical smell of thiox/Rit Color Remover, so when I mix up my own vat from scratch next time I’ll try Michel Garcia’s organic fermented vat 1-2-3 technique.


*  Visit the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP. *


 





Dyeing with Onion Skins: Red or Yellow?

12 04 2016

Onion skins are one of my favorite natural dyes, with colors ranging from yellow with alum mordant to deep rust and brown (with iron).  I usually just mix them all in one dye bath… I’ve been curious whether red and yellow onion skins give different colors when dyeing silk, so I decided to do a test. I separated, then weighed out equal amounts of red and yellow onion skins, then simmered them separately in stainless steel pans for about an hour and let the dye cool and sit overnight.

red and yellow onion skin dye

Comparing dye color from red and yellow onion skins

I added some squares of silk into each pot: no mordant, alum pre-mordant, iron pre-mordant plus some cotton. The red onion skins gave a slightly darker, more muted color. I was surprised that pre-mordanting with alum didn’t make a difference in the color, at least this time. Simmering it longer, about 15 minutes, made more of a difference in color. The silk squares pre-mordanted with iron turned a very dark brown.

Dye test results

From front: Silk no mordant, with alum, simmered longer, iron mordant, cotton with alum

Onion skin dye test

Onion skin dye on silk: red on left, yellow on right

Results:

  • So far I still like the color I’ve gotten using a mix of red and yellow onion the best.
  • More onion skins to fabric and longer simmering times gave more intense colors.
  • Pre-mordanting the silk with Alum had little, if any, effect. (I don’t quite believe this one, so I’ll keep throwing test squares into future onion skin pots.)
  • Just a bit of iron mordant gives a very dark brown.

Here are a couple of examples of my eco printed scarves using onion skin dye.

scarf dyed with onion skins

Eco printed silk scarf dyed with onion skins (mixed colors)

eco print scarf with onion skin dye

Onion skin dye modified by iron, eco printed on silk with sumac leaves


*  Visit the Eco Print section of my ETSY SHOP. *









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