Allowing Nature to Speak Through Colour

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Allowing Nature to Speak Through Colour

".... everything around us is magical. But I didn't really do a good job in explaining.  Fairies and unicorns aside (coz those are definitely magical), the rain is magical. How does it fall in separate droplets instead of sheets (like when you pour water)? Plants are magical...growing from similar looking seeds into different sized trees and flowers of assorted colours.  So yes... everything around us is magical! Even you and me."

Yes, everything is magical. I was not looking, or rather, I was not being cognizant of what my true surroundings are.  I was aware of nature in our parks but failed to appreciate the beauty of the flora in my own neighbourhood and what they can provide for my upcycling work.

Ecodyeing and ecoprinting

Eco dyeing and eco printing

Nature Speaking Through Colour

It's been very quiet on the blog because I have been pouring over the internet and books, doing my research on natural dyes. What I have realised is that what works in other countries does not necessarily mean it will work here especially when you are not going to have the same flora. It really is one huge science experiment where you have controls and only change one parameter at a time.
I have been doing a bit of foraging but only picking what I need from the ground. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it's illegal to pick the fruits or leaves from trees in Singapore.

Eco Print/Dye

I am trying to avoid using alum and iron mordants but as I am dealing with non-animal natural fibers (ie. cotton) it has been very difficult not to use them to get beautiful prints. Cotton has many issues with dyes a) it doesn't take to natural pigments very easily unless there is a mordant to fix it; and b) the natural colours will fade over time due either light or washing. Well, this is why people invented chemical dyes, but I am trying to avoid all that and use as little metal mordant as possible.

The process does take quite a bit of time and you do need to plan out the whole process. This is what I have been doing so far:

  1. scouring my sourced cotton textiles
  2. mordanting
  3. dyeing

Don't forget that there are periods of time where the fabric needs to dry before going onto the next step. At this point I do feel my utility bills are going to be a bit higher so planning is really important. If I am going to do a bigger project I definitely will be making sure I make the most out of all the resources I have.

Eco dyes

Small Steps of Progress

Eco printing or eco dyeing is very experimental - you really don't know what you are going to get and unless you have done it many times, it is very difficult to replicate the results. I going to need a lot of patience if I am going to use it to upcycle cotton clothing. There have been a few little bumps along the way, but of course that's what learning is all about, right?

#1 Negative feedback

Just take it in, reflect and see how to improve it. I tried printing kumquat leaves, onion skins and local cherries onto this old Uniqlo top I had. I was all excited. Surely it would turn out very pretty. Alas, I think I was very ambitious and I forgot that what you see is NOT what you get.  The pinks became oranges, and the green faded after one day, and I got what looked like a blood-soaked garment. My husband's first reaction was, "zombie apocalypse". I think he couldn't see what I saw but now I am trying to see how I can turn this negative result into a positive one.  Stitching perhaps?
Anyway, I have decided to do some more experimentation so I can feel a bit more confident before I take the plunge and dye some clothes again.

Blue print ecodyes and dyeing

Natural dyes

Eco dyes

#2 Flora identification

This one is difficult, I even borrowed a friend's pair of binoculars so I could get a close up of the leaves in the tree. Add to the fact that not all leaves are created equal when it comes to natural dyes. The library is definitely my friend in the next few months.


#3 Getting back to the chemistry behind it all

It does get exciting to see all the chemicals involved in the process, but why do certain things happen? I was trying to read up and remember my A-level chemistry. After a few hours of reading, I got even more confused - I think my brain didn't function (is it age?).  I will have a go at it again because it would be very useful to find out the "why?" so that I can move in the right direction.

So where am I going next with this?
More experimentation. So far, I have tried onion skins, local cherries, avocado, blue pea, mango leaves and golden shower leaves, but I need to see whether they are colour fast.

Stay tuned!

Eco dyeing and printing

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1 comment

  1. I have never done any dying and I think it is something I need to investigate! Thank you for adding this post to the #GoingGreenLinky - the next one opens on June 5th if you fancy linking up again.