Solar dyeing

Where is this year going? I have been so busy with my editing work that I haven’t had as much time as I would like for getting on in the studio.

One thing I keep reading about on the net is solar dyeing. It mainly seems to go on in the US. You don’t hear much about it in East Yorkshire.

I’m just back from holiday, so if I don’t make a start now, in mid July, I can’t expect to get results from a process that takes several weeks of warmth.

What have a I got to lose? A few home grown flowers and a bit of time. If not much colour comes out, I can use it as a base for something else.

To get things going fast, I picked up some unmordanted silk and put it with some dried rhubarb leaves. Most of us know that rhubarb leaves are poisonous, but not so many know that the relevant chemical is a mordant, which helps colour stick to fibres.

In general, fibres need to move around in a dye bath, or you will get uneven colour. Solar dyeing happens in a glass jar, so movement doesn’t seem likely. In an attempt to make blotches look like an artistic pattern, I ran a few gathering threads at random places and drew them up to give a bit of underlying texture. I’m hoping for a similar effect to tie dying, but with more flexibility for it to move round the jar when I shake it.

As the leaves were dry, I put about double the weight of the scarf I was using into the jar, and topped it up with cold water. I left it in a sunny place, on gravel in case of spillages, & went away for a couple of days. People I told about my experiment it to said “You’ll be lucky in this weather.”

However, by the time I got back there was a bit of colour in the jar. It even looks the right colour for rhubarb.

Spurred on by this, I’ve dug out a few more jars for phase 2 of the experiment.

This time, I’ve mordanted four scarves with alum, and put them one to a jar with some fresh marigolds. A scarf weighs 7 or 8g, and I’ve put 20g to 30g of flowers in each one. I’m expecting a golden colour, which should be a useful background for all sorts of designs. I think my quantity of flowers is on the generous side, but I suspect the colour from this process will be paler than in the more usual boiling process.

Now I’m going to forget all about it for a few weeks.

About The Proof Angel

I am a freelance editor and proofreader, working with a wide range of clients from large companies to individuals. I can help you to communicate clearly by carrying out a final check, or by suggesting ideas get your message over. I am an Advanced Professional Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading. I also have a sideline in textiles, as The Rainbow Angel.
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