What are these alien looking lumps, you ask….
They are pieces of woollen Doctor’s flannel that have been tied, stitched, knotted or crumpled in preparation for a dunk in a dye bath, using my local Eucalyptus leaves. I have several varieties growing on this property, and they each give a different result – then there are other variables:- age of leaves, tap or rain water, steel or aluminium pot, length of time boiled, which mordant used, if any, whether there are other leaves enclosed, or metal clips used, and I reckon you can add the direction of the wind or how one holds one’s mouth as the results are always unpredictable. I wanted to get some pieces with the red colour one usually gets from E. crenulata, to go with some other bits already dyed and all pieces were tied or stitched in the shibori manner, rather than clamped to avoid any darkening from the metal. They were boiled for a couple of hours, as usual, but when I checked, they seemed to have taken up little colour. I pulled them all out – looking a sort of dull cream colour and immediately put them in another pot with leaves of a different sort to try again. I kept just one of the first attempt to see what it would look like when cool and unwrapped. It was this…
It is the most gorgeous wattle yellow with blue tinges around the areas of resist. I tried to replicate it the next day – same leaves, same pot, same rainwater, same time and got a completely different result, so this is the only piece of fabric I have of that colour. All the others from the first day turned out a red/orange as I had initially expected, and those done the next day were similar. I was really after something a bit darker and brighter, and I have no idea what caused the yellow, but I shall try again another day. These are some of the other pieces, a few of which are back in another dye bath as I type as they were a bit uninspiring.
This last one is a piece of vintage kimono silk…..
I have friends who approach natural dyeing in a more scientific way, keeping notes and samples of their results with different methods, leaves etc etc. I prefer to just see what happens, but I do intend to do a test with each of the Eucalyptus trees I have to see if it is possible to be more accurate in reaching the desired colours.