Shades of plants…

Update with photos of my work as a dyer using a fermentation technique.

Work in progress…

Shades of Bluebell flowers

Shades of Bluebell flowers

I do love these dye tests I’m doing right now. The final results will be less colourful but the whole fermentation process is intriguing and it still amazes me …

The ivy berries dyevat

The ivy berries dyevat with soaking fibers. So exciting…

liquidamber fermented dye

Results of some Liquidambar autumn leaves fermented dye.
Clockwise: linen cloth and thread, BFL lace yarn, alpaca-silk yarn, paper yarn

avocado pits and skins dye vat

Enough avocado pits and skins to start a dyevat. Both skins and pits are completely dry

avocado pits and skins

Avocado skins and pits dye on different fibers. Also the paper was painted with avocado based watercolour paint

Some of my dyevats

Some of my dyevats. So far so good…

One shade of hawthorn and four shades of madder

One shade of hawthorn berries and four shades of madder roots

The first five colours of a new project with at least fifty different colours. Quite an ambitious plan maybe, but hey, that’s only forty five left…

 common bugle flowers dyebad

The common bugle flowers dyebad after 2 days

My guess is it will give a light blue dye. Not sure though ! We’ll have to wait and see…

mysterious grey

Whoohoo ! Look at this mysterious grey…

20170407_130241

Work in process…

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Fermentation dyeing, how to start…

These last couple of weeks I had some people asking me to explain how I make fermented dyes.

fermented shades

the results of fermented dyes from a couple of years ago

The thing is… I’ve changed and adapted the way I used to dye. These last months I’m  in the process of developing my own technique which is similar in a sense but very different too. But it’s too soon for me to explain how I do it exactly as I really need to do lots and lots of testing before I can explain anything. This will take several months. I’m planning to write a book about it. But because it doesn’t seem fair to post results of my experiments and not telling people how to do it. I’ve decided to repost an older blog post where I explained the fermentation technique I’ve used for so many years now. It’s a excellent base to experiment with all kinds of dye-plants and to learn to understand the fermentation process. So here we go:

The fermentation dye method was invented or rediscovered by Madame Anne Rieger, a French woman who works and lives in the South of France since 1954. She works with plant dyes only by fermentation, without boiling and without mordants.  It’s known as an old dye tradition which was in use in Europe before the Renaissance period. As far as I know she didn’t write a book or anything and she is not on the internet, which is a pity because she really is an expert on the matter. Anyway, I’m told she did changed her method since then. Me, I just tried her method after I read some articles from an old magazine from the eighties. I’ve been experimenting with this method for more than ten years now, mostly with plants that grow in my back yard. I always work very intuitively. The method described here is a basic one and everyone I know (mostly French dyers) who are using the fermentation technique to dye their yarn with, have developed their own variations which are all slightly different to the original technique.

You will need:

Big plastic bottles for the plant to ferment. One for each plant you want to experiment with. For every fermented herbal dye you need two glass jars which can be sealed. One for a basic vat and one for an acidic vat. 3 liter glass jars are perfect because you can easily put one to three 100 gram hanks of yarn in it. A big plastic bucket, a fine cloth and a large plastic mesh strainer to strain the liquid. A digital pH meter. This is the only instrument you really need.  The measuring of the different pH levels is important with this method. You can find one at an aquarium supplies store. You will also need lemons or vinegar for the acidic vat, lemon juice is the best (acidic). Wood ash lye water or washing soda or slaked lime for the basic vat (alkali). And of course you need yarn to dye, wool or silk. This method is to dye wool and silk only. You don’t need mordants or metals but don’t expect extremely bright colours like with synthetic yarn! You also need a lot of patience…

How to make wood ash lye water:

Lye is caustic, so please take the necessary precautions. Gather some wood ash from the wood burner or fireplace, filter it trough a sieve to obtain fine ashes, fill a large plastic dustbin half with the ashes and half with rainwater or water from a well, let it rest at least 36 hours and stir several times a day. Pour this liquid trough an old cloth to filter it. (please use gloves). You can use this lye-water now for the basic dye-vat. This can be used for two, three months.

To start a fermentation you use a large plastic (or glass) bottle, I usually use 5 liter water bottles. Important: it has to be sealed, so you need a thight shut lid. Now, fill the bottle for two thirds with the plant material of your choice (fresh or dryed material is ok) and then add water, not tap water, preferably rainwater, distilled is fine too or water from a well. You fill the bottle but not completely, because we want this liquid to ferment, and fermenting means: gas = extra space ! Shut the lid. Put a label on the bottle with the date and the name of the plant. Let it rest in a warm place, outside if it’s warm enough, behind a sunny window if it’s too cold, in a green house if you have one or next to the stove in the winter. The liquid needs to ferment in the shadow or even in the dark, so covering it up with black plastic when put in direct sunlight is good. We don’t want to do solar dyeing but we do need some heat otherwise the fermentation will not start.

plant fermentation vats

Every day you shake the bottle well, then open the lid a bit and shut it again immediately. When it start to say: Psschhht… the fermentation has started. This has to be done daily till the Psschhht stops, which will take several days or even weeks, depending on the plants or on the weather! Normally it will take one week or two. You have to keep an eye on it every day during the whole process. If there is any mold entering the vat, it’s ruined. When fermenting starts it also starts to smell. You will have to get use to this smell ! But know that after washing the yarn with some soap there won’t be a smell left.

If you have followed the instructions you should have a fermenting vat by now. There should be a colouration of the water which can give some idea of the colour this particular plant yields, this colour will darken throughout the process. There is a smell which cannot be a problem if you keep the vat closed.  Don’t forget to open the vat at least once or twice a day especially if it is very hot and/or if there is thunder in the air. Fermentation in glass bottles is therefore a bit tricky as there is a risk of explosion if the bottles are not opened several times during fermentation.

This fermented herbal dye liquid can now be sieved into a bucket. Squeeze the plant material through a cloth to obtain more dye “juice”. The leftover plant material can go into the compost heap. Now you will have to do some switching between acid and basic (alcaline) dye-baths.

A and B vats – dyer’s chamomile, safflower and coreopsis

After the fermentation, the actual dyeing: Pour half of the filtered liquid in one of the glass jars (A) and the other half in the second jar (B). No more than two third of the jars can be filled, because there has to be place left for the yarn. Now you need to check the pH level of the dye with a digital pH meter. Knowing that 7 is neutral, we will now adjust the pH to make jar A lower and jar B higher. Add a bit of lemon juice (or vinegar) to jar A (acidic) to drop the pH level. Notice the change in colour ! Measure the pH level again and put some more lemon juice till the pH has dropped under 4. Between 3 and 4 is ideal! Depending on the plant you will need different quantities of lemon juice to lower the pH level. In jar B (alkaline) you will now slowly add lye water, not too much at once, the basic vat need more time to adapt to the higher pH level. The colour will now darken. You can add more lye water, spread over several hours or days. The highest pH level for wool and silk should be 9, 10 is ok too but 11 is too high ! Now put the yarn you want to dye in jar A, let it macerate at least one day but several days to one week is better. Take the yarn out of jar A, gently squeeze the liquid out of it and let it dry outside (there will still be some smell!) in a warm place but not in direct sunlight. When the yarn is dry put it a few minutes in the alkaline vat ( jar B) , but no longer than 15 minutes, the color of the dyed yarn will get darker. Take the yarn out of jar B, squeeze the yarn gently (use gloves) and let it dry again. If everything went well, you have now dyed your yarn with a beautiful colour 🙂

If you want to have a deeper colour you can repeat the operation again: first jar A then jar B. Sometimes, depending on what kind of plant, you can stop with the second acid bad and sometimes you can stop with the second alkaline bath, which will give different shades. But the first step is always as described above.  Important: You will have to re-check the pH level after every step and adjust it with lemon juice or lye water. At some point the dye will be exhausted, put both liquids together to neutralise the ph, this liquid can now be trown outside without fear of harming plants or animals.

You can also use vinegar instead of lemon juice for the acidic vat . For the alkaline vat you can also try adding some slaked  lime or washing soda, experiment with it. I don’t recommend using amonia though, never using it myself anyway.  When the yarn is dyed and dry you will have to wash it in a mild soap bath and rinse it in soft water before drying it for the last time.

Experiment for yourself with different plants !

meekrap-geverfde-wol-dyed-with-madder

different shades of madder

In the meantime I will continue to post pictures of my own dye experiments. I hope to have my book finished after the summer months.

Thank you for visiting…

my knitcrochet project…

recto-folk-sweater

recto

Done! Here’s my new knitcrochet project !

I’ve always loved folkloric motifs, I wanted to design something like this for years. Though it was a challenging and quite complex project, using 2,5 mm needles and sock yarn (seven colours) to make a sweater. Mixing knitted stripes, colourwork and crochet motifs which was really fun but also challenging to do. Started in august of last year, I’m happy it’s finally finished! I’m quite pleased with the result too.

new-crochet-design

European textile traditions are so rich in using all kinds of geometrical motifs, Estonian, Scandinavian, Russian, Sami, Fair isle, Irish knitting, embroidery and lace motifs, knitting and crochet motifs and weaving patterns from all European countries. Similar symbols are also found on ancient pottery and on several megalithic stone structures. These can be found in every tradition, with some variations, all around the world and are still in use by indigenous people wherever the old traditions are kept alive. These universal symbols were used everywhere with the same result in mind. They are not just for decorative purposes. Geometric motifs and signs are sacred symbols. Used on clothing, objects and houses for millennia, made by craftspeople, mostly women, with the intention to protect themselves and their homes and to promote fertility of the land. It was part of their rituals and religious beliefs.

work-in-progress-take-ii

When wearing clothes adorned with symbols, or tattooed on the skin, people could stay connected to their deities and spirits, often honouring ancient Goddesses. They protected the person who wore them, from negative entities and energies. Because these ritual folk-art motifs vibrate and thus resonate with powerful energy fields to the same frequency. Think of drawn symbols as amplifiers to resonate with the energy fields, as boosters to reinforce and project the hidden patterns. When drawn (or embroidered, knitted, weaved) they mirror and activate these energies. They are the rights tools to use in all sorts of rituals but also in daily life. Acknowledging that rituals also reinforces the power of symbols, the ancients knew the meaning of each symbol and what power they represented. These symbols are truly universal and when you decide to use them in your own work, you undeniably will feel their power. Their vibrations, their rhythms, will move you and change you for the best.

the-sleeves-are-nearly-finished

I truly believe in the powers of these symbols and I want to use them in all my work. The more these symbols and patterns are used, the more powerful they become. And we all could use some magic now, don’t you agree? I’ve added knotted fringes because knots are very powerful tools of protection too, every medieval “witch” knew that. Before actually wearing this sweater I will smudge it first with locally harvested incense plants and place it outside during the full moon to give it extra moonpower. Rituals are very important and we should be paying more attention to them because our world is lacking the right kind of power right now !

verso-folk-sweater

verso

I’ve made it an oversized/cropped sweater because I wanted to keep the design simple. It’s kind of trendy and also I love the feel of it, it gives freedom to move, drum and dance all around the place (and do rituals when needed). To be worn on top of a long and simple dress or any neutral background. It’s made with organic Merino d’Arles yarn dyed with plant-based dyes from Renaissance Dyeing. I sure do hope knitters, crocheters and embroiderers will start to use more and more yarn and fabric dyed with plant based dyes. Dye plants are organic and healthy and even medicinal in the sense that when you wear your garment, your skin absorb the substances from the dyes. Most of the plants we use to dye with are also medicinal plants. I never use toxic plants to dye my yarn with. I know these plants well because I’m also trained as an herbalist and I have worked with wild plants for over thirty years now. I respect and honour Nature. I know the importance of feeling healthy and having a body full of energy. When you wear synthetics and/or textiles dyed with synthetic dyes you are poisoning yourself, slowly but surely. Also the waste of these textiles are very bad for the environment. Please bear that in mind whenever you buy or make clothing.

verso-folk-sweater-detail

Maybe, some will ask for a written pattern, I’m sorry to say that I won’t write it down. Because I decided some time ago, not to be a knitdesigner again. It’s just not who I am anymore. I’m working on other projects which are very important for me right now and I need to give them all the necessary time and attention. Life is so short ! Also, I do love the idea of making OAK knit and crochet clothing. I consider knit and crochet work as a media, worth to be considered wearable art on the same basis as any other fiber art, wearable or not.

recto-folk-sweater-detail

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed this post.
Back to my dyevats now, my writings and a new knitcrochet project.

Marylene

folk-sweater

the true shades of plants…

As promised, some pictures of my dye adventure of the last weeks

coreopsis-tinctoria

dyed with coreopsis flowers Coreopsis tinctoria

iris-pseudacacorus-dye-and-illustration

dyed with yellow flag, yellow iris root Iris pseudacorus

grey on merino and alpaca silk, more like silver really, but pink-goldish on silk

liriodedron-tulipifera

dyed with tulip tree leaves Liriodendron tulipifera

sambucus-ebulus-daneberry

dyed with danewort or dwarf elder berries Sambucus ebulus

drying-skeins-natural-dyes

some drying skeins…

All these colours are the result of a fermentation technique, that is to say, it involves a long process where no additional heating is involved, no metal salts and no chemicals are added. All you need really are plants and patience. And a passion for botanics and colours of course. The results are not what most people are used to, no flashing but vibrant colours. It’s the original shades of plants. It’s a whole new approach to dyes but at the same time it’s very ancient. And it’s a very feminine path too if I may say so…

More soon…

About testing dye plants and cranberry honey wine…

last-yellows-and-orange-dyes-of-the-season-autumn-2016

The last yellows and orange dyes of the autumn season 2016

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything here, that’s because I’ve been working very hard this last few months with all kinds of dyeplants, experimenting a lot, working with a new/old fascinating fermentation technique, it is a different but similar workprocess than the way I used to dye, but with better results. In the process I’m writing all my dye-recipes down, making lots of notes, taking pictures and so on. I will post pictures very soon, to give my readers an idea on what I’m up to. In the meantime you can visit my  Instagram page. I will make all the results available as soon as I can, maybe in the form of an ebook or something else, I don’t know yet.  My idea is to work with plants all year long. I have the ambition to create some 50 different shades on wool and silk. So please be patient with me, as I want it to be as complete as it can be, I will write it down in English, which is not my native language, so that too will take longuer in the end.

one-yellow-and-two-oranges

One lemon and two oranges…

In the meantime I will post some other stuff, like this cranberry honey wine recipe for instance I always make a week or two before Christmas/Yule

cranberry-honing-wijn

the ingredients:

one bottle (75 cl) of a good red wine – I use a homemade fermented fruit wine from elderberries and blackberries but a nice French wine is fine too.

The cranberry or large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a non-native plant in Europe, but they occur in the Netherlands on the Frisian Islands, also known as the Wadden Islands and in some other places in Friesland and Drenthe. Mostly found on Terschelling Island. They grow there because once upon a time, a barrel of cranberries washed up on the beach after a shipwreck around 1845. The Terschelling Cranberry Honey Wine is quite a popular recipe. (Terschellinger Cranberry honingwijn).

edit:  there are cranberries in Europa too (Vaccinium oxycoccos) It is known by the common names: small cranberry, bog cranberry or swamp cranberry. It is widespread throughout the cool temperate northern hemisphere, including northern Europe, northern Asia and northern North America . But the one I’m using in this particular recipe is the large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon): the American cranberry, it is a North American species of cranberry. These are the ones who washed up on an Frisian island in the 19th century. I’m sure you can use the small cranberry too in this recipe, if you can find them in the wild, why not?

1 handful dried cranberries

2 tablespoons local honey

1 teaspoon gluhwein spices

you can make some yourself with a blend of grated orange peel and/or lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, black cardamom, cloves and vanilla bean for instance …

Bring the wine gently to the boil with the cranberries and the spices, simmer ten minutes until the berries pop open.

Let the mixture cool down at around 40 degrees C°, filter the wine in a mesh strainer and cloth, press the cranberries, add the honey, mix well and leave to cool.

Pour this very tasty and medicinal wine into a bottle and use within two weeks

Cheers…

and see you soon…

In the meantime…

coreopsis flowers

It’s coreopsis time! I’m harvesting lots of flowers, like hundred every day now. Leaving enough for the solitary bees to collect nectar and pollen. Having so much flowers I’m going to dry some too to dye with them, just to see if there is a difference in color with the fresh flowers. For now, I’ve prepared a dye vat to let the flowers ferment in their juice, placing the vat outside as we’re having warm days.

I’ve only just begun with harvesting dyeplants and I’m starting a few dye vats. So many other things to do. I will post more about it very soon.

In the meantime you can now find me and my plants on Instagram too

See you here and there

Marylene

 

too cold to dye

It’s been a few months since I’ve posted something here. That’s partly because Spring has been too cold to start any dyevat. I really need sunlight to dye and my studio is not heated. I also realised that I have a lot of dyed yarn waiting to be transformed in pieces of art first 🙂

to dye or not to dye, that's the question

From the left: dyed from leftover winter vats with dahlia flowers (a yellowy-orange), ivy leaves and berries (a yelllowy-green), tagetes minuta leaves and flowers (which actually gave a very nice bright yellow) and yellow Iris roots (which was a disapointment because it didn’t dye that lovely grey color it gave the first time I used it). To dye or not to dye, that’s my question right now ! To tell the truth, I’m a bit bored with all the yellows and beiges.

 

work in proces -work in proces

I’ve started some fiber art projects and I will share some pictures on this blog soon…

Anyway, I’ve sowed a lot of dye plants including japanese indigo, amaranthus red dye, poppies, orange cosmos, coreopsis, woad, mullein and others. They need to grow now, hopefully the rain will stop and sunshine will appear, we all need it…

In the meantime I’ve started making some incense which is something completely different from dyeing, it’s also with plants but it smells much better !

I just love it…

preparing incense Urdkyphi - preparationKyphi - ingredients - shades of lynxkyphi cubes dryinga batch of Kyphi, from an ancient Egyptian recipe

I’ve also started experimenting with local plants to make watercolors or aquarel and inks which is something I really want to learn more about.

 

c'est pret !nos oeuvres d'art

Always collecting, harvesting or drying some herbal stuff
I’m a harvester-gatherer that’s what I am …

pine pollenpine pollen, great medicine !

harvesting magical stuffharvesting magical stuff (here some mistletoe berries)

appel flower bud tea harvestapple blossom flowers for tea

Calendula officinalis dryed flowersdried Calendula flowers for dyes, medicine and incense

and… there’s always something brewing in the kitchen

brewing elderflower wine

brewing Elderflower wine

So I guess this year this blog will be about all the things I do with plants and not so much about dyeing, but you never know. See you soon 🙂