Monday, July 30, 2012

I have been experimenting with Pignut hickory (Carya glabra).  I tried the Gesner mordant assessment method, and was quite pleased with the number of different colors or shades of dye that were possible.  After boiling young green Pignut Hickory nuts still in their green hulls for about an hour in a stainless steel pot, I dyed a piece of Tannin mordanted cotton muslin and hung it up to dry.  In the accompanying photo, it is the light tannish piece of fabric to the left. I then took 4 containers and put 1/4 cup of the dye bath into the container and added 4 different mordants; vinegar, alum, soda ash and iron.  The strip of fabric down the center shows the result of dipping tannin mordanted cotton muslin in each mixture in the order listed.  After seeing the results of my experiment, I took 6 cups of dyebath and added the 1/4 cup mixture with iron.  The resulting color is the piece of fabric to the left, a really nice dark grey.  I also took 2 cups of the dyebath and put it in a copper kettle and simmered it first for 20 minutes, then 1 hr., then 2 hrs.  Each time I dipped a piece of paper toweling into the kettle and hung to dry.  The paper strips across the bottom of the photo are the results of the dye on paper.  There is a much more red tone to the brown when the copper kettle as used.  This assessment method is a very worthwhile way to test your dyes for what mordants will do and how to use them to modify colors.


  1. I am SO VERY HAPPY to have found your blog! Can't wait to sit down and read it all from finish to start, or vice versa!


  2. Welcome, Judy. Enjoy. Feel free to comment.

  3. I second Judy's comment!

    I really appreciate your posting(s) and the pictures on your experiments...I work like that, too.
    It takes a bit of time, but I'm hoping to have a pretty comprehensive journal of results so that ONE of these years ;-) I can just 'go and do.'

    I had a Q, though: did you add the mordants directly to your bowls of dye liquor, or pre-soak the strips of cloth first and then dip into the hickory?

    Thanks again for sharing!

  4. Hello, Petrena, welcome to my blog. I am so glad you enjoyed it. I added all mordants to the bowls of dye liquid. I have also dyed strips of pre-mordanted cloth during these experiments just to see what difference it makes. I suggest that you begin with clean well rinsed natural fabrics and add mordants to the dye liquid to establish a baseline for your experiments. Once you record your results and your fabrics have dried completely, then you should rinse or wash your fabrics in a pH neutral soap to assess color fastness of your baseline colors. It is important to know what your choice of mordants contribute to color or light-fastness at the very beginning. That said, I have to add that I do not rinse or wash for at least 5 days after dyeing. Like any good stain, the longer it stays on the fabric, the harder it will be to get it out.
    Come back and visit again, please feel free to comment or to ask questions.

  5. Another Q: (sorry, found a reference in one of your older posts on printing w/eco dyes and had some Q's and a request...)

    I've been wanting to try using some of my dyes to print on cloth (mostly cotton, it's what I can source reasonably around here) but was wondering what I could use to thicken them. In order to get a sharper image.
    I've read of people making rice or other flours into resists, but that's the opposite of what I'm needing. And also, the best way to apply it to the block or other stamp. Maybe a foam roller?

    Anyway, if you've had success printing with the dyes, can you share some tips or observations?

    Thanks again!

  6. Petrena, it sounds like you and I are heading towards the same goal. I use sodiam alginate as a thickener. I get it from Dharma Trading. You have to use it sparingly, because it continues to thicken for several hours after you first mix it. I use a black foam brush to apply it to my block and also to my stencils at this point.
    You have to have a firm but slightly absorbent surface under you fabric when stamping the block. If you use too hard of a surface or non-absorbent, then your dye pigment can puddle or bleed under your work and spoil the print. I use a sheet of foamcore board with a couple of sheets of newsprint on which to place my fabric.

  7. I am also experimenting with creating a discharge pigment using lemon juice that I can stamp onto a previously dyed fabric to remove the color but leave the pattern of the printing block.

  8. Thank you so much for the tips!

    I was going to use walnut for my first experiment...this year was so dry (northeastern Ohio) that our Black Walnut crop has been really puny...but I'm going to use what I can get and also some (practically sludge!) put back BW dye.
    I'm excited to see what results I can get.

    My theory is that I'll have to use the naturally substantive dyes; but since I'm interested in printing on cloth, maybe just different mordants will work.
    I probably won't be able to get to any of this for a month (school just started and I have a Senior,) but I'll try to get some good pics and notes and share them.

    Thanks again!

  9. Just a quick 'nother...

    Are you familiar with Kim Baxter Packwood's 'Natural Surface' group. Quite a diverse group.

    You have to join to comment but...:-)

  10. Hello again, Petrena. Naturally substantive dyes are a good bet to start with. They do not require a mordant for the color to stick to you fabric or paper. You can get several colors from any dye if you use the Gerber Method of Mordant assessment (It's a lot simpler than it sounds). Vinegar, alum, soda ash or wood ashed, iron are all mordants that you can add to your dye to achieve different colors from one dyebath. Your 'sludge' can be thinned with water and using the mordant asessment method, try to create some other colors for your prints. Just for fun, why not try a straw painting on your paper or fabric (take a thin straw and dip into your dye sludge, close the top of the straw by holding your finger over it like using a pipette, then draw on your surface by removing your finger a little at a time. Let the "drawing" dry completely and sit for a couple of days then rinse the sludge. How much color was absorbed by your surface. This might help you determine how much thickening your dye will need for printing with a stamp, etc.
    Yes I am familiar with Kim Baxter Packwood, she is a member of our Found, Stitched and Dyed forum. I am not familiar with her Natural Ssurface Group. She is a midwesterner also, maybe you two could hook up.
    If you can access Seven Baltic Gardens Project online, take a look at how they are using vegetable and natural plant juices for the creation of art. Some lovely watercolor and fingerpaintings etc. Plus beautiful pen and ink drawings as well as dyeing.

  11. James, your paper prints are awesome. The more I look at it the more I llove it. I tried to click to see the large view but can't. Anyway I can see the large view please?

  12. Thank you, Terrie. You are a "Friend on Facebook, so you have access to my photo albums. If you look in my album "Eco Prints on Paper" you can view the photos in a larger size and get the description of the print and processes. When you click on the photo in the album, they will appear in a larger size then up in the right hand corner of the photo should be a double ended arrow that allows you to view the phto in a little larger size also. I hope this helps. Thanks for stopping by.