art, dyeing, fiber art, Lake Waccamaw, Slow cloth

Lake Waccamaw Art Retreat Day 2

Yesterday was a day of experimentation with natural dyes with just the tannin-laced water of Lake Waccamaw as a mordant. The onion skin dye was very successful, although it is very hard to mess up yellow onion skins for a dye. What I did notice was that the color yielded more reddish tones, which I assume came from the tannin.

I had a bamboo turtleneck sweater that had picked up a brown stain somewhere so that gave me a perfect opportunity to try dyeing bamboo for the first time. And boy, did it suck up the color! All I did was soak it in the lake water for a day and then dip dyed it in a cooling pot of onion skin dye. I’m really pleased with this.

I was able to dye silk, wool, cotton, and bamboo in the same dyepot. I boiled the onion skins for a few hours and added everything after I took the pot off the heat and let it cool to below the simmering point. I heated up the wool skein gradually under hot water from the tap before I added it – it didn’t felt too badly.

The other dyepot was more problematic, and the way I dealt with it was not the best because I did get a little color out of it but I don’t know what factor produced it. I started with boiling English ivy leaves that I cut up in lake water. The water did turn a faint green, but when I dipped a wool skein in it it didn’t seem to pick up any color. So I added wild aster flowers that I picked from this yard and a yard down the road, with a couple of dandelion flowers thrown in just because they were there.

The bundle is cotton wrapped around a thick twisted wire that I found and a bald cypress branch. I only added a silk skein because I didn’t think there would be enough dye produced to do any more.

I got a very, very pale gray green on the silk, and a light yellow green on the cotton bundle. The color is stronger on the areas where the cypress branch was touching the fabric. So, did the cypress have some dye in it, or was it that the extra tannin drew in the dye that was there? I’m guessing that it was the tannin. So I’m going to try the English ivy dye again at home with a better mordant. I know that wild aster flowers produce dye because that was the first natural dye I ever produced on wool (with a mordant), but I suspect that I did not use enough flowers.

The photo below is the silk skeins: English ivy/wild aster on left, no dye in the middle (for comparison), and onion skin on the right.

The cotton fabric bundle being unrolled. The black is from the metal:

You win some, you lose some. I still learned a lot from this. The pale color on the silk is very pretty.

Last night I boiled Spanish moss and the lichens are still soaking. I’ll probably give them a shot today but my focus is turning to Procion dyeing and paste papers now. Hopefully some sun printing too, since the sun is back out.

UPDATE: The green on the cotton bundle turned brown after washing. Much of the color on the cotton fabrics washed out. This could be due to a number of things, including commercial finishes. So I won’t be taking on another big dyeing project without using mordants (safe ones, of course). The onionskin dye still produced well on the bamboo sweater and the yarn skeins, though.

Also, I learned in my natural dye workshop on June 1 that the “wild asters” were actually daisy fleabane, and you use the whole plant. The wild asters bloom in fall. Both are good sources of yellow dye.

2 thoughts on “Lake Waccamaw Art Retreat Day 2”

  1. All the fresh water in eastern Carolina is like that, it’s totally natural from all the pines and bald cypress trees. The water is the color of weak tea.


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