art, book arts, dyeing, fiber art, Slow cloth

Broomsedge bundle dyeing

As much as I realized that I need to work on my ceramics class, I knew that it would be dumb to build a scroll box or stand without even beginning to make the scroll, so I devoted yesterday to dyeing with the broomsedge I’d collected.

I made two dyepots for comparison. One was with the dried broomsedge that Dede Styles gave me in June. It was harvested about a year ago. The other was with broomsedge that I gathered two weeks ago from the farm. The colors of the two dyebaths were strikingly different, but the colors of the cloths coming out were not hugely different:

Comparison of two alum-mordanted white cotton bundles, dyed in the separate dyebaths below. The biggest difference can be seen in the cotton twine wrapping the bundles.

I have left the lighter bundle in the dyebath until later. It is not part of my farm-based project, and has plant material gathered from my front yard wrapped in cotton alum-mordanted fabric on sticks from the yoshina cherry trees (maple leaves, yoshina cherry leaves, yarrow, echinacea, rudbeckia blossoms, various weed leaves inside). The other fabrics are a long cotton t-shirt and a bamboo knit mock turtleneck that I keep overdyeing just for kicks.

I unwrapped the other three bundles because I need to make some decisions on size based on their results. Everything about these bundles except the cotton fabric and the alum mordant on one include materials from the farm. They all included goldenrod stalks and blossoms, two different oak, sweet gum, and sassafras tree leaves, Spanish moss, and purslane.

I unwrapped the bundle of pomegranate rind mordanted cotton fabric wrapped around the tobacco sticks (these were used to hang tobacco to dry in the barns to cure in the old days) first because I had the highest hopes for it. I had added a couple of corncobs to the center, hoping to get a textural print. The only good print I got from this bundle was a small print of the wood grain on the sticks and not much color at all. Very disappointing.

So I unwrapped the bundle that had been previously dyed with goldenrod and washed and dried, but had no mordant. More color, but very few prints.

The alum-mordanted cotton bundle ended up with the best prints, as I should have known. Next time I’ll use a protein-based mordant for the cotton fabrics, but I had hoped that the pomegranate rinds and the oak leaves would provide enough tannins to be effective. I was wrong. I’d like to find a plant based mordant for cotton that doesn’t dull the color that I can gather rather than buy. Maybe grind up dried beans? But that’s my seed stock for next year’s garden!

Now I have all three bundles and the shirts in an afterbath of water, vinegar, and a piece of iron in the hopes that I might draw the color out a little more. Will post photos of the results later.

4 thoughts on “Broomsedge bundle dyeing”

    1. I was pretty disappointed – after washing them they turned a very dull yellowish gray. So I put them back in the dyepot. I did get a few good prints on one but the overall color was so bleh. The bundle in the lighter brew was a nice bright yellow, though. I’ll post photos eventually!


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