Natural dyeing: surprise webcaps (cortinarius semisanguineus)

I did some mushroom dyeing with surprise webcap caps this week. I was very surprised (no bun intended) by them. I was expecting darker more orange toned autumn colours. According to Leena at the Riihivilla younger mushrooms have more orange colours and older mushrooms have more red colours, but that the colours can differ a lot depending on where they have grown etc. Also a funny thing is that the caps have red colour and the stems yellow colour so you can have two different colours from them! This time I only used the caps.

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Six years ago I actually collected the mushrooms myself and got lovely orange colour with wool yarn. You can read that post here.  Keep in mind that these mushrooms are poisonous, not edible! This time I used some mushrooms I bought from Riihivilla online shop a year ago. Maybe the age has something to do with these pinks? Or the tara powder I used to mordant my cotton? I really don’t know.

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I alway, always have different pots and utensils for dyeing and cooking, but especially for these mushrooms! I added the mushrooms at the bottom of the pot and added a little pit of water, not full. I let the mushrooms simmer for an hour (about 80-90 degrees celsius). Then I sifted the mushrooms away and added more water to the dye. 

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I put the mushrooms inside old pantyhose, so I could put them in the dye bath with the fabric. I mordanted my cotton sheet with tara powder and alum. The post I wrote about it is here.  

I simmered the fabric in the dye bath for about two hours in 80-90 degrees celsius (I don’t measure temperatures so much these day). I let the fabric cool in the pot and then rinsed the fabric. I read afterwards that its good to add some vinegar to the rinsing water when dyeing with these mushrooms so the colour will last better.

I used some iron modifier to some of the fabrics and they turned violet! The beige one is from when I dyed a new fabric in the same dye bath, it came out light pink and when I added it in iron water it turned beige. Such different results!

I “made” the iron water by putting some rusty screws in a glass jar with water and vinegar. I have also done some rust dyeing experiments so I used the rinsing water from them.

I also did some shibori spiral experiments.

The swirl worked fine, but I really need to use a thinner fabric when making this kind of folded shibori. I might just keep adding some other dye experiment on it. All and all dyeing with surprise webcaps was very interesting and not at all what I expected. But that’s the nature of natural dyes. You never know what you get!

Natural Dyeing: Black Beans, Part 3

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Six years ago I did two post on how to dye wool yarn with black beans. As I have moved into dyeing cotton fabric I thought I would write a little updated post. You can read here the part 1 and part 2. I basically I used exactly the same technique, the biggest difference was that because I was dyeing a cellulose fiber I mordanted with both tara powder and alum. There is a post I wrote about mordanting with tara powder here and with alum here.

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I soaked a 450g bag of black beans in a 2 litre bucket of water for 12 hours. Then I strained the dye into a glass jar (I don’t think the glass jar is important though). I soaked the same beans in a new water for another 12 hours and strained the dye again to the glass jar.

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THE FIRST DYE BATH

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I did a basic triangle shibori fold and let it soak in the jar for 24 hours. Its good to put a plate or something underneath the jar if is not air thigh and its really full, mine did spill liquid out during the process.

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The results do look darker here. After this I gave them a good rinse with water to get rid of all the excess dye.  And then I let them dry. It’s good to remember that natural dyes do tend to fade a bit in the sunlight, and in my experience black bean dye is one of those. I  always dry my materials inside to protected them from the sun.

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I think the shibori worked out quite nicely!

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Same dye bath, second dye

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I’m sure this shibori has a name. Or maybe its tie dye? Leave a comment if you know. I did the same as last time. Let the bundle soak in the dye bath for 24 hours.

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All and all I did three dyes in the same dye bath. Each time the results got a bit lighter. I have some black bean dyes from six years ago and the years have faded the colours a bit. Some natural dyes are like that, in my experience mainly vegetable dyes . That’s why I prefer a darker colour, so that the results last longer. I also did a little test with unmordanted  fabric and it did work, not as well as mordanted fabric. My hypothesis is that the dye lasts time better when the fabric is  mordanted, but I don’t have the evidence to support that yet.

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There are many factors that play a role in what kind of colour you will get and I have not cracked all the secrets yet, but the main ones are:

BEANS: I have gotten very different results from different brands of beans grown in different parts of the world in different soils.

WATER: The pH-levels of your water  effect a lot your dye results. If you want you can measure it with pH-indicator strips. Number 7 is the neutral pH level, pH less than 7 are acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. You can change the pH to more acidic with vinegar, I use alum as an mordant which I believe is acidic as well so it all ready effects my results. Or if you wanna go more alkaline you could try baking soda. Or try using rainwater or spring water to get different results. It really is about experimenting.

FABRIC: This is an obvious one. The base colour of you fabric or yarn means a lot as well. In the past I have gotten really lovely dark blues with a yarn that was grey to begin with. Also the quality of the material, thin or thick etc. effects.

And in the end with natural dyes you just never know what you get.

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Eco printing

I started experimenting with eco printing around three years ago. I don’t really do neat look-a-like prints of leaves. I think they are so pretty and I would like to do that at some point. At the moment I work with limited Finnish dyeing plants and a very short nordic summer so I make do what I have. More research is needed! I also kind of like the more abstract way my prints look, they feel more like me. This post is a kind of summary of some things I tried over the years. I write this mostly for myself as its handy to have a diary to come back to when I have forgotten how I have done something. But if somebody else finds this useful how nice would that be!

 

TECHNIQUE

  1. Mordant the fabric. (Here is my previous post on mordanting cotton and other cellulose fibers.)
  2. Lay fabric on an even surface.
  3. Fill a half of the fabric with plants etc.
  4. Fold the fabric in half
  5. Roll the fabric tightly around a wooden stick
  6. Twist strong yarn around the stick
  7. Steam the rolls in a pot with little bit of water on the bottom around two hours (or use double layer steam pot). I have used rocks on the bottom so the rolls don´t lie in the water. I also make a diy steamer with putting some foil on top of the lid.
  8. Open the rolls and remove the plants
  9. If needed wash the fabric, dry and iron.

MATERIALS

You can use for example these things for dyeing (links to my previous posts):

Rusty items (nails, screws, pottle caps): Black or violet colour (The rust has natures own tannin that helps the colour to stick to the fabric.)

Rusty screws, black bean (that did not work in this) andmadder powder.

Onion skins: Strong yellow or orange

Onion skins and birch leaves

Red onion skins: brown or green.

Plants from the nature like birch leaves and lupin: yellow colours (I have listed a lot of plants from the Finnish nature that are good for dyeing on this blog).

Avokado skins (it did nothing), dandelion, birch leave, onion skins.

Turmeric:   bright yellow.

Surprise webcap: Orange/red colours. This mushroom is poisonous! Generally always remember to have separate utensils and pots for dyeing and cooking!

Surprice webcap (cortanarius semisanguineus) and onion skins

Madder Powder: red/pink or orange.

Pansy: violet or blue colour (The colour doesn’t last very long).

Above you can see my first ever experiments with eco printing, where I experimented with pansies and the colour did fade away quite quickly. Underneath birch leaves. Yellows are onion skins. I realized that it was better use quite a lot of plants to get the maximum colour.

Cochineal: dark aniline red.

I got to teach eco printing at a children’s summer cap in 2017 and they where so creative with it!

They really got some strong colour from the chochineal and the rusty screws!

Then we used the fabrics to sew pillows.

(I buy all the things I don’t collect myself from the Finnish Riihivilla online shop. Her blog also has so much good knowledge about natural dyeing both Finnish and in English)

HOW LONG DO ECO PRINTS LAST?

Some natural dyes like berries and red cabbage are fugitive they fade over time, like the pansies I tried. Also natural dyes fade a bit in sunlight, that’s why you should never dry them in sunlight. Mordanting is important factor in fibres keeping the colours.

Of course time will have its effects as well. This is a bag I dyed back in 2017 when I was experimenting eco printing for this children’s summer cap and then there is the same bag 3 years later in 2020. You can see that the bag has faded a bit.

Eco printed bag made 2017.

Same bag 2020.

Natural dyeing and mordanting cotton fabric + avocado dye

It has been a while since I have written here! I have been using this blog a lot though as an notebook I go back to when I need to fresh my memory on some natural dyeing I have done. Just because I have not written here doesn’t mean I have not done any natural dyeing life just has been really busy. I have been active on my Instagram though @_theeasyblues_. Lately I have done more cellulose fabric dyeing and eco printing and I’m experimenting with some new things at the moment. I though it would be good to write them down here, so I can come back to them when I need to, and if someone else finds them useful even better.

I think mordanting fabrics and yarn before dyeing is important, so that the fiber will take the dye in better and that the colours will be brighter and last longer. Some colours are okay without mordanting but some really need that extra boost. I have done a post about how I mordant wool yarn with alum before, I will put a link here. I do the almost the same mordanting with alum to cotton, but because cotton is an cellulose fiber it will need some tannin to work better. There are many ways of mordanting cellulose fiber, what I use is tara powder which made from the seeds of a tara plant native to Peru and it has lots of tannin in it. I think some people use soymilk and iron also has natural tannin in it as well.

The following instructions to using tara powder are from Finnish Riihivilla online shop website where I buy my tara powder from.

200g of tara powder is enough to mordant 1kg of cellulose fiber fabric (cotton, hemp, linen) together with alum. I first mordant with tara powder and then with alum. Tara powder will give a small hint of beige to the fabric, but I have never found that to be a problem.

I dissolve the tara powder into 60°C water. I pre soak the fabric in water before adding them into the pot. Make sure there is enough water for the fabric to move around. I let the temperature rise to 90°C and then keep it there for an hour and let the fabric lie in the water until its cooled down, usually until the next day. I rinse the fabric carefully. After this I mordant with alum. Keep in mind that you need douple the amount of alum to cellulose fiber than wool (20g/100g of material). Its good to remember to weight the fabric dry before you soak it in water, I have done that mistake couple of times in the past. You can use the tara powder liquid for the second time and this time add only half of the amount of powder you used before.

And then on to dyeing! Dyeing cotton really doesn’t differ from dyeing wool much so all of the posts that I have done about dyeing wool yarn with different things will work fine. Lately I have been loving dyeing with avocado skins. I have used this very usefull post from Rebecca Desnos.  This post has really good tips on how to get really good pinks from avocado skins. She uses soy mordanting. I really need to read her book to learn more about that!


I have been very specific about cleaning the skins from the flesh really good to get bright colours. I also made the mistake of storing my avocado skins in a glass jar (they go moldy) so now I store them in a cardboard box. I also checked the ph levels in our tap water and made it more neutral with some baking soda. I have gotten nice pinks, but like always with natural dyeing you can never know exactly what you will get. Above I have two different pinks from two different times. I’m also writing about eco printing at the moment. Lets see if I can keep up this documenting thing!