Year end transformations

I’ve been working on dyeing some of the Maiwa garments over the holidays. The project has taken on a life of its own, as usually happens when I start dyeing.

First I realized that the recommended tannin bath for linens could be readily completed in one of the many woodland pools in the preserve south of our property. I found a nearby pool and arranged my garments neatly. Ice had formed on the edges, but the center was liquid. I left them overnight, even though I was awake in the night feeling afraid for them. My friend later reminded me that Tuesday was the date of the full moon in December, the Cold Moon. So they absorbed moon rays along with, hopefully, tannins.

Garments in a tannin bath

I mordanted the tops in a bath with alum (PAS) and cream of tartar. This is a recommended mordant for protein fibers, not linen. I figured it was better than nothing, and carried on. Later I dipped some silk into this same mordant.

I had a bag of walnuts that I foraged in Danbury, Connecticut, when I was there in late October. The walnut trees drop them generously at Tarrywile Park right across the street from my old high school and not far from my brother’s apartment.

To set up the dye pot, I was following the guidance of Catharine Ellis’s blog post: Ellis Textiles blog – Black Walnut Season. I used my big copper dye pot.

Walnuts secured in a green net bag, garment taking on color
The color is weak, in my opinion

For the madder bath, I used some madder extract and a few teaspoons of calcium carbonate (marble dust). The sleeveless linen top took on a lot of color, turning a nice dark maroon. I rinsed it and dried it. It’s quite stiff, but I’ll wait for the dye to settle awhile before attempting to wash it again. The silk strip didn’t get as dark, but I like the pink clouds and will use this for patchwork.

Drying on the rack: light madder on a silk strip, walnut on the camise top, dark madder on sleeveless top

At this point, there was a lot of color left in the madder pot. The walnut top was not as dark as I wanted it. My walnuts were dry and did not yield much color. I put the top in an iron bath to try to darken it further, but it didn’t do much. I will look for an opportunity to overdye this top with indigo. I’m visualizing a nice dark top with some white or light embellishments. After another day of waiting, I hung these latest on the line outside to dry in the cold sunshine.

More dyeing: silk smock to use up madder, an iron dip to try to darken the walnut
The madder on silk was quite brilliant while wet. Parts of the smock froze a bit.
Looking lovely in the sunshine of New Year’s Day
A companionable feeling seeing my garments on the line out the window

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