Friday, January 9, 2015

Natural dyeing with poinsettias

Poinsettia petals are actually specialized leaves.  The flowers are tiny.

The trappings of the Holiday Season, once over, become very cheap.  Talk to your favorite greenhouse and tell them what you want to do, I bet they will be glad to hear you want their uglies or leftovers.  Or see if you can just have the tops, that's all you really need.  

Have everything ready to go so you can use the flowers while they are fresh.  Snip the red bracts into a mesh bag.  I use the paint strainer bag from Sherwin Williams, you can get them for a couple of dollars apiece and re-use them many times.

I used 10% WOG alum and simmered 100% silk scarves in the alum water for about an hour.  They were rinsed in water.  This conditions the silk and makes the color fast.

Put the bag of bracts in a stainless steel or aluminum pot, add water to cover, and put on medium heat. It takes a long dispiriting time for the color to come out of the bracts.  Don't be discouraged.  We sure were but we didn't know any better.  Neither one of us had used poinsettias as a dye stuff.  Kathy (http://awanderingbotanist.com/) had read about the Aztecs using these flowers which grow wild as red dye.  So the quest was on!!!


Pretty blah, huh?  This is after about 30 minutes of heat.  But we kept telling ourselves that there was color in the bracts and to just be calm and carry on.


Then very quickly, the color came out into the water.  Look at the bag, see how little color is left in the petals?


This pretty pink color struck fairly quickly, I'd say after about 30 minutes.  



Here is the mass of poinsettia bracts after the 90 minute simmer.  Kathy observed that they looked like cabbage.  I didn't try eating them, even though I really love cabbage.  These little bracts gave their all, unstintingly.  

I wasn't entirely thrilled with the soft pink color, so I left the scarves in for another 5 or so days.  The dye pot water was so dark, I thought more color would transfer.  I never did heat them up again, I just left them sitting in the cold pot.



The color after time darkened and was pretty.  I messed about with some discharge techniques to add interest.  I like how it turned out.


Here is a close-up detail.  I like the shapes and darkening a lot.  It's a lovely pink.


Ironed and ready to go!

Time will tell how color-fast these are.  I am going to go out on a limb and predict that these will do well.  Berries, no, I have not had good luck with them holding their red colors, they turn quickly to a drab brown/beige/blah.  This color, being from a specialized leaf, I'm thinking will keep their red.

How exciting!  A new plant to dye with at a time when there is little alive.  Such a lovely color as well.  I like the Leaf Essence tm scarves better, to be honest.  More dramatic!  But what a great discovery!!!  Thanks, Kathy!  You have the best ideas!!!

I am about to start the processing of the past summer harvest of dyestuffs and medicinal herbs.  I did better this year in getting some of the harvested plants processed and into bags.  There is always so much to do during the summer and the heat saps my will to work.

I'm excited, some friends came over and we pulled everything out of the storage room and swept it.  Then sorted and tossed and put like things together.  And I now am the proud owner of a couple of shelves to store thing on!  I have had a repurposed baker's rack which is great in that it rolls around to store all my dye things on, but not everything fit on it.  So I had to go chasing around to find stuff that I had poked into one corner or another.  Now there are just a few places to look.

It feels amazing to have the storeroom organized and clean! 

Next, my office!  And then the basement!!!  Or maybe I'll just go lay down.

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