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Solar Dyes: From Purple and Red to Green

31 December, 2015
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Spring brought the peonies, one of which had deep red petals which went into a dye pot with pieces of silk, wool and cotton.

Peony-picture.jpg

Painting of Aoraki – Mt Cook behind the flowers is by John Horton.  These peonies were a gift from Viv and Nancy!

This is the amazing colour that appeared…Peony.jpg

My next test was with a ‘new’ kumara variety called Purple Dawn.  [Kumara is a sweet potato, which Maori brought with them to New Zealand.]  My friend Casey Macaulay told me how she had experimented painting with the red cooking water and how when vinegar was added the liquid turned bright green – I just had to try for myself.  The silk and cotton absorbed the red colour, but the paper was different as seen below.  I forgot to wash the kumara, and I think the ‘bits’ in the dye came from the skin.

The green-yellow fabric at the top is old cotton t-shirt rag, I had the same pink/green result when I dropped the dye onto the surface.  The dark dye brush mark is with vinegar added, the pink mark is straight out of the solar dye jar.  Note how the silk and cotton stay pink.

Purple-Dawn-Kumara-1.jpg

For the next test I cleaned, peeled and shredded the kumara, and added some sodium acetate to a separate portion of the dye.  The vinegar (sodium acetate) did turn the dye green, but the colours were so different. I probably should not have prepared the kumara quite so much!   Casey has different water to us so that may explain the paler green results I had.

 

Purple-Dawn-kumara.jpg

By this time I was getting really confused by these results – you probably are too (!); I did a further test in my workbook to see if the paper there gave different results.  When I put a blog together I try to get the photo image colours correct (via Photoshop).  Here however,  if I alter the pink, the green is wrong.  So I would comment that in the scan of the workbook page below –

The top left blob has a distinct dark purple edges and the overall colour is slightly green with a purple tinge

The top right hand brush stroke should be pinker

Both the Kumara No 1 tests colours should be bluer

The Kumara No 2 tests; neither should be so green…the one on the left is a pale brown.

Kumara-workbook1

If you are still with me, there is more!

My next solar dye was with the paler red peonies (in the photograph at the top). The silk and cotton took up the dye with no problem, but the addition of some vinegar brightened the colour on the silk and cotton.

Pale-peony.jpg

Hollyhock petals were collected during the summer of 2013/2014 in the old garden; I kept these in the freezer.  I tried  India Flint’s ice-flower dye method as described in her book Eco Colour whereby you place the frozen petals directly into warm water, but the water I used was hot.  The result was almost instantaneous – a deep dark red.  I put silk and knitted cotton in the solar dye.  The knitted cotton only partly submerged and what emerged was a mix of pink-red and green – again.  I also added some vinegar and salt to portions of the dye.  Images below.

Hollyhock.jpg

The bright green mark at the centre of the knitting was caused by the sample left to dry over a piece of metal.  The grey colour that appears sometimes is where the material was not completely submerged but some colour has been transferred by osmosis it would seem.  I do fold or scrunch up the cloth as well and for these tests am not bothered by colour variations .

Hollyhock-test.jpg

Later I used the original dye for further tests.  Just great colour harmonies here.  Green and blue-green marks made by copper pipe.  The paper is kozo.

Hollyhock-2nd-test.jpg

Hollyhock-Kozo.jpg

 

Hollyhock-copper-pipe.jpg

Hollyhock-green.jpg

In these tests, all the silk and cotton was originally white and unwashed, no mordants used, just the salt and vinegar added afterwards to separated amounts of dye liquid.  The chemicals in the paper seem to affect the dyes.  I could try applying soy milk to the paper and letting it dry before painting  on the dye.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. 1 January, 2016 12:17 am

    Fascinating post, I have no idea what Kumara is but I grow Peonies in my garden so will definitely give them a go next summer.

  2. 1 January, 2016 5:56 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Debbie. I have edited the post to explain what kumara’s are! They are sweet potatoes.

  3. 7 January, 2016 1:58 pm

    you’ll find that samples painted on paper will be different depending on the quality of the paper…and on whether it’s been finished with kaolin. and of course as you note, different water supplies are likely to influence colour as well. i’ve had nice prints from paeonie petals bundled in silk, the leaves are lovely in a bundle as well.

  4. 7 January, 2016 5:43 pm

    Yes, I find the results on different papers very interesting. I have my solar dye jars in the bathroom and let any splashes or drips from the dyes dry on the ceramic basin top. I can compare this with the paper tests! Thanks for the tip about the peony leaves – must try.

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robyn webster, artist

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