Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Further dyeing with Phormium Tenax


I'm like the Tui returning to the Flax regularly only I swipe a few seed pods and leave the flowers to the birds. I decided to make some dye extract so I had plenty to use over the next few months when the pods in the garden become dried out husks.
I originally dyed 600g of DK New Zealand wool in just one dye bath so I know there is heaps of dye in the seed pods. It oozes out as you cut the pods into small pieces. It has an oiliness that stains the scissors and makes then sticky.

Picked pods. I love their dark green smooth exterior and twisted shapes. The green on some is turning to black as they mature and dry.

So I chopped them up and put them on to heat with about 500ml of water. I brought them up to a simmer and let them cook for an hour. They go all soft and the liquid becomes dark brown.
Did I tell you the smell is not that pleasant compared to other plant dyes so don't do this in your kitchen, or run the extractor hood at full bore. I'm glad to have my draughty dyeshed.

Oh and cook with a lid too, which controls the steam and the smell a bit.
So.. Once cooked sieve the dye liquor and pour into an old flat bottomed pan. By the way keep all dye pans for that purpose and don't cook food in them again.
Simmer the strained dye liquid until there is only a small amount on the bottom of the pan. It will look like gravy.
Once cool you can store it in a bottle in the fridge. 
I add several dye pan worths to my bottle over a period of time.
You can return the strained dye plant bits to the pan with more liquid for a second simmering as there will still be colour there.
Once washed the dyed wool does not smell like the dye fortunately and with alum is a very pretty yellow.

Ahh...the colour of summer.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Phormium Tenax

As part of my dye talk/demo in March I feel I should explore some of the colours from our land or at least from my garden.

There has been an abundance of flowers and seed pods from our flax plants which we planted in our garden 14 years ago. These are now substantial plants attracting Tuis and Bellbirds. The pods hang dark and waxy against the green foliage.
Would the dye that I know is available from this plant reflect its formidable presence.

The seed and flower stalks tower over the leaves. They bounce and swing in the summer winds.

These big flowering spires take their toll on the plant. The leaves die back or suffer from the weather and stress of growing offspring.
Reading how Phormium Tenax is used in dyeing there are several different opinions.
Last year I tried long soaking preparation of the dried seed pods, but found in the heat of the summer that the solution fermented sooner than the ten days suggested to prepare the dye and smelt horrible. Nor was it a particular strong dye producing bland fawns even though I used a quantity of older dry seed pods. I also kept some in alcohol for a number of weeks but the colour was disappointing too.
Yet there is a promise of dark chocolate browns and deep tan.
So this summer I picked a small pan of pods and cut them up into small pieces. Brown juice leeching over my hands and scissors. I added water and heat and brought the temperature up to a low simmer.
I added alum and copper mordanted yarn and left the pot on the heat for 40 minutes.
I then left the pan to cool.
Ithe colour was deeper on the copper mordanted yarn, a gold yellowy tan. Adding half a skein to a iron/alkaline bath produced a lovely rich brown.

I also tried a little logwood and fresh flax blend and the green was a copper mordanted yarn with flax and a tiny amount of Saxon indigo.

Further dyeing study required. I like the yellow which will be a great base for using with other plant dyes for a myriad of different shades.
The dyepot even fresh is still a bit pungent so dye outside or in a very well ventilated area with a well fitting lid on your dyepot.