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.


Anonymous said...

That is a lovely variety of colours! Natural dyeing is fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Excellent Doe after I recover from my head injury and rehab..since July 14th. I will take these pictures to a rather posh wool shop here in Chicago to see if there is any interest. Sorry cant promise when though. Good luck with all your . I am at present setting up a foundation for a spine another baby in Zimbabwe and then will move on to support three orphanages that I have asseesed in 2008. I am using some very well know children book series to do it who have matching grants.

PEACE THIS 2015 to you and from our family to yours.

Peter said...

Lovely to see you working with flax and the beautiful colours that can be made with it. I see that lots of testing and perseverance is needed for natural dyeing. The process is really interesting to read about, even for a person such as myself that hasn't done any dyeing or work with fibre as yet. Happy New Year!

Doe said...

Happy New year to you too Peter, must call in and see you sometime.