My Mad Scientist experiments are mostly about having fun. Questions like “I wonder what will happen if …” and “what if I do this?” or “what will happen if I add that…”. It combines two things I love to work and play with – textiles and plants. It forces me to slow down, to looks at different parts of the process, not just the whole. I get to interact with my products, to engage all my senses, and experience the mystery of the unexpected.
In essence, that is what Slow Textiles is about. Slow textiles does not refer to the length of time it takes to make something but is a sub-culture related to general environmental stewardship. It is about slowing down to enjoy and connect with different steps in the process. It is part of a movement that includes Slow Food, Slow Art, Slow Travel and Slow Parenting, Slow cities, etc. Go ahead and google it if you are interested.
For my first Mad Scientist experiment (post of June 22nd) I used coffee grinds, Peony flowers and Haskap fruit. Something from the wild, something from the kitchen, and something from the garden. This week I used Saskatoon berries (wild), Hosta leaves (garden) and curry powder (kitchen). Needless to say, it was a very interesting smelling kitchen!
Starting with the Hosta leaves, I choose them because I wanted to dye some fabric green, and because I have a lot of Hosta plants. Would you not expect even the slightest hint of green as a result? Not a chance! After soaking overnight, the cotton fabric, thread and wool were almost the same colour they started out as. Yes, this process does have some disappointments. But in the process we have still learned something – don’t bother using hosta as a natural plant dye! I will have to continue searching for a natural product that dyes green.
As for the curry, I think I subconsciously picked something from the guidebook in order to guarantee success for at least 1 batch. Last time it was coffee. This time it was turmeric. But when I searched the spice drawer I could not find turmeric by itself so I used a product that contained turmeric – curry. And I love the result.
The Saskatoon berries provided the most interesting results. Saskatoons are unique to the Canadian Prairies and normally I would not use them in an experiment. They are delicious to eat and very nutritious. But the ones available to us are diseased. It was an effort to pick even 2 cups, which I mixed with 6 cups of water. After simmering and straining I ended up with 3 cups, which I divided into 2 equal parts. Into one part, I added an iron mordant solution; the other remained as it was. In this picture you can see the results of the original cotton fabric, cotton thread and wool as compared with the same items after dying. The items on the left were dyed in the original solution, the items on the right were dyed with iron mordant. How interesting is that!
Note: To make Iron Mordant (a natural colour modifier) you take a glass jar (with lid) and place rusty nails or other rusty iron objects into it. Then fill with enough water and vinegar (2:1 ratio) to cover the nails. Let sit at least 2 weeks, although it will last indefinitely. (from the Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes by Sasha Duerr)
To be clear, when using hand dyed fabrics in quilts, I will continue to use the fabrics dyed by people like Vicki Welsh and Ricky Tims. This process is not about replacing my quilting fabrics. It is about having fun, connecting with the environment and gaining a better understanding of the fabrics that I purchase.
I really did consider experimenting with blueberries, but couldn’t bring myself to using the precious berries. Instead, we made the Fresh Blueberry Pie recipe I promised you last week. This is easy and absolutely deciduous. I wish I knew where it came from so that I could give them credit. I love the fact that it only has 1 crust, and that the berries are fresh. It seems so healthy – for a pie!
Have a great week. Be creative. Why not look around and see what you can experiment with? It just might open a whole new world for you.
Thanks for reading my post.