Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I had an irresistible desire to find out what fabric dyed from the petunias at work would look like.  So, I couldn't help myself and picked some last weekend and put them in the freezer.  These petunias are everywhere, there are plenty of them and I only picked a few from each plant and picked them from the backside, so no one would notice!
I was intrigued because of the color.  The only way I can describe it is FUSHCIA pink:

According to Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles  by India Flint freezing the delicate flowers causes the individual cells holding the dye to rupture, so not much heat is needed to release the dye.

I was surprised when I brought the flowers out of the freezer they had changed color to a deep purple.  In fact, when I started stuffing the frozen petals into a nylon sock they were already releasing the dye all over my hands and the countertops!

I put the sock of flowers into a pot of hot warm (from the tap) and heated it.   After squeezing all the liquid from the petals in the sock, I divided the liquid into four glass quart jars.  I left one of them 'plain', one of them I added a little alum to, one of them I added a little copper sulphate and the last one I dropped some rusty pieces of steel, which would be akin to adding iron.  Then I put a fat quarter of cotton, which had been prepped with an alum mordant,  into each one:

Instantly you could see the color differences.  The plain is, well..., plain.  The copper has a decidedly blue-tint.  The alum leans more to the red, and the one with the iron is definitely blacker.
At this point, I realized that I had made a big mistake by heating the flowers too much.  And, I probably added too much water to the dye pot.  These mistakes resulted in a very poor showing of the fabulous color I was seeing from the iced-flowers.  The next day I took the fabrics out of their baths and let them oxidate for about an hour and then put them back in.  I will leave them for another day or two, but I don't think that they will improve or get darker.

Pretty sad looking at this point.  But, I have really learned a lot.  And, after all, that's what this is all about!  I think next week I'm going to gather some more of the same flowers and try again.  This time without the heat, and less water.  

(I went out into our garden and picked all the petals off some of our flowers.  We don't have a lot, but I picked all the blooms off of our purple petunia, one red geranium, and one small yellow plant.  They are in the freezer, I'll be putting them in the dye pot tomorrow! My husband was stupefied as to why I decimated the flowers!  Hey, it's raining, they'd be gone soon anyway.)

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