The ugliest paper ever…

Dyeing with black bean soaking water has been some kind of social media hit for a while now, since it’s easy way to produce blue and green – though not fast – dyes. The dye is made simply by soaking dry black beans in cold water over night, and then straining the beans off (which can be then used for eating). I have never tried out black beans before but now I needed to dye some black bean yarn samples. Of course I separated a tiny portion of the soaking water to dye some papers for anthotype as well, knowing that the poor lightfastness combined with blue shades could be just what I had searched for for one of my images.

I usually start my paper dyeing process with shiohara kozo and Nepalese lokta papers by placing them on my dye tray at the evening and on the morning I lift them up and dry flat on a clean paper. This time I proceed with the exactly same process. Yesterday evening the “dye” was still purplish blue and it looked like the papers would be well immersed with blue tones. This morning when I went to look at them, they were greenish, quite ill-coloured, and when I tried to lift them up, the lokta paper practically just mushed up. Also the kozo was a bit pulpy, but I managed to place it to try. They are still wet. I don’t know if I can handle them when they have been dried or if they’ll just crumble then…

The change of colour from a pretty blue to this odd greenish blue tone doesn’t really surprise me, since the dye is anthocyanin and very pH sensitive (reddish tones in acidic and bluer and then greener tones in basic and alkaline), but it’s the mushy effect on the papers. They are slimy and brittle and completely broken. I know these papers aren’t meant to be wetten this through and they are usually very sensitive after over-night soaking, but I have soaked them before even three or four days without this kind of effect ever happenning.

I guess there is an explanation somewhere… If some one knows what makes this happen, please, share your knowledge, I’d be glad to know!

Frustrating slowness

Yet another weekend spent with natural dyeing yarn and papers… The dyed papers and dried lake pigments (on their coffee filters) just keep on piling and the kitchen table is once again filled with everything but what is used in “normal” kitchen… Dye pots and thermometers, litmus papers and all kinds of jars and vessels filled with dyes, yarns and papers. (And I’m so glad, that soon I’m able to move a part of this process to my new dye studio… Soon!)

On the photo there are some papers from the past few weeks: on the top there are carrot tops (which, btw, give a beautiful bright yellow green on yarns), and below them aronia berry juice, and at the bottom the common bent. The brown ones behind are dyed with walnut husks.

At the same time when my dye pots have been boiling in kitchen, I’ve prepared films for my anthotype project. I’m getting a bit anxious though, since I thought I would be ready with making the films already at the end of June – and now it is almost one month later, the end of July and I’m still at the preparing stage. The background work has taken much more time that I had anticipated and I’m torn between decisions… Should I just start exposuring the ones I have just combining images with dyes without thinking too much, or should I first prepare all my films and only after all films are finished, I can select a dye and paper to each one individually (which was my initial plan)?

At this point I think that I’ll go with the latter, original plan, even if it means another year delay on my project (- no exposuring on winter time in this north).

Maybe I still should make some test prints this summer, and continue with the actual art project next summer, since I’m actually running out of time – days are already getting shorter. At least with those more lightfast dyes which will take a few months sun light to exposure.

There are still those very quick ones, which take only a few days (or even few hours, like turmeric) to exposure and which I can already pair with some of the films. Maybe I should concentrate on them then…

I know there isn’t any way I could have made this process faster, but still I feel a bit disappointed at myself. I know the process is slow, but it bugs me that the actual active time is squeezed in just a few sunny summer months, and somehow I just didn’t realize early enough just how much time the preparing of the films and all the background work takes. It’s like writing a book.

I just need to remind myself that it is better to follow the original plan and original idea. Of which I will write more in near future.

Brazilwood, for one last time

I haven’t dyed with the sapwood of brazilwood (Paubrasilia echinata, before known as Caesalpinia) – or bought it – for about fifteen years, since I learned that the tree is very endangered.

This year I’ve been writing an exhibition script on dyeing, also introducing some of the most important dyes that were imported here in Europe in 16th century after the discovery of the sea route to India and after “finding” the American continents. Brazilwood was one of the most important ones at that time, found at the coast of the land which we now call Brazil (yes, the dye-tree gave name to the country, not the other way around). In just a short time the wood was harvested so excessively that the the number of brazilwood trees decreased dramatically. A very good example on how the natural dyeing isn’t automatically eco friendly (though the tree was also cutted because it was valuable wood used for making bows for stringed instruments).

As said, now this tree is listed as endangered species, and it’s not available in the Tetri Design shop where I usually order my imported dye stuffs – Anna-Karoliina is very responsible in what dyes she’s selling. With the help of a dear friend, however, I found some un-used (several years old) tiny dye bags from the time when the knowledge of endangerement had not yet reached us – so I decided to go on with dyeing sample yarns for this museum exhibition.

I needed to dye 40g yarn, and there was just about 9g dye (for a strong colour 50%WOF would be good), but the sample yarns dyed perfectly. However, the dye was so exhausted that dyeing papers for my anthotype projects with left-overs didn’t really happen – which was both a relief and an disappoinment, in very bitter-sweet way. One of my artworks is about the endangerement of the species and using dye from an endangered tree… there’s something very wrong and still so right in it.

I have now found out that there is some certified Paubrasilia dyewood sold in some stores, but still I think that I can manage my anthotype projects without using threatened species from the other side of the world – so for me this was a one (last) time experiment with this and I’m not looking for to repeat it.

Yellow from weld

Besides some local and not-so-general plant dyes I also test some very traditional dye plants for dyeing paper and for my anthotype prints. A few days ago I started soaking some dried weld (Reseda luteola) and then boiled it and dyed these papers: shiohara kozo and Nepalese lokta paper (also several Hahnemühle photo rag ultrasmooth and Fabriano Accademia drawing papers), after which I dyed about 50 grammes of wool very deep deep yellow – which was amazing, since I was running quite low on the amount of weld used in dye bath.

Earlier I’ve made bright yellow dyes from dried weld by not boiling it at all first, but I’ve just soaked it for a couple of days until the dye has been bright yellow. This time I wanted to be sure to get deep yellow dye (since I didn’t have that much dried weld left), so I used the instructions from and added some soda before boiling the weld. After straining added some vinegar to change the pH back to 7. Although now I’m thinking that I should have changed the pH after dyeing cellulose fibre papers which prefer more alkaline surroundings, and I should have lower the pH only after that, when I started dyeing the yarns as the wool is just opposite and prefers acidic. But I guess pH7 is good – nevertheless it’s neutral.

After dyeing several papers and these yarns, the dye isn’t exhausted yet – which means that the next step will be in making some lake pigments from it. The process continues…

Weld dyed yarns – white, light grey, medium grey and dark grey alum mordanted yarns; including 100%wool, 75%wool+25%polyamide, cotton, silk.

Some summery sample yarns

Ooh, look how pastelly pretty our kitchen radiator looks like! 😅 I’ve dyed a lot of sample papers, almost forgetting about blogging. Well, I have not forgot about it, and I have written notes all the time, but I’ve just tried to dye as much paper as possible and get them to exposure before the sun vanishes again… And this has taken all my time.

But besides that I’ve also dyed samples of each dye I’ve made. I’ve planned to display them beautifully each on their own cardboard card – but here they are still resting in our kitchen…

I’ll get back to these when the uttermost hurry is over.

Process in making

I have not written blog entries quite often lately, but instead I’ve spent hours in my kitchen boiling plants to make dyes, and then dyeing paper and yarn, and finally making lake pigments.

I’ve made dyes out of several plants growing near me, such as ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria) and the common bent (Agrostis capillaris) . Yesterday I collected red clovers (Trifolium pratense) which grow abundantly at my dad’s backyard, as well as common horsetails (Equisetum) which are now boiling at my kitchen. And of course birch leaves, alder bark, maple leaves and great lupine (of which all I have made a few entries earlier). At one point I collected so much plants that some of them just went bad before I had time to use them – which is not the idea of this project at all.

I had planned to create the final images for my print series already, but I’m still partly testing papers and trying to find a suitable one for my projects. This is worrying me a bit. I don’t want to hurry with this, and I don’t like to work with the feeling of rushing, but still there are so few sunny days here and if I miss the sunlight of this summer, I have to wait almost a whole year until I can proceed to the next phase of the project. Today I ordered a few papers for tryouts and I’m having a strong feeling that I’m on the right track here.

Image: The test papers in the photo are immersing dye made from ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria).

Blue wonder of maple leaves

Continuing tests with maple leaves. When I was boiling the leaves earlier, I noticed that the paper samples were dyed bluish green – but not in the dye bath but on the steam and fumes upon the boiling leaves.⁠

Of course I wanted to see if this was just a fluke or something that could be repeated. I decided to boil the leaves for the second time. Before boiling I accidentally dropped a tiny drop of alkaline solution on the paper, and I noticed that it had turned the sample even more bluer.⁠

I usually do not use modifiers, but this time I decided to dissolve some soda on the dye bath before adding papers in. The pH was about 9.⁠

This time I placed four papers into dye pot at once – and you can see the results on the photo.⁠

At the top you can see a paper, which was almost wholly under the water. It really didn’t immerse dye that much, though it is coloured beautifully greyish green.⁠

Then there are two contact dyed papers, which were in direct contact with maple leaves. The top one completely in between the boiling maple leaves, and the lower one was placed just upon the leaves.⁠

And then the last one: this was placed on the steam/fumes, completely out of dye bath. You can see the absolutely corgeous – but random – blue and teal shades.⁠

It almost looks like the more stronger dyes are born outside the dyebath itself.⁠

I’m pretty sure that I won’t be able to create a method how the papers could be “steamed” blue evenly, but now it’s easier for me to believe the claims of some old texts, that also blue and blue grays can be dyed with maple leaves.

Fresh maple leaves, contact printing

One morning last week I noticed from our kitchen window, that some nearby maple trees were being trimmed. Since picking up leaves from the living trees isn’t allowed, this was too much of a treat to let it go… so I instantly ran there on site and asked if I could pick some leaves with me. The funny thing was, that the trimmer didn’t look surprised at all, he just said that I could pick as much as I want. Well, I did.

I’ve heard all kind of claims about maple leaves – some say they give strong dyes, some say that they won’t give dyes at all. I’ve read about beige and yellow dyes, but also green and blue dyes; of the latter of these I have found no photos or anything, just ‘rumours’. (And yes, I know that blue(ish) has been dyed with some maple species bark, but I have also read about leaves dyeing blue.)

I’m still quite new with this, since I don’t even know the subspecies of the maple in question. I’m pretty sure it is Norway maple (Acer platanoides), but I’m not sure. It’s just outside of the botanical garden I live next to, and it didn’t have any label on it, so I’ll probably will have to open a botanical book to identify the tree… (I’m spoiled, am I?)

Also, I haven’t yet found out the dye matters of maple leaves and as I tried googling, I found out that it’s not so easy to find this information. Which makes me think, that maybe maple leaves really haven’t been used as a dye source a lot. But I decided to give it a go anyway.

I started by boiling the leaves in a kettle. I also placed some yarn samples in the kettle, and arranged some Hahnemühle photo rag printing papers aroud the kettle to be in contact with boiled leaves (this is the only paper I have currently, which both takes dye and can stand the boiling heat).

The dye in yarns was very fair yellowish tone, but look at these papers. They look like they were marmorized and the tones are changing from green to pink. The most interesting thing, though, was that I noticed that the parts which were upon the plants and dye bath, in the steam, were turned deep green. You can see the green line on the paper on the right. What you can’t see from this photo is, that this green is very, very bluish in tone. Which makes me think…

I need to continue making experiments with the steam of the dye!

Garden lupin leaves and stalks II

(These postings will appear in non-chronological order – there’s a problem with some photos, so I’ll start with this second lupin printing batch I made…)

After noticing some stunning imprints on the papers I boiled together with lupins when I was making dye, I decided to make some contact dye prints.

I placed my papers on the bottom of a steel tray and poured the boiled, still warm lupine leaves and stalks upon them. I placed another tray and some weight upon them and let them be there over night. The imprint was quite beautiful yellow in all of the papers. Hahnemühle photo rag paper showed very strong and vivid yellow textures where the leaves are easily spotted, but the real surprise was this Fabriano Accademia drawing paper, which was textured in very subtle, beautiful way (featured). It is just impossible to photograph…

Hahnemühle photo rag ultra smooth / garden lupin contact printing

BTW, I don’t use any alum, iron or other additives in these prints; just plants and paper.

Dye from early silver birch leaves

I have dyed with birch leaves before, but I got new inspiration, since Krista Vajanto reminded me that birch leaves dye very different shades and strengths in different phases. She gave me a tip, that very early, tiny birch leaves give very strong, almost neon yellow dye – which of course I wanted to test rightaway.

I also dyed some very beautiful yarn samples, but this time I concentrated on my papers. I first boiled silver birch (Betula pendula) leaves for about an hour and let the dyebath cool with leaves in it. Then I poured the liquid in steel tray where I placed my papers to dye (without any heat). Before these in the photo I dyed some Nepalese lokta paper and shiohara kozo paper, but they actually didn’t take dye that well.

In this photo the long paper strips on the right are all Hahnemühle photo rag ultra smooth: the bright yellow was immersed for an hour and the darker ones four hours. The Fabriano Accademia drawing paper at the lower left corner and Hahnemühle Leonardo 600g/m cold pressed aquarelle paper on left top corner didn’t take dye so much. Fabriano paper has actually been toned to a very beautiful, subtle yellow, but the heavy aquarelle paper not at all.