Jul 3, 2019

Experimental Eco-dyeing on Paper.

At the moment I am enamoured with paper, and am slowly tidying several piles of vintage books, papers and card. Another re-purposed book is in the making with a woodland theme, and I am making a lot of my own resources instead of buying new purpose printed, and generic (which makes it very boring for me) craft paper from the shop. I had a lovely bouquet from my daughter, which was definitely past its' beauty, and the technique of eco-dyeing was studied on-line.

Resulting eco-dyed pages, after drying and pressing.
Natural dyeing is something I have done before, with wool yarn, to get an overall colour, so I know a little about mordanting and different plants. I was expecting subtle colours, and hoped for stronger imprints. I was also doubtful about the papers holding together.

Ingredients; plant materials, papers, alum as mordant,
 and a large pan, which will only be used for this.
I bought an electric frying pan with lid secondhand for $15, as it can contain the papers lying flat, and it has a thermostat which can be set to 80'C, as keeping it all simmering, is more dye productive than boiling. Boiling can destroy the dye molecules.

Dried larkspur, blue hyacinth, daisies, gerbera, bay leaves,
ferns, adding red onion leaves, lichens, etc.

Fresh winter pick of ferns, climbing ivy leaves and berries,
eucalyptus, oak, and  old autumn leaves.
I went around our property and gathered some more plant material. Hopefully those ivy berries would give some colour. Now to prepare the mordant and papers.

2 tablespoons of alum in a throw away container,
although alum is fairly harmless.

Dissolve the alum in warm water.
I decided to use filtered water, as we have chlorine in our water these days. Chlorine has a bleaching effect of course, and I did not need a chemical reaction like that at all...

Wetting the papers in the alum water.
To prepare the stack of paper, both thick, transparent, new and vintage, I simply submerged them in the alum water and stacked them on the plastic covered table.

All the leaves sandwiched in the wet papers.
I took off a lot of hard woody stems, and arranged the leaves, flowers and berries in the wet papers.
Some paper had already given up the ghost, mainly lined school writing paper. It just fell apart.

I tied up the stack with a large wide ribbon.
At first I wanted to tie up the big sandwich with wire, but was afraid it would just rip the paper. A friend had just given me meters of wide satin ribbon. That held it together gentler, and still tight enough for the plant material not to shift place.

eucalyptus leaf and gumnut, avocado skin, and copper tube offcuts.
Added to the dye bath to provide overall colour, I added gum leaves and nut (goldens), avocado skin (soft pinks) and copper tube offcuts, which can bring out greens and blues from the dye plants.
You can instead add rusty iron, but that can bring out more yellow and browns, and darken colours.
For that reason I don't use an aluminium pan, as that will only produce 1 result. this pan has a teflon coating, elliminating any reactions. Stainless steel is also neutral. An enamelled pan should not have cracks or chips in the enamel, this exposes the iron underneath. Unless you want that.

Submerging the paper sandwich with a heat proof weight.
Time to cook. The papers were weighted down under the pans' lid, and I brought the allumed and added filtered water nearly to the boil, then set the thermostat to 85/90 'Celcius.
And left it to simmer, with the kitchen windows open, for an hour.
(Please be aware that some plants can produce poisonous fumes, such as oleander. Don't use it. Please check.) 
Simmer gently for an hour.

Take out the hot package with care.

Drain and cool.
I let the bundle drain and cool down. I contemplated letting the papers dry overnight, flat with the plant material on it. But plants were already falling off, and I was going away for a few days. Things would have gone moldy instead.
So I unpacked everything, and was pleasantly surprised.
All the papers drying in the kitchen.

Crinkles and folds.
Beautiful green leaf imprints.
Some of the colours are subtle, and there are lovely organic plant imprints. A number of cheap printing papers were ripped, or got holes in it. The thick vintage kids book pages worked very well, so did photo album pages with the in between tissue papers. Old music sheets and thicker printing papers did well too. After they all dried, I pressed the pages with an iron for a smoother finish.
Another successful experiment, for the girl that failed chemistry!
Blues from the climbing ivy berries and pink from bougainvillaea.