Sunday, November 18, 2012

Dyeing with gumnuts

Waste not, want not .... maybe that means don't throw anything out!
Quite a few months ago, I noticed that a tree in our street had had a branch broken off - probably by vandals but maybe not as it was hanging over the footpath and the only branch broken off was the one that was in the way.  This particular tree has spectacular red gum blossoms, I'm not sure what variety of eucalypt it is but it is gorgeous. It might be Eucalyptus Ficifolia.

It also has large clumps of big gumnuts after the flowers die away and there were heaps (literally) of them on the nature strip.  They were there for days and eventually I couldn't resist them.  I took our green recycling bin down and cleaned up most of the mess but kept a bucketful of the gumnuts, just to see if I could ever do anything with them.

There they were, looking at me while I was playing around with the mulberry dyeing.  As I had been researching the mulberry dyeing, I had noticed that someone had said that you have to soak nut casings before you used them so I thought I would see if that worked in this case too.
I left them soaking for a couple of days before boiling them up.  I put a silk scarf in there to see if it would take up any dye.  Not much happened so I turned it off after a couple of hours of boiling - the silk was a dirty white colour.

Being ever hopeful, I decided to leave the silk in the pot and see what would happen.  It is spring here and the sun is shining frequently.  My dye setup is in our glasshouse, so it would stay warm during the days (and not that cold during the nights).  After another day, I noticed that the water was a bit darker.  Not being totally a patient person, I took the scarf out and rinsed it.  It is a pale brown colour, quite pretty really.   Eucalyptus being a substantive dye, I have used no mordant.

I have left the gumnuts to soak some more and will see what sort of dyebath I get.  Then I will try some more silk pieces and see what eventuates.

As with the mulberry dyeing, I am not sure why I am dyeing this fabric, I have no particular project in mind and hence am only dyeing scraps, not specific types or sizes of silk.  But it is all interesting and satisfying.


Vera L Hazelgrove said...

What a great idea! I never thought of dyeing with gum nuts. I tried eucalyptus leaves once and although someone else said they dyed well, I must have picked the wrong ones as I didn't get anything one could call "colour" from it. I am sure, soaking longer will help. It does with walnut husks too. Keep having fun!

Mary said...

Thanks Vera, there has actually been some more to write about this, I will have to post again. There was some difference when I put in mordant but not a huge difference - and I preferred the original colour.
It just seems such a waste to not use stuff that is lying around, especially when it does not need much extra work, or chemicals.