For the group dye lab, I made a sample of sunflower seeds. I had collected some black sunflower seeds from a friend’s garden and wanted to see if this colour would transfer onto fabric. I steamed the sample for an hour, and the seeds produced a back/grey colour. I think the way the seeds created a pattern onto the fabric is effective and looks a bit like animal print.
For my first individual sample, I tested out rust dyeing. I laid out rusty bottle caps in an even pattern, then steamed them for an hour. The rust had not transferred onto the fabric after the hour, so I steamed it for another hour, which gave a more defined pattern.
For my next sample, I used red cabbage that I cut into circles which I then arranged into flower shapes. I also sprinkled marigold tea over the top, hoping it would give a yellow background. When I first took the sample out of the steamer, the red cabbage was faint, but you could still see it, and there was a yellow tinge to the fabric. Once the sample had dried, the red cabbage had disappeared, and the yellow was very light. I think the sample could be brighter if I had steamed it for longer, so the colour could come out.
I then did some more experimenting with the sunflower seeds I had brought in, first using them to draw lines on a scrap piece of fabric, then steaming a larger sample. When drawing the lines, I found that some seeds produced black, some brown, and some even drew blue lines. Once dry, some of these colours faded, but it was really interesting to see the different colours. When steaming the larger sample, I left it in the steamer for a lot longer than the initial sunflower sample, so there was a more solid colour, and the result was a ruddy brown colour, not a black grey like the first.
I used a combination of rusty nails and red and brown onion skins to dye the last sample, and I love the outcome. The onion skins produced a bright colour that looks like it came from flower petals and the nails transferred blacker rust than I suspected which works well. It dried lighter, but the vibrancy was still there. Overall, I prefer vat dyeing to steam dyeing, but I think steaming is a great way to preserve the shapes of leaves or flowers, and I want to explore rust dying further in the future.
India Flint is a natural dyer from Australia. She describes herself as a botanical alchemist, forest wanderer & tumbleweed, stargazer & stitcher, string twiner, working traveller, dreamer, writer and the original discoverer of the eucalyptus eco print. Flint uses plants and found objects and works with cloth, paper, stone, windfall biological material, water, minerals, bones, discarded artefacts, and local weeds to create complex and rich designs. I think the use of plant material to create patterns is effective, and it’s interesting to see that she manages to keep the shape of the leaves she uses. I could see the second example of her work making a great digital print. I think it would be cool to use this technique in my final piece, along with the digital print I am going to create.
I used grass seed for my first attempt, and put it on a cotton wool patch. I started off trying to make a pattern with the grass seeds, but as soon as I moved it to the tray, it rolled everywhere and became one big patch. For my second sample, I used one of my Shibori samples, and put a mixture of grass, cress and primrose seeds into the little dips created by the steaming. If this does work I think it would look effective when grown in patterns, or if it is grown in a solid patch it would look cool if you cut back or trimmed certain sections, and make patterns that way.
Paula Ulargui is a Spanish fashion designer based in Madrid. For her collection Siamese Skins. Two Natures. One Body Ulargui tested more than 20 different seeds and several different natural fibres to find the combination that would give the best results and last the longest. She then looked into aesthetics, picking out the most vibrant colours, and then learnt how to keep the plants alive for the most sustained amount of time. In the end, she developed garments that could survive for weeks, sometimes months, which were easy to take apart so that the garment could be watered. The use of the plants to create a pattern is effective and displays the harmony between humans and plants. This collection is also an effective way to convey the mood-boosting benefit of being near plants with the models wearing the garments on bare skin. This kind of living fashion could be great for the future, growing and re-growing plants on the same garment to create different patterns, making the piece look different every time, and harvesting the stuff you grew.