Monday, September 29, 2008

How to make gingko leaf fabric

First you catch your gingko tree. That is, now, while the leaves are on the trees, go around looking for one. If you don't have one in your neighborhood, nor room to plant one (or none at the local nurseries), try a nearby college campus. They often have them.

(I actually bought a gingko tree for this and Precious Metal Clay jewelry, with a rootstock that had different shaped leaves from the top, so I have 2 shapes to use.)

You're going to want to collect the leaves to make your real fabric in the early fall, when they're freshly-fallen and still soft. But it should be ok to pick enough leaves to do a few fat-quarter color samples like this one. They're easiest to use while fresh, pliable and strong. If it's going to be a day or two, press them to keep them flat.

I suggest doing your tests on cotton fabric, ready-to-dye or prepared-for-dyeing. Your local fabric store may have some, or your favorite internet fabric store. If not, try the fabrics at Use Procion MX dye with cotton, linen, or rayon fabric.

You may find a color you like straight out of the jar; I prefer mixed colors, and mixed from mixed colors themselves, not from the clear primaries, which to my eyes give bland bright colors. So you will want to experiment with colors too, separate from the leaves. I suggest using 2 colors only, choosing some near each other on the color wheel, which will blend harmoniously, unless you have favorite dye colors already.

The easiest and most direct way to do this will be to fix the dyes with a paint-on fixative, like Afterfix from Dharma Trading. The alternative is to batch-fix the dye, which involves covering the dyed fabric with plastic to keep it moist for 24 hours. Either way this is best done in warm, even muggy weather. The only thing about the Afterfix method is that it is harder to do on long pieces of fabric. (It's great on fat quarters & half-yards.) You may want to work with 2-yard pieces max, and do more than one if you need more.

Supplies for dyeing;

Procion MX powdered dye (or liquid), 1 or 2 colors, and instructions from your dye supplier for tub dyeing and dye-painting
Plain salt (not iodized) from the grocery store
Warm water (tap water)

Afterfix paint-on fixative (from
OR soda ash for batch-fixing,
AND soda ash for immersion dyes for coordinating fabrics.

Spray adhesive, especially a kind which can be removable if sprayed lightly. Test.

Cotton, linen or viscose rayon fabric, ready to dye. Prewashing and drying before use is a good idea. If you are going to batch-fix, presoak in the soda-ash solution, let drip dry before use.

Helpful: Synthrapol detergent, for washing out dye, and Reduran for cleaning hands.

Tools for dyeing and dye-painting:

Dust-mist mask for mixing dye-stock solutions (and soda ash solutions)
Measuring cups and spoons (not to be reused for food), and old milk or water jugs with lids, and cups or jars to mix dye-stock in (disposable), plus disposable plastic spoons for mixing. (You don't have to throw these away each time, usually they clean easily.)

Rubber gloves, especially for putting fabric into immersion dye baths.

1 to 2 very fine mist sprayers - pump-types work well. From a dye supplier, or maybe hardware store.

2 sawhorses, with scrap fabric strips, pushpins or staples, and sewing pins, or other method to stretch fabric outdoors, or a clean grassy (or concrete) place to lay out the fabric

Instructions for leaf-dyeing

Read some dyeing instructions first. Dyes are mixed at different concentrations, depending on the density of different colors. Your dye supplier should be able to tell you.

Wear old clothes that you don't mind getting dye spots on. Maybe an apron too.

1) First, lightly spray adhesive on the back of each leaf, and attach them to the fabric in a pleasing pattern. Work on a hard surface, so you can rub them down.

Attach fabric scrap strips to sawhorses with staples or pushpins. Attach your fabric to these strips with sewing pins, or lay fabric out on grass.

2) Mix a scant teaspoon of plain salt into 2 cups of warm water. You will mix your dye-stock solutions from this. The salt gives you a longer working time before the dye bonds to the water and won't dye your fabric.

3) Put on your dust-mist mask while you mix the dye. Close the jar after measuring out dye, and wipe down surfaces with a damp paper towel. Rinse utensils after use. (Use a damp paper towel, or damp paper towel in a plastic dish, to mix on - that way you see any spilled dye.)

For each color, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of dye into 1 cup of the salt stock solution. Fuschia-based colors are strong; use 1/2 to one teaspoon. Turquoise-based colors are weaker; use 2 teaspoons for a equivalent strength. Like making gravy, start with only a little water, making a paste with the dye in a mixing cup, then adding more water gradually. If some spots of color don't dissolve easily (some reds and golds and grays, I've found) you might filter the solution through a disposable coffee filter.

For darker colors, use more dye, and spray more times.

Put some of each color into a sprayer. Don't breathe the spray! If you are working outside, and spraying away from yourself, that may be fine. Or wear your mask.

4) Your fabric should be laid on the grass, or stretched between sawhorses, with leaves attached, leaf side up.

The important part of spraying the dye is to spray each color lightly several times. Do not saturate the fabric. If the fabric gets too wet, the dye will run under the leaves. Too few passes with the sprayer will leave the fabric looking dotted. Don't let the sprayer drip on the fabric. (Try to hold it off the edge and spray onto the fabric, walking around the stretched fabric to get all areas. Or keep a paper towel under the sprayer to catch drips. Test first! Find a sprayer that doesn't drip.) Test this whole technique before trying your real fabric.

( 5) If you have dye stock left, mix up 2 or 3 gallons of soda ash and salt solution, pour into a large white bucket, and add 1 or 2 colors of dye. Scrunch another piece of fabric to fit, and wearing rubber gloves, push it down into the bucket under the liquid. Leave for 3 to 24 or more hours (turquoise-based colors for 24 hours minimum). This immersion dyeing will make rich colors to coordinate with your leaf fabric.

Or use a large ziploc freezer bag, and 1/2 to 1 gallon solution. This will hold a t-shirt, or some fabric. Less mess. )

6) Let the dye dry completely, maybe 24 hours. Leaves are still on the fabric. If you used sawhorses, take the fabric off and lay it out on the grass. Paint on the Afterfix, leave on for 1 hour, then rinse off. Take leaves off, thoroughly rinse fabric in warm water (Synthrapol detergent is helpful), then wash out.

OR after spraying the dye, in warm muggy weather, cover with plastic to keep warm and moist for 24 hours. This is less useful for this spray technique, where the fabric should dry between spray coats. It is useful for dye-painting on cotton.

©MinaWagner2008 You may print a copy of these instructions for your personal use. Please do not print more copies, or use this as the basis of a class, without contacting me.

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