abstract embroidery – untitled

another abstract piece, designed as wall hanging, that emerged from working on my first piece, topography. march 2021.

plant dyed vintage cotton embroidery thread (tagetes, onion skin, tagetes/onionskn mix, sequoia cones, pine cone mix) on antique, hand woven linen from austria.

mount hand turned by @orcoyoyo from willow wood (salix); string hand twined from leftover thread i used during the dyeing process to secure the skeins of thread in the dyepot.

yellow

recently i was gifted with a few tagetes flowers that were left since summer and still out in the winter cold. dried up and frozen over several times, i wondered if there was still any dye left in them.

tagetes erecta plant in winter

i picked the dried flower heads and took them home. to use them for dyeing, i put them in a pot with water, heated everything up and let it simmer for a while. you’re basically making tea, a very concentrated one. every once in a while i dip a piece of fabric to get an idea of the dye colour and strength.

tagetes flower head soaked in water to be heated up

once the dye is to my liking, i strain out the flower heads and let it cool down over night. as i mainly work with linen and cotton, for a dye like tagetes the fiber needs to be mordanted before dyeing, otherwise the colour will not stick to the fabric and wash out. for this i currently use an aluminium formate (aluminium triformiat, C3H3AlO6) cold mordant, which i keep in a bucket and throw threads or fabric to be dyed in there. it is really practical, as it works at room temperature, and you can leave fiber in there for a long time if you don’t want to or can’t dye them immediately.

the next step is the actual dyeing. for this i slowly heat the dye up and add the threads/fabric after taking them out of the mordant and removing any excess mordanting liquid.

threads in tagetes dye

leave the fabric or thread in the dye until the colour pleases you. it will get a little less intense after drying, so keep that in mind.

thread in tagetes dye

once you like the colour, take out your fabric or threads, squeeze excess dye (careful – hot!!!) and hang up to dry.

sashiko thread freshout of the dye bath
freshly dyed vintage cotton/linen handkerchief fabric
sashiko & cotton embroidery thread

after a while the dye bath loses its power – it will stilly dye, but the colours will be much gentler.

embroidery thread – dye bath already less intense

after your fabrics and threads are dry, wait approximately two weeks before rinsing them for the first time, this helps the colour settle and really stick to the fibers.

these are all fabrics and thread dyed with tagetes flowers from @westspacevienna roof top garden. first dye bath:

sashiko and embroidery thread
linen, cotton & cotton/linen fabric

second dye bath:

embroidery thread
embroidery thread

i’m still amazed at how much colour and vibrancy was left in these dried up, shrivelled flower heads. will definitely go hunting for dyestuff in nature in the next weeks. i guess there could be a few more happy surprises out there.

and i look very much forward to work with these materials. it’s really special to know where the plants come from and who grew them (thank you jana @netzwerkdachbesetzung & lilly @wiener_dachfarm for your generous gift of these flowers. ❤ and sandra @vermilio.vienna for helping me out with all my dyeing questions and troubleshooting). combined with vintage and antique fabric and thread i’m constantly hunting for, these will hopefully become nice and slow textile works in the near future.

plant dye

a few recent plant dyeing experiments.

purple/violet – avocado kernels with iron mordant (iron (II) acetate (basically rust in vinegar) on linen fabric and cotton embroidery floss

pink – avocado kernel on linen and cotton embroidery floss

dark brown – walnut husks on linen fabric and cotton embroidery floss

lighter brown – yellow onion skins with iron mordant on linen fabric and cotton embroidery floss

yellow – two different batches of tagetes flowers, collected in january (dried out, frozen over a few times, still on the stalks, and they still had so much colour!) on vintage handkerchiefs (cotton and linen/cotton), linen fabric, cotton embroidery floss and cotton sashiko thread

plant dyed fabrics and thread