Exhausting My Dye Baths

I've been asking myself a question over the last few years, namely what to do with my used dye baths when they've reached the stage where they don't contain enough pigment to dye any more yarn but still have some remaining colour. And over the last few years, I've been researching what might work. I've looked at creating crayons with natural vegetable waxes. I've investigated ink making. And, I've sloshed through the potential of watercolour paints. However, the same issue kept arising: it took so much heat energy to reduce my dye bath to a suitable concentrate that the process was no longer environmentally friendly. 

Well, last week the question was finally answered for me by Jacqui Symons of Slow Lane Studio! On Tuesday, I joined her amazing Plants & Colour online class, "Dyeing Paper with Natural Colour". It was a revelation. This is what I needed to do with these dye baths. Luckily, this week I had planned to use sulphur cosmos and coreopsis to dye two separate yarns to produce a beautiful range of brown to yellow to orange hues.

Whilst the yarns were simmering away in their dye baths, I alum mordanted some small sheets of Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper which I use to make my sketchbooks. The sheets were sized to fit into my dye pot!

Once the yarn dyeing process had finished and the yarns had been removed, I let the dye liquids cool. I then added two sheets of the alum mordanted paper to each dye bath. It was so exciting to slowly slide the sheets beneath the surface and put the lid back on the pans to leave overnight.

The next day was equally exciting as I slowly removed the sheets from both the cosmos and the coreopsis baths. After drying on my rack, I pressed the papers flat with a hot iron to remove any undulations, as recommended by Jacqui.

I'm delighted with the results and can really see this as a way to use up the last remaining pigments of colour in my plant dye baths. The two green sheets on the left are from the coreopsis bath. The four remaining sheets are all from the sulphur cosmos: the middle two soaked in the dye bath for 12 hours; and the two on the right for 24 hours.

The next step is to test out some of the Japanese papers that Jacqui recommended which don't buckle. After that, I hope to dye larger sheets of a range of papers to then bind into my next sketchbook. Updates will follow!




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