Thursday, January 13, 2011

Fennel Dye Experiment

Fennel flower heads.

Fennel stalks, chopped and ready.

The resulting fennel dye.

The left of the photo shows paper dyed with fennel. Both are green although that didn't photograph too well! The fabric in the middle is the original colour and the brown is the dye results. There is a lot I don't know about fennel dye! Why does paper come out green and fabric brown? I researched fennel dye on the Internet and came up with several variations of the same things so I 'mixed and matched' to suit myself.

If you're interested here's what I did...

Chop the fennel into small pieces
Boil for 20 Min's until nice and mushy
Strain the chunky bits and measure the resulting fluid (that beautiful purple stuff!)
Using a ration of 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts fennel liquid I added vinegar and then a tablespoon of table salt. I think the salt helps to 'fix' the colour and the vinegar to ward off mould growth. Correct me if I'm wrong!

For the fabric I used an old cotton napkin that I had pre-soaked cold tap water. I boiled it in the fennel dye water for 20 Min's and then allowed it to dry. I am not sure how purple plus white resulted in brown but I like it!

For the paper I did a straight wash and resulted in...nothing! Hmmmm. It dried clear like my nest and kowhai dyes did. I figured I did something wrong and found nothing on the Internet that was helpful for dying paper. (Plenty for colouring paper pulp and fabric but not for using the dye as a wash.)
Anyway... I came to the conclusion that salt alone wasn't enough to fix the colour and that heat was required to set it. All the material dyes I read used heat in some way so I got out my trusty old iron and tried again. Wa-lah! Green paper. Lime green at that! I am not too fond of lime/pastel green and thought that if I dyed, dried, dyed again, dried again...I would achieve a darker green but I just ended up with an even 'limer' shade of lime!  At least I figured out how to set the colour on paper without having to boil paper, I am sure that information will be useful for the next experiment...

PS: I used a stainless steel pot.

Coming soon:
Green/Greener post. Some link love for some of the great sites I discovered while learning about natural dyes. Inspiration abounds!
ICE 2011. This avo work starts on ICE #6 and as soon as my collages are mounted properly I will post collages 3-6. Anyone else doing this years exchange?



You so need to go to India Flints blog, she is the best, her book should be available through the library. The green most probably came from the iron in the pot which acts as a mordant. For greens copper would have been even better. Salt is not necessary and is best avoided in a country with huge salinity problems unless you actually live by the ocean and can use sea water.

Debrina said...

I wonder if the different colour results had something to do with the cellulose levels in the paper and the cotton? Perhaps there's more in paper...hence the green. I'm no chemist of course, but it would certainly be an interesting hypothesis to research. Of course, now I'm just reading soewnearth's comment - and that could have something to do with it too, lol! Salt is a great colour fixer we have huge salinity problems? Maybe on the coast? Lol!!

Mick said...

The dying tale is fascinating. Now, of course, I need to know which part of the fennel plant does one use to season the fried chicken?

Michael TheMonkey said...

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Anonymous said...

ooh, loves! i've been making my own dyes for the past few years and am starting to get into walnut inks (even though i'm allergic to walnuts). i have a very long list of natural dye recipes i've created and will share with you one of these days if you're interested. i wonder, also, if NZ would let me post any of these little yummy bottles of goodness to you. hmmm... we shall investigate as i have some new rusty yellow and almost black that is divine that i would love to share.

layers said...

we as artists learn from experimenting and trying new techniques- lessons learned. I did not know the fennel flower is so pretty.

John M. Mora said...

fennel tree very pretty
and the fennel flower is sweet
but the ink from the poor fennel
is impossible to drink

iNdi@na said...

what's intriguing me is that you had a pink brew from the fennel to start with...unusual. something in the water, maybe?
and the need for salt as a mordant...well, bit of a myth, really. it CAN be a useful adjunct [such as when you soak a linen shirt in the sea prior to dyeing] but when it's in the brew [particularly with eucalyptus] you'll notice that there'll be muddying of colour followed by a kind of white suspension hovering in the dyebath.

paper will always take colour differently to cloth [bear in mind that silk and wool will be diffferent to linen/cotton] - reason being that most commercial papers have a bit of kaolin applied to the surface. higher pH ergo tendency [for example] to give blues from purple leaves, as opposed to the purples and reds you might get in a more acidic environment.
you'll find though that the cheaper the paper [ie NOT acid free] the more pinks and reds you'll find from dyeing
i could ramble on
but it's time for a cup of tea...

Hillside Homesteaders said...

that's not fennel, but it may be poison hemlock or wild carrot/queen anne's lace!