day three of course Ecodyeing (Tuingeheimen) at Viltwerkplaats Odijk

So this is that we did on the third and final day of the course Garden Secrets, which is all about extracting colours from plants and fixing it on cloth.

We made mordants in various strengths from alum, iron and a mix of the two. We worked very precise. With drug dealer scales and mililiter injection syringes.

We made technical reference pieces with dots in every mordant which we hung in various dye pots. We had five pots on the boil. In Dutch: gele ui, duizendblad, rabarberwortel, guldenroede en blauwhout. (Yellow onion, Achillea millefolium, Rhubarb root, Solidago and Campeche)
We had prepared the dye pots earlier that day or the day before. (So that’s a skill I now also have, yay!)

Then we chose various mordants within one colour bath and painted with that. We fixated the mordant on the cloth. Then the cloth could be put into the dyebath and the dye grabbed onto the cloth but only where the mordant was. We were painting with mordants. The results are the flower paintings below.

In the afternoon I did one classic eco print (just plain old iron water, with an unknown strength, probably STRONK, and some Rhus leaves) because I want to master making clear contoured leaves in heavy iron. The Rhus coloured purple which was a surprise.

I also worked with the various strength mordants and painted them all on one piece of cloth, in narrow stripes. I chose to add colour from leaves, not from a dye bath, and arranged various leaved. The result is stripy with leave prints. Very interesting.

My course mate did the same but with broader stripes and one, big leave, again Rhus, and her print is amazing. It’s the last picture.

(We both opted to play with mordants and leaves. Other course mates chose to explore batik techniques and prevent either mordant or dye to touch the cloth. This way you can work in layers.)

workshop Tuingeheimen Viltwerkplaats Odijk natural dyeing Eco verf

workshop Tuingeheimen Viltwerkplaats Odijk natural dyeing Eco verf

workshop Tuingeheimen Viltwerkplaats Odijk natural dyeing Eco verf

workshop Tuingeheimen Viltwerkplaats Odijk natural dyeing Eco verf


We learned to extract colour from plants and we learned about mordants to fixate the colour to cloth (cotton, linen, silk) and also shift the colours with these mordants.

on Day 1 we did Ecoprinting and Hapazone. Ecoprinting takes colours from leaves and puts them on premordanted cloth. Hapazone is hammering colour from flowers directly onto cloth or paper. This is without mordant and the colours are fleeting.

on Day 2 we made dye or paint from plant materials. Chop them up, soak them overnight, boil them, extract the colour and put it into little viles. Thicken them, add mordant to them. Can be kept for a long time. We painted with them on cloth and paper and we thickened them to use them for stamps.

In the afternoon we learned to shift the colours with iron and lemon. I’m looking forward to making my own paints and using them for water colour/ aquarel.

on Day 3 we prepared sophisticated mordants. They are used first and then colour is applied (either by dye bath or leaf printing). This way the colour can be determined far more precisely.

In the afternoon batik pastas were taught (but not the wax ones! Clay or flour batik paste instead, the African batiks). I opted for exploring sophisticated mordants with leaf printing instead.

All in all it was a very good course. Anja Schrik from Viltwerkplaats Odijk knows her stuff. She’s also a good course instructor who keeps impeccable timing so no one stands around being bored but also no one misses out on information just because they had to take a little rest. Also: the course doesn’t run late. That’s quite unique, isn’t it.

And it’s filled to the brim with information! Just like I hoped when I visited the studio for the presentation of the book and saw the sophisticated mordants for the first time being done.

It’s also all in the book, Eco Verven (39 euros). Which is being translated in German at the moment.

I’m very glad to have the book. I’m looking forward to work with my new knowledge. I bought some cochinelle because the colours that can be obtained from that are marvelous! They would be such a nice complementary parter to the indigo dyed linen I have at the sewing machine at the moment.

Lastly: the location of the course. A studio near three houses surrounded with one great garden filled with trees and green houses and crops and fruit and chickens and cats ūüôā

The kitten is called Sjakie and the adult cat is Obelix ūüôā
Obelix was adopted from the shelter and handed over in a bundle of towels because it was supposed to be “such an aggressive, hostile cat. Best to be kept outdoors. Pray you never have to take him to the vet because he will fight you nail and tooth.”

He’s the sweetest thing you ever saw! Basking in the sunlit garden, comes trotting when called because he LOVES the cuddles. Interested in what you’re doing. Turns out some cats just can’t stand the shelter. They want peace and freedom and then they their love for humans flourishes.
obelix the catobelix the cat


Muddling on getting pigment from indigo leafs

During the night all the calciumOH-sediment has sunk to the bottom. I poured the liquid into my second container. This should have some pigment in theory and my quest today is trying to extract it.

On Ravelry I got some good pointers about extracting pigment from indigo or woad leafs:

  • the leafs need temperature to release their pigments. 50-60 degrees for indigo leaves, way higher for woad. Merely pouring boiling water on them and leaving them for half an hour is one way. Shredding the leaves and keeping them in warm water overnight is another. The later is more precise and will give more pigment.
  • a dustbin liner filled with woad leafs will give just 3 tea biscuits worth of indigo pigment. My 50 grams of fresh indigo leaves will have crumbs, at best.
  • adding oxygen is so important. I poured the fluid to and fro for about 20 minutes. Using a kitchen aid whisk will work better. Using a drill with a whisk in a big tub is also a good idea.
  • indigo liquid will be way more yellow than woad liquid.
  • getting the pH up is really important. It needs to go up to 9?! test strips to test would be handy.

I added some more water to my calcium-drab and then left it to stand, trying to get more of the colourbits to float in the water as the sediment sunk to the bottom again. About an hour later I poured the liquid with the other liquid, leaving the drab behind.

It does have that tell iridescent tale skin on top:
But I have no clue what that means and what I can do with it.

I’m saving it, this calcium-sediment. Perhaps this is something I can use again to make a next thing less acid:
Having poured the second bit of liquid with the first one I’m now ready to add in oxygen. The oxygen will bind the indigo pigments and they will clump together. I think I’m looking for specs of dark blue dust, like a gold miner.

After trying to add oxygen for half an hour the liquid is still yellow and there are no grains of indigo in sight. This magic is not working today.

I made a cup of tea and read this tutorial by Teresinha Roberts from¬†Very interesting. There’s more to this indigo than just following a recipe…

Apparantly for the pigments to settle the liquid needs to be left undisturbed for three days. This is a problem, we are leaving for the city today. Won’t be back here for 5 days.

My choices are to leave it here for longer (shouldn’t do much harm I guess) or try and dye with it right away. There’s a tutorial on that too, over at Am reading it now.

No. This all is more than I bargained for. I simply don’t have the energy/stamina ūüė¶

I’ll be leaving the jar and see if anything has settled when I return here next weekend. I don’t expect so because there’s no hint of green or blue in this liquid. It may well be that the growing of this particular plant is the reason this does not work. Too cold, too dark, too foresty, too late in the year. It’s the last days of October and they are in bloom… which is weird. Also I may not have treated the leafs the right way, not hot enough. Or not long enough.

Weird thing: when I was pouring the liquid to and fro in the very beginning, when the leaves had only met the hot water and were only just removed from the liquid, I did end up with little bits of dark blue sand at the bottom of the vessel. I thought it was merely plant debris that has escaped the sieve. But the amount grew over time, as I kept pouring and as the liquid grew more darker. One of these grains I crushed and it seemed to be a bit of dark blue powder. But as this was in the wrong stage of the process to yield indigo -the acid level had not been adjusted yet- I reasoned this could not be indigo. Looking back it might have been?

Hey. The Dogwood dyer blends fresh leaves with icecubes and dyes straight from that. Interesting.

The pot has been covered and will remain in the cabin for a few days now. The few hours remaining until we travel I’m doing something else… I’m following the recipe on p 241 of the book Eco-Verf by Anja Schrik.

Eco-printing leaves on unglazed ceramics. Results in two weeks.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the Wrenna in the big yarn. In reality the k2tog or even k3tog are very bulky and the YO make very big holes. Not very pretty.
I’m glad to frog this and use the yarn in stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette stitch (= back panel Concrete)

Failed in getting pigment from indigo leafs

Today I tried the recipe from the book Eco-verf, page 196. It’s for extracting pigment from woad but Anja Schrik said it’s the same for indigo.

indigo plant extracting pigment book Eco-verf by Anja Schrik recipe p 196

50 grams of fresh leaves
about 1200 ml boiling water
following the recipe step by step. It is well explained and also has pictures so you know what to look for and why you are asked to do certain things.
indigo plant extracting pigment book Eco-verf by Anja Schrik recipe p 196indigo plant extracting pigment book Eco-verf by Anja Schrik recipe p 196extracting pigment from indigo leafsextracting pigment from indigo leafsextracting pigment from indigo leafstoo much CaHO2?too much CaHO2?sediment :( failedUntitled

Unfortunately it failed. It turned bright yellow when I added the lime/ Calciumhydroxide/ CaHO2. It was supposed to turn into green tea.

I probably added way too much CaHO2 as the recipe made me uncertain at that point by talking about “a cup of CaHO2” instead of grams. I’m also not sure whether I was to add a certain volume in regard to the volume of indigo-tea or in regard to the calcium-hydroxide-solution.

What do you think, did I interpret this correct?
translation p 202:
“The indigo fluid needs to be mixed with a CaHO2 solution. You need 1 part CaHO2 solution for 4 parts indigo fluid. For example: 1 liter indigo fluid requires 250 ml CaHO2 solution.
Prepare the CaHO2 solution: one cup of CaHO2 per 500 ml water. Add the CaHO2 solution to the indigo fluid. It should turn green.”

I had 900 ml indigo fluid so thought I needed just under 250 ml CaHO2 solution. I took 250 ml of water and added “half a cup” which I took to be 2 levelled diner spoons of CaHO2. I don’t know how big the cups of the writer are. It’s not a standard measurement of volume outside of the UK or USA. I was thinking coffee cups (not mugs).

I did a lot of trying to add oxygen but nothing changed, not in the colour, not in the consistency. It smells strongly of cement. When I put it aside there formed a sediment at the bottom (see last picture) and the tell tale “skin” appeared on top of the fluid. But it never got a hint of green or blue.

Now I am blue. I’d really loved this to go right today as I’m having a horrible brain chemistry/PMS day. I have not enough knowledge to know what I did wrong or what I could tweak to make it better. If it’s too much CaHO2 I could perhaps try to make it more acid with some vinegar. But I don’t know. I’m taking a break now. Please let me know if you have advice and I can try some things tomorrow morning.

Such pretty flowers:
indigo plant extracting pigment book Eco-verf by Anja Schrik recipe p 196
I gathered the seeds (and dropped half of them on the ground). Perhaps I can get them through the Winter and sow them coming Spring.

Bookpresentation and lecture “Eco-Dyes” by Anja Schrik

Viltworkshop Odijk has an amazing studio:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprintinglezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

The demonstration was awe-inspiring. 14 colours out of the same dye pot. Here are two dyepots, one from yellow flowers and one from cochinille. That’s 28 colours all together:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

Another example, using dye from only one onion skins dye pot:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

There were about 30 visitors, all women, and all “wool women”. Everyone was wearing something art-full and no one was keeping in her stomach, pretending to be prettier, and being miserable for it. They all had a technical keenness.

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

14 plants made into 14 plant dyes:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

These dyes where then used to dye these tops:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

Invitations for playing with stamps and tie-dying and eco printing:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

Latvian easter egg dye technique. These were so vibrant in colour! The photos do not do it justice:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

Another technique is hammering the dye straight into the cloth:

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

The lecture was amazing! It addressed the history of dyes, from cavemen rubbing red earth on there faces right up to the synthetic dyes of the last century. In between there was given much importance to the wearing of colour, singling out monarchs, Roman emperors and church officials as the only ones allowed to wear red and purples. Setting up guilds and keeping the recipes very secret. But only after dyers were snubbed for centuries because they stank up the place, with their buckets of fermented urine. And you couldn’t trust them anyway, with their magical powers to change the appearance of something. And their chemical knowledge… Shapeshifting stinking magicians, the lot of them!

 Tyrian, royal, purple. $4.000 per gram 5 years ago. 11.000 snails needed per gram. 1700BC-1100AD

This mistrust and the fact that dyers weren’t literate caused their dye recipes to be lost over the centuries many times. Egyptian times, Roman times, pre-ME times, Aztec knowledge, Mayan knowledge, ME-times, Neanderthalers, Peruvian recipes, Afghan recipes. All lost.

They also got researched and reinvented many times and it is something that modern dyers still do, in my opinion.

Nowadays we use bright and light fast colour in our cloths and surroundings as common as if it was sliced bread. But, much like sliced bread, the common and widespread use of it is fairly recent. Before that we had to “make do” with the traditional skills. (which I love).

And painters! We are so spoiled these days. Up until about a century ago every painter made her own paint. All through the renaissance and the Dutch Golden Age contracts were signed at the commission how much of the expensive Lapis Lazuli a painter was to use.

Those paints have faded… Only the most expensive ingredients may have survived. All tapestries and cloths and paintings have changed colour or have faded.

There was dramatic red in the sky of Turner’s painting when he made it. But he used fast fading reds¬†and now we’re left with golden magnificence of a very different flavour.¬†Artist’ prerogative? The link goes to an interesting article by¬†

Van Gogh used fading colours too. His irises were very purple when made. And his bedroom didn’t have¬†these tasteful docile light blue walls:

They were purple! And the floorboards were maroon. Put that against the green strokes between the boards and your 19th century eyes would start to water:

Van Gogh was way more colour mad than we give him credit for today. A whole new world of Vincent’s colours is there to explore ūüėÄ

He lived in the time when for every colour a synthetic variety was searched. Between 1850 and 1925 the race was on, dear Watson. It was a chemical race. Practically all the large chemical concerns we know today started out in those times as small producers of one or two synthetic dyes.

¬†Today’s AkzoNobel paint testing site in Sassenheim, NL

Anyway. I imagine that through every century the farmer-women have happily indulged into colouring their wools and their eggs with the plants gathered around their stead. Playing with what are called the “little colours” because they may fade fast you can have coloured garments¬†every day, as long as you’re willing to overdye once a year.

I did got to knit a little during the lecture, feeling every stitch blindly because my eyes were focused on¬†the projection screen for Anja Schrik’s very interesting lecture. She will repeat this lecture in Haarlem, at Meervilt, on the 29th of October and the 1st of December. There are also workshops and all the dye stuffs from the book are for sale.

I haven’t even shown you the actual book. I’m very happy with it. For me it is very complete and clear now that I have seen the demonstration and the examples from the book. The lecture was extra information.

With the book I feel confident to start dyeing. As soon as¬†next weekend¬†as the indigo plants at the cabin are about to wither now that the frost is coming. Indigo is a whole different class from the plant dyes and the pigment dyes! I feel confident to address is. That’s really saying something about both the book and Anja Schrik as an instructor.


The book Eco-verf by Anja Schrik I compare to Eco Colour by India Flint, which is also on my shelf.¬†Flint gives a lot of atmospheric inspiration, Schrik has more recipes and hands on. Having never done a workshop in this material I’ve always found Flint’s book intimidating. She is very good at it and I’d never be able to get her results. Schrik’s book Eco-verf is more user friendly, having a whole chapter of¬†step-by-step guides to get easy and reliable results.

But like I said, by meeting the dyer and seeing her do a demonstration and seeing the examples from the book, the information ordered itself in my head in a way that suits me better than when just reading a book or seeing youtubes about it.

lezing Eco-verf en boekpresentatie bij Viltwerkplaats Odijk. Plant Dyes, natural dyes, ecoprinting

onion socks: Tears of Laughter

I got a beautifully dyed skein of sock yarn from Wolop:

It’s dyed with onion peels. From red onions. Because they give green.
(White onions dye yellow. Obviously)

They were dyed in a jar in the window sill. With water, peels and a bit of alum. Just leave it for a bit, like a few weeks, occasionally turning the jar. It’s called solar dyeing. Whodathunk? So easy!

Wolop brought one of her jars to the fair and it was a great conversation piece. Here it is, on the right:

Midwinterwol 2015

This one has regular white onion peels in it and is dyeing yellow. Obviously.

The colour of my skein is marvellous! So intens and so happy.
It’s the very reason I bought¬†sock pattern Blattwerk by Stephanie van der Linden:

I’ve casted on and am having a blast knitting it. The colour, the pattern, the memories of the fair:

This is where I am this morning:

I’m even wearing a matching longsleeve!¬†For someone who proclaims to be in a silvery grey phase I sure do enjoy my intense ochres…

PS I’ve written about it before but plant dyes may not be light fast? That’s when I’ll dunk my socks in a fresh jar and put them in the window sill for a bit.

Image a window sill filled with jars with all different colours, sun light sparkling through. Knitters are awesome home decorators.