So, the moment of truth. A whole month has passed since putting my solar dye jars out in the sun and at last I can find out what, if anything, has happened to my fabric.
A couple of days in: To start with the spinach dye smelt like farmyard manure, so I thought it was probably best not to put my lovely fabric in it, so discarded that solution. Fortunately my fennel plant had grown enough to harvest some leaves. I just put them in a net bag on top of the sea water and soya mordanted fabric in a jar and added water. Even the next day I could see the fabric had turned to a lovely pale green/ yellow – perfect. The avocado one has gone a peachy colour – not quite the ‘flesh pink’ promised. The plum skin dye has already turned the fabric a gorgeous dusky pink. I hope that lasts and I’m not really sure about the purple onion skins in the last jar. The water is a red colour, but the fabric looks taupe? The onion skins were the replacement for the black beans. I researched them some more and discovered that they prefer a cold dyeing process. So, I put some more beans in a large dye pot with cold water and left it for 24 hours before removing the beans (which were in a net bag) and adding some fabric which had had an alum and soda crystal mordant the previous day. I left this for another 24 hours. After a few hours it turned a beautiful mauve (gorgeous and I probably should have removed it at this point) but when I checked again the following morning hoping it would be more intense, it had turned a vibrant blue, still lovely but not what I wanted, so I added bicarbonate of soda and it changed to a sage green. Very pleased with that. I know it looks grey in the pictures but it is sage green. Actually, in these pictures the blue does look really nice.
So, a month on:
The jars all look lovely.
I hung all the fabrics up to dry in the shade and decided not to wash them until after they have been stored for a few months. The first jar I emptied was the purple onion skins – a very strong onion smell! I’m not sure what you would call the colour, (an orangey brown?) but I like it. I painted a pattern with an egg resist onto this fabric before it was dyed and this shows up as a dark brown. It will be interesting to see how this alters when the fabric is washed.
The avocado dyed fabric, which also had an egg resist painted on came out a lovely pink colour with dark pink flowers and it didn’t smell too bad. The third one, the plum skins, was the slightly disappointing one. It had faded a bit from when I last checked it and was even paler than the avocado dyed fabric, but was still pretty and it had a really lovely plum smell. Now, for the fennel. Maybe if I had added more fennel foliage it would have turned out with more of a green tinge, as it had appeared after the first day in the sun. As it is, it came out pale yellow and slightly mottled. I will definitely use this fabric if I can get rid of the aroma of fennel combined with eau de farmyard manure!! I think I might need to store it separately from my other fabrics.