Belated Easter Treats

How very Martha of me. Not that I dyed Easter eggs using cabbage, beets, onions, and turmeric. Not that I also decided to dye some fabric. But the colours are all Martha. And if you look around this site for about five minutes you'll see that I don't generally work in softer colours. Like I always say, it's good to change things up a little.

We dyed eggs with friends on Friday. I was totally enamoured with the colours, and very surprised from that orange from just a few onion skins. So I left all the eggs with our friends, but took home the rest of the dye juices. We dyed a few more eggs but that liquid colour looked too good to throw away. I already had all my scraps out so I grabbed some pieces of white on white and threw them in the bowls. The orange is from onion skins, the yellow from turmeric, and the purple measuring cup contains the liquid from boiled red cabbage.

This is the fabric as it came out of that red cabbage juice. Such a lovely purple. It clearly turned the eggs blue, so this was a bit of a shock. But a good rinse in cold water and some air time to dry and the fabric all turned the same soft blue/grey as the eggs. Perhaps a little less blue.

These are the turmeric stained fabrics right out of the dye water. So yellow! And even though I rinsed and rinsed they stained quite bright. And point of fact: turmeric dyed fabric will smell like turmeric long after it is rinsed and dried.

Look at my strips drying so nicely together!

And here are the eggs and their associated fabrics. In truth, they may be Martha colours, but they really are softer versions of the colours already in our house, namely turquoise and orange.

So I took all the scraps, trimmed them into strips, and started sewing. I went for the silly a little, in making an egg shaped placemat. This was easy to do. I simply created an egg shape out of paper so I had something to compare to as I sewed. You could also use it as a paper pieced project. Then I sewed the strips together. Once I knew I had my desired size I trimmed the top, cut out backing and batting and sewed it all together with right sides together.

Full disclosure, I screwed up twice when sewing it together. That's what I get for rushing to get it done during naptime. But I got myself sorted out and finished it off after turning it all right sides out and sewing that last seam around the edge.

There is a peak of the backing fabric. I put on something bright and fun so that if/when the top gets wrecked/runs I can use the other side for springtime. And there is my Smilosaurus checking it all out.

How Can You Tell I'm a Quilter?

With my return to work imminent I've been quilting up a storm and I've been trying to get the house in order. We still have no nanny, but the house is almost ready for a new person to be trying to get around. Seriously, why is it so hard to hire a nanny? We aren't crazy people. Maybe a little odd or uncoventional, but not crazy.

I digress.

One morning last week Smilosaurus and I were playing in her room while Hubby worked in the living room. While she was happily crawling around and exploring I started taking a few photos for my colour study (see the right sidebar there). I was struck by a grouping of books on her shelf. As I took a photo I also noticed the pile of books sitting on the floor, pulled off by the little one. It is my anal nature to want to organize things alphabetically. Alas, the girls aren't quite old enough to shelve things this way. Sing the Alphabet Song, but not put things in alphabetical order. What's an anal quilting mom to do? Organize by colour, obviously!

I tried this once with all of my own books and hated it. I was used to the conventional way and suddenly couldn't find anything. In the girl's room, however, I thought it would be perfect. And now I walk in and honestly I feel calmer. Order is nice, colour is even better. I did show my stash, right?

As you can see, we have a lot of books! There are some hand-me-downs and some books from Hubby and his sister's childhood. There are a lot of new books because I always ask for books as gifts when questioned. Plus I'm a sucker for sales on books and will buy more for us when I go in to buy for gifts. I should point out that there is also a pile on the nightstand and a basket in the living room where we rotate seasonally appropriate titles.

Could I pick a favourite? Aside from Curious George and The Three Little Pigs, The Monster is in love with this book.

I must admit, I am too. Rhythmic, urban, and unique it is fun to read. The book is Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie.

Share your favourite book with the Children's Book Parade over at 6 O'Clock Stitch.

Natural Dying - Nanking Cherries

Here is the second round in my natural dying experiment. I picked the nanking cherries off the bush in front of both ours and the neighbour's house. These tiny red Prairie cherries are a staple in my life. We had a bush in our yard growing up. Actually, it is still producing cherries at my parents' house. Usually one of the first things to bloom, the flowers are a tender pink in the spring. By August you have juicy, dime sized cherries with a small pit. Sure, they are a little tart, but they make an excellent jelly. I realized after the fact that I should have taken a picture of the cherries, but you can still check them out.

This time I used an unbleached muslin and a scrap of plain white cotton. The top photo is the before shot. For the dye I used the mash again, mixed with some juice. I made the juice by boiling down about 3 cups of berries with a few cups of water. I ended up with 3 cups of juice, 2 of which went to making some sherbet. The dye was an orange-pink colour.

To prepare the fabric I decided to treat it with a mordant, alum. Alum is toxic, if you eat a tablespoon or more. But considering it is sold in the spice aisle at the grocery store and is approved as a food additive, I decided it fit into my efforts at natural dying. I simmered the fabric in the mordant solution of 2 tablespoons alum to about 6 or 7 cups water. I know, I should measure and give you more precise instructions, but this was done after the girls went to bed. The fabric simmered for an hour while I simmered the dye solution about the same time.

After soaking in the mordant I squeezed out the excess water, but did not rinse the fabric. Then I added it to the dye and simmered for another hour, stirring to make the colour a bit more even. After an hour I turned off the burner and went to bed. This is what it looked like the following afternoon. We decided to go swimming, so I never got to it in the morning.

From that vibrant colour I got this pale pink. This is it after a few rinses with cold water.

This is it when it dried. The unbleached cotton is on the left.

I've decided to try a few more items, sticking to traditional Prairie materials. My next experiment will be with the berries of the mountain ash tree.

Natural Dyeing - Black Currants

Inspired by the look of the jellybags when I made black currant juice I decided to try some natural dyeing the other day. I saw this post on Crafting a Green World ages ago, so I had some direction.

I chose two different fabrics to see how each would take the dye. The one on the left is a traditional white on white and the one on the right an unbleached thick muslin. I first simmered them in a mixture of 8 cups water with 1/2 cup salt for an hour. I only had kosher salt and fleur de sel in the house, so kosher salt it was. The salt is supposed to act as a mordant, encouraging the dye from the juice to stay on the fabric. While that was simmering I took the mash (the berries) from the blackcurrant juice making and simmered that in some more water. Sorry, but I wasn't wasting (as I saw it) the blackcurrant juice on this experiment.

Here is the fabric just as I immersed it in the dye. I simmered the fabric for another hour on the stove. Then I shut it off and let it sit overnight.

Don't you love the colour? Here is the fabric in the morning, just as I took it out of the dye.

And here it is after a couple of rinses. The running subsided, but it was still running so I added some white vinegar to help set the colour. Unfortunately, that seemed to encourage more running... So I gave it one more rinse and put it outside to dry.

This is the end result. More grey/mauve than purple. I would hesitate to put this in a quilt that is going to be washed, but it is still pretty enough to be used in a wall hanging
If I was willing to try some non-toxic methods for dying I've had great results with the Procion dyes, but this was an experiment with non-toxic, natural dyes. I've done a bit more research since then and it seems that cottons are the worst at taking on natural dyes without a good mordant. But most of the literature seems to recommend using alum or other heavy metals as a mordant. Alum arguably non-toxic, but it isn't a gaurantee.
I am going to try some more natural dyes - nanking cherries, turmeric, and maybe some beets and onion skins. I'll keep you posted.