Sunday, 3 January 2010

Rose petal beads and tea dyed silk

Our water has frozon today so I feel it fitting to dedicate this day to daydream about last summer. One thing I managed to take the time to do for the first time last summer was rose petal beads.

There are many different recipes for rose petal beads online -- you can find several listed by me here -- and I read as many as I could find before giving it a try. I have mostly followed a version written by Cathy Covington, who puree the petals using a blender instead of using the old Victorian technique of boiling/simmering them for hours. Unfortunatly, her recipe is no longer to be found online.

I picked petals from several different rosebushes, some pink and others red. Luckily dad has mostly chosen to plant old-fashioned roses with wonderful scents, not the modern one that look good and blossom for a long time, but lack that real rose scent. To make them more special, I also added another sweet-smelling flower: Sweet mock orange or English dogwood ( Philadelphus coronarius L.). We have a couple of bushes in our gardens and they smell lovely. No summer is complete without the scent of doftschersmin in the evening.

It's impossible to tell the size of the dried beads from photos only. I haven't measured them, but would guess that they are 14 mm i diametre at the most. The colours of the dried beads are a melee of red and brown, reminding of silk ribbon I own. Many doesn't look divine, but that is how they smell.

They feel lightweight and fragile and I think one way I might use them is for decorative scented boquets/bags/pomanders for the closet. Or perhaps they will be part of a pendant or earrings.

But how, then, are rose petal beads related to tea dyed silk cords? Other than I dyed them the day after I made the rose beads. Actually it didn't start out as a project related to my venture into bead making. It just ended up that way. But I will tell you the story from the start.

I visited my local Panduro store, a craft shop chain, once when they had a sale and I bought two dozen white silk cords for a fraction of the normal cost. They spent a long time in storage until I finally decided I had to dye them, even if it meant I would have less cords left -- and that tea dyeing would be both fun and cheap. Barely anyone in our family drink tea so teas we are given or buy to serve tea-drinking relatives just sit in the cupboard most of the time.

So I did my usual round of research online. And I also began to wonder what the result would be if using green tea. Would the silk turn green? I'd love that! Found green fabric online which was supposedly dyed with green tea so it seemed plausible even if other websites warned of unpredicatable results.

What I did learn from my research was this:

  • Salt or vinegar/ättika can be used to stabilize the colour. One website says to use 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water, and 1 spoon of salt. Soak for 15 min, dry and press. The tannins act as mordant.
  • The dye can also be heat set.
  • Colour can fade in the sun.
  • Dye can be removed with bleach and too much washing using modern detergents.
  • Work on all natural fibres.
  • Use at least 2 bags of tea per cup. Rinse in cold water.
  • Coffee dye will leave a smell longer than tea does. (So not for me.)
  • Some say the tannins will deteriorate the fibres over time.
  • Best for small projects.
  • Green tea works, but many different variables will affect the outcome colourwise.

Knowing that I began, using different teas and letting the cords soak for different amount of times. My green tea did give the cords a bit of a greenish yellow tinge, but not as much as I hoped for. Below, in my crummy photo, you can see the different shades I ended up with -- upper-most cords are undyed. Green tea to the right and fruit-flavoured black tea to the left. In the middle a cord dipped in both.

Don't worry -- I haven't forgotten the rose connection. Well, after all my tea dyeing I couldn't give up thinking about dyeing with plants and natural dyes, something that had interested me as a kid. Actually, at one point as kids we did make "ink" out of flowers, mostly evening primrose or St John's wort, (i.e. boiling them with vinegar and reduce) and also "painted" with petals on paper. I can still feel the special vinegar smell from those inks. But we never really did try dyeing fabric. I guess mom thought that would mean too much work and special ingredients.

Well, as I mentioned above, part of making the rose beads included mixing the petals, which resulted not only in a puree but also a lot of rose juice. That juice, which I squeezed out of the puree to make firm beads, was saved. Don't ask me why. It had a pleasant smell so I guess I didn't just want to pour it out. So, one thing I had discovered about rose juice -- let us call it that -- was that it could stain clothes, paper and skin. Because that it did when I made the beads. I know somethings stain when you don't want it to, but refuse to be used as a dye on purpose. Still I wanted to give it a try. I added a splash of vinegar and salt (see above) and dipped the cords.

As you can see in the first photo of the silk cords, I did manage to give them a nice rosy colour. The flat cord was "heat set" using an iron. The cord in the upper part of the photo is both rose dyed and tea dyed. I liked that result. Unfortunatly I have no idea if my amateurish dyeing is good enough to make rose dye that won't fade in sunlight or over time... [UPDATE: the rose dye was unfortunately not permanent even without sunlight bleaching it. No difference between heat setting it or not.]


Footnote: The first thing I wanted to tea dye was actually not silk cords, but FW pearls. Inspired by websites on the subject, I actually once did try to dye pearls using plants, but it failed. Haven't given up though. If you are interested in dyeing your own pearls, please check out the links I've listed here.

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