My participation in one year one outfit has sparked an interest in eco dyeing. I have already had a go with eucalyptus leaves and I thought I’d try bracken leaves as I have a few growing on our weekend block. I picked a few, boiled them up with some rainwater in an iron pot and then loaded in the eucalyptus dyed fabric into which I had rolled a few leaves. I tied it all up with string and weighted it down with a rock and left it alone for a week.
I realise that the rock might change the chemical composition of the brew and therefore skew my experiment, but as I’m not being overly scientific I decided I wasn’t too fussed by this.
A week later I pulled out a purple slug-like piece of fabric. I was thrilled.
If you examine the above photo carefully you can see the imprint of the bracken leaves. I was now beyond thrilled.
I hadn’t pre-mordanted this piece of fabric, so I decided to post-mordant it with a brew of she-oak nuts. As mentioned in my last post, I made like a squirrel and gathered the nuts, and boiled them up with some rain water and plunged in my fabric.
It looked totally disgusting. I left it for a day and then took it home and washed it.
OK, mild disappointment. My fabric is no longer purple but a kind of dirty lavender and most of the bracken imprints have vanished.
Of course, had I used silk or wool, this might have been a stunning experiment, but I have masses of white cotton that I don’t mind sacrificing and no white silk or wool. It’s still interesting though and I will turn this into a long top that I can wear under things in the winter.
Since conducting this rather iffy experiment, one of my friends, who is a botanist, told me that bracken is highly toxic and that early settlers would use it as fodder and bedding for calves and it caused haemorrhaging and death. It also makes sheep psychotic! Hence, this will be my first and last experiment with bracken as I’m not sure how I feel having that little lot leach into my skin.