It’s that time of the year in Perth where the Oxalis, also known as sour grass and soursob, is everywhere. it’s an invasive weed so no-one minds when I collect it from verges and public places. This is me, after a swim, helping myself to oxalis near the pool.
And this is how I extract the dye. I get large glass jars and fill them with flowers – sometimes I’m too lazy to get rid of all the stalks – and then I pour hot water over and let them steep. If I’m in a hurry I simmer them on the stove, but I like to take my time and enjoy the process. The jar with the orange liquor is made from the oxalis liquid with some soda ash added. It’s interesting to play with the Ph on natural dyes. If I added acid, the yellow gets paler.
The little scraps of fabric in the foreground are my experiments.
I cut my dress out of the minty green cotton which was donated to my stash by my friend Leonie, and I decided to mordant it. I don’t usually mordant cellulose when I’m dyeing with oxalis, but I wanted to play. I used tea bags for tannin, soaking overnight, and then alum and soda ash as the mordant.
I used the Pauline Alice Patterns Xerea dress, which I’ve only made once before, but it’s a really good pattern for small pieces of fabric. This photo shows the colour I obtained, with the original colour on the top. Afterwards I did think that I quite liked that minty green!
I modified the neckline on the dress so it didn’t have the V at the back, and I inserted a short invisible zip into the back yoke. I had planned to paint patterns on the dress with the orange modified oxalis, so I lined it with towels so my painting wouldn’t bleed through the layers, and I got my equipment ready.
I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do – wavy lines going round the dress. I dipped my brush in the orange liquid and hesitated. She who hesitates is lost, and I dripped splodges onto the dress. Hmmm! Then I had a Pro Hart moment and just filled my brush with the liquid and tapped it and flicked it so I now had a spotty dress!
Whilst I was doing this, Mark happened by and decided I was having too much fun and wanted to join in! He did the back and sides.
We had so much fun! It’s interesting to note that if you get a splodge in the wrong spot, as I am wont to do, you can just paint over it with the original oxalis and it restores the ph.
Because the oxalis is so sensitive to ph, I decided to insert some underarm shields so my perspiration or deodorant wouldn’t change the colour. I made them from the original green fabric and used bamboo wadding on the inside. I used press studs on the seams to secure them. The bulk of the shield is placed towards the front.
I’ve had some really good information from one of my lovely followers, M-C, which read: “I remember those sweat pads from the 50s. Rounding the corners would give you better results, less visible from outside the dress. You might also consider cutting an armscye seam in the middle so it conforms to your body.” Next time I make some I’m definitely going to do this. Since making these I’ve found patterns on the internet.
I was quite surprised by how short this dress is. I used some wide leopard skin bias binding to create a hem and it can just be seen in the photo above. Luckily I don’t really mind showing my knees and it’s a summer dress so I feel I can get away with it.
I had made a toile of the copied COS collar from the same green fabric, so I also dyed that and tried it with the dress. Unfortunately the neckline doesn’t really suit the collar, so I’m back to the drawing board on that.
I’ve had so much fun with this dress and the eco-dyeing. I can’t wait for the warm weather so that I can wear it!