Willow Immersion Dye For Fabric

When Jill asked me to do a demo at the Wisconsin SDA meeting, I proposed willow dyeing, thinking some of our members would have been at India Flint’s presentation at the SDA conference in Minneapolis last June. It was fascinating to learn about using eucalyptus and seawater, but we don’t have those resources in Wisconsin. We do have willow. In abundance.

A week or so ago, I cut some willow that hadn’t dropped its leaves yet, I cut it up into short lengths (leaves, tips and woody parts), and threw it into a couple of pots.When making an immersion dye, I like to cover the dyestuff with water then let the pot sit for a day so.

We had a warm, sunny day, so I just left the black enamel pot on the hood of Bill’s black truck for a while.

The other container was an aluminum pot I bought at a garage sale. This was my first time trying aluminum for dyepot-as-mordant.

The next day, I brought each pot to a slow simmer over medium heat. After simmering for an hour or so, I let the pots sit overnight. The next day I fished out most of the willow bits. (A more careful dyer would have strained it.) I then pour the cool dye into a plastic jug for storage. (I left the aluminum experiment in the pot for several days before I transferred it.)

When I’m ready to dye, I pour what I need into a saucepan reserved exclusively for dyeing. My simmered bundles usually contain some metal, which leaches into the the dye, so I try to use just what I need and keep the rest of the batch clear and bright.

Here’s fabric from two bundles simmered in clamp-resist bundles in willow dye from the enamel pot. Tomorrow I’ll show how I got the darker color on the fabric on the left.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in growing willow, I wrote about that here.

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

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