Eco-dyeing across 3 continents…

I learned traditional dye methods in the Ryukyu Islands, located in the southernmost Prefecture of Japan.  Ryukyu dye methods have been practiced for many, many centuries.

As i continue to learn dye methods originating from around the world, the more i see common methods and themes.  The Ryukyu dye methods,  for example, often utilize saltwater or soy as a mordant.*  I’ve learned that many other textile cultures utilize the same mordants.

*Note that Ryukyu fermented dye processes do not always utilize a mordant.

Ryukyu pigments originate from local plants…hibiscus, fukugi, croton, and Ryukyu Ai (indigo) are some examples.  Often the pigments are “extracted” via fermentation resulting in a concentrated dye bath that can be used for months.  The pigments, on the other hand, may be used for many, many years in creating Bingata dyed textiles.  Since Ryukyu dye methods utilize the natural elements in the Ryukyu environment, i consider Ryukyu dye methods as one of many eco-dyeing methods.

India Flint, a talented textile artist, has created beautiful eco-dye surface designs utilizing local plants in Australia such as eucalyptus.  As i review her work, and the eco-dye work of many other talented textile artists, i’m fascinated with the possibilities of combining traditional Ryukyu dye methods with other eco-dye methods…

So i’ve been experimenting utilizing plants representative of the Ryukyus, Australia and North America…or “Eco-dying across 3 continents”…As i work, i’ve been fermenting the dye bath in a hot, humid environment just as i was taught in the Ryukyus.

Plants and resists were bound in cloth, placed in a crock full of rainwater and a piece of iron.  The crock was covered and left to ferment in a hot and humid environment (temperature varying from 85-100 degree heat) in indirect sun…the bundles were rotated and stirred every few days…fermentation occurred in 10 days, then the pieces were unbound and plant matter returned to the garden to compost.  Here are some initial sample results on vintage Japanese cotton cloth…

Sample No. 1

Note the blue dye migration of the Ryukyu Ai (indigo) from the bottom of the photograph below towards the top…yellow hues from coreopsis, brown hues from yarrow…black and dark brown images from resists (yarrow flower bundles) and iron mordant…

Ryukyu Ai, Coreopsis, and Yarrow.  Iron Mordant.  10 Day Fermentation.

Sample No. 2

Note the beautiful brown silver dollar eucalyptus leaves in the photograph below…yellow from coreopsis…blue hue at bottom of cloth from Ryukyu Ai

Eco-Dyes – Coreopsis, Eucalyptus and Ryukyu Ai.  Iron Mordant.  10 Day Fermentation.

Sample No. 3

Note the Ryukyu Ai leaf at the bottom of the cloth in the photograph below.  Can you see the associated migration of the blue Ai dye from bottom to top?  Note the brown eucalyptus leaves…yellow from coreopsis…dark brown from resists (metal binder clips)…light brown hues from yarrow…dark brown and black from iron mordant…white lines from elastic bands on the bound bundle…variable textures on left and right sections from croton leaves…

Ryukyu Ai, Croton, Eucalyptus, Coreopsis and Yarrow.  Iron Mordant.  10 Day Fermentation.

Now…there’s more experimentation to do.  Cheers to you!


Published by Ryukyu Heritage Textiles

Weaver. Fiber Artist. Photographer. Cook. Independent Traveler. Writer. Knitter. Fiber Spinner. Gardener. Geoscientist. Nature Lover. Angler. Marathoner. Wife. Observer. Taster. Technologist. Did i say Weaver?

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