textiles · exploration · misadventure

Bougainvillea HUMPH!


tiny balls of lavendar and pink yarns, closeup on rust-dyed fabric, dye jars

Two rows of seven tiny balls of yarn, from silver to lavender to pink.

Top row has been dipped in vinegar.

Fibers mordanted 3 days, and cured one week before dyeing. Same process as before : prune, macerate, soak, strain, divide the dye evenly amongst my separate jars for each mordant, add fibers, leave to sit three days.

This time I was careful to keep them cool, so the dye wouldn’t turn brown. I dyed two samples each of yarn and cotton, and dipped one set in a mild vinegar solution, as I’ve read that can sometimes increase the brilliance of a dye.

Not what I hoped for, but still.

Seven fabric swatches and tiny balls of yarn, from silver to lavender to pink, naturally dyed with bougainvillea.

Pre-mordants: top row, left to right: alum & cream of tartar, brass, copper, iron; bottom row, left to right: gelatin, soy, and urine.
After-mordant. Left, none; right, vinegar.

Again, I can’t call the experiment a failure. These are nice yarns, and are, for the most part, very pretty. Both copper-mordanted yarns are a lustrous, sterling silver that I really like, surprisingly metallic for such a matte yarn. And the vinegar post-mordant gelatin, soy, and urine yarns* are subtle, elegant lavender and pink. Water hyacinth. Cherry blossom.

The vinegar-dipped fabric was particularly interesting. This mottled look has exciting possibilities, and I really like it, particularly the iron, gelatin, and soy versions pictured in closeup at left. The gelatin and soy are more of a textural success than a color success; the iron-mordanted swatch is just fantastic.

Seven fabric swatches, mostly greyish, but with variety in shade and mottling.

Top row, left to right: alum & cream of tartar, brass, copper, and iron mordants.
Bottom row, left to right: gelatin, soy, and urin mordants.
All are vinegar post-mordanted.

Left, alum mordant; right, brass and copper mordants; vinegar post-mordant.

Left, alum mordant; right, brass and copper mordants; vinegar post-mordant.

Close up on greyish blue bougainvillea dyed fabric swatches with interesting color mottling.

Left, alum mordant; right, brass and copper mordants; vinegar post-mordant.

Iron mordant, vinegar post-mordant. Love, love, love this one.

Iron mordant, vinegar post-mordant. Love, love, love this one.

And yet, no recreation of the vibrancy of bougainvillea.

In a sad way, these three experiences reflect the evolution of my relationship with Teri. After she moved away, we had only two or three brief reunions. Although we’ve spoken here and there on the phone over the years, we’ve never been able to recreate the natural vibrancy of our youthful friendship. This is mostly my fault.

It would be easy to blame the situation on my parents. I was emotionally timid by that age. They didn’t think about how much I would miss her, how young I was, how I might need guidance in reaching out to her, reassurance that it was okay. Possibly they should have. But it isn’t fair to blame them.

My parents had their own issues. Neither one of them was raised to reach for something they longed for, something just out of reach. They were both raised, rather, to forget. To let lie. To be satisfied with what is at hand. And so, therefore, was I. And if they had known what I needed, if I could have told them, they may have responded differently. At that age, I did not yet have a voice; I could not yet speak for myself. That took twenty-five more years.

Teri reached out during our adolescence and early adulthood, but I never reached out in return.
Then I was neck deep in alcoholism, and when I surfaced, sober, I was incapable of real relationship, wrapped up, for several years, in staying sober at all costs, in healing my broken mind, and becoming the kind of person who could have grown-up relationships. I am still not great at them, but I am better.

By the time I was healthy enough to reach out to her, Teri had moved on. I called her after her mother died, and she sounded like she couldn’t care less to have me on the phone. I’d disappointed her so many times, she’d stopped trying.
I don’t blame her, but sometimes I miss her, and wonder, what if I just tried. One more time.
*A short note on the use of urine as a mordant: A traditional mordant for possibly thousands of years, urine is also known as a “conditioner” for wool, in that wool mordanted or treated with urine is softer than that not so treated. My urine-mordanted yarns are amazingly soft and supple. Interesting, no?!

6 thoughts on “Bougainvillea HUMPH!

  1. All interesting re dye process. Sorry about Teri and the relationship but it never hurts to try one more time….

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  2. I’m finding the more variables I try, the more there are to explore. Inexhaustible! These bougainville posts have made me think about Teri a lot, lately. I need to dig around and see if I can find her telephone number…


  3. Funny how one part of life brings something from our past to the forefront, isn’t it? I hope you reconnect with Teri in a meaningful way. And I always like reading about the dye process! FIBERS!!!

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    • Yes, it is! Humans associate so many things together, all our lives long. Thanks for your kind wishes about Teri… she has quite a presence in our lives, despite not actually being in them, as I tell Matthew stories about her and me all the time..

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