curvylou

textiles · exploration · misadventure

Poison Oak Plague

7 Comments

High steel radio tower fronted by blooming fennel seed.

Sutro Tower at Twin Peaks

Marin headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, from the top of Twin Peaks .

Marin headlands, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, from the top of Twin Peaks where I used to live.

I went up to Twin Peaks last week to harvest invasive yellow dock for dye play. I came home with a little bit of dock—and a raging case of poison oak.

I knew I was in it, and I knew what I needed to do when I got home to take care of it. And I forgot. And that oil just sat there on my skin all day. Until I took a hot bath. And dispersed the oil. All over myself.

It is so bad I had to get a doctor’s prescription for a corticosteroid, which is saving my sanity, if not my life.

Otherwise, I haven’t left the house, because I look like a walking plague victim and I feel a little bit humiliated. Like a dog that chewed up the sofa, or got her head stuck in the trash can.

The nice thing is, since I’m sticking so close to home, I have tons of time to play with dyes, and I couldn’t resist sharing these experimental rust- and yellow-dock dyed fabrics with you. They are so glorious and happy-making. I LOVE them!

To make them, I placed some fresh slices of yellow dock on two pieces of cotton muslin, wrapped the fabrics around rusty iron bits, dampened them with vinegar and water, and let them sit two or three days.

When I unwrapped them and discarded the yellow dock, there was no yellow, only greys where the dock had been.

I washed one fabric, and left the other alone, because I was going to continue yellow dock experiments on them, and I needed to see whether removing some of the iron mordant would affect the color results.

Here they are after drying. Left is washed, right is unwashed:

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

Fabric after rust and yellow dock cold dyeing.

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

Grey areas are where the dock slices sat.

Two little finger-shaped packages of rust-dyed fabrics rolled around sliced yellow dock

Rust- and dock-dyed fabric rolled around fresh slices of yellow dock.

Two little finger-shaped packages of rust-dyed fabrics rolled around sliced yellow dock

Close up on rust- and dock-dyed fabric wrapped around fresh yellow dock. Grey bits appeared during the first rusty, cold bath.

Two little finger-shaped packages of rust-dyed fabrics rolled around sliced yellow dock

All tied up and ready to be steamt!


The grey spots are where the dock sat, and they begin to address the question that lead me to this experiment: would the iron mordant overpower the yellow dock, or could I create a rust-dyed fabric presenting both yellow and orange? Iron mordant tends to dull and darken colors, or sadden them.

So, the iron mordant did apparently sadden the yellow dye to greys when introduced under these cold-dyeing conditions, but I wanted to see what would happen with slightly variant treatments, so I gave the fabric another dose of dock root.

For this second serving, I used both sliced and pulverized root. I placed these onto each fabric where no yellow dock had sat during the cold dyeing, and rolled them up into what looked like dolmas, particularly after they were tied shut. I steamed them in a vegetable steamer for one hour, unwrapped them, and discarded the root.

This time they displayed a tiny bit of yellow!

The dried fabrics are my all time favorite out of everything I’ve dyed so far. I wasn’t planning for the blacks and greys, nevertheless, I LOVE them. I plan to post other yellow dock and some lichen dyed fabrics soon, but they don’t compare to these, and in fact, were the inspiration to experiment this way.

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

In the bottom layer the small black and grey spots and mottling are from the pulverized dock.

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

I LOVE the grey/orangy spot with its vivid orange corona.

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

Yellow streak, bottom right. The similarly shaped black streak above it matches its shape. The black, then, must come from the bark!

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

Large yellow streaks where the dye ran, bottom right. I wonder if some of the other, unseen yellow dye went into brightening the orange.

Dry fabric dyed swirly rust orange, yellow, grey, and black.

I love the vivacity of this section.

I just absolutely adore these, and think further experimentation is in order. I’d like to try soaking the dock for longer, two or three days, because I’ve read this can soften the pigment, which might make more of it come out onto the fabric. If I pare off as much of the bark as I can, perhaps there will also be less grey and black.

But… I need more yellow dock.

Hazmat suit? Anyone?

7 thoughts on “Poison Oak Plague

  1. Oh No! Not poison oak!
    These fabrics are just so beautiful CurvyLou! All my respect for being able to create these colors. Just fabulous!

    Liked by 1 person

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