Since you may be wondering about the picture of beige fabric in the last post, here is what that is about. I love finding something to do with a plant or plant material that is really prolific, bordering on being a nuisance. For instance, knapweed is one of my favs-it is everywhere and is as beloved by gardeners as much as starlings are loved by birdwatchers (not). So, piles and piles of horse chestnuts are only too tempting. I have done posts in the past about them and made laundry soap out of the nuts themselves. Since they and their hulls are sort of gnarly; meaning they have a lot of tannins and saponins etc., this time I wondered if there was any possibility of using them as a mordant or co-mordant. I also was trying to figure out if it is worth saving them from year to year or to simply go out and get what one needs for the season and let the squirrels have the rest, being one of the few animals that actually eats them. I had old and new hulls to work with. For the eco printing part I used dried and pressed Red Maple leaves (acer rubrum) as those things will print on darn near anything under almost any conditions.
|First I put the hulls to soak for about 3 weeks or so. I thought it was interesting that the old ones sank and the new ones floated and were still this way at the end of the soaking period. I poured each jar in its own pot and simmered for about an hour, no boiling. I strained off the liquid and returned it to the individual pots. Then I added one small piece of plain silk crepe and one piece with an alum pre-mordant to each pot and simmered for an hour, again, no boiling. I let it set overnight to intensify the color.|
|The top two are from the pot with old chestnut hulls, the bottom two with the new ones. The darker fabrics are crepe with alum pre-mordant and the lighter fabrics are no mordant. |
|This is the silk crepe with no mordant and new hulls, but a wee bit of contamination from some stray steel wool-that is what the black squiggles are. Cameras drive me to distraction-the pink is not nearly this bright in real life.|
|This is the fabric with new hulls and alum premorndant.|
|This is with old hulls and alum as the mordant.|
|This is from old hulls on plain silk. I decided to see what would happen if I gave it a dip in an iron pot with water and vinegar-and that is how I ended up with the not too exciting beige fabric pictured the other day. Sometimes if you give vague prints a dip in iron water of some sort they get over being shy and show up-but not in this case. At any rate, I learned what to do or not do the next time around.|
I guess I concluded that it is better to use the new hulls rather than the old and that as a mordant by themselves, the hulls alone are not grusome enough to really be a mordant. However, I did like the alum pre-mordant and then eco printing on top of that. The result is a lot more zingy in real life than the photo and would be a way to get some green in the winter. I am going to let them hang out for a bit and then give them a wash later on to check on the longevity of the color. As mentioned above the nuts themselves are known for making soap. Supposedly if you do it with totally neutral water it actually acts as a "blueing" like our grannies used to make yellowed sheets appear white. I could never get that to work, but it does clean up fabric pretty well. Due to the saponin content though it is probably no safer than regular laundry soap and is not to be used as soap on skin. As to the name of the post, in Britain and Ireland there is a traditional children's game using the nuts (called conkers); to my understanding the nut is threaded on string and each child swings theirs around to try to break the other's. In terms of safety it sounds like it is somewhere between lawn darts and dodgeball, being closer to dodgeball end of the spectrum.
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