Logwood chips

I have tried logwood essence in the past and was not overly happy with it – it only gave black, was prone to “caking” (I think that’s what it can be called, when the dye accumulates on the surface of the egg but comes off easily whith the wax), sort of found a solution – placing the back egg into another dye (I think I used red Sappan wood), to seal the black of logwood more to the surface of the egg, and didn’t make it again even though I do still have some of the essence powder.

Then, me being the restless experimenter, I saw the logwood chips being sold in one of the online shops, and could not resist buying them and trying them out.

According to Cardon, logwood (Lat. Haematoxylum campechianum) was the Mayan black dye, the word for logwood tree and for the color black are the same in Mayan language. It was brought to Europe along with the other South- and Central American dyes, and at the beginning caused some confusion – the lilacs, blues and purples achieved with logwood were extremely desirable but not lightfast, so at some point there was even an attempt to outlaw the logwood dye. When the Europeans finally got over their fashion desires and started using logwood for the black, the ration of quality per price of it ended up being much better than other sources of black, including the later non-natural version. It kept being used long after the invention of the chemical dyes, the last shipment of logwood logs came to England around the beginning of the second world war, and the last of that was milled sometime in the 1960-s. Logwood essence was already in use for a while and was more economical to bring over. It is still used now in medical pathology, haematoxylin which is made from logwood is a common stain used in histology.

So, here are some of my first logwood chip result. I have soaked them in boiling water with some calcium, and the first batch of dye was this soaked water, the second one was the same chips simmered in new water again, giving a very similar if not the same result. The dye I got was a bit brown-looking, and was giving a sort of cream to meauve to purplish brown. With strong yellow it produced the mustardy-green, and with alum – dark almost black purple. Some of the instructions said, if it looks brown, then the acidity of it can be reduced to result in a more bluish color, so I did add some baking soda since I did not have the suggested ammonia, and indeed the changed the outcome towards greyish-blue with alum and black with iron. Similar results on turkey eggs.

I’ll try to get some ammonia and play more with it.

Last two weeks

Made some more eggs, some were attempts to copy Lithuanian drop-pull eggs, while others were inspired by Lithuanian patterns. A number of dyes – two of coreopsis (extract and fresh), elderflower (dried), sappan wood, madder, saskatoon berries (frozen), I think that’s it though I might have forgotten something. Mainly with alum, one egg had sappan wood with iron on background.

And the season is over for now…

All of these colors were achieved with the combinations of saskatoon berries (blue), sappan wood (red, pink), buckthorn (yellow), buckthorn with iron (brown), gardenia (yellow/gold), coreopsis (gold), elderflower (yellow) (except emu where no dyes were used), plus the natural variations of eggshell color and vinegar for etching.

I’m becoming more comfortable with drop-pull technique, seeing more possibilities. While most of these eggs are trying to be strictly traditional as much as possible (mostly Ukrainian, some Lithuanian), a few patterns have just appeared out of nowhere, non-traditional (though not necessarily anti-traditional) which is nice. To write “my own” design is something that almost never happened to me in the other more common technique, so to have it happen in drop-pull after a relatively short time is rather surprising and even inspiring. 🙂

I’m getting ready to put away the dyes and tools for now, but there might be some more posts of close-up shots, and who knows when the next time will be…

Saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia)

Berries are special, tricky but special. I didn’t even know this berry existed before I moved to Regina, but it was very much used by the natives here (it was supposedly one of the ingredients of pemmican). It looks a bit like a large blueberry, though it is supposedly more closely related to apple, it tastes a bit more like black currant maybe, and once you cook it, it smells beautifully of cooked sour cherries. And it dyes. This was made from cooked frozen Saskatoon berries with alum.

Shades of blue are just the Saskatoon berry dye, and other shades are over-dyed with other colors. The dye is rather strong and tends to overpower the colors under it, but if you put it into red or yellow after the blue, shades and even different colours can be achieved. The purple egg is sappan wood over sask berries, the green ones are coreopsis and elderflower over sask. The yellow on the light-blue egg in the bottom is elderflower, then the egg was etched with vinegar back to white, and the light blue is a quick dip (maybe 5 min.) of a white egg into sask berry dye.

The question is, how long will the color last? Berry dyes tend to be not very lightfast, so I’ll need to do some experiments and wait and see what happens.

Cabbage with different mordants

Tried the cabbage recipe again, wanted to see what different mordants would do. Shredded a full purple cabbage and boiled for about 20 min in 2l of water. I think it could take more cooking, there was still color left in the cabbage. Drained the liquid, divided into 4 jars, to try iron, vinegar, alum and baking soda. Final result:

Here are the eggs after about an hour in the dyes:These are iron, vinegar and alum. Soda didn’t really work much at all, so it’s not in this picture. Then I added alum into both vinegar and soda jars, to see whether that would improve how the color took. Left the one in just alum and vinegar+alum for another hour to achieve one more shade, left the rest for the night. Here is before taking the wax off, iron, vinegar, alum, soda (that one didn’t change at all after adding alum, and did not give a darker shade overnight, vinegar improved with alum, but the dye didn’t adhere so well to the egg):

So, I recommend alum. Vinegar and soda didn’t work very well for me, however, I used tap water, and it’s full of chlorine here, which might affect the dyes, can’t really be called a pure experiment. Use demineralized or distilled water if you want to make your experiment really “scientific”, and let me know how it goes.

The iron was OK, gave a decent gray after an hour and almost black after a night, but I wouldn’t use cabbage for that, unless you don’t have other options and don’t mind the cabbage smell.

Last year’s eggs

Here are some eggs that I made last year but didn’t get to post on the blog. As usual, natural dye experiments.

Smaller egg – duck, yellow-marigold, brown – dried elderberry (not particularly reliable, seems like). Bigger egg – goose, yellow– marigold, orange – madder, brown – dried elderberry.

Yellow – weld, olive green – malva, blue – cabbage, pink – old madder+cochineal after vinegar. Smallest egg is chicken, then duck, the goose.17546764_10155099642727660_3361046898600688573_o

Weld (yellow), cabbage (blue, green, teal), duck eggs.17349598_10155028475437660_8850810793684496621_o

Weld (yellow), cabbage (green/olive), and madder/cochineal (orange), duck eggs17239776_10155028478162660_7696951738701663448_o.jpg