Complex botanical dyes and ecoprints on silk – painterly inspiration

Lunar Mystery ecoprint scarfLunar Mystery Scarf – with cutch, indigo, blackberry leaves, coreopsis, cotinus coggygria leaves and marigold petals on flat crepe silk – SOLD.

During the autumn months of 2015 I created a collection of silk scarves using layerings of ecoprints, botanical dyes and resist dye techniques. As an artist with a background in painting and printmaking I have always enjoyed complex layerings of colour and texture.  I have been observing within the ‘ecoprint’ community that there seems to be a preference for exact detail of the leaves and other botanical material. In my opinion this is often at the expense of the subtle nuances of colour that ecoprinting can offer. I think this is due to an overuse of iron as a mordant. While iron does bring out details it also saddens and darkens colour. Iron can also affect the integrity of silk and can leave it duller and less ‘silky’. I always use alum as a mordant and I sometimes use iron in small amounts. My interest lies more in the painterly and playful effects of layered colour and texture and the infinite nuances of colour from botanical dyes and ecoprints than in reproducing the leaves exactly.

Where some may find the yellows and golds unwanted in the scarf below, I find it beautiful. Not using iron allows the golds and rusts of the coreopsis and the pale lilac blues of the cotinus to flourish. Where the warm and cold colours meet are an infinite variety of subtle greens.

Golden silk scarfCotinus leaves and Coreopsis silk scarf – with cutch, cotinus and coreopsis on flat creper silk scarf – SOLD

On the subject of painting, during my recent show “Botanical” I had the pleasure of showing my work with the lovely miniature botanical paintings of artist Nadine Stefan. We decided to do this after noticing how our work complemented each other. It was so rewarding for us to see our work displayed together in this way. We had an almost sellout show!

Botanical Show“Botanical” – Hidden Garden Gallery, New Denver, BC, Dec, 2015

Botanical show“Botanical” – Hidden Garden Gallery, New Denver, BC, Dec, 2015

Nadine Stefan paintingsNadine Stefan miniature paintings in “Botanical” 

Nadine Stefan is an artist who works in a wide variety of media. Check out her website here: Nadine Stefan

Here are a few more pieces from my collection  – some have sold and others I have made available for purchase in my online gallery  – Those still available appear first in my products, and following those I have left some of the sold ones for you to view. here:

Wine and Gold scarfWine and Gold scarf – with cochineal, madder, cotinus coggygria leaves (smokebush), coreopsis leaves and flower buds, and sumac leaves on flat crepe silk scarf – SOLD

Moom and Leaves silk chiffon scarf

Moon and Leaves silk scarf –  with leaves of maple, birch and cotinus coggygria ecoprints with cutch, brazilwood and indigo on crepe de chine

Blue green gold silk scarfBlue green and gold ecoprints and itajime silk scarf – with madder, coreopsis, cotinus coggygria, maple and indigo on crepe de chine.

Botanical Dream scarfBotanical Dream silk scarf – with black tea, coreopsis, cotinus coggygria and maple leaves on flat crepe silk – SOLD

Landscape Illusion scarfLandscape Illusion scarf – with black tea, cotinus coggygria leaves, coreopsis flowers, sumac leaves and indigo on medium weight silk habotai

Blue and Brown silk scarfBlue and Brown ecoprint and botanical dye silk scarf – with maple leaves, marigold and cotinus coggygria ecoprints with cutch, black tea and indigo on silk chiffon

Mother pf Pearl and Flowers silk scarf Mother of Pearl and Flowers silk scarf – with black tea, brazilwood, coreopsis, cotinus coggygria leaves, indigo on sheer lightweight silk habotai

Late September Garden silk scarf Late September Garden silk scarf with cochineal, coreopsis flowers, Japanese maple leaves and cotinus coggygria (smokebush) leaves on crepe de chine – SOLD

 I wanted to extend a sincere thank you to all those of you who supported our show “Botanical”, both locally and afar. Also, many thanks to all of those who have emailed me recently with your kind words of encouragement – I appreciate you all very much. I am considering the idea of presenting a workshop – perhaps here in the Kootenays in the early Fall when the local leaves are strong with colour. I will keep you posted.

Botanical Alchemy – ecoprint, plant dyes, itajime and indigo

Ecoprint, itajime and indigo silk scarfFlat crepe silk scarf with rhubarb, madder, indigo, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Summer has flown by and though I have neglected to post here recently I have been collecting plant material for dye vats and contact prints, scouring and mordanting )mostly silk), starting and reviving indigo vats, dye baths and bundling, stitching and clamping shibori resists, stitching rolled hems, photo record keeping (trying to keep up), and then selling much of what comes out of all this activity at my local village market.

Here are some of the results of my summer:

Cotinus Cogyggria and black tea scarf

Flat crepe silk scarf with madder, black tea, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis

Ecoprint silk crepe scarf

Silk crepe with madder, rhubarb, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Paul Klee scarf

Silk charmeuse with rhubarb, madder, indigo, cotinus coggygria, cutch, coreopsis, itajime ( the colours and textures in this one remind of the paintings of Paul Klee)

Summer flowers silk scarf

Flat crepe with onion skins and coreopsis

Itajime, indigo and rhubarb silk scarf

Crepe de Chine with rhubarb, madder, indigo, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Silk charmeuse and coreopsis

Silk charmeuse with cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, cutch and black tea

Summer flowers and onion skin scarf

Crepe de Chine with onion skins, coreopsis, cotinus coggygria and rose leaves

Ruffled ecoprint shawl

Crepe de Chine silk shawl, double sided with ruffle – St JohnsWort, goldenrod, indigo, maple leaves, cotinus coggygria, coreopsis, itajime

Eco Dye Prints and Natural Dyes on Various Silk Fabrics

Diversity is the spice of life – and it is this that sustains my passion for what I do.

Silk crepe ecoprint Morgen BardatiCrepe de chine – with sumac, cotinus, maple, cutch

Since working with natural dyes and contact printing I have discovered more about the wide variety of silk fabrics because silk takes up plant dyes so beautifully. In fact the botanical dyes almost seem to nurture or condition the silk and make it’s lustre even more exquisite. Here are a variety of silks I use and a bit about how each one works for me in the natural dye and eco printing process.

Silk crepe ecoprint Morgen BardatiSilk chiffon – cutch, cotinus, maple

Silk chiffon is a sheer fabric with a crepe-like texture. It has a soft, more matt surface and a beautiful drape. Eco-prints on it have a watercolour quality and colours are slightly subdued compared to other silks.

raw silk shawl

Raw silk or silk noil – cutch, cotinus, maple leaves, coreopsis

Raw silk is made from the short fiber left over from the silk spinning process. It has a gentle drape much like linen, a nubby texture and no lustre. However I like it and use it a lot because it takes up dyes really nicely and eco-prints are clear with possibilities for interesting colours not seen in other silks. (like the blue greens I arrived at in the piece shown above). Another quality of this fabric is that it has a beautiful gentle smell and it reminds me of the silkworms I used to keep as a child growing up in South Africa.

silk charmeuse ecoprint Morgen BardatiSilk charmeuse – madder, maple leaves, cotinus

Silk charmeuse is stunningly luxurious! It has a beautiful buttery lustre and a sensuous drape. I have found that eco-prints can appear almost blurry on this silk and not always consistent, but natural dye colours can be beautifully rich. No doubt about it though, this silk is shimmery shiny and everyone loves it.

stone wash crepe ecoprint Morgen Bardati‘Stone or sand wash ‘ crepe de chine – coreopsis flowers, service berry leaves, logwood, oak leaves

This is a really lovely silk to work with. It has a crepe like texture but more subtle, like suede leather. The lustre is soft, pearly and mysterious and the drape has some weight to it. The detail of prints on this fabric is really amazing – some of the prints that it produces appear photographic.

crepe de chine Morgen BardatiCrepe de chine – with cotinus, maple, coreopsis and maple

I think this is the silk I am drawn to the most – crepe de chine – also shown in my first image in this post. It has a softly textured surface which gently  catches the light. There is a substantial weight to this silk but it drapes gracefully and luxuriously. The lustre of this silk reminds me of the gentle glow of the wax bloom on grapes and plums. I enjoy the detail in the ecoprints on this fabric and the surprising variety in colour, especially it’s affinity for purples and pinks and warm pastels. Prints can sometimes appear like painted watercolour and other times with startling detail.

Ecoprint scarf - Morgen BardatiSilk and wool blend – rose leaves, coreopsis, maple leaves and cotinus

This is the only silk blend I have tried with natural dyes and because it is also a protein fibre scouring and mordanting are the same as the other silks. This soft lightweight fabric has a textured surface which makes for a more watercolour effect in the plant prints. It has a beautiful soft drape and not much shine from the silk, but it has a richness as it catches the light. Sometimes there is a 3D effect of prints on this fabric which is an interesting quality – you can see this in the rose leaves in my photo.

IMG_3173 copySilk habotai – walnut, logwood, lichen, strawberry leaves

Silk habotai, also known as ‘china silk’ is a fabric I have used a lot in the making of my reusable food bags so because I had it around I started working with it first when making eco-prints and natural dye experiments. It is a classic silk fabric with silky shimmer and drape. It can be surprisingly versatile and strong. As you can see in my example above it can be screenprinted with delicate lines that don’t bleed (I have used walnut and logwood here) prints can vary from watery to very clear  – a drier eco-print method can facilitate a clearer print. I use it a lot for accents and ruffles on big shawls as it is very lightweight and economical when you need lot’s of fabric. The image below shows a lighter weight silk habotai with a more watery effect.

silk habotai - Morgen BardatiSilk habotai – madder, iron, cotinus and variety of mixed leaves – not much detail of print but the colours were extracted and blended with each other

Mother of Pearl silk scarfFlat crepe – madder, cotinus, maple leaves, iron

Last but by no means least is this amazing silk fabric. Flat crepe silk has a shimmery shine which is almost luminous. I wrote about this piece in my last post ‘Madder and Mother of Pearl’. The way that the plant colours interact with this silk is sometimes astonishing. They seem to make the fabric glow from within. It actually has a very subtle texture like crepe but the texture has been flattened – hence the term ‘flat crepe’. This silk drapes somewhat like the charmeuse, with a soft buttery coolness.

Some of the silk I would still like to try are pongee, dupioni, silk velvet and one of my favourite blended fabrics which I used a lot with fiber reactive dyes: hemp silk.




Madder and Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl is to me one of the most beautiful materials on the planet. I grew up on the coast of South Africa and as a child I spent a lot of time wandering along the edges of the surf picking up shells. Also known as ‘nacre’, mother of pearl came to me in the form of the abalone, or, as we called them in South Africa, the ‘perlemoen’ or ‘venus ear’ shells. Imagine my surprise when a piece of silk I was working on with madder and local plant material produced the iridescent colours of mother of pearl.

Mother of Pearl silk scarf

I first dyed this piece of flat crepe silk in a light madder dyebath. Then I bundled it with maple and smokebush leaves and steeped it for an hour in a stronger more vibrant madder dye bath together with another piece of the silk which I later used for the back of this two sided scarf.

Mother of Pearl silk scarf

I was at first startled by the red fiery markings on the delicate background of pinks and greeny golds. I decided to fold and clamp the fabric and placed it in a post mordant of iron. That’s when the magic happened. The most amazing colours developed out of this process.

Mother of Pearl Scarf

The ecoprinted maple and smoke bush leaves were not in themselves remarkable. They were’nt even as clear as I would have liked. Perhaps they were ovewhelmed by the strong colour of the madder. But how they mixed with the madder and iron astonished me. The range of blues, pinks, green, golds, greys and silver are so amazing. How the light plays over these colours on the silk makes it look iridescent and alive.

Mother of Pearl Silk Scarf

I actually did this piece last fall but have’nt until now been able to figure out how to capture the qualities of the colours. I recently noticed how true the colours of my silk scarves look under my white market tent and the way that the sun diffused under it. So I have been setting up under my white tent against a canvas backdrop and photographing silk seems to have improved for me. It still does’nt quite capture the way the light interacts with the colours but I think it’s as close as I’m going to get.

Eco Dye Silk Scarf

This is quite a large scarf, more of a shawl really. It measures 22″ wide by 60″ in length.

Mother of Pearl Silk Scarf

Mother of Pearl silk scarf