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Cross stitch freeby + eco-dyeing, more results

I have been busy with sorting out more of my eco-dying experiments from the summer. I am going to show the pieces I tryed to dye with the bundles method I learnt from India Flint.
You take a piece of fabric, pre-mordanted with alum or alum+washing soda, put some plants (petals, leaves etc) on it, wrap it up tightly around a twig (tree bark contains tanin that can also help as a mordant) and tye it all around with a string. Then you can cook them in water or steam them - this is what I tried. See more details below.

It was not easy, as the pile of my samples grows, to keep track of what is what. I tried to number the fabric pieces with a pen - thinking that ink does not come out with washing, so it should be OK. It worked for most of the time but not always, I have some pieces which have the number all smudged out, so now it will be some guesswork. I took lots of photos during the process, and in this post I will try to match the photos of the same pieces together.

All these fabric pieces come from an old, probably hand-woven tablecloth that I bought at a loppis (second hand shop). Looks like cotton but it is possible that it is cotton-linen blend. It was pre-treated with alum and washing soda (2 tbs + 1 tbs to 5 liter water, India Flint's recipe). I tried all kinds of plants and flowers, I was desperately seeking after reds, roses, lilac... even though I read that it is very difficult to get those colours. I needed to see it with my own eyes. And, of course, I did. I mean, I did see that it is difficult :D

The names of the plants come in this order: English (Latin, Swedish, Hungarian).


Brown knappweed (Centaura jacea, rödklint, réti imola) and harebell (Campanula rotundifolia, liten blåklocka, kereklevelű harangvirág)

And the results:


3 Lady's bedstraw (Galium verum, gulmåra, tejoltú galan)

4 Purple flowerewd raspberry, (Rubus odoratus, rosenhallon, lila virágú málna)

5 Tufted vetch (Vicia cracca, kråkvicker, kaszanyűg bükköny)

6 Red clover (Trifolium pratense, rödklöver, réti here))

You cannot see the numbers in the photos, but they are the same, 3-6, in the same order.

Another picture with all of them, 1-6, just before I rolled them up. You can see, I only used the petals and I used some twigs to roll them into, then tied them with a piece of string. India Flint sugests a steamer to steam them for an hour. I didn't have a steamer so I came up with a solution that worked most of the time - but not always. I put water in a plastic container, put the rolls in it but so that they did not touch the water, put the whole thing in the microwave and turned it on for about 10 minutes. The water made steam and I did not open the door for about an hour. I think this is not exactly the same as steaming for real for one hour, but is seemed to work. But who knows, it might have affected the colours that I could get out of the plants. Not much, right? :( Oh, and one more thing: after they came out of the microwave, I put them in plastic bags and kept them out on the balcony (with some sunshine but not much) for about two weeks.


7 Tufted vetch pods (Vicia cracca, baljor av kråkvicker, kaszanyűg bükköny termése)
8 Creeping thistel (Cirsium arvense, åkertistel, mezei aszat)
9 Common agrimony, (Agrimonia eupatoria, småborre, közönséges párlófű)
10 Heather (Calluna vulgaris, ljung, csarab)


11-12 Great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum, rosendunört, borzas füzike)
13 Dog rose (Rosa dumalis, nyponros, vadrózsa)

The first one in this picture is n. 10, see above, the second is 11, and in the bottom row 12 and 13.

The next batch of eco-bundles came a week later.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, rölleka, cickafark)

Rowan leaf (Sorbus acuparia, japansk rönn löv, madárberkenye levele)
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria, fackelblomster, réti füzény)
Blueweed, (Echium vulgare, blåeld, terjőke kígyószisz - micsoda név, uramisten!)

And the result - this was the one when I realised that the steaming method I came up with might not work :( There wasn't enough water in the plastic container or I cooked it too long, anyway, the bundle got burned in the microwave. You can see it on the result. And my microwave still smells burnt. :(

kanadensiskt gullris, ringblomma, salvia, ljung

The result:

Common hollyhock (my neighbours have one that is deep purple, almost black) (Alcea rosea, stockros, mályvarózsa)

I decided not to wash it right away, after taking it out of the bundle. So I dried it, and keept it for a week or so.

Then washed it. Not much of the colour is left, but there is some. Kind of greenish-blue. Or bluish-green. (The brown in the end of the fabric comes from the iron rod I used to wrap it in - the iron gave it some extra mordanting - perhaps that's why it became greenish.
Again, not a very scientific way of experimenting. Which I now regret. I should have done two pieces, one with and one without the iron. Next time.

There were a few more plants and lichens I tried but they did not give any results, or - what is worse - I cannot find the sample :D Need to find a better way of marking my fabrics. I will have to buy some permanent fabric markers.

Anyway, to sum it all up, I have found a dozen or so plants that one can use to dye a piece of fabric yellow or beige, some of them a nice shade, most of them not so nice. The malva was the only one that had another colour.

Anyway, now I know. :D Not giving up. Autumn is here, berries and muchrooms might become the next victims. But before that, I still have a bunch of fabric I want to show you. Come back soon if you want to see the results of dyeing with avocado, red onions, beetroot etc.

And for all those who managed to read all this far, a little present. I made this cross stitch pattern just for you :D

Click on the picture to get to the pdf file. I hope you like it.


Butterflies - free cross stitch pattern

I went for a long walk yesterday. I have to keep moving because I really need to lose weight, and I am having problems with eating. I was also collecting plants and flowers to try in my eco-dyeing experiments. Unfortunately, in Sweden, summer is coming to a close. It is so sad in August. There are hardly any flowers left, and those are almost all white or yellow, except the thistles that are bright pink and purple. So not much colour is left in nature. It is still mostly green but some of the plants started to turn brown. It's the ferns that are the first and as there is a lot of them around here, there will be this ugly not so nice brown colour dominating the sight for a long time from now. A few trees started also turning their leaves, now, that will be pretty when all of them are golden or reddish brown.
And on top of it all, work starts on Monday. School opens on the 15th but we start a week earlier. I have to admit, I am not looking forward to it. I have rested a lot during this summer but my back was hurting almost all the time, and this week it has become even worse.

Anyway, as I was walking yesterday, I was thinking how good that the butterflies are still around, they provided such a lovely colour variation. So this was the inspiration for today's cross stitch pattern. I hope you will like them. I made them in shades of purple, but of course, as usual, I encourage you to try other colours too.

The eco-dyeing process is going on, I need to take some photos and organize my notes, then I will be back with another report.

I have also worked some on my next "spirit cloth" piece. Unfortunately, I wasn't very good at taking pictures as I was working on it. Here is a detail-photo, but I don't have a bigger one. Not sure where I am going with it next. Watch this place for more on it.

And the cross stitch pattern. Click on the picture and it will take you to the pdf file.

Happy stitching.


Dyeing fabric with plants - the results

Slow dyeing with plants

Last time I showed you some jars on my balcony. I experimented with spices from the kitchen as fabric dyes. A few days after I also collected some flowers and made more experiments. I used some garden flowers and also picked two wild plants, both yellow because they grow just outside my door. :D
For mordant I used alum. It was either put in the jas with the fabric and the dye material, as in the case of spices. Or I used fabric that had been cooked in water with alum for about an hour, then dried. I mostly used white cotton fabric, but also a piece of green linen. I also added some embroidery thread to some of the jars: in ecru, beige and soft lavender colours. Don't know the numbers, these were some threads I inherited after my aunt, and have no idea what they are. I read somewhere that you can change the original colours of the thread to something more soft, muted.

I had guests last week and we were travelling round a bit so I had no time to look at my experiments. The spices were outside for 17 days, the plants for 15 days. During this time there was some very hot weather, 25-28 degrees, lots of sun, and some not so warm, not so much sun. Swedish summer :D This is what I mean when I say slow dyeing: not putting and cooking the fabric in the dye, but leave it in it for a few days or weeks.

Here is the description of each piece. The colours in the photos are mostly true, except one or two faint ones. I write the English name of the plant (except the roses and peonies collected from my neighbour's garden), then in brackets you can find the Latin, the Swedish and the Hungarian name, too.

Lady's bedstraw, or yellow bedstraw (Galium verum, gulmåra, tejoltófű vagy tejoltó galaj)

It was put in the freezer for a few days. Then I cooked it in water, together with the stems, for an hour. (It would have been impossible to separate the flowers from the stem after being frozen. Might want to try again, and separate them before freezing.) Took out the plants and poured the liquid on some fabric (alum) in a jar. It was outside for 15 days. Nice light green color. Love it.

Garden or yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris, videört/strandlysning, közönséges lizinka)

"Tea"-method: put the flower heads in a jar, poured hot water on them, added the fabric. Almost no colour, only a very faint yellowish tint.

Roll-up method: the fabric had been cooked in alum. I wetted it, and put only the flower heads on the right side piece, and the flower together with the stems and leaves on the left side piece. Rolled them up, put them in a plastic bag. They were outside for 15 days.

I used a piece of twig for rolling up, which might have affected the colour, because the bark usually contains tannin. Should have made one with and one without, to see if it makes any difference. :/

Peonies (dark pink): A piece of fabric that had been cooked in alum. I wetted the fabric, put peony petals on it, and rolled it up. It was outside in a plastic bag for 15 days.

This is what it looks like after washing - on the right side.
The left side piece was made with peony petals that were frozen for a few days, then I poured hot water over them in a jar ("tea" method). The fabric had been washed in alum. I rolled up the fabric unevenly, hence the marble effect. I quite like it.

Roses (red): A piece of fabric that had been cooked in alum. I wetted the fabric, put rose petals on it, and rolled it up. It was outside in a plastic bag for 15 days. I was surprised to see how dark the marks are: dark brown, almost black. I want to try again for a shorter time, perhaps then I can get some rose or reddish colour.

After washing, this is how it looks: the fabric on the right side. Not pretty. :(

The left side piece was made with rose petals that were frozen for a few days, then I poured warm water over them in a jar. The fabric had been washed in alum. It became a sort of beige colour, quite nice but unexpected.


1 tsp alum, 1 tsp paprika powder, 5 dl hot water, 17 days

Almost no colour. Very faint orange on the white pieces, nothing noticable on the green linen.

In Hungary our most common dish, the pörkölt - a stew - is made with paprika. The cookbook says that you should put the paprika in hot oil because that's how the colour is activated. I also know from experience that it is very difficult to wash out stains from tablecloths after a pörkölt dinner. I though I might try this version, too.

I heated up 2 tablespoons oil, took it off the heat and added 2 teaspoons paprika. Then added 5 dl water and 1 tsp alum. Added the fabric folded and rolled up. It stood outside in a jar for 17 days. It worked, the colour is strong, but it did not penetrate the fabric, only reached the parts that were on the outside after folding. Even though I shook it a few times. Love it! But need to wash it some more, after washing it twice (once in dishwashing liquid, once in detergent) it is still a bit oily to the touch. (I am planning to do the same with tomatoes. Have you tried washing spaghetti sauce out of your clothes?)

1,5 tsp alum, 2 tsp turmeric, 7 dl water, 17 days outside in a jar

Lovely bright yellow. The threads also dyed.

1,5 tsp alum, 4 tsp turmeric, 7 dl water, a few metal caps

Love the colour, a bit stronger than the one with less turmeric, but I can see no difference from the metal caps. They were probably aluminum, apparently that does not work. Iron or copper is supposed to change the colour.
It also dyed the green linen!

1,5 tsp alum, 7 dl water, put the rolled up fabric in it, then added yellow onion skins on the top. This one I did not shake, I was curious to see how far the colour will reach. That's why most of the fabric is not dyed, but I like it. It is a beautiful light, soft yellow.

I am quite happy with my experiments. I definitely want to continue, the only problem is I only have one week left of the summer holidays. We will see how much time I can find after that.

The most difficult thing was to keep track of each jar and plastic bag. I wrote on them but the permanent marker has disappeared from quite a few of them. Luckily I wrote in my notes which jar contained which. But it was quite an organising task not to confuse them while washing and photographing. :)

If anyone would like to join me in experimenting, please do so, it would be even more fun. I will be back with more soon. Until then

happy stitching - and happy experimenting.


Spirit cloth - Serendipity I is done

I have finished it. I have to admit that I love it.

I have started the next one, haven't taken any pictures yet, but will be back soon with some. I am also experimenting with natural dyes. I have read Eco Colour by India Flint, and there is also a bit about plant dyes in my newest favourite book, Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesly Smith.

These jars contain some alum and spices, like turmeric and paprika, in different combinations. I have also picked some flowers, both wild and garden flowers (asked my landlady for the withered petals from her rose and peonybushes). Put them in the freezer for a few days, then did a few variations, e.g. used some as "tea" (poured hot water over the petals), some I simmered for about an hour before putting in the fabric, some I just put in some warm water and will let them sit for a long time, some I rolled up in a piece of fabric and put them in a ziplock bag... They are outside, theoretically the sun should warm them and help with the process but this is Sweden, we don't see much of the sun. :(

I started a book with records of all the experiments, otherwise it is difficult to remember. I will report here those methods that work. Really curious but have to wait for a while to have some results.

I have also been sewing a lot lately but my sewing machine has been acting up, and this morning it gave up totally. I need to take it to the service. :( Annoying: not only do I have a huge pile of clothes to mend, I wanted to make new curtains, and I am also planning to do some more patchwork. Not to mention the cost of the repair... let's hope it won't be too bad.


Spirit cloth - or where does it become art?

I consider myself very lucky that I could go and do a two-year textile teacher course at Umeå University. I needed the qualification, but I learnt more than what I am using in my job. I feel I managed to unleash some creativity, some freedom, som kind of courage in myself. Not fully, not yet, but I am on my way. :D

Since May, when the course was over, I have been planning to finally have lots of me-time in my crafts. Don't have to do any more homework. I have lots of sewing projects planned, clothes, bags and patchwork, but I was mostly looking forward to get into my most favourite of all crafts: embroidery. Even though I was working with it all this last term.

I have been looking at works, blogs, books by many textile artists and I have been accumulating inspiration. Then quite recently I found the concept of Spirit Cloth and a video course by Jude Hill, and I could wait no longer. I had to try my hand at it. Love the way Jude explains her work process, how she does not stress over things, how she builds up her pieces organically, almost randomly, with lots of improvisation. I thought this might be the right way for me.
I was also looking a lot at Karen Ruane, and Amy Meissner's Inheritance project ( I am even sending her some of my old fabric pieces for the project). I, too, love old fabrics and want to incorporate them in my work, want to give them new life.

So a few days ago I started, as if it was a lesson plan, by sewing three pieces of fabric together, like Jude says, in a landscape format. Then I sewed them on a very thin fabric. And old bit of linen, with the badly frayed edges became the bottom, a colour catcher that came out of the washing machine with this pretty peachy colour, forms the middle. The top part, the greenish-blue piece was originally my ironing cloth, which obtained the colour when I was trying to iron a pile of tie-dyed pieces. (They were done in my school in a science experiment and obviously the colour was not fixed because it all ended up on my iron and on my ironing cloth.)
I was really lucky with these colourful accidents, wasn't I?

After this, I added one element after the other. Old embroidery, doily, selvage from a nice fabric, a machine embroidered gauze fabric, leftover tulle pieces... a bunch of linen (or perhaps hemp) thread... lots of fraying edges... I was improvising. I added some figurative elements, like the birds and the flowers, but other parts are totally abstract. I used couching and applique.

I also added some embroidery stitches to enhance the shapes, but then I stopped myself thinking that I can continue with this when doing the "quilting". This is not going to be a real quilt, but it is three (or more) layers, and the backing fabric needs to be sewn together with the top layers. For backing I chose and old kitchen towel, looks like it might be hand woven. A bit thick, and a bit battered up, but it works well in giving the whole piece some stability.

I started the quilting, but not finished yet. I also started sewing down the "binding" - that is I just folded over the edge of the backing fabric. I left one side unsewn for the time being, in case the layers shift a bit in the quilting process.

You can see the quilting in the back, so far I was echoing the shapes on the front with matching thread - so the back will have different colours. But it's all right because most of them are muted and close to each other. Have I mentioned that I am also using some vintage thread? Bought them in a second-hand shop years ago. They are lovely to sew with, roughly the same thickness as 6-stranded floss, but 4 strands, and each ball is 40 meters. And I had an exact match for the linen and the peach fabric. I wish I had more colours.

I am enjoying the process. This took me about 4 days (not doing this all day, of course) so it is not so slow as one might think, considering it is all done by hand. But I am a bit unsure. My long term dream is to create textile art of my own. But I was reasoning like this: if I am waiting to become an artist before I start making things, it will never happen. It is better to get started, even if I am using methods learnt from others, even if I am not all that very original in my theme (like birds flying in the blue sky :P ) and just keep going. Sooner or later perhaps I will develop my own style, my own technique, my own little textile world.

This is the question that perplexes me. When does a piece of work become art? When does it become all mine - even if I am using motifs, like birds and flowers, that others also do? Will I know? Or is the doubt always part of it?

Anyway, I am going to be bold and name the piece. A piece of art (original or not, good or not) should have a title. So this is going to be Serendipity I. (The number indicates that there are more coming.)

If anyone has the answer to my questions, please don't hesitate to share :D

Happy stitching, everyone.