It is dependable(with the right plants and proper treatment of fabric).
And still has a couple surprises in store.
My favorite "surprise" is how color will vary based on pH. This is important in all dyeing, but I find it most obvious in hapa-zome, which I link to its immediate response.
Hapa-zome is a term coined by India Flint, and is a Japanese phrase that literally translates to "leaf pounding".
I pre-treat my cotton with aluminum sulfate, but don't bother to scourer.
Hapa-zome can be done on non-mordanted fabrics, I experimented with a kona cotton, but I'm not sure what would happen to the dye once washed.
Once mordanted, pick the appropriate plants, sandwich between fabric, and pound away!
The whole reason I experimented with hapa-zome was for the KIDS! I presented Queens Botanical Garden's summer kids camp: Children's Garden with some kid-friendly botanical dye activities. Hapa-zome was the first item and most hands on for the kiddos.
However, I had never used this technique, but I knew from reading it was a pretty reliable. I quickly tested my theory and was pleased with the immediate response the fabric had to botanical material.
I created tons of swatches from all sorts of botanicals growing in my garden and at QBG:
Pansy, petunia, coreopsis, mint leaves, and nasturtium (top to bottom)
Rose mallow aka hardy hibiscus, marigold, rose and cosmos petals (top to bottom/left to right).
Hibiscus is fun to work with since it is very sensitive to pH. The first time I dyed with it I was not aware of this sensitivity and was saddened to see the beautiful purple hues change to green once rinsed. NOW I am excited to experiment with the pH...stay tuned :-)
Pansy, marigold, nasturtium, basil leaves.
The basil leaves did not oxidize, which is odd. I checked on the sample, which is three weeks old as I write this and it's still bright green! Intriguing.....
To try hapa-zome at home follow these instructions:
Dye safe pot can be made of aluminum or stainless steel (not used for food)
Alum (potash aluminum or aluminum sulfate)
Mordant your fabric!
Mordanting can be done in many ways, soaking fabric with pomegranate rinds or oak galls. Soaking in soy milk, or most simply following these instructions for mordanting cotton with aluminum.
1) Mineral weighing
Multiple weight of fabric by 23% to determine amount of alum
Multiple weight of fabric by 18% to determine amount of washing soda
2) Vat prep
Boil a large pot of water
Once boiling add all alum to pot dissolve
SLOWLY add washing soda, it will sud up very fast so add little by little while stirring
3) Fabric time
Wet fabric before placing in pot. Ideally you would have had it soaking for the past hour, but rinsing and wringing in the kitchen sink does the job.
Add fabric to boiling water, make sure it is covered by water and can move freely
4) Cooking time
Allow water to boil with fabric for approximately 1 hour
Turn off heat, allow fabric to cool down in the pot for 24 hours.
Remove fabric and wring out water, DO NOT RINSE.
Allow to dry and cure for several days
Lay dry fabric flat
Lay out your botanical on half of the fabric
Fold the other half over top of the plants
Smash away with a mallet or object of your choosing
Peel away plant material
Let fabric dry
Steam with iron
Let cure for several days
Wash with pH neutral soap (dish soap)