Thoughts and images from an eccentric and somewhat reclusive artist
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Black Bean Blue
As seen before in my
previous posts Walnut Juice and Oak Gall Soup, I have been experimenting and learning how to use
natural materials as fabric dyes and art supplies. While I was
researching to make the dyes, I saw mentions of using black beans for
a nice blue colour. This intrigued me so much I thought I would try it. It is both easy and fun!
I really like India Flint who does a lot of beautiful and inspiring work. I also found a couple of
good blog posts here
and here that helped me
get an idea of what to do. But for
the most part, I am 'winging it' which is half the fun!
I began by putting a
cup of dried black beans and water in a glass bowl. I let it sit
covered for 24 hours and poured the liquid over the fabric (two yards
of unbleached muslin – not pre-washed - folded and laying in a
rectangle casserole dish) and covered it up. Sorry... no photo of that.
I put more water in
the bowl and repeated the soak. After 24 hours the soaking fabric
was beginning to get an odour so I transferred the fabric and liquid
(old and new) to a metal pot and set it outside. I covered it to keep
The bean soak was
repeated so that there was a total of four 'doses' of liquid. I
poured them through a colander and stirred up the fabric each time.
I noticed that the fabric nearest the surface was a more
greenish colour than the rest so I used a large stone to completely
submerse it. Interesting point: each batch of liquid was darker than
the one before.
When ready, I pulled
the fabric out and spread it evenly on an old door screen. I did this
because I had found that, when I hung dyed fabric on my rack, it
tended to have variant lines throughout. This time I wanted a more
universal color. It was a breezy day and I had to clip it down, but
muslin dries quite quickly.
A couple of days
later, I heat-set with an iron. My heat-set process is always to iron
both sides as hot as possible. Then I rinsed in water until there is
no (or very little) colour bleed. I use just barely warm water only
because the cold hurts my hands. This was wrung out and hung on a
rack to dry and then heat-set again.
Here it is before
being rinsed. The pretty variations are from the mould that formed in the
The final result:
There is also a
small swatch I experimented with first. I had some dinner beans in a
slow cooker and after they had been going for a few hours, I put a
small piece of fabric in the pot for about an hour and removed. I
then processed as I do the rest. It came out a darker bluish brown
which I find quite interesting and useful.
Here is a photo of
all my recent trials together for comparison. From left to right: 1/
Walnut husks; 2/ Avocado; 3/ Avocado (longer soak); 4/ Black beans
soaked; 5/ Black beans cooked.
Since I had not used
the refrigerator, and the process took 5 days, I threw the beans in a
corner of my yard. Who knows... maybe they will grow. I also poured
the water over my herb plants.
My next natural dye
blog will be about using avocado skins and pits. I am working on them
now and it is going well. I am also preparing to experiment with
pre-treating small pieces of fabric with mordant materials such as
soda ash, salt, alum, soy, vinegar, etc. to compare the results. Once I
feel I have established a decent rapport with the materials and processes, I
will start getting artistic with them! I will use some of the dyed
fabrics as surfaces for my creativity.
At some point, I
will need to make something with all these fabrics. A quilt maybe? I
think a cool looking jacket or shirt would be awesome.