Following up on my experiments with wild leeks, I have discovered a few key and interesting facts. Not all cotton is equal. I had experimented in May with some very fine cotton I purchased at the fabulous Ribes i Casals fabric store in Barcelona. Though the results were not as stunning as the silk, the color still had a rich, buttery quality to it, that proved a nice contrast to the silk. So I felt sure the cotton sheeting my friend Cristina from Hotel Cal Llop had given me was going to be great. Our idea was to recycle the fine cotton sheets used at the hotel that were too worn for use. The cotton had a nice, tight weave, and a good brightness to it. However, when I went to dye, as I stated in my previous post, the results were disappointing. And the boiling recommended by my neighbor in La Figuera, though helpful, still was not yielding the results I was looking for. Anxious that my extraction process was flawed, I decided to dip some mordanted silk in to the bath. And sure enough, gorgeous, magical color.
Conclusion: my original concept of making teas in the sun, for maximum energy efficiency, is still viable. The problem was not with the bath, but the fiber. The recycled cotton , though of a great quality, may have been too tight a weave, washed too often with soap that created a barrier (even though I wash all fabrics prior to dyeing), countless possibilities why the color wouldn't penetrate.
Next experiment with the wild leek: tap water versus salt water from the Mediterranean Sea.
After lunching at one of my favorite beach side restaurants, El Vaixell, and a swim in the sea to digest (contrary to the popular childhood adage, wait 30 minutes), I hauled out two 5 litres bottles of salt water to experiment with. Needless to say, the sight of a tall, rather pale woman hauling water out of the sea raised some eyebrows. Oh well, all for the cause of discovery. After gathering a new batch of leeks this morning, down behind La Perla del Priorat, I boiled one batch in tap water, one in salt water. The results were interesting.The silk manifested a rich, herbed butter color in the tap water, and yielded a color more akin to the color I managed on the cotton in the salt water bath. So, as I have been suspecting, the alkalinity of the water is going to prove to be an interesting aspect to this process. And perhaps the cotton I got from Cristina had been washed so often in water high in alkaline that the fibers have been compromised. Yikes, I didn't mean to turn my art in to a science! But it seems that the marriage of the two is inevitable.