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

 

“Embrace” exhibition at Hidden Garden Gallery, August 2014

On August 11th to August 16th I exhibited a showing of my recent work at the Hidden Garden Gallery in New Denver, BC . My show was titled “Embrace” and included my “Old Age Security Blanket” project, drawings in graphite and ink, as well as a collection of eco-surface designed scarves.

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket“Old Age Security Blanket” – a slow work in progress (photo by  Isaac Carter)

From my Artist Statement:

“The word “Embrace” presented itself to me as an appropriate description of the energy I try to engage on my life’s journey and it’s expression in my art. It suggests the concept of a joining or closeness to people or experiences we encounter, and how they can change us or shape our life’s path. It also suggests for me the possibility of change through the meeting of obstacles, especially when the organic moving things of life encounter the solid or rigid structures in our path. An example of this is the economic system we are all born into and how it contributes to our personal stories. I visualize our aliveness as a moving changing energy like tree roots, river systems and blood vessels. The systems or structures we negotiate with appear in my art as a type of grid. The way we choose to embrace our obstacles and continue on our path describes the kind of change that can occur at that juncture.”

Morgen Bardati - Graphite on PaperStudies of roots and rocks help to inform the movement of the red lines on the blanket. (photo  by Isaac Carter)

“Embrace” is a grouping of recent work which includes an“Old Age Security Blanket”, a work in progress about my personal journey of enquiry into ideas of security, economics and growth. I am making this ‘blanket’ using found natural dye colour, pennies collected and saved in cloth and contemplation through stitching, words and drawings. An accounting ledger accompanies this piece to preserve a written record of money saved and organic thoughts collected along the way. It was the meeting of the red stitch lines and the pennies on my blanket which inspired me to explore the interaction between organic growth and solid obstacles in the natural world. The drawings of roots and rocks are a study of this interaction and they help to inform the movement of the red lines on the blanket.”

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket2My “Old Age Security Blanket” is a work in progress and I continued to work on it as it hung in the gallery. (photo by Isaac Carter)

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket LedgerAn accounting ledger accompanies this piece to preserve a written record of money saved and organic thoughts collected along the way (photo by Isaac Carter)

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket 3Old Age Security Blanket in process (photo by Isaac Carter)

My Old Age Security Blanket is a work in progress which began in April 2013 around the time that Canadian pennies were phased out of circulation. I conceived of the idea to create this blanket when I first became aware of the coming ‘extinction’ of the humble penny. Something in this event sparked an interest for me in exploring ideas around the movement of money. The loss of the penny, the first and smallest unit for trade, presented to me a metaphor for the extinction of ‘small and slow’. It speaks to me also of the loss of handmade traditions all over our world. When the penny was deemed ‘worthless’ it awakened an interest for me in the concept of inflation – the idea that money is created from the void between the making and growing to the final point of sale. Our financial security in the form of pension plans, life insurance, savings and investments are built on the idea of never ending expansion.

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket 4Old Age Security Blanket in progress – red lines are hand stitched with tiny seed stitches (photo by Isaac Carter)

This blanket is constructed with squares of fabric; two pieces per square, with 16 pennies stitched by hand between the layers. There are 12 squares in each row and I am considering that the final length will be 28 rows (but it could grow longer).

Morgen Bardat - Embrace show with OAS Blanket“Embrace” exhibit at the Hidden Garden Gallery in New Denver – OAS Blanket in process (photo by Isaac Carter)

The “OAS blanket” is designed to cover a bed, though it’s length will be at least twice as long. Hanging it as I did for this exhibit will probably not occur again as this entirely hand stitched blanket grows longer and heavier with pennies. I have seven rows completed so far and the weight is around 10 pounds.

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket DetailCotton fabric with pennies, plant and metal dyes, thread (photo by Isaac Carter)

Each square of pennies has it’s very own dye adventure with plants from my garden, the neighbourhood or places I visit. In the winter I resort to using kitchen waste and any scavenged berries or leaves I may find in the snow. I also use found metal objects which add colour to the palette and and sometimes leave an imprint of it’s shape behind. The dye process is generally slow as the fabric is bundled in bottles, bags or containers in my greenhouse or near the fire where it’s warm, and left to the slow dye process for several weeks.

Morgen Bardati - OAS Blanket 5“Old Age Security Blanket” (photo by Isaac Carter)

The squares are then stitched together by hand in the order of their making. Colour placements are therefore random and I trust that by the end of the project what seems chaotic and random now may have found a natural balance all it’s own.
The stitch drawing down the centre of the blanket represents the living moving energy of my life and how it travels and grows through the grid like system of the coins. It is a moving river, red like our blood vessels and it encounters objects on it’s journey like roots growing around rocks.

Morgen Bardati - Pen and Ink DrawingStudies in ink of roots and rocks (photo by Isaac Carter)

Musings on pennies and patternsMorgen Bardati - Art Journal (photo by Isaac Carter)

I would like to thank Isaac Carter for the beautiful photos of my work. ICandyFilms is a young Canadian/Hungarian film making team who make small production films. One of their specialties is films about and for artists: ICandyFilms artist films

Naturally dyed scarves with mixed techniques

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I’ve been meaning to share with you some of the scarves I made before Christmas but I. Have been having computer issues and avoided doing this on my ipad. I’m still waiting on the computer so here I am trying to configure this post on a little ‘gadget’. These scarves shown here are a collection of silk ones I constructed  myself as well as some simpler silk and silk/ wool blends which I purchased pre-hemmed. Most of the plant dyes used are local here in the Kootenays and include goldenrod, St Johns Wort, black walnut, onion skins and contact/ dye prints of coreopsis flowers, cottinus coggygria leaves, acer( maple) leaves, St. John’s wort, cosmos flowers, oak leaves, rhododendron leaves, strawberry leaves, some windfall lichen. I used a few exotic dyes on some pieces, including madder and logwood.  Techniques used are vat dye baths, contact/ Eco dye printing, screen printing, ‘itajime’, clamped block resist , a shiborI technique. I used a variety of beautiful silks, crepes, habotai, raw silk, charmeuse.

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