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.
Cotton and linen dyed with madder, cutch, osage orange, black walnut and birch – some have shibori stitched designs and in the foreground cotton with eco-printed rhododendron leaves and madder root.
About three weeks ago I decided to give myself one day off a week, free from distractions like technology, the radio and even my regular production work in my studio. Freedom to explore new directions in my art. It led me to natural dyes, something which I had first experienced a number of years ago at one of the workshops I have taken over the years at Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver. I had the great pleasure of taking a natural dye and mudcloth workshop with Michele Wipplinger of EarthHues. At the time I came home with packages of natural dyes and earth pigments but never seemed to have the time to come back to them. I have been using the dyestuffs I purchased as well as some I’ve managed to forage for locally.
I have become utterly addicted to this amazing process of natural chemistry. For the last few weeks I have been reading and learning about the process of dyeing cloth with plant , and sometimes insect, dyes. I have been scouring, mordanting and dyeing fabrics and carefully tagging each piece of cloth with the types and quantities of mordants, dyes and processes. (mordants are needed to bond the dyestuff to the cloth and are also used to influence colour) I’ve been using mostly cotton and linen, but I have some wool fabric sitting in a madder dye bath right now turning the most glorious earthly red! My first piece of silk is being mordanted in alum today.
I have also begun to experiment with eco-prints, a process of steam dyeing with leaves and plant material presented by Australian botanical alchemist India Flint in her book Eco Colour. Being winter, there is minimal foraging to be done until the blooming of summer, but there is still tree bark around as well as some still green rhododendron leaves. I also found a bag of local black walnuts which, when I removed the husks for dye colour, I noticed the amount of colour still remaining on the nutshells. They were promptly bound in linen and steamed:
Not quite as much colour as I had hoped for but can be worked over later. They have a kind of mushroomy colour and patterning left by the bindings.
So I’m hooked!
Next for me is to figure out how to screen print with these dyes and earth pigments because I do like working with images. Another goal is to grow a few plants this summer that can be used for extracting dye. I know I have some already – can’t wait to lay my hands on that St John’s Wort and Mullein!
Last week I traveled to Vancouver to attend an ‘Invented Fabric’ workshop led by Jean Cacicedo. This workshop was presented by Maiwa Handprints as part of their annual Textile Symposium. I usually try to attend one of these workshops every Fall because Maiwa brings in instructors from all over the world to teach a variety of fibre arts techniques including traditional and cutting edge innovations.
This scarf was completed by me during the workshop and is made of 100% wool from Japan and textured using a variety of techniques shared by Jean Cacicedo. The concept of the patterning and texturing of this fabric is based on the shrink ratio of the wool and can be applied to other fabrics as well. We used stitching, darting, applique, laminating, slashing, binding, to mention a few methods, of creating texture on cloth. Once the wool was ‘fulled’ or shrunk amazing things happened to the fabric: patterns and textures were revealed through the shrinkage of the cloth. As well, some felting occured and could be encouraged to varying degrees.
The following photos show some of the samples produced by the class: