Some naturally dyed and printed scarves to show you at last.

I have been slowly putting some of my natural dyed and printed fabrics together into scarves with ruffles and pockets.

Cotton and wool scarf with pocket – logwood dye, rusty metal rings, eco-printed and screenprinted with walnut husks.

Silk scarf - anemones and nudeThe colours on this piece I found extremely difficult to capture in a photo – it just does’nt do it justice – the sheen of the silk and the subtle colours I’ve used here are not showing as they should. This scarf is made of silk habotai with raw silk on the other side. Dyed with walnut husks, eco-printed and screenprinted with logwood and walnut husks, this scarf has a drawing of a nude screenprinted on one side. It can be worn with her showing or turned inside. The ruffled anemone printed edges appear on both sides of the scarf.  I have always maintained drawing as a core practice and have especially liked life drawing. Using some of my drawings on garments has been an idea I’ve had for a while. I plan to make a series of these.

IMG_1718 copyClose-up showing strawberry leaf and lichen contact prints and anemone flower screenprints in walnut husk and logwood printing ink.

Forays into Natural Dyeing

Naturally dyed cloth

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.

A pile of natural dyed clothEach piece of cloth, no matter how small, is labeled with a record of mordants, dyes and processes.

Freshly scoured and stackedAn assortment of bits of cloth freshly scoured and bundled, ready to be mordanted.

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:

walnut shibori

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.

Rhodendron, madder root and black walnutIn the foreground cotton muslin eco-printed with bits of left over madder root and rhododendron leaves. My first attempt at this technique sure charmed me.

wool in madderWool fabric turning a glorious earthly red in the left over madder dyed from last week’s dyebath.

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!



Nature my Muse – Mountains, Sky and Trees

We have had glorious weather here in the Kootenays this Christmas and have enjoyed yesterday and today walking along the shores of our beautiful Slocan Lake.

We Three Trees

Blinded by the sun reflected on the surface of Slocan Lake


Flatlanders will often comment that the skies in the mountains are not big enough but I am in love with the changing beauty of our Kootenay skies.  The place where sky, trees and mountains interact has so many ever changing nuances of light. I often find myself completely captivated by the mountains and sky while on a trip to the post office or the corner store.


Enchanted Beans

Beans are probably one of the first seeds that children may grow at home or in the classroom. They sprout really quickly on a dampened cloth or paper. The miracle of life beginning unfolds dramatically in no time at all. One of the most amazing things about bean seeds is that you can recognize their variety when they are still seeds. With almost all other plants you cannot actually differentiate them until the plant grows and produces fruit or flowers.

Beans come in the most incredible array of colours, patterns and sizes. That they were chosen as the magic seed in the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk is not surprising to me at all. They have a magic quality to them that captivates me every time I crack open a pod to reveal them resting in their little chambers.Their womb-like shape holds a promise of life which I find thrilling.
Beans have enchanted me since the first time I grew a scarlet runner pole bean and was rewarded by their beautiful big seeds at harvest time. I was a painter then and did a whole series of paintings inspired by these amazing beans. They have since found their way into my textile designs as whole moving pods and stylized seed symbols. I think their presence in my art will always be with me.

This season I grew six varieties of beans but because we had a lot of rain this year it was a struggle for them to reach maturity here in the Kootenays. A bean ready for drying will separate inside their pods which will dry out and rattle when moved. I then pick them and dry them in their pods in baskets until they are crisp dry and ready to be shucked.

These are a beautiful pole bean which I grow every year from my own seeds. Even in this wet season they have done well. They are prolific, reliable and taste amazing fresh or dried (detail shown in above photo). If you look carefully you will notice that a few of them are a dark bean, a kind of reverse patterning of the mostly light coloured ones.

These beauties came from my father-in-law. They are a big ivory coloured Italian Roma bean. They taste meaty and delicious as a shelled bean but because of their size they seem to be having a hard time getting to the drying stage this season. I’ll try again next year and hope for a warmer drier summer.

These are a very tiny black turtle bean which I have’nt yet tasted. They struggled a bit with mold in the damp weather but I managed to still save some and will get a few meals out of them.

A very light coloured kidney bean which grows as a bush bean and did quite well for me this summer. They tasted great as a green bean but I still look forward to tasting them as a dried bean. These are the red kidney beans I grew last year: Red Bean Harvest

Both the kidney bean and the black beans I purchased from Salt Spring Seeds. They have a fantastic variety of heirloom seeds and a great little booklet called “Saving Seeds“. Next year I look forward to trying more of their varieties as well as trading seeds with other growers in the Kootenays where I live.

For more on how I have used the image of the bean in my art please see my blog post on Total Art Soul here:
Beans in my garden inspire beans in my art.