Archives for category: Natural dyes
Snap out of it

This Mary Englebright illustration hung over my kitchen sink for years, as a reminder!

If I was paying attention to my body, it would have whispered to me “You are holding a lot of tension – relax!” I would have also noticed impatience – not the floral kind.

It was a workshop on nature dyes at the Etobicoke Handweavers & Spinners Guild. I had already created a vision in my head of how things were going to unfold. Do you see where I’m going? The bigger the gap between what was happening in the moment and what I wanted, the more I felt my cranky, inner child.

I gave myself a time out and sat on the floor with some books from our guild library and this is where things turned around. The workshop leader joined me. We talked and she shared some insights into who she is, which most importantly helped me to understand and appreciate her ways. It reminded me to let my child play.

I laugh to think I was in a situation that, at best, has random and unpredictable results. That is part of the magic of natural dying. In addition to mordant and after bath, colours are affected by the ph of the water (Are you using tap water, well water, rain water?) and so much more.  If there is ever a time to relax and enjoy the process, just to see how things unfold… this is it! Once I allowed myself to do exactly that my day transformed… along with my attitude!

It amazes me to think of our ancestors dying fabric in much the same way thousands of years ago. The oldest known record of dyed flax fibres came from a cave in the Republic of Georgia dating back to 36,000 BC. Astounding! This simple act shared by humans over centuries gives me pause. More so that we let fibres swim in the dye pot on the Solstice!

Coreopsis, plant, tincture

If looking to plant a dye garden, you can buy Coreopsis at garden centres.

Coreopsis, dye pot

Coreopsis dye pot simmering away.

Which of the three dye pots captivated me the most? I would have expected to say indigo but that wasn’t the case. It was Brazilwood! My roving went into the pot as a soft grey and came out  the colour of a pecan shell. Our delightful leader surprised me at the end of the day with a jar of Brazilwood pieces steeped in alcohol. These can be dried and reused. I plan to experiment…

Brazilwood, dyepot

Fibre swimming in Brazilwood dyebath mordanted with 15% alum

shibori, tansy, indigo

Shibori: tansy overdyed with indigo

I discovered superwash wool takes the dye too readily for my taste. It looks like commercially dyed yarn (which in itself is pretty amazing!)

Roberta used tansy to dye a piece of wool fabric then tied a resist and overdyed it with indigo for a beautiful shibori effect.

I have to admit, when it comes to indigo, the thought of a traditionally fermented dyebath nurtured slowly is what makes my heart beat faster.

Plans are afoot…

Brazilwood, Indigo, Coreopsis, Natural Dye

Brazilwood on grey roving, indigo and coreopsis on superwash wool.

 

weaving, wool

JUST cut off the loom in time for the guild meeting.

In an earlier post I was fretting over a looming deadline and a skein of yarn.  http://wp.me/p4CcBZ-4

Once I had chosen a palette and yarns from my stash I had to decide what I would weave… a shawl, a scarf, a blanket? I decided a large shawl would be a safe bet and an interesting project. I was pretty sure I had enough yarn.

I used my warping board instead of the mill, winding three small warps of varying sizes. It was my intention to create a harmonious blend without being totally symmetrical. There are lots of subtle shifts of colour.

I pre-sleyed a 6 dent reed and intended to use a jerry rigged trapeze to wind the warp on to the back beam but discovered to my amusement, my clever gizmo was at the wrong end of my loom! Sometimes I just crack me up!

Winding it on, I was falling in love with the colour and pattern but a thought was niggling at me. I felt I wanted a twill, nothing too complicated to overpower the warp, especially since my weft was a deep, rich brown. What to choose?

I decided on a 2/2 twill on 4 shafts. It was a simple straight draft. Great! But did I do that? Nope. I threaded the treadling. It wasn’t on purpose but it was a happy accident because I treadled the threading which made the tie up MUCH simpler. Side Note: The tie up is my least favourite task. The simpler it is, the less time I spend in contortions under my loom!

weave structure

A twill with a difference. I reversed the threading and treadling

The last step prior to weaving was to sley my intended reed and tie on the front beam. I did the math and decided on a 10 dent reed as the appropriate choice. When I was approximately half way across I could see the reed was too coarse. I tried to cheat by shifting its’ position in the beater, but who was I kidding? After threading a few more dents I could see I solved exactly nothing and pulled out the reed. Rather than go with a 12 DPI reed, I used my 6 DPI again, sleying 2 ends per dent. I felt the 6 would be kinder on the hand spun. It was a good decision as my warp was now running in a straight line from back to front beam and only one thread broke at the end of my weaving.

detecting weaving errors

After transferring the cross from front to back I could see a few threads that were not captured in the cross. Fixing them now saves heart ache later.

And that looming deadline? Did I make it? Just by the skin of my teeth!

I cut the fabric off the loom at 6:03 PM. Elizabeth picked me up at 6:05 PM and I proudly arrived at the guild pot luck with my project… but left my contribution in the fridge.

*slaps forehead with hand*

What’s my take away from this project?

  1. When working to a deadline, keep things simple. I put the complex part in the warp, not the weaving.
  2. Don’t cut corners. I fixed the problems prior to weaving.
  3. I really enjoy improvising!

 

 

Last night I enjoyed Harriet Boon’s presentation on natural dyeing at the Toronto Guild of Spinners & Weavers. Harriet told us about a number of workshops she attended in far flung places around the globe. I’m going to add travel to Chang Mai, Thailand and a dye workshop with Patricia Cheesman to my bucket list. Perhaps it’s more realistic to continue my own research and experimentation here at home. I have every intention of creating an indigo vat this summer.

What were my “take aways” from this presentation? There are many natural mordants to play with. How about oxalic acid from rhubarb leaves? It’s the perfect season for that… and a pie or two!

I also remind myself not to be in a hurry. Let each step take the time it requires. We live very scheduled lives and it is tempting to impose our schedules on a process that nature controls. I’m going to let my intuition guide me. Fibre will swim in mordant and dye pot until it whispers to me “I’m ready!”

Apropos of nothing, this was on the blackboard at the Etobicoke Guild yesterday and made me laugh out loud!

This was on the chalkboard

The Skein

The clock read 5:09 AM. I was awake and thinking about a single skein of yarn. I’m reading your mind – you think I’m very disturbed!

This is the story. Back in December of last year my guild, the Etobicoke Handweavers and Spinners Guild had a challenge – bring a skein of yarn from your stash and choose one donated by another member. The challenge? Weave a project using that skein and ONLY yarn from my stash and present the finished project at our June meeting, the last meeting of the year.

So far so good except, as you can see, the wee skein is still a skein and the months and days have flown by. I have three weeks to do this.

As the birds woke up I pondered my stash and thought the perfect yarns to complement this skein are probably living among my hand dyed and hand spun yarns.

I’ve pulled together a selection that could work: 2 skeins of hand spun wool and mohair in a heathered pink, 2 skeins of hand spun brown Shetland wool that I over dyed with cochineal ( I also over spun it to create a bouclé yarn) and 2 skeins of commercially spun yarn dyed with logwood.

The Palette

I like this palette but will wait until tomorrow night to wind the warp ~ This evening I’m off to the Japan Foundation to enjoy “Kigami and Kami-ito: A slide lecture and paper thread-making demonstration by Hiroko Karuno”