Archive for the ‘Designing’ Category

Results of the walnut dye from my 100-mile sourced (Kelowna Lake) walnut husks. This first dye bath was the walnut husks boiled up right away for a few hours and then the fabric bundles, some with rose and eucalyptus leaf additions – simmered for a few hours. Silk and wool fabrics used in this dye bath.

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Over-dyed silk dupioni – stripe down the middle exposed fabric walnut dye. Fabric had been previously dyed with other natural plant dyes.

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Silk organza fabric (undyed) with shibori resist (folded fabric and clamped rectangle) in walnut dye bath.

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Previously plant dyed silk sateen fabric – shibori folded fabric to create resist – added rose and eucalyptus leaves – in walnut dye bath.

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Silk Sateen – Detail. Rose leave imprint.

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Silk and Metal fabric over dyed in walnut dye bath (fabric was previously dyed in other plant dyes which left a subtle colour). Applied random shibori resist ties with yarn leaving lighter coloured circles. The metal in the fabric creates a heavily textured surface after emerging from hot dye bath.

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Wool jersey fabric, shibori folded, bundled with eucalyptus and rose leaves with rusted rebar before partially emerging in walnut dye bath. The 100% wool imparts a mahogany rich brown.

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Well protected hands… mushing up the walnut husks before boiling. One whole in tact walnut trapped inside the mush.

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Bounty. Roasted walnuts (best tasting walnuts I have ever tasted), walnut tree leaves, walnut husks.


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Some draping images showing the work I did this week – silk jersey and silk organza fabric eco dyed in an onion skin dye bath (with rust). The plant materials used from my urban dye garden were eucalyptus leaves, purple sage leaves, cosmos flower blossoms and wild geranium. The dominant print motif is from the eucalyptus leaves which turned out a lovely purple colour in my dye bath.

2013-10-15 17.41.47 2013-10-15 17.54.29 2013-10-15 15.09.46 2013-10-15 17.49.12 2013-10-15 15.17.06 2013-10-15 15.21.00 2013-10-15 13.59.43At a recent workshop with Nicola Brown a group of us created nuno felted wearables. Nuno felting is a wet felting technique where you incorporate unspun wool into a piece of silk fabric. It produces a lovely airy and light fabric if done right! Besides being re-inspired to try my hand at nuno felting thanks to Nicola’s expertise,  (I had been introduced to nuno felting during my Capilano University Textile Arts days), the workshop was a great reminder that onion skins are a gratifying and reliable natural dye. Particularly in combination with rust.  And particularly on the natural fibres of wool and silk. Other than a bit of a vinegar soak – no pre-mordanting (preparing the fabric to accept the dye colour) is required.

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Nuno Felted length (silk & wool) – eco printed with tea, eucalyptus leaves and buds using onion/rust dye bath from Nicola Brown’s workshop

After my past few months of a lot of experimentation with different natural plant materials from my urban dye garden – some successful and some not – it was wonderful to get back to basics using the onion skins in the dye pot. Not only do the onion skins produce a lovely chocolate brown dye (when combined with rust) you are also assured that the dye on the fabric is resistant to fading because of the substantive qualities of onion skin.

Thanks for the great technical learning experience and the inspiration to get back to it Nicola!  http://clasheen.wordpress.com Can’t wait to try some more nuno felting.

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Spending some time this summer with my Compost Dress that I started a couple of years ago in my first year of the Textile Arts Program at Capilano University.

Metal and polyester thread i.d. (composting process left it pristine compared to the natural cotton fabric)

Metal and polyester thread i.d. on the bodice of the dress. After 3 weeks in the compost bin the synthetic embroidery was pristine compared to the natural cotton fabric.

This piece is not just an exercise in textile design using botanical dyeing, printing, construction, and hand stitching – but a commitment to process and dreaming (and I guess delaying) as it’s taken me a couple of years to get to this point with it – but my intention has been renewed.

I have been hand embroidering small pieces of fairly richly coloured silks, linens and cotton fabrics in the holes that were left from the composting.  These small pieces were in my stash from my days at Capilano University when we learned the low temperature immersion dyeing techniques using ‘Procion’ dye. The Procion colours are a good contrast to the natural muted colours and patterns left on the cotton from the botantical dyes and composting creatures.

Adding some flower motifs with flower pounding - in situ at my community garden - a great outdoor studio for creating.

Adding some flower motifs with flower pounding – in situ at my community garden – a great outdoor studio for creating.

Detail - flower pounded Johnny Jump Up

Detail – flower pounded Johnny Jump Up beside maroon procion silk embroidered with running stitch in yellow silk thread

Flower pounding is such a simple process and completely addictive. The johnny jump ups give an very clean imprint on the fabric – even down to the little center stamens – clear as the fresh flower.

plain undyed cotton hooped dress - prior to composting

original plain undyed cotton hooped dress – prior to composting. I had constructed it as an experiment in format – to use for a Surface Design dyeing project in university

dress being bundled with Lady's Mantle (alchemilla mollis)...

dress being bundled with Lady’s Mantle (alchemilla mollis)…spring of 2011

...into the compost bin for just over 3 weeks

…into the compost bin for just over 3 weeks


Out of the compost bin – prior to rinsing

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Detail of one of the patterns marked on the fabric

Johnny Jump Up waiting to be plucked for pounding

Johnny Jump Up waiting to be plucked for pounding

Further silk embroidery and additions of rust printing (with found rusted objects) and a natural kozo fibre under bustier from the paper mulberry tree are being planned to add another dimension to the dress.

Flower pounding a.k.a. therapy

Flower pounding a.k.a. therapy

My grand idea with this piece is to convey life’s fragility – that repairing can be beautiful if one accepts it. The composting process imparts random motifs and tears onto the fabric which I appreciate – unexpected beauty. The format of the hooped dress is one that I like to work with it because it shows the fabric off well and is iconically feminine.  There is a connection with the viewer that it could be worn but it’s much too delicate to actually be worn.

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Although Block & Sloper would be a great name for a design blog…I’m referring to my recent foray into designing an original dress for my niece’s high school graduation. I made my first block or sloper – which is a basic flat pattern of a fitted jewel neck bodice – based on my niece’s measurements. Since she is finishing her final year in another city –  we used skype to take the required measurements. Then I drafted up her bodice pattern and cut it out using some of my cotton stash… and sewed it up on my vintage Featherweight sewing machine (see previous post) to create the  ‘muslin’ bodice.

Block for sizing

I mailed off the block to her… and it fit her (apparently). My wonderful niece is driven to academic excellence so I never did get her to commit to a skype session to ensure the fit was to my standards but anyways… I went on a wing and a prayer and drafted the design based on her block. A plunging neckline and back with princess seaming,  sleeves and a ball gown skirt… then cut it out in my favourite cotton mull which is a crisp lightweight 100% cotton to represent the dupioni 100% silk and used a sheer 100% cotton (typically used for turbans)… to represent the 100% silk chiffon that will be the layer over the dupioni silk. All fabrics sourced from the fabulous Rokko’s on main street. http://www.rokkofabrics.ca

front bodice pattern

front bodice pattern

The design features a plunging neckline as well as a deep V in the back – with a full length ball gown skirt. Originally we were inspired by lace designs that are the bee’s knees right now in the fashion world… (think Elie Saab) so I sent my ‘client’ some shamples of rayon guipere lace and nylon lace (from Rokko’s). I have a soft spot for lace given my irish provenance. In textile school I did an art history paper on how hand made Irish lace brought some economic means to the starving irish during the famine years (1845 – 1849) – so it was interesting to look at these machine produced bolts of lace and remember how the advent of machinery and technology wiped out the demand for hand made goods… and how now the desire for the hand made is having a resurgence (but that is for another post).

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After to’ing and fro’ing about black versus neutral versus colour… we decided that a coral dupioni silk with a chiffon overlay would be lovely. It was wonderful process trying out different techniques in creating the muslin dress and it’s a great way to work out all the kinks and decisions about the design before cutting into the actual silk.  Drafting and redrafting, hand basting (love this), french seaming, adding a finished lining, under stitching…Oh, did I mention proper pressing? I get a bit obsessive about pressing seams properly – but it makes the world of difference – like properly blocking a hand knitted item which is a step that must be done! For ideas about techniques that I hadn’t used in a while – I referred to a vintage Vogue book I have. And relied on memories of my Mom’s couture standards – “always use a Bemberg lining and finish things properly”, i.e.  French seaming!!! I think I am ready for the ‘real’ dress which I will blog about in another post.

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The goal is that the ‘test dress’ or muslin fits with only minor adjustments. It’s a bit nerve racking not having the ability to try out the fit in person.


Mus.lin on the beach

A little bit of surface design documentation… the muslin will eventually be compost-printed in the garden using fresh plants from mid-spring and early summer and perhaps some rust printing as well.

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hopefully only minor adjustments are required

humble cotton declares itself as silk

humble cotton declares itself as silk

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muslin in situ.

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