Archive for the ‘Natural Plant Printing’ 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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Super felt and prints at the second Vancouver workshop!.

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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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Cornflowers & rust

Along with dye experiments using plants and flowers from my garden – my other obsession is keeping an eye open for interesting rusty things. I have always loved the colour, variation and textures of rust but never before thought about it’s possibilities on fabric until I was in my textile course. I’m still in the neophyte stage of my rust printing but it seems to me that it always works. I think the patina and sense of history is what has always appealed to me about rust…the notion that texture, imperfection and patina acquired over time (naturally) is beautiful. Both in objects, fabric and especially in people! (This blog is a Botox-free zone).

Biscuit on the beach helping me collect rust

It is amazing how many interesting rusty things I’m finding (and not necessarily taking) by setting an intention – lovely rusty crusty things wherever I go! I was lucky enough to be at Robert’s Creek recently and I found some interesting pieces on the beach. Just today down at my local beach walking the dog, I said to myself, “I know there is a piece of rust here for me” and at the very last minute lo and behold there was a perfect rather large pipe peeking out at me by the steps up from the beach – which I managed to lug home. It will be perfect for wrapping yardage. It’s super crusty – salty beach rust is the best. Here in Vancouver some of us natural dyers have started up a group meeting – and it must have been good rust karma because on my way home in the summer evening light I spotted a lovely rusted gate on the “freebie corner” in my neighbourhood…that I managed to heft into my car! My partner was thrilled with my new acquisition – ha ha. It’s living on the deck right now waiting to be used.

Rusty Garden Angel – this was a gift from my Mom many years ago – it is in my garden next to a bench I put in the garden in memory of my Mom. I can’t always explain in words why rust is so appealing and comforting.

The rusty rebar wrapping I’m doing is working out really well – and it’s nice to know that this particular rusty implement is readily available from my local construction crews and sometimes even washed up on the beach. So far I have wrapped bundles using the rebar with sage, fern, allium, peony and rose petals with alum mordanted fabric. You don’t have to mordant for rust, but I’m trying out a bunch of different combo’s. Not to state the obvious, but the iron rust acts as a mordant as well…

Eco wrap using rusty rebar, peony & rose blossoms

Fabric that has been rusted with rebar – rolled up purple sage & red hollyhock – I pretty happy with the clarity of the prints. Magic.

I’m wondering if it’s going too far to cut out the gorgeous rusty bedsprings from the mattress that someone has left out in the alleyway behind my apartment? I think they would make a great print as well as good for shibori binding. I just need to buy some wire cutters! (Update) Since I drafted this blog I got some wire cutters and now I have a lovely collection of rusted springs to use.

Rusty bed springs in situ

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This spring I started to convert one of my community garden plots in Kitsilano into an urban dye garden… my hope is that after a few years every plant in this plot will provide me with reliable colours. My dye instructor at Capilano University (Anthea) kindly let me take a few little seedlings of weld from the dye garden we started at school last year – as well as giving me some woad, wild indigo and weld seeds.

Weld – mature because it was a seedling from last year’s Capilano University garden. I have some 1st year seedlings coming up from the seeds I planted.

I’m so grateful to Anthea because for some reason our Canadian seed company Richter’s does not sell dye seeds anymore – not sure why? Anybody know?

Woad – Year 1! See the little slug holes! All this rain has encouraged the little buggers.

Except for the wild indigo – everything is doing great! I also planted marigold seeds that a fellow community gardener had saved from last year… along with carrot seeds. I think all this rain we have been having has made the woad extremely happy – I guess this makes sense as woad was historically a crop grown in England.

I can’t wait to try the woad with the weld for dyeing to see what kind of green I can get – and to see what shade of blue comes from this first planting of woad in my urban plot.

I already have some plants that come back from before that I can use for dyeing like hollyhocks ( bi-annual plant) …and peonies.

Hollyhock leaf with visitor – I have 3 different hollyhocks in the garden this year – should be interesting.

My neighbour’s raspberry canes are taking over part of my plot – so although I was grumbling about them taking up too much space – I’m looking forward to using the berries for dyeing. I have gobbled up a few of them already – so yummy – I will have to think of my dye possibilities and not eat all of them when the sun finally comes out and they all start bursting with delicious redness. I think I’ll clear out some of the canes in the fall and plant some more dahlias which give a range of golden yellow to orange depending on what mordant is used – space is at a premium in my wee community garden plot. I’m so greedy – I do have two community plots!! I also lifted a few of the gorgeous dark purple iris plants in my other garden-  so I will have a reliable source for this powerful dye plant in my dedicated dye plot.

Black iris – this gives great colour

Here is the silk scarf that I dyed with the iris blossom – eco wrap with rebar technique.

85% rayon15% silk scarf – wrapped with iris + last year’s lichen dye bath

Beloved trug – handmade in Sussex in the traditional way – that I collect my blossoms and edibles in from my garden.

Pounded allium (early spring) + wrapped purple sage with rust rebar

I’m pretty excited by the sage as it was one of the first botanical that I used when I started the textile arts program at Cap. I used the leaves as my ‘found object’ hblock print and I spent hours and hours in the school studio trying to finish my project carefully applying pigment on the leaves (countless) and braying them to get the print. I thought the overall design was not successful – but it gave me a taste of using natural plant materials as a source for a design. This piece was wrapped with the rusted rebar and I was amazed at how clear the results were. The allium image was from a previous layer on the mordanted linen – where I pounded the allium that is an early to mid-spring wonder. When I unwrapped the bundle – I rinsed it and it held the print. I’m curing it and will heat press it and them probably overdye with my frozen stash of blossoms. I kind of like the brown tones though as they are.

Sword Fern patina…

I tried a wrap with another piece of mordanted linen (btw – used tara root for the mordant) using the brown offcuts from the sword fern I was editing in the garden. It left a pretty sweet print although I wish I had bound it a little tighter. Again, I used last year’s lichen dye bath to moisten the bundle.

100% silk sucked up the peony & iris blossoms

II will post some wearable fashion shots in a later post as this is more about process – but the peony blossoms + iris + pansy blossoms + lichen dye batch – was accepted readily by the 100% silk scarf I bound them in.

In my next Urban Dye Garden V2 installment I’ll be posting the other plants that are coming along… not ready to harvest yet… marigolds, black eyed susan (not enough sun for them to grow right now), carrots, hollyhocks, etc.

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I named my blog ‘Secret Garden Textiles’ because one of the best memories I have is visiting my Grandma and taking the Secret Garden book (by Frances Hodgson Burnett) off the book shelf before crawling into my cozy bed, made up on the couch by my Grandma, and drifting off to sleep as I tried to stay awake and read yet another chapter. When I read that book as a child, it left a lasting impression of entering a romantic magical world that has never left me. Now, my focus on documenting my garden and surrounds on fabric is sort of like these amazing secrets of my immediate world being revealed to me through the choices I’m making to make the lasting impressions on the fabric.

Trug – with iris and pansies from the garden

Peony, lady’s mantle, rose blossoms – after unfurling a wrap sample (I stuffed these partially exhausted blossoms into another fabric sample – which I now don’t remember where I left it to cure – oops – I guess a smell will eventually reveal it’s location).

Because I’m not a huge meticulous planner, I’m sort of randomly trying things out by using different mordants, different ways of wrapping up the plant materials that I have collected and playing with how long I leave things to ‘cure’. Although it’s still technically spring (well uh maybe winter with our cold and rainy June) the results I’m getting are so inspiring. Here are a few shots of my experiments on silk, cotton and linen… continuing my ‘Kitsilano One Mile Dyers Palette’ that I started in my time at Capilano University. Oh, that is a picture of the inside of my Secret Garden book given to me by my Grandma – that is still on my bookshelf…

Linen sample that I had wrapped with Lupin’s (below) and lady’s mantle leaves – the fabric shibori’d around a rusty rebar rod. Goldenrod dye spritzed…

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