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2013-10-15 15.15.05

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.

Super felt and prints at the second Vancouver workshop!.

Crazy symmetrical pattern left on the dupioni silk yardage - from the rusty rebar and plant resists. This pattern repeats down both edge lengths of the fabric.

Crazy symmetrical pattern left on the dupioni silk yardage – from the rusty rebar and plant resists. This pattern repeats down both edge lengths of the fabric.

Some images from my latest August dye batches. I used a selection of botanticals from the garden including my muse – the fennel. The plant material was laid out on the fabrics that had been previously dyed with natural dyes and indigo (silk dupioni, silk chiffon, cotton mull) then securely rolled and wrapped around rusty rebar from my rust stash… tied very tightly with a very strong cotton yarn I save for shibori work.

Some previously dyed fabrics that needed over dyeing to add interest

Some previously dyed natural fabrics that needed over dyeing to add interest (silks and cottons)

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Dupioni silk – oyster coloured – mordanted with alum – Catnip  & rusty rebar resist

Fennel

Fennel resist – placed on silk and tightly bound prior to dye bath

I used last year’s freezer stash of dahlia blossoms – with an addition of one huge fresh dahlia blossom from this year…brought to a simmer and placed my wrapped and secured bundles into the dye pot. I simmered for 1 hour then let cool and sit for 4 days. Because I used rusty rebar in all the wraps as well as a shibori dye resist (two rusty squares) – the dye left a rich dark brown on the cotton mull – verging towards black on the silks. The rust definitely produces a deeper colour effect the longer you leave it. The silks were undamaged (you have to be cautious using rust as it can stress natural fibres) but one section of the cotton mull had a couple of holes which I think was more in how I unwrapped the package. Imprints from the plants were left in varying colours even some red spots!

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relatively clean imprint left by the fennel resist – on silk chiffon

Bundles from dahlia dye bath. Prior to unwrapping

Bundles from dahlia dye bath. Prior to unwrapping

Some people are concerned about the mold that forms (depending on how long the bundles are left to cure) but mold is also a legitimate mordant that helps bind the colour to the fabric. Safety first though. I always wear my mask when unwrapping and rinsing and my lovely dog Biscuit (miniature poodle) is out of harms way. With these fabrics (as in all my dyeing work) I unwrap and hand rinse first using Synthrapol soap. With these fabrics most of which were large pieces of fabric (yardage) I also soaked them for a 1/2 day in salted water to neutralize the rust, then washed in the washing machine with Ivory snow. The fabric still retains a lovely botanical smell or if you wanna be fancy- a scent.

Sage leaves (purple sage) left imprints in different colours including this bright yellow on silk

Sage leaves (purple sage) left imprints in different colours including this bright yellow on silk

Cotton mull previously arashi shibori with blue indigo - overdyed in dahlia dye batch with a rusty square resist

Cotton mull previously arashi shibori (angled blue indigo stripes) – which was then overdyed in fresh dahlia dye batch using an acrylic square as the resist  (left original white repetitive squares like the middle one in the image), then finally overdyed in dahlia dye batch with a rusty square resist with a hole in the middle – which left the stronger repeated squares. Need to use this yardage!

This image shows off the fine quality of cotton mull fabric - you can see the garden behind it. It's lovely and drapey.

This image shows off the fine quality of cotton mull fabric – you can see the garden behind it. It’s lovely and drapey.

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

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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.

As usual - a load of Tansy that gives a reliable yellow

As usual – a load of Tansy that gives a reliable yellow – some in my garden and lots growing wild along the railway tracks by my community garden

A small selection of images from my dye garden to record this summer’s crazy growth with our hottest July on record. You will notice a theme of yellow dye stuffs emerging. A limited colour palette so far in my dye garden, but yellow is a great base for greens (over-dyeing with blue) – plus you can somewhat change the colour depending on the mordant [a substance combined with the natural dye that fixes it to the fibre] that you use. The purple and blue colour I got on fabric from my iris’s (see previous post) is more a spring colour potential.

Weld - 8 feet tall

Weld – 8 feet tall – should give mucho yellow – lots of baby plants growing for next year

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Detail – Weld blossom – late June

Woad - ready to harvest for some soft blue colour

Woad – ready to harvest for some soft blue colour – many baby new plants as well.

100% wool fabric sucked up the yellow from a tansy dye bath

100% wool fabric sucked up the yellow from a recent tansy dye bath

Bright Lights Cosmos - hoping this will translate as actual orange on silk.

Bright Lights Cosmos – hoping this will translate well to the predicted yellow/orange on silk.

Detail - Bright Lights Cosmos

Detail – Bright Lights Cosmos – young blossom just opening – I had read from other natural dyers that the pink sensation cosmos don’t produce a dye – but I have used them for flower pounding on mordanted fabric and am getting good results. Maybe not suitable for wearables that will be washed but for art pieces I’m loving them!

Cosmos Sensation - flower pounded on mordanted gauze

Cosmos Sensation – flower pounded on mordanted gauze

Safflower - yellow and potential red - one of humanity's oldest crops!

Safflower – yellow and potential red – one of humanity’s oldest crops! It was exciting to see the small stand of them in my plot.

Detail - Safflower blossom

Detail – Safflower blossom 1 week later – I picked them all for drying – the process for dyeing is quite involved according to the references I have read – should be enough of them to experiment with on a small piece of silk

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Rudbeckia nitida ‘Herbstsonne’ It is amazingly tall and green-eyed – it’s on the list of dye plants for… yes wait for it… yellow! So will give it a try as this plant is now mature in my garden and is a very large stand that is overpowering my community garden neighbour’s plot.

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Rudbeckia blossom just opening…

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Coreopsis – for yellows, oranges, browns – according to Jenny Dean’s reference you can shift the PH by adding a small amount of acid (lemon juice) making it yield more yellow or a pinch of soda ash will bring out the reds. Pick when beginning to fade.

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A forest of gorgeous yellow blossoms.

I let my 1st year woad plants go to seed. I’m grateful to see the actual life cycle of the woad for real in my own little community garden. I have to admit I’m not in love with the production steps involved in extracting the indigo from the 1st year plants to cull the BLUE for dyeing fabric –  but I appreciate the botanical aspects of growing the plant unto it’s own!

I have learned a lot about the nature of this ancient plant – so prominent in human and textile history.

at the start...

at the start…

Editing...

Editing… the plants were taking over my plot (and my neighbour in the community garden)

Spring - seeds forming from the blossoms

Spring – seeds forming from the blossoms

Woad seeds maturing...

Woad seeds maturing…

at the end/beginning.

at the end/beginning.

I have enough seeds for a Woad farm. In certain parts of the world it’s banned from being grown because it can take over and is viewed as a pest. I can see why from it’s vigorous nature. I do have some 2012 indigo powder from the 1st year plantings so I will endeavour to dye a sample to complete my woad exploration.

Will be busy this week getting the dye garden in shape… and planting a bunch of seeds. I did a quick clean up last night on a lovely spring evening… our Vancouver rain and clouds let up for a wonderful few hours of sun. The second year woad is in full flower so I won’t be harvesting those plants for dyeing – will let them go to seed. There are a few little first year woad plants hiding underneath and I plan on trying to get some colour out of them by doing the ‘baggie’ method of dyeing (putting mordanted fabric in with the leaves along with some additional dye bath from my collection).

2nd year Woad plant going to seed

2nd year Woad plant – late April – in full flower mode

2nd year Woad... early April...starting to flower

2nd year Woad – early April – starting to flower

The weld is also on it’s way back – the crinkly leaves are lovely to see in this early stage.

Weld on the way back

Weld on the way back

Weld detail - Love the textured leaves

Weld detail – Love the textured leaves

I didn’t see too much evidence of the fall planting of seeds but it’s still early days. Once I get in there and observe more closely when I’m planting seeds I will see if any little plants have emerged. I used a black sharpie pen on terracotta shards to mark my plantings in the fall – but the writing faded on many of them and also the shards broke. Lesson learned! Luckily, I documented  on my phone camera – so I will refer back to the pics to determine what I planted – next post will reveal what came up.

The johnny jump ups that I planted last September (they are a great choice for flower pounding) came back in full force – with the slugs snacking on quite a few of the blossoms.

Johnny Jump Ups - yellow, purple, orange - slugs are feasting on a few!

Johnny Jump Ups – yellow, purple, orange – slugs are feasting on a few!

I love my fennel – my muse in the garden – and so wonderful to see it after the winter in this form…

Last Year's Fennel - wonderful seed head form

Last Year’s Fennel – wonderful seed head form