winter whites

Powdery blue, silver, rosy taupe, celadon, winter white, blush, misty gray. The faintest of colors seem to dominate my surroundings this time of year. It happens to be my favorite palette no matter what season, but I love how the winter time somehow makes even the whitest shades of pale more vivid.

The color scheme in the landscape is influencing my work. There has been plenty of white on white stitching done (some may be altered in the dye pot at a later date) and a few older unfinished pieces has gained new life, despite being tucked away because of perceived lack of color interest.

Right after the holidays I made time for a dye pot, experimenting with only using plant materials gathered from the back yard despite the wintery weather. A combination of nandina, oak, magnolia and leatherleaf viburnum were layered between silk, cotton, and linen fabric, with a few pieces of paper thrown in for added interest.

The clamped bundle simmered with a handful of fustic wood shavings, for a couple of hours and were left to rest for another few days. The unveiling was far more thrilling than I expected. Somehow the wonderful imprints left behind mirrored the shades of the wintery cold landscape outside. In layers, and gradations, even the palest of impressions managed to stand out. Such joy...


My love story with pecan leaves continues. Clamped and bundled with a variety of fabrics and papers, these graceful leaves never cease to amaze me. This time I will let the pictures tell the story – and as always divulging what's within is the most magical part of the tale.

walnut and oak leaves

An incredibly stinky brew of walnut and oak leaves became my dye concoction this weekend. The mixture had soaked in an iron pot on our patio for about six months and was ripe in every sense of the word. Besides the indigo vats, this was my first dye experiment in a long time, and I had quite a few ideas I wanted to try. Loose pieces of wool and linen went into the pot, so did two bundles with dried oak leaves, and beech twigs clamped between linen squares and metal plates...

I was imagining the twigs acting as resists, while still letting the dye seep through to the surrounding cloth. It worked ok, but not quite as distinct as I imagined. The linen did not take the walnut dye as well as I had hoped. In hind sight I think I tried to do a bit too much. There was not much room to move around in the pot and the clamps holding the twigs in place were rusty, therefor leaving some rust smudges here and there. I also think I opened the bundles too soon (just could not help myself). I still had a great fun messing around with the dye pot - glad to be back in the thick of it, literally. 

oh indigo

We are about to enter week four in my online indigo workshop with Glennis Dolce, and I am having a blast. I still don't really understand the exact chemistry behind this dye process, but I love the instant gratification of dipping the cloth into the vat, pulling it out 2 minutes later and watch it turn from yellowish green to blue in an instant. Magical.

I am working with two vats - one is a pre-reduced natural indigo vat, and the other is a 1-2-3 vat originating from French indigo dyer Michel Garcia. The pre-reduced vat involves using both soda ash and thiox (color remover) and I am sure that the indigo crystals themselves has undergone some chemical treatment to become "reduced", so to call it natural is probably a stretch. But it does give a nice, nice blue color, especially after repeat dips. The 1-2-3 vat consists of nothing but natural indigo powder, powdered fructose, and powdered pickling lime. It was ready to use after just a few minutes, smells sweet and delicious, and dyes the loveliest pale shades of blue that builds up to a rich medium blue over time.

We are also working on some shibori techniques, such as clamping, and scrunching (my term). The scrunching creates the nice sky like pieces. And the folding and clamping is just fun, fun, fun... I am so happy to be messing with dye pots again.

pecan love story - weekly bundles no. 9

My infatuation with the pecan leaves continues. This time I used fallen leaves from a couple of trees in our neighborhood. They were yellow, withered, and tattered. But the prints still turned out beautiful. The long wool piece was previously dyed with eucalyptus, and had a wonderful coral hue before being bundled up and simmered in the iron pot. The leaves turned a rich gold color on the thick silk organza and muted brown on the linen. Both kinds of fabric squares were layered with the leaves between glass plates and clamped tight. The paper prints were done on thin craft paper that my art store uses for wrapping – I love the faint imprints and the tissue like quality of the paper.

pecan on eucalyptus dyed wool jersey, simmered in iron pot. 

pecan on linen, pretreated with alum and soy milk

Pecan on silk organza, simmered in iron pot. 

Pecan on craft wrapping paper, simmered in iron pot.

You probably have realized by now that the weekly bundles no longer are that weeekly. It was a bit ambitious for someone who only blogs once a week on average anyways. I will continue, and I will still tag and call these posts weekly bundles, but they will not appear as regularly as I first intended.

Lastly, a brief sum up of some of the fun I've had the last few weeks. My days on the farm were amazing with spectacular weather, lovely companions (bovine, feline, canine, and human), and lots of work produced. This past weekend's Artisan Studio Tour was a great success. Both of my new books were snatched up, and I also sold a few wall hangings and met many, many lovely and interesting people. Thank you to all who stopped by!

weekly bundles no. 8

Pecan leaves! My sister-in-law and her family have a great pecan tree in the back of their house, and after our last visit I came back with a bagful of leaves, still green and fresh. I bundled them up, clamped some between paper, and simmered them in tap water augmented with iron. The results are amazing. I am thrilled and humbled by the beauty of these prints.

It is obvious that the iron water really penetrated the wool (which started out light gray). The impressions on the linen are more blurry, and much lighter in color. I think a longer processing time would have benefitted the linen prints to ensure the water gets through all the layers.

The paper prints are even more stunning in real life. The texture is breathtaking and the colors are vivid and deep. I tested a few raspberry and dogwood leaves as well, and I think all were enhanced by the addition of iron.

So a happy bundle experiment this time. The long wool piece will be a scarf for me, and the splendid impressions on paper also deserves to become something very special...

weekly bundles no. 7

The bag of eucalyptus leaves that I have saved since the summer of 2010 finally was put to use this past week. The more than one year old leaves did not disappoint. The distinct coral orange really popped on the silk, appeared a bit more subtle on the linen, but even the pvc pipe I used as my wrapping tool is now permanently marked by this magical plant.

White oak was the other component in the bundles, which were simmered in tap water for about two hours, left to cool, and opened about 24 hours later. So far the oak prints have not been as distinct as I want. Next time I will try working with the leaves clamped rather than rolled.

My latest obsession is printing and dyeing silk organza. It takes the dye beautifully and the colors becomes both rich and alluring. Prints on the organza vanishes when held up to light, but appears crisp and clear against a light background. Lovely.

A few more paper prints ended up in the pot as well – nothing spectacular – rose leaves, japanese maple, and some more eucalyptus for that rosy touch.

weekly bundles no. 6

The dye pot that was not. My first attempt of fresh indigo dyeing was a total failure. Not of trace of blue, or any other color for that matter. I carefully followed the three day vat recipe from Rebecca Burgess's book harvesting color, with the exception that she used polygonum tinctorium and I used indigofera tinctoria. I had a hunch that something was awry since the color of the dye liquid did not look like hers throughout the process. Maybe the two different species of indigo will react/ferment in different ways? Naturally, I dove right into this without doing my homework. Now I am really intrigued and want to learn more. I have plenty of indigo (indigofera tinctoria) that need to be harvested soon and I would love to give this another try. Words of wisdom from you indigo experts out there would be most welcome.

To offset my disappointment with the indigo trial, I boiled up some beet root just for a test. I expected pink, and got a musky (but beautiful) brown. I am thinking there is some secret ingredient in the erthue scour I used to prep the linen with. Well my friends, more color to come next time, we hope.

weekly bundles no. 5

My resolve to create something in the dye pot every week is motivating me to try new things. This week I picked some of the last blooms from our butterfly bush (buddleja davidii) and simmered them for a few hours. Linen (pre-soaked in soy milk), tafeta silk, silk organza, and a small piece of wool was put in the dye pot and brought to a low simmer, alternating a few times (30 minutes each) with the alum mordant pot, and then left to cool in the dye pot overnight. The blooms generated warm yellow hues on the linen and a darker yellowish green on the protein fibers. Lovely.

A pair of bundles simmered for two to three hours in the left-over butterfly bush dye. Dogwood, plum, ginkgo, tulip poplar, maple, and peach leaves were layered in two bundles - one with all linen,  another with silk and wool. I am having difficulty finding white or natural wool these days (if anyone has a good source please let me know), so I used a commercially dyed pale gray wool jersey. The overall outcome was not spectacular. The ginkgo did nothing except for some interesting resists, but the dogwood and the maples left some pretty prints on the gray wool.

And naturally I had to do some more eco printed paper. Ginkgo and peach leaves were layered between the sheets and clamped tight between wood boards. The paper prints have become somewhat of an obsession. I just love the embossed marks and the pale impressions the leaves leave behind.

weekly bundles no. 4

It is that time of year. Walnut husks are soaking and stewing to coax out their delicious brown color. A couple of dozens of green husks were left to soak for two days, and then boiled for two hours. Only linen and paper went into the pot this time, which means more mocha than dark chocolate hues. I tried a bit of shibori – soy beans wrapped and tied and some pulled running stitches. The fabric received two half-hour sessions in the dye pot, with alternating dips in the alum mordant solution. Then it was left in the dye overnight.

The paper, layered with rust colored dogwood leaves was folded and clamped between two wooden boards. They were left barely simmering in the pot for about 2 hours and then dried overnight. The marks from the leaves, and the dark edges from the dye is just magical. Sigh. I also love how the wood was stained by the walnut color.

weekly bundles no. 3

Bleak and blurry was what I got. Bold and boisterous was what I wanted. I prepared an iron pot full of rain water after all our storms, added some more iron scraps, and in went the bundles, linen fabric filled with fennel, dog wood, bishops weed, white oak, linden, roses, and walnuts. Everything simmered for about two hours and was left to cool in the brew overnight, except the paper stack which was removed after an hour. While unbundling the next morning almost everything came out muddled and pale, orangy and splotchy.

rose on paper

oak on linen

oak and something yet to be identified on linen

walnut on linen

I may sound a bit disappointed, but that is not quite true. I never get truly disappointed when unveiling bundles. I think I did not wrap them tight enough this time, and maybe the lack of our chemical laden tap water made things more bland. But honestly, I adore the faint rose leaf impressions on the paper and the impressionistic qualities of the large oak leaves. And then there was the walnut. There is rarely anything disappointing about the walnut.

weekly bundles no. 2

This past week I concentrated on sample dyeing, but was able to fit in one bundle with fern fronds carefully collected during a morning dog walk. The fern prints are delicate and bright green on the habotai silk. My small copper pieces went into the pot again, but no other mordants were used.

The dye samples are for the upcoming workshop. They turned out nice, with two dips each in the dye bath and the alum mordant. Promising.

tansy flowers on linen

sumac leaves on linen

artemisia leaves on linen

hops leaves and flowers on linen

calendula flowers on linen

weekly bundles

I am starting something new here to further my love of eco printing and dyeing. Once a week I will make a set of bundles or a natural dye bath, just to experiment and test my wings. I am not good at logging and scientifically charting my experiments, so by sharing them here as they happen I hope to have a record of sorts to refer back to. I also hope to link back to the bundle post once I finish a project that uses the dyed cloth. 

This week I collected peach and plum leaves from my garden, and picked up pecan leaflets left on the ground after our mild encounter with Irene. I threw some vitex, japanese maple, and walnut in the mix as well. I used regular (or in our case not so regular) tap water, and I put 2 small pieces of copper piping in the brew. The bundles simmered for about 1 hour, was left to cool in the bath overnight, and then laid on paper to drain. They were unveiled the following morning. The silk and wool prints turned out spectacular, the cellulose fabrics did not do so well.

pecan on linen

pecan on silk organza

pecan and walnut on wool

t-shirt overprinted with vitex

peach on silk