Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dyeing again, it's always something

I pressed the beet-dyed linen and mounted the copper Doorway piece on it, the color working pretty well.  

However, another issue came up: the linen has lost its strength, to my surprise, very good linen, not subject to more than reasonable stresses, and as I pressed, the tip of the iron snagged right through it.  It's in a place that doesn't show, and I can fix it, but I'm sort of betwattled as Georgette Heyer would say, as to how it came about. And I hope the rest of it doesn't just fall off the wall! I wonder if the mordant did it.  Hm.  

Anyway, there's plenty of time to have it hung at home before anyone needs see it on exhibit, to determine if it's not too fragile to hang.  Ironic considering I made the linen backing  with the idea of making these three pieces less fragile to hang...

But, for the moment, this is where we are:

 Instead of a dowel, I slid a big wooden knitting needle through the pocket at the top, looks very finished.

 I have other pieces of linen ready to back two other doorway pieces, so that's next on the art agenda, at least for this series.  I'm still working on Big Doorway, and made another Dorset button last evening while I listened to Christopher Buckley's But Enough about You, very funny stuff.

And there's the chrysanthemum piece still progressing and another piece ready on the hoop to start.  And now that the dyeing is under way, I have more ideas about creating dyed fabric to stitch many ideas, so few hands..


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Beet dyed linen, avoiding cheap puns here!

So after leaving the linen piece all folded and wrapped overnight, I rinsed and unfurled it this morning, and here it is:  a nice rusty shade in a checkerboard, which if it holds the color once dry, will be just about what I need for that copper woven and stitched piece.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Chop wood, carry water, forage for dye materials

Out walking yesterday, and there's a bunch of dead red Japanese maple branches cut and tossed outside someone's fence.  So I figured since live J. maple leaves make a good dye, why not drag them home and test if dead ones will work, too.  They still had a lot of color.

So here is the foraging result on my patio, paper bag ready to receive the leaves.  My kitchen now has various paper bags pegged up to the front of my shelves as my growing foraging finds mount up.  And the fridge has several jars of dyes made from their results.

In the kitchen, there's also cooking, and today being a day to cook beets from my farmshare, I saved the steaming water and the skins and made a dyebath, in the hope that it would work.  

Beets usually require the whole root, I think, but anyway, I tried out a piece of linen, shibori-wrapped in a sort of brick shape, used cream of tartar as a mordant and alum, and simmered the fabric, after soaking in water for an hour, in the dyebath complete with mordant.  I'll leave it in overnight, probably, just to give the color a chance.

But  since I took the picture,  when the dyebath was reddish, I notice it's already, after half an hour, turning a rusty brown. 

I know beet color is very fugitive in air, but if it gives me a warm rust brown that will work fine for one of my doorway pieces. We'll see!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Finally, I'm getting the linen dyed for my stitching project!

The original reason for the dyeing caper was that I needed pieces of linen to hang behind my doorway stitching series, to exhibit better.  And finally I'm getting to where I have the expertise to actually get them done.

Here is the latest shibori tied linen piece, which will certainly be used!  I made another which is much paler, but still usable.  You'll see how it looked all tied up after rinsing

 then  opened up showing the beads and the rubber bands I used.  

Then drying on the line, very pleasing. I wanted the irregular effect of using beads other than just globes, to avoid that ghastly bullseye effect of sixties tie-dyeing we managed to live through.

This was red cabbage, mordanted with alum and cream of tartar, and with a big addition of salt to the final bath, to increase the blue side of the spectrum.  I brought the bath to a simmer with the piece in it last evening, then switched off the heat and left it in all night. Linen is not an easy customer to accept color! 

I have been conscientiously keeping notes of all these processes, most unlike me, but there you are, I'm a born again artist, and if anyone's interested in knowing more about any of the pieces I've shown you here lately, just email me.  

I don't want to bore on about process for general readers who are not up for doing it themselves, just interested in the general idea, but I'm glad to share anything I've discovered, usually by getting it wrong first (!) with anyone interested in asking.

And now I need to figure out what color will work best behind that copper piece you saw ages ago in Art the B. I'm wondering about green, maybe a spinach dye.  Or even an orange. Hm. Your input gladly listened to, as always, dear blogistas.

So funny for someone who doesn't consider herself a colorist, to be so engrossed in issues of color this summer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ready, Set, Bead!

Lovely community workshop yesterday, with about 16 youngsters, two assistants and the indefatigable Donna on deck, and we had a great time learning to make paper beads, to create necklaces and bracelets -- everyone went home wearing a creation -- and incidentally learning about the relations of colors to one another, but I slipped that in under the radar.

So here's the setup and then the  furious beading activity, amazingly intent group, and their proudly displayed creations. 

They made their own beads from a selection of three different papers, which I'd predrawn with guidelines to show them where to cut, one kraft paper, which makes beads that look like wood, went over big with the boys' contingent, one plain bright colored, their choice, one a sheet torn from a colorful magazine.  Then we explored, after creating a dozen or so beads, how to arrange them to bead in a good design, then thread them and finish off necklace or bracelet with a firm knot.

Quite a lot of learning in this apparently simple activity.

Some of the participants seemed interested in continuing this new skill, and after I showed them a lot of beads I'd made and explained about finishing them with nail polish at home, they went off full of summer plans.

This workshop was the first of the summer program. I wanted to lead off the  program for two reasons, one being, full disclosure, that I wanted to get my part of it over with (!) and the other that this is a nice summer activity for all ages, that you can do in a bit of down time at the beach or the park or at home on rainy days.

Great props to Donna S. for the background work and support that made it all look easy on the day, and to the Plainsboro Public Library for presenting all kinds of interesting events open free to the community.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Food as art and art as food and language as both

Forelle pears, at a great price for once, so I picked up a few, and once again was happy with their looks, and their name. Forelle, meaning trout, for their trout-like speckled appearance.  

Do you know the trout lily, a lovely spring flower with speckled leaves like little trout in the shallows?  and the Trout Quintet, Die Forelle, of Schubert.  If you don't think you know it, but you've watched Waiting for God, that's the incidental music, so you do know it after all.

Just musing over the intersections of art and music and language and how they're right there in front of us if we notice them.

But, onward and another dyeing adventure today:  shibori, tied work, very simple approach. Shibori can get very sophisticated, but here I was just finding out if my dyes would do it at all.  Using spinach in one bath, turmeric in the other, I did two shirts, great fun.  I plan to cut them shorter though, since they're usually a bit too long for me.  Since they're knitted, the edges will curl up and not need hemming.

Here's the general sequence of events:

Dyebaths ready for service, and I added alum in to the spinach bath,but not to the turmeric one, which doesn't need the help.

The little parcels are shirts, fanfolded, turned over and tied up a bit like a piece of pork.  This is what gives you the stripey effect.  I did a similar thing with both shirts.  Next time out I'm going to enclose some round objects and tie them to get round motifs.  Just to see how it goes.

And after the exercise of great patience and several hours in the dyebaths, the shirts emerged with a fanfare.  

Very happy with today's work.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Current dyeing adventures completed

After a frenzy of days of dyeing and running about with gallons of water and lugging heavy pots and picking and cleaning and rinsing and hanging up and all the fun that goes with dyeing from natural materials, I've come to a temporary place where I can stop and take stock of what I've learned.

This is the latest group: linen fabric for stitching in red cabbage dyebath, tshirt in onion dyebath, linen shirt in turmeric dyebath, and two shirts dipdyed in mixed berries.

And hanging to dry

I need much bigger containers for the dyeing, more room for the items to swirl and dye evenly, and I need a lot more plant material in proportion to the fabrics.  

The books I've consulted are a bit conservative on this issue, but I wonder if it relates to the sort of dye material they have access too -- it varies with climate and soils -- and the kind of water supply I'm dealing with.  

At any rate, to dye anything larger than a smallish piece of fabric for embroidery, or a small amount of thread, needs more elbow room, and it definitely needs a ton more vegetable and fruit material.

The red cabbage came out a lovely very pale blue (I added salt to the dyebath to be sure of blue) but was so pale I may dye it again with another lot of red cabbage, this time a bigger one with gnarly old, much darker, outer leaves. The color you see in the dyebaths is very deceptive, as you find when you dip out a spoonful and see how piano the color really is.

At this point I've discarded the dyebath contents from today, because the color is exhausted, I know how it feels, which means I'm doing something right.  

Quinn says she raises goats so we don't have to, and I guess I experiment with natural dyes so you don't have to -- you can get it right faster! It's a great summer art adventure, though, like papermaking, which also involves large amounts of water and running about, seems to be my preferred style.

A trip to the thriftie today did not yield anything in the way of big pots, nor possible linen items to dye, but on the way home a breakdown trucker pulled up beside me and offered to buy my car!  I wonder if he thought it would be a favor to get it off the road, or if he really wanted an ancient Honda Civic from the last century. He could have loaded it right on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dyed threads

Today's reveal is a set of linen and cotton mix threads, the thread I've been using for Dorset buttons, dyed with natural materials.  

Reading left to right:  henna, red onionskin, mixed red berries, and spinach!  My neighbors are very excited about my dyeing experiments and presented me with a bag of henna to try, and the berries and spinach!  Small amounts, so I was only able to try the threads, but now I see the results, it's worth going for more quantity. 

In the picture it's hard to see the delicacy of the spinach green, which is lovely, and the henna gave a warm sort of tan shade. Two neighbors have now signed up to save all their onionskins for me from now, so happy to be part of the studio action.

I'll see how the threads all look once dry, but I'm hopeful about this batch. 

I am waiting on a delivery of alum in order to prepare the next lot of fabrics for dyeing.  I thought I could easily buy it locally at a supermarket spice section, since I used to do that back in the day. Not only was I mistaken, but nobody even knew what I was talking about!  so I ended up after four stores failed me, ordering from Amazon.

It's important for the process, as is prewashing the fabric. I'd washed most of the other items, and they dyed fairly evenly, but could be better, so I'd like to give them the best chance. I forgot entirely to wash the apron, which was probably full of size and all the stuff they treat cotton with for storage in warehouses, and it was a bit uneven, not awful, but I'd like to do better.   I have a special fabric wash from Dharma Traders for this,which I'll use today,  and tomorrow will see more dyeing, but today I probably need to go out and forage some more. 

I was hoping for beets in my farmshare, which didn't happen, but I will try them from their farmstand, and I'll see if there are any red cabbages in the Asian store, too.  Food and art and social life keep weaving themselves together.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Turmeric and coffee -- sounds like a cookbook title

In fact it's today's dyeing exploits.  Interrupted only by the welcome visit of friend G., who arrived spontaneously and  joined in as I was eating mejadra for lunch and pronounced it very good!  I won't see her for a week, since she's going to friends, so this was great timing.

She admired the items hanging outside to dry, and said, nobody in the world does stuff like this, Liz.  And amended it to say, well, my world, that is! she moving in the world of accountants and IT folk.

Anyway, today was about turmeric, and I thought that little rayon top that took only a very pale color the other day would be good for overdyeing.  And the heavy cotton apron Margaret K gave me ages ago to decorate, why not do that, too. I knew there was a reason I bought a giant container of turmeric.

 Also, since turmeric is fugitive, meaning it fades rapidly, this is a good chance to do some experiments in design with fugitive dyes, by leaving the items out on the deck in sunshine for a few days with objects (I'm thinking large iris leaves and maybe handfuls of pebbles) on them.  Under the objects the color will stay bright, outside of them it will fade, creating an interesting design. At least that's the plan.

And then after I saw the weather forecast, storms and heavy rain over the period I had planned on for bright sun, I regrouped and decided to use my saved up coffee grounds for another tshirt and to dip-dye the yellow rayon top, too.  This shirt is proving to be a test lab in itself.

I'll leave them in place till tomorrow, I think, and see how that works out. You'll note the brilliantly engineered method of dipping just the bottom part of the shirt in the coffee dyebath.  Two hangers from the cabinet handle above the sink. Very advanced and high tech.

The fugitive dye trials can wait till sun returns, no rush on them.

The nice thing about disposing of dyebaths when they're edible and safe is that I can scatter the coffee grounds in the ground, add a little acid to the earth that way.  And the gallon size turmeric dye is now in the fridge, awaiting future experiments.  

In fact the fridge is starting to look like a dye haven rather than a food storage unit.  But all the dyestuffs are food related and nontoxic.

Last evening more Dorset buttons happened while I was listening to an Agatha Christie audiobook, and soon the quota required for Big Doorway will be full.  And the chrysanthemum piece is progressing pretty well.  Won't be long before I can plunge into the Vilene piece.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dyeing Report while I forage for more materials

The threads came out of a 24 hour dyebath today, and look pretty nice. I think the dyeing properties of natural materials wanes as you use it.  

The first Dorset buttons I dyed in this same dye as the top threads here, red onionskin and Japanese red maple,  came out much more saturated.  These are nice, but much more piano.  So now I know. Showing you this against white and blue for better seeing how the color, originally bright white, came out.

Likewise the two shirts, one rayon, one cotton knit, that came out of a similar dyebath, of marigold.  

Nice color, very very pale.  This is useful information for future use.  It seems that the dyeing properties are best on first use, so probably not worth preserving the dye for later use, unless I want nothing but pale.

I need to get a lot more raw material to work with, and I'm working up the courage to ask a neighbor if I can pick some of her dying roses out front. They're a red, heavy blooming sort of vining rose, tons of flowers, all dying, but might be nice to use.  I think her English is up to knowing what I'm asking about, too, a big plus in this town! 

Full disclosure: at the Asian store this morning, I swiped a handful of Spanish onion skins from the bottom of the counter display, you know, the stuff that would be swept up at the end of the day. 

I felt funny about it, but the man stocking the produce area has literally no English and probably would just wave his hands at me to go away!  so I left rather furtively...but I was shopping there, not just swiping.  And I expect there'd be no problem with taking them, if he could get the idea.  I am planning to swipe some red onion skins soon, in the bin next to the yellow the police blotter for further developments.

It seems that dyer's larceny is as bad as gardener's larceny, to the truly hellbent.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Dyeing done for the day

Today I used almost all the dyes I made yesterday, and since this batch uses no mordants, it was straightforward to do.  I varied the dye times from half an hour to three hours to see how much effect that had.  Not as much as I'd have thought.  

The Dorset buttons, though, were in for over 12 hours, and that linen and cotton thread really took up the color very well.  I arranged them temporarily on the Big Doorway piece just to see how they work.  

The thing about natural dyes is that they're so subtle that it's hard to make a clash of colors, so this redwood sort of shade works surprisingly well. I'm glad about this since they were the original reason I plunged into all this dyeing work to begin with. I have to make more buttons, and cluster them on here, dyed with a different shade, maybe the kale I didn't use yet.

I had a bunch of items -- a lovely Indonesian weaving in a natural shade, which has been waiting for years for me to dye it.  It came from Dharma Traders, one of the last of a bunch of weavings from an old weaver in Indonesia ready to retire from the fray.  It was fair trade, but still the price was amazing.  

I dyed the weaving in yellow onionskin dye, for about 45 minutes and really like how it took up the color. Here it looks paler than the dyed effect in real life, which is a light golden, warm color.

I also used a Habotai fine silk scarf, which I dipped in the red onionskin dye, hanging it from an arrangement of coat hangers over the dye pot in the sink, then reversing it to get that colored section in the middle.  About half an hour for each operation.

and tshirts in cotton.  

Everything was either white or ivory at the outset.  The colors are very muted but nice.  I can redye some of these if I fancy more color. Right now they're great to study. Left to right, dyes are: red onionskin,  marigold and red rose blossoms, Japanese maple, J maple and red onionskin, and yellow onionskin.

The shirt in the pot -- here you see how much of the dye it's taken up -- turned out surprisingly pale, very delicate pink. In fact it looks white in the pix.  

That was Japanese maple dye, must do more of this, and collect more leaves for more oomph in the dyepot. I also put in the rose blossom dye into this mix.

The rose blossoms I mixed with marigold, and though it looked glowing in the glass container, 

it came out a soft sort of golden tan on the shirt.

All in all, a good day's dyeing work for beginners.  

I now have a bunch of items I'm keeping for dyeing, since though today's materials were all food or close to it, it's a good idea not to get too casual about what you use in the kitchen for food and for dyeing.  I also had a window open and a fan going to keep a good cross draft going.

And I did the amazing thing of starting an actual notebook to record what I'm doing, or what I think I'm doing.  This is truly a first in my art history, and I demand a gold star.

This day's work, aside from getting Dorset buttons working on the Big Doorway and rehearsing dyeing for the backcloth for the smaller doorway pieces, was all about being very local.  

Every item of dyeing material was either already in my kitchen or a few steps out back to pick.  It feels a bit like eating only locally and in season!  and it was a calming and very good experiment for the purpose of slowing down and learning to take my time, so hard for me, but dyeing rewards patience.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Dyeing all Day Long

I have been soaking and finding and organizing and dyeing and generally having a colorful time in the kitchen/studio. 

 To date, I've made dye from yellow onion skins

red onion skins

marigolds (grown by me)

and have roses in soak, (stolen under the rubric of deadheading next door)  Japanese maple leaves (stolen, I mean pruned, from next door neighbor friend) and kale .

Still to come are turmeric and later in the season acorns and the perennial black walnuts.

The Dorset buttons 

are in the red onionskin dye and are starting to look very nice. I'll leave them in a while before I rinse them. And since that was the original impetus, I decided that I was going to put linen backcloth to the smaller doorways, to make them work better in exhibit, and I might as well dye them myself, too.  The natural dyes are very soft and variegated and I think will work well with the general feeling of them.

Of course, most of this thinking and doing happened before I got the how to books from the library, one of which is very dry and documentary, also very old fashioned in its disregard for toxicity, and the other the one on top, very appealing, about natural dyeing without using toxic mordants where possible, and with great ideas. Including the one about using kale as a dyestuff.  

That will definitely help with the kale glut around here, not that kale's not very good for you and all that..anyway, I plan to own the better book and will have it in my hands ready for me to make notes in, in the next couple of days.  I am unlikely to do all the careful measuring she does, to get exactly the right combo of plant material and water, since I don't have to have washfast fabric, and I don't need to have a replicable color.  That's my story anyway.

One part that didn't work: the cherry leaves were a bust.  Nothing at all happened after the soaking and boiling and simmering and waiting.  

Just clear water.  Oh.  But they were not wild cherry, but rather a hybrid bush type and maybe it was a forlorn hope anyway.

And, aside from the official uses of these dyes, I think I'll do some dipdyeing with tshirts and other things that need a new lease of life.  That's where you dip just part of the garment into the dyebath, and let it sort of travel on its own up the shirt.  I fancy seeing how this works.  Probably a good idea to try this on tshirts before plunging in with my lovely linen.

So this was a day of resting and taking it easy. Or something.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Pent up need to make art...

After a couple of days of being able only to think about making stuff and plan, and feel bored by my vanished energy, and various physical woes, things are looking up today, and I did some work on several fronts.

Here's the state of the chrysanthemum today, not far from completed.  More shading to happen.  I ended up shading it more heavily than I'd planned, but I think it was a good change of plan.

And here's the upcoming series, in larval form.  

At first I had a few line drawings which I thought I'd scan and print on silk. Then I decided I may as well trace as scan.  Then I thought how about instead of silk, using that soluble Vilene fabric for this, and I ended up tracing one drawing onto Vilene, after stretching it, then transferred it, with net sandwiching it, to a hoop.  There I'll do the stitching, with with any luck securing the net, and when I wash out the Vilene, there will be a very airy lacy stitched design on net.  If this works, I plan on a couple more. That way it will be a small series.  At least that's the plan.

I think the doorway series is done now, with three small and one large.  The large one is not far from done, see its current state. There will be Dorset buttons around that archway, mostly stitched now, but since they're white, I'm planning to dye them.

So that's the other thing I did in the studio: study how to go about using my red onion skins to dye some D buttons.  And booking a couple of natural dyeing books from the libe, which I expect I've studied before, every spring I seem to get into this, and digging out an old lidded pot that I can dedicate to dyeing. 

For onionskins it doesn't matter, since they're not toxic, but with other plant dyes it pays not to mix them with food.  Onionskins are good to start with because they don't need a mordant, and the less fuss the better, I think.  Incidentally, there's hardly any smell of onion from them now.

Tomorrow will be my dyeing day...