Bundles of the week

One of the things I noticed at Tin Can Bay was that some people identify that something is less lovely or less suitable than it could be, and go about transforming it into something lovely or suitable.  I have been known to do this… but it made me conscious that often I just live with the ugly version or wish that thing was different every time I wear or use it.  I also realised I don’t have a lot of confidence I can improve on things.  What if my intervention makes them worse?

2015-05-14 17.13.45

So it occurred to me that I could change the little calico drawstring bags I have acquired full of soap nuts and the odd other item.  They are useful but ugly right now.  Why not dye them?  This idea happened along in a week when there was cow milk in the house (unusual these days), so I decided to try using it as a mordant.  If it doesn’t work–it won’t be too late to use soy another day, I decided.  Duly treated, I applied E Nicholii leaves.  The leaves my friend gave me are full of buds, splendiferous materials for leaf printing goodness.

2015-05-14 17.15.43

There were three bundles in all in this dye pot, and I chose this one to unwrap.  Nothing special had occurred.

2015-05-15 09.34.54

I’m not sure whether this was due to the mordant (poor application, for instance!) or whether I just paid too little attention and the bundle didn’t have a long enough, hot enough time in contact with the dye.  I had left it dyeing and gone out to play guitar and sing and generally be a flibbertygibbet–occasionally something suffers through this kind of neglect (but I had a good time)!  I was undeterred, because if at first you don’t succeed, try again later with tried and true processes you understand on a day when you are paying enough attention.

2015-05-15 09.38.04

I rewrapped, and decided to reheat the other two bundles as well rather than disturb them, when their companion had not done well with careless treatment.

2015-05-15 09.39.26

The other bundles were another calico bag and an infinity scarf destined for a friend who loved the one I made at India Flint’s Melbourne workshop.  I am seeing my friend soon and I have another gift for her too.

2015-05-14 09.35.21

This time, E Cinerea and E Nicholii…

2015-05-14 17.20.23

The other milk soaked calico bag–had rather nice beads on its drawstrings. Here are the bundles prior to heating.

2015-05-14 17.22.39

Here they are after the first heating–the silky merino looks good–but I had hoped for deeper colour.  The filthy artisanal plastic bucket in vibrant green is an extra special touch, I feel.

2015-05-15 09.34.59

After some further cooking, the calico bags all looked darker but still pretty awful and the whole bucketful was strangely blurred (joke, Joyce!).  Back to soy mordanting for now.   However, that big bundle in the middle is the infinity scarf–looking good.

2015-05-15 13.45.41

The calico bags still require improvement.  They look better here than in real life!

2015-05-21 16.36.44

I really like the way the scarf turned out.  The colours are rich.  There are some nice ochre and deep grey sections for contrast.

2015-05-19 12.39.34

I really like some of the details–as I had hoped, the E Nicholii buds have left their mark as part of an overall pattern.

2015-05-19 12.40.01

Now to see if my friend likes it–but I have some quiet confidence that she will…



Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

14 responses to “Bundles of the week

  1. purplejulian

    flibbertygibbert, what a lovely word. gobbledygook is good too 🙂 and codswallop ….. very interesting that milk didn’t do the job – not as much protein in it, perhaps. do you source your soy milk carefully – one reads such dreadful things about destruction of rain forest etc that I went right off buying it. I have a baby nicolii and am looking forward to being able to harvest some leaves later in the year. although in the uk usually one doesn’t get the lovely rusts from eucalypts grown here, this one does give me some rust and some very dark green, and then lighter green on re-use. and the leaves are so pretty. as a baby tree it’s gorgeous, will have to see how big it’s going to get and what I do about that. your scarf does look very special, lucky friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love those words too… I am really not sure what the issue with the milk was. Was it the milk? The fabric? The dyer being a flibbertygibbet? I make my own soymilk for dyeing and when possible get Australian organic soybeans.

      The juvenile leaves of E Nicholii are very pretty, and I have had lovely prints from them. The variety of colours you are getting sound just great. I salute you keeping it alive in the UK. We planted one in the back yard but we’re in the sad position of having bought a place where almost all the trees were cut down by previous owners. The yard is shaded now by neighbours’ trees (thank goodness they are there–) and I think the E Nicholii just didn’t get enough sun. I am trying a purple form of agonis flexuosa there at present and we’ll see how that goes!


  2. Be Bold, I say , Intervene ! LOL Its just a matter of taste and if its really bad…. hide it 🙂 Or gift it to someone with really good manners … Those are my strategies but I dont think you need to worry.


  3. Try soaking the bags in vinegar 🙂


  4. Susan

    HA, my mother used to call me a Flibbertygibbert! Guess I still am but it is interesting re the milk vs soy milk. The soy mordanting I first heard about was in Japan and that is the kind of milk they use so was that the reason?
    Not many cows in Japan! So, being a flibbertygibbert I ran upstairs to find John Marshall’s booklet…Salvation thru SOY 🙂 He doesn’t say why but that it,soy, has been used for EVER as a sizing after paste resist has been applied ans as a binder for pigments. He also says that it can be used on animal or plant fibers as well which I didn’t realize. Need to re read this! I DO like your ochre and grey scarf. Rich.


    • Thankyou! I have admired John Marshall’s work and his book sounds amazing. I tried to acquire it when it was out of print for a while. I know that soy can work, because I use it and find it works (and because of all the more knowledgeable people who use it). I think it is clear dairy works too. Some of the same authors refer to it and use it with success (India Flint, for example). And friends who use bundle dyeing processes have sent me pictures of their dairy successes. There is clearly a factor in here that I don;t understand. It might be a pre-treatment (as mutabilia suggests) on the fabric. It might be the fat content in the milk was a hindrance. More dips might have been better. So many variables to consider and try out over the coming years…


  5. interesting reading…i consistently do better with dairy than soy. wondering if the bags had some kind of prior surface treatment? don’t know if you recall that ‘waterbag’ i had in the Muddy Waters exhibition, but it had been painted with milk and the marks were quite calligraphic, crisply edged.
    as to the comment about soaking in vinegar…i’d only bother with that if there were a metal present.


    • That is interesting. It is entirely possible that the bags had some surface treatment. They had all been washed, a varying number of times–but this would not necessarily remove any treatment they had had. I do recall the waterbag. I spent a lot of time looking at it and admiring it. 🙂

      I am constantly interested by the diversity of results I get. For some reason I have taken to soy–and it is probably as simple as your reasoning about cooking: this has been a basically dairy free household for so long soy seems more obvious than dairy. I’ve lived with vegans and people who can’t or don’t do dairy for a long while, so that having milk in the house is unusual. It’s easy to be put off a process or persuaded you can’t make it work by getting a result that might be a sign of mistake, poor preparation or beginner level skill and awareness–or a completely random factor unidentified as yet. I’ll take this as encouragement to try again!


  6. Just catching up here. I do like the balance between the grey and the rust in the infinity scarf. And I’m fascinated by the string. And I also hear you re. keeping your hands busy. I find it very frustrating when for a variety of reasons I can’t. Good luck with the street planting 🙂


    • Thanks, Annie! I also have had times when I haven;t been able to keep my hands busy, and it has been frustrating for me too. Thanks for the good luck, how can it ever go astray?


  7. roz

    i love the opening line here ..made me smile broadly.
    interesting the change thing tho …. is the endeavour all about improvement or could it be about the doing and the process and the practice even regardless of the outcome ?
    i am pretty fearless in the doing .. how will i ever know , and how most certainly will i refine my eye and work out what works?
    i say go for it on all counts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear you’re smiling, Roz! When making things from scratch, I think a lot about process and practice. It seems I have a separate mental category when it comes to changing something that already exists in a useable form–what if I take something useful and make it useless, or so tasteless I’m not prepared to use it? To tell you the truth I have reservations about some raw materials, which are mostly centred around the possibility of waste on the one hand and the known and unknown limitations of my skills on the other. There though, I have a much better sense that I can figure out what to do if the outcome isn’t as hoped for. This is a great invitation to go for it, thanks!!


Please feel free to join the conversation...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s