Category Archives: Natural dyeing

Silk noil dyeing

I had a happy moment dyeing at my daughter’s place in Melbourne–where the local park contains a Eucalyptus Crenulata. Too exciting! I had a small piece of silk noil with me in preparation, and loved the outcome.

One silk noil pillowcase made some time ago finally gave way completely, so I decided to continue the tradition of silk noil leafy pillowcases–and this one is now in my bedroom.

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Dyeing cotton

A while back, I tried a new mordanting strategy I read about and tried some plain dyeing of cotton fabric. Scouring and mordanting processes completed, I took advantage of dyes as they presented themselves. Above, dried out pomegranates picked from under the tree at my hairdresser’s place.

Alder cones, picked up from the footpath and driveway outside the house with the alder.

Then I pruned my tansy. And here are my dyed cottons. I’m not a huge fan of the pastels, and I don’t usually set out to create them–but I thought I’d try stretching myself! Now I need to work out what I’ll do with them. And quite possibly, I’ll return to my previous cotton preparation strategies.

In the image above, from top to bottom we have: pomegranate rind; Virginia creeper berries; acorn (second extraction); alder cones and tansy leaf. The Virginia Creeper was a total experiment I should have researched further. I found research on this plant in the Threadborne blog, for those who may be curious.

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Fresh Madder dyeing 2019

I’ve been growing madder long enough to have a good big patch now, and so it came to pass before the weather warmed too much, that I dug out an entire kilogramme of fresh madder root (yes, I weighed it once washed clean).

I didn’t dig out the whole patch and I did propagate more plants for the Guild while I was at it… and then came the washing.

It’s pretty exciting to think I can grow red dye in my very own garden!

Next stage, breaking up by hand or with secateurs, and then–

Then the dye bath… my trusty muslin from the ever delivering op shop lets me strain out all that ground up root.

And then… in with some wonderful soft handspun Tasmanian Cormo from the wonderful Kylie Gusset’s Tonne of Wool project.

In the interests of honesty, I confess that I broke all the rules AGAIN and boiled the madder vat AGAIN. And yet, red. My experience suggests that madder is not as fussy as every single dye book suggests. That I am so bad at keeping a dye vat below boiling point that I cannot be trusted. And that with fresh root it is best to dye a small quantity if you want really really red red, and then many exhaust baths will give orange and then coral and then peach if that’s what you’d like to have.

My goal with this–is to knit a beautifully soft and red beanie for one of my special sweethearts. But as knitting is going slowly at present it might be a little while!

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Laptop cover

A while back, my computer reached the stage in its life where I needed to go and make a cup of tea after I turned it on and before it started to be capable of doing anything other than finding its own fingers and toes. The new one is a lot smaller than the old, and needed a protective cover.

The plant dyed blanket stash came to mind yet again, and this is the rather plain and simple sleeve I made.

And a close up of my rather basic blanket stitching! I am loving the way all the plant dyed thread I’ve been gathering keeps getting put to use along with the fabric…

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Dye day at the Guild Hall

My fellow plant dyer and Guild member Hedgerow Weaver (who is an exquisite spinner and weaver as well as a dyer and blogger) asked if I’d help with an international collaboration where Guilds swap plant dyed yarns and weave them. I remain, thus far, unable to weave. So my role was to help with the dyeing, which I was glad to do. A third Guild member also joined us in our endeavours and conversations. I arrived with E Cinerea from my neighbourhood and a friend’s backyard tree, and E Scoparia bark foraged from the footpaths of my neighbourhood in unromantic but practical chook feed sacks.

The Guild has a dye room with multiple burners, and I took my two burners as well… and with a great deal of constant monitoring we managed to dye a substantial quantity of yarn. I had ten people coming for dinner so was concerned to arrive before they did!

We obtained nice strong colours on the wool. I seem to have neglected to take any “after” photos though!

As each batch was done we moved it into a bucket to continue steeping, while the next was heated.

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Needlebooks

I’ve been working on my fabric stash for quite a while, and found I was now struggling to decide what could become bags–and my attention turned to the plant dyed woollen blanket stash. Having made quite a few larger items–the question of what to do with the small scraps arose (inevitably). And so, a very large number of needle books came into existence.

And then some more, and some more. The stash of random small quantities of string went into the mix, and eventually home made string also got used!

I guess I will now have to work on creating some mending kits…

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Box pouches

There came a point where I started to find I couldn’t figure out what fabric to use for boomerang bags anymore. I’ve cleared an entire selection of fabrics out of my stash. And that is when I started to turn toward the wool, and my thoughts returned to the box pouch.

I love this design. Those who have been reading for a while know that I can really get on a roll, and make the same thing over and over. This isn’t even the first time with the box pouch. They are a great size for some of my wool blanket stash, and they have also used a good number of the vintage and reclaimed zippers in my stash. And what fun to be able to use this fabric… dyed with purple carrots, passionfruit skins, eucalyptus …

But wait! There’s more (of course)…

Just quietly, that isn’t a complete catalogue… but it is a fair sampling…

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And Another Apron

Once I finished stitching one apron… I was keen to keep going! I had trouble dyeing my other candidate apron so in the end I cut one from some hemp I had prepared for dyeing with soy milk. Hrm, very stiff for stitching. However–I took it with me for a week in Melbourne and constructed the whole thing by hand, then began stitching for sheer decoration.

Here is the top front, with leaves stitched into it using a variety of undyed threads. And here is the apron prepared for dyeing, with onion shells arranged over the embroidery.

And here it is after dyeing…

And in more detail…

It has gone to one of my beloveds–we make bread together quite regularly and he is often to be seen at our house sporting one of the kitchen aprons.

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Borderline: Sampling the Edge

I just squeaked into this exhibition in its last few days at Fabrik, a fabulous exhibition space in the former Onkaparinga Woollen Mills in Lobethal, a small town in the hills outside Adelaide.

Fabrik sign with bunting made from classic Onkaparinga blanketing in a bold coloured plaid.

At the entrance to the exhibition, fittingly enough, I was greeted by Troy Anthony-Baylis’ Hey-ya! and Hey-ya! Ay-O in knit acrylic. I first encountered this artist years ago and was rather delighted to see he is still deploying knitting as one of his artforms. I’m also delighted to see he has recently won a fellowship to further his art. I found these rather gleeful forms which do rather call out ‘Hey-ya!’ on arrival…

I was rather struck by Kay Lawrence’s pieces Day by Day and Day by Day: Japanese Cloths. Each had a large panel of cloths stitched together by hand, a handmade book, a table and a pair of gloves. I was really uncertain about whether the gloves were meant to be used so that I could open the books… and so, I left the books closed and admired the assemblage! I especially liked Day by Day, perhaps because these cloths are the daily cloths I grew up with. I think part of the admiration for boro in places like Australia is centred on admiration for the cloth of which it was/is made, which in some cases would have been everyday to those using and mending it. I feel that admiration for making cloth from scrap, for making things last, for facing poverty and difficulty and making something beautiful from it. But in terms of day to day–gingham speaks to my day to day, more than Japanese Indigo.

I have seen Ngarrindjeri sister baskets made from sedges, but this metal Sister Basket by Robert Wuldi was rather astonishing, building up what I understand to be the traditional form using the traditional stitch, in anything but the traditional materials.

India Flint had several works in this exhibition, collectively titled limina. What a perfect title for works which I believe were made from scraps and selvedges. I was fascinated watching other people look at these works–I overheard conversation about how much they reminded one observer of objects that have been buried and then dug up. Just such textiles have inspired and informed some of India Flint’s work–so that seemed quite apt. Others puzzled over these works as if trying to figure out how they were created.

I love the colours indigo gives over eucalyptus. Some of the works were hanging beside the piece in the images above.

I loved seeing the different take up of dyes in the various fibres included in the weaving.

Shoes, belt and hat is another set of Ngarrindjeri weavings, this time in sedge, by Ellen Trevorrow, Alice Abdullah and Jelina Haines.

I was completely bemused by Linda Marie Walker’s works–until I read the title: For Election, 6 moves. These pieces are a critique of our recent national election, in weaving. That makes sense … as the fluctuating moods with which people who did not enjoy the process or outcome responded to the election are all too familiar!

Russell Leonard’s pieces Colour #1-6 were rich and beautiful.

There was a lot to appreciate! Machine embroidery Naturally Alluring by Cheryl Bridgart; Phyllis Williams’ astonishing knit pieces Dream Dress and Indigo Dress.

The embroidered work ‘the mysterious butterflies of the soul’ by Catherine Buddle was glorious, and moving slightly in the breeze when I saw it. It had me in mind of braille. It was mesmerising.

And finally, Sera Waters‘ Sampler for a colonised land. What a statement about colonisation. One recognisably colonial dwelling on a nice clean background (cleared of trees, shrubs, grasses, pre-existing human life, and legal rights) and then–fences and walls from bunting to razor wire. It had me in mind of Kev Carmody’s song Thou Shalt Not Steal, a song that has always summed up, for me, the hypocrisy to which Indigenous Australians are so often subjected by non-Indigenous Australians.

So there you have it. A lovely trip to Lobethal and a rather awesome exhibition.

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A tale of an Apron

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It all began with a linen shirt from an op shop in Warrnambool. A lime green linen shirt. Then I added India Flint’s online class The Alchemist’s Apron and stirred.

I overshot my goals on the elimination of lime green and produced a very dark grey shirt on the first attempt. Never mind, I dyed it and it was still deep grey with some leafy marks on it. I wanted to take it with me on holiday… and so I sewed it into an apron shape more or less, found some cereal packets to cut to size and tuck into pockets, added thread and scissors and my trusty needle book, tucked them into the inside zippered pocket and tucked the lot into my bag. Not quite what The Alchemist’s Apron proposed, but definitely using it as a point of departure!

I had a quote in mind, and stitched it in: ‘a needle is a tool for reparation’ Gina Niederhumer. Then the serious stitching began… and just kept going while my beloved was having her dream holiday swimming 5 km every day and I was often spending time sitting on a boat. It’s a funny thing. I have never fancied embroidery, and undoubtedly, this is embroidery of a type. And yet, I just kept going and going. At first, with threads I’d dyed (and some undyed too). And after I’d cruised a lot of plausible looking places in Athens, I finally found a really old fashioned haberdashery. And did not take good images of it! I could not find a way to ask the women running the shop if that would be OK with them, and it sure was sunny outside. I could have spent hours in there but my enthusiasm tried the patience of others… I came away with single strand cotton thread in two colours.

And when I came home, I kept going for some time. I bought some pre-Euro Greek coins in the flea market in Athens and added them, and a yellow washer I’d picked up on a French Road we were walking along. I stitched in the places I’d sewn in, including the sea.

I stitched watery lines.

And eventually there was an entire apron covered in rather a lot of stitching, with a lot of pockets.

… which tinkles as I move! I find I rather like it.

I do love wearing it. And I like the way it demarcates time when I’m dyeing and stitching and crafting and whatnot, from time when I’m occupied with other things.

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