Tag Archives: dyeing

Quilt finished at long last!

It has been a long time coming, but toward the end of my first burst of holiday time I finally got a proverbial wriggle on and made some serious quilt progress. I have created a series of blocks that each showcase leaves from a specific eucalypt, and embroidered the name of the eucalypt onto the block with eucalyptus-dyed silk thread. Who knew I had it in me?  I thought I had decided against embroidery as a child, never to go back.  I tracked the old posts on this project because I wondered just how long I have been working on this quilt (or not working on it, which is the routine case, of course!)  Just between you and me, this post in July 2013 is my first intimation on the blog that this project was in my mind.  Blocks sitting waiting for courage here.  Blocks finished here.  Sashing attached with help from a visiting friend here. Dyeing the border here.  Back finished here.  Finally, it was assembly time!  Here is the back, pinned out flat on the floor, wrong side up.

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I love the wrong side.  Of most things. The back is made of a mix of recycled, inherited and thrifted fabric.  Next, the minimal batting option for women of a certain age in a warm climate: an ancient flannellette sheet, well past its prime.  It’s hard to tell it was ever blue now.

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The top, pinned out over the rest, is made of stash black fabrics and a mix of recycled and thrifted fabric again:

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All layers pinned together, I decided on machine quilting, coaxed by a friend. The quilting part has never gripped me.  My last quilt was tie-quilted and not really ‘quilted’ with stitching much at all. Clearly the patchwork is my main interest, and the dyeing, of course.  Then, time to make the binding.  There were plenty of leftovers.  I made metres of binding and followed the instructions in Block Party by Alissa Haight Carlton and Kristen Lejnieks.   As usual, with less precision than the authors suggest might be warranted.  Just the same… here it is, kept tidy until stitching-on time…  Second Skin was right behind the ironing board, and seemed perfect for multiple reasons…

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I do understand bias binding, and there are places for it, but I can’t see the point when binding a straight edge, so I went with on-the-grain binding and contrary to the instructions, sewed seams straight across at 90 degrees (okay, it creates less bulk to use 45 degree seams–that part, I concede). I made an exception when I had a moment of curiosity and finished with a lovely 45 degree seam–seen under sewing-machine-mood-lighting below.  Because who needs seams that match?  Maybe next time I’ll give all the binding that treatment, you just never know.  I followed the instructions for mitred corners.  Simple and effective!  Much better than my own past efforts at reverse engineering without instructions.  Done!

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Apart, that is, from the metres and metres of hand stitching required on the back.  And here it is, midsummer!

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But all such jobs come to an end, and now, finally, I have a quilt I love.  I am surprised by how much I like the embroidery.  It just glowed in the sunlit window the day I tried for pictures.

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I like all those blocks with their Latin names and motley prints.

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And I like its all-over-leafiness and the nicely bound edge.  I expect this quilt will be a companion for many years to come, and this is such a happy thing!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Home made mending kits

On a visit to relatives not so long ago, I discovered that an entire family were depending on a single tin of buttons and needles and thread for mending.  When we visited, I was called on to assist in mending and when the tin could not be found–repairs could not be made.  I decided that this was not good enough.  So when we got home, I made up two mending kits to add to the family resources, as two members of the family are reaching the fledging stage of life.  Each comes with a Pohutukawa-leaf needle case, a seam ripper, thread, buttons, and a few other basics.

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Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) is native to Aotearoa/New Zealand and widely grown in Australia.  Here is the interior view of one of the needle case.  They are simple: two layers of leaf-printed wool blanketing, blanket-stitched together.  The leaves gave completely different prints on each side, so the outside of the needle case is one side of the leaf and the inside is a print from the other side.

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This kit makes use of a tin left behind by recent Austrian visitors. It contained a rather delicious Austrian chocolate covered delicacy, but not for long!  I’m delighted to find the next use for this tin.  This kit was big enough to also fit a pre-loved darning mushroom.

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These little kits have found their way to their new homes by mail–I received a text message of thanks today.  And now, I’ll finish on a gratuitous koala picture.

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The appearance of this amazing creature on a Manchurian pear tree at my place of work is not a good sign.  It arrived in a period of extreme heat and little rainfall, no doubt seeking water (and fame, I’m sure–in the bush, koalas are much further away and very hard to photograph effectively–JOKE!).  Over the years a koala has turned up in this spot once in a while–presumably the same one–and water is provided.  In a day or two, it heads back to the nearby eucalypts, since koalas have a very narrow dietary range.  Sometimes one or two can be sighted from a glass walkway up on the second floor, hanging out in the treetops, to equal fascination on the part of passing humans.  Enjoy!

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Ply time!

A while back I had used almost every bobbin I own, each with a different colour of thread on it.

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Over time there were even more bobbins of singles than this pictures shows…  finally there has been a season of plying, skeining and washing, and now I have this pile instead.

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Logwood purples, purple-greys and purple-browns, a cochineal pink (and a cochineal-logwood exhaust), three indigo blues, two madder exhaust-oranges, and a coreopsis exhaust yellow.  I didn’t take good enough notes of the fibres–some are on merino roving (the madder), some on polwarth, some on grey corriedale. Maybe there is a little of Malcolm the Corriedale in there too!

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And there has been even more bee swarm action in the neighbourhood.  These bees have taken up residence on a rainwater tank, with some support from a ladder! And… I am so over tending the silkworms 🙂

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Sheet bundles

There has been some more bundle cooking for my friend.  She handed over these massive bundles–they are bedsheets. We’d walked over to visit with a bale of straw for our friends’ hens… and walked back with the bundles and cartons of fabric.  I spent time helping a friend clear out her Mum’s sewing room recently and since then have been finding new homes for sewing machines, yarn, fabric and a wide array of other items.  Some of my fellow guildies were delighted to take possession of tapestry bobbins…

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Here are the parcels going into the pot, packed with dried leaves.  My friends have an E Scoparia at the end of their street, and that’s what was inside the bundle… leaves and some bark, too!

 

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Some time later…

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And being unbundled!

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One had remarkably little in the way of distinct leaf prints.  I am amazed that there was enough dye in those leaves to colour so much fabric.  Unrolling…

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Flapping about over the lawn, wet from the dye pot…

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The second one had some prints in closest to the centre of the bundle. 

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Glorious!  A third immense bundle has gone home with my biggest pot, for some time on a gas burner.  I love that big pot but it just doesn’t work with my electric burners.  This is going to be one fabulous set of sheets!

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Dyes of antiquity: Carmine cochineal

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Cochineal is another of the dyes I received from the Guild and used at the workshop a while back.  In fact, there was a choice of cochineals.  In what I realise now was my ignorance, I chose ‘carmine cochineal’ because it was ground up and I was unsure how I could adequately grind the whole dried insects I also have.  As you can see, after an initial period of being dull ornage, the dye bath was an impressively shocking pink.  It turns out that ‘carmine cochineal’ is not a shade of cochineal but a preparation of cochineal boiled with ammonia or sodium carbonate.  I borrowed Frederick Gerber’s Cochineal and the Insect Dyes 1978 from, the Guild and found that the deeper red colour I had in mind when I saw the term ‘carmine’ could only be obtained from this preparation with the application of a tin mordant which I am not prepared to use.  the colours we achieved with alum were well within the range indicated by the included colour chart of wool samples (those were the days!)

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The colour range on this card (with madder beneath for comparison) is impressive even without tin. 

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We dyed organic wool. I dyed silk paj and twined string (the orange string was dyed with madder). 

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I brought the vat home with me and dyed a lot more fibre in an attempt to exhaust it.  Here is grey corriedale mordanted with alum and overdyed with carmine cochineal.

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And spun–three plied.  This is my first ever crocus flower, by the way!

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The magenta silk embroidery thread had maximum time in the bath, since I fished it out when removing the dyestuff (in its recycled stocking) prior to disposing of the bath!

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Dyeing with camellia flowers

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It’s camellia season here.  We have two camellias, a red flowering variety and a more compact white flowering variety.  I put up a jar of camellia flowers a while back using the Stuff Steep and Store method… I couldn’t resist trying!  For those who don’t know what I am talking about–this is a method of ‘preservation dyeing’ developed by India Flint and published in this book.  There is also a rather wonderful online pantry of people’s dye jars to peruse and become inspired by, should you wish.

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However, I had no idea whether camellia flowers give reliable dye when I stuffed those blooms in the jar.  So I felt heartened when I found Aphee showing her camellia dyes on Ravelry.  She has posted about them on her blog a few times, too.  She was inspired by a Japanese blog.  My French is not very good, but my Japanese is non-existent: I enjoyed the pictures though!!

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Aphee’s posts suggest that camellia flowers give colour, that the contents of my jar are a promising combination, and that the nature of the dyestuff is exactly the kind India Flint says Stuff, Steep and Store works especially well for.  This, I had hoped for, but not expected.  I decided that while the camellias were blooming, I may as well try dyeing by more usual methods.

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I gathered all the fallen blooms and tried to rinse the mud and mulch from them.  Meanwhile, our chooks were out wandering the yard–and the camellias are their favourite dust bathing spot.  The edge of the bed must be in the rain shadow of the verandah, so the soil there is still dry while the whole garden has been generously rain watered lately.

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They left big circles of earth on the paving where they shook out the dust once they were finished!  The camellias soon turned brown though I kept the heat low.  This is one of the reasons the preservation dyeing method seems so promising for dyestuffs like these.

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Well… the result in this case was not impressive.  This test sample was barely nudged out of the cream and white it was before dyeing.  Longer heating didn’t change that at all.  So–let that be another example of the mysterious in natural dyeing for the time being.  Aphee is doing something differently to me and I have no idea what it is!  I’ll put the next clutch of fallen blooms in jars until I have a new thought… who knows what I might learn between now and next camellia season?

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Dyes of antiquity: Madder root

Three cheers for dried madder root!

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You may remember that I acquired some through the Guild.  I set out by pouring boiling water over it twice, and draining off the resulting liquid.  This is a strategy which is usually described as a good idea in order to help separate some of the brown and yellow pigments in the root from those which might produce red.  The resulting liquid was very dark brown.  I saved it for later experimentation.  I’ll get back to that!

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Every long term reader of this blog knows I can organise orange dye in a heartbeat, so I was hoping for red from madder.  When seen at the workshop I ran at the Guild, it was looking rather orange.

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However, time is needed.  And gentle heat.  This pot produced some light reds at the Guild. Once again, the cold processed alum, long steeped sample gave the most intense colour. Rhubarb (the two samples on the right hand side), not so much.

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I didn’t think it was done, however, so I took the whole dyebath home.  Happily, no mishaps en route.  Since then, I’ve been happily trying to exhaust this madder. I have overdyed grey corriedale. The fleece took up the dye differently in different parts of the locks (the weathered paler tips most of all).

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I turned it into roving while I kept dyeing…

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When I ran a dye bath with the rinse water… to my surprise it gave a strong red, stronger than the exhaust dyebath by far.  Here it is on the left, with the original dye bath on the right for comparison.

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I also dyed quite a bit of merino roving I happened to have put by, achieving three different shades. And some more grey corriedale… not bad going from madder root that might have been in those jars for decades.

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Mock Orange–Choisya Ternata

Choisya Ternata (which I grew up hearing called ‘mock orange’) is appearing more and more as a hedge in my neighbourhood.  It looks very lush at this time of the year… leafy and green and just beginning to flower. Inspired by blog posts I’d read like Aqua and Flora and Debbie Herd, I ran a dyepot with no modifier and got a beautiful yellow. Then, I modified with copper water and obtained an olive green.

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The effect of this addition was impressive, to say the least.

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This rated as one of the most delectably scented dye baths ever, and it is certainly one I’ll try again.

 

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Garments to bags…

The time has come for some of my clothes to find new uses.  These worn out jeans have had years of use as jeans…

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I made these shorts from a length of linen I found on a pile of hard rubbish on a Brisbane kerb when I was there one summer.  They have had years of hard wear and been re-dyed once or twice.  Surprisingly enough the screen printed design on the pocket details didn’t take dye!

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They are now completely threadbare in places that would create embarrassment if they were to fail, further evidence of the hard wearing qualities of linen.

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I paired the jeans up with some leftovers from past sewing adventures, which finished out the lining.

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The jeans pockets went on the inside, retained for future use.  The outside features the pockets of a pair of hemp shorts that hit the dye pot some time ago.

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I teamed the linen shorts up with the remainders of a pair of men’s twill cotton pants bought for a dollar from the Red Cross.

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I love a beautifully executed pocket, and there are two of them featured on the outside of this bag, while the back pockets of the shorts are still on the inside of the bag.

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In between the sewing, I spent the weekend mordanting fibre and continuing to try to exhaust dye baths from the workshop a fortnight ago!  By the end of the weekend I was down to pastels… And there was the odd Stuff, Steep and Store jar to be going on with.  Using the microwave has lowered the barriers to taking an opportunistic dye find or something that seems promising but whose dye properties are unknown to me and putting it up for future reference.  Here, rat-nibbled pomegranate remains collected off the ground… as no edible pomegranate would be turned to dye at our house!

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Dyes of antiquity: Walnut hulls

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When these walnut hulls came home from the Guild hall with me, who knows how long they had been stored?  I can only give an educated guess to the time involved in separating them from the walnuts… or the year in which that might have happened.  In the meantime, insects had become involved… so I put them in water and put a lid on and left them to steep in mid to late May 2014.  As you may remember, I decided I should honour the effort involved in all that dye gathering and storage… and so over a month later, a dye vat emerged…

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The stinkiness of which was unholy.  It may become a legend in my Guild.  But not in a good way!  The dye that emerged was inky and impressive.  I rather wish I had saved some to try using it as ink, but in all honesty I didn’t have that thought on the day… my nostrils said ‘begone!’.  The dark brown skeins in the foreground are walnut.

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And here is my sample card.

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Interestingly, the walnut dyes, together with every dye I have tried on both hot and cold processed mordants so far, show cold processed alum as the most obviously effective mordant, with hot processed alum coming second.  The cold processed sample is noticeably darker than all other samples.  My eye cannot detect a difference between the hot and cold processed rhubarb leaf mordant samples.  In this case, I expected that since I used an overwhelming quantity of rhubarb leaf, achieving a dye effect and not just a mordanting… that these samples would be a stronger shade of brown.  I can’t detect a difference between the rhubarb leaf mordanted samples and the no mordant sample.  So far, I have to concur (sadly) with Pia at Colour Cottage in finding that rhubarb leaf is not terribly effective as a mordant, at least in the ways I have applied and used it.  I have enough mordanted yarn to continue experimenting for some time to come…

 

 

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