The winter seemed to go slowly to me. I was sick a lot and had weeks of weariness that meant I wasn’t able to put my itchy fingers to use the way I’d like to. So one particular week of wind and spring rain, I decided on a very small project. The cotton bag a purchase from Beautiful Silks arrived in met the remains of some soy milk that was in the fridge at work for too long. Then it joined a shirt front previously prepared for dyeing.
I’ve been trying to walk more, so windblown eucalyptus leaves and opportunistic scores of leaves were added to the mix, and pretty soon I had a bundle.
I think the bag is much improved. The way these prints turned out is so interesting–almost like an out-of-focus photograph.
And the shirt front stands ready for its next incarnation.
Finally, since plastic troubles me more and more all the time, I took a leaf from Beautiful Silks‘ book and stitched parcels for these supplies, being returned to another city after use on national divestment (from fossil fuels) day rather than buying new plastic prepaid satchels. And now to discover what the post office think about parcels that come stitched up in ancient flannelette sheet. [Update: the woman on the counter made a joke about me sending pillows through the post, asked how she was supposed to get stamps to stick to that, then answered her own question by saying that was her problem not mine]!
I am on a project to create my own sock yarns this year using natural fibres. As part of the dyeing–because I like wildly coloured socks! I decide to dye some mohair and suffolk fleece. I have some dyes that were gifted to–or abandoned in–the dye room at the Guild. This time I chose Quebracho–which was not mentioned in any of my dye books but I assumed would require an alum mordant. I organised that, and found to my surprise that the preparation of quebracho I had completely dissolved. It’s a tree-based dye so I had rather imagined it was finely ground wood. Wrong. Interesting! Then, a second surprise. I thought it would be red, but actually, quebracho comes in a range of colours and I had quebracho yellow.
Which was a shame, really, as my second dye pot was dyer’s chamomile. Never mind. Yellow fibres can be readily blended and overdyed and needless to say I have some fibre dyed with eucalyptus destined to join this blend which might blend beautifully…..
The first dye bath from each came out rather splendidly and intensely yellow (quebracho on the right), and I was reminded that dyers’ chamomile always smells edible. Also, that it might be the right time of year to harvest this plant again (I took secateurs to the dead flowers of a patch growing in a city park last year). I love the smell of eucalyptus, but edible isn’t the thought that comes to mind!
I ran exhaust baths with some of Viola’s (crossbred) fleece. It had been in a cold alum mordant bucket for some months. Perfect! Ready to go at just the right moment! Another win for slow dyeing processes… and one step closer to an all natural sock yarn.
The weather is turning toward autumn. Leaves harvested last season are being converted into new forms. This linen collar came apart with some effort.
Here it is in the process of becoming a project bag. Along with prunus prints…
And maple prints from leaves I found over someone else’s fence!
I’ve been making the best of the remaining sunny days, making soy milk mordant.
This is a task best done when it is neither too hot nor too cold. Too hot can leave your soy milk smelling nasty!
The making doesn’t take warm weather, but multiple dips and dryings are greatly helped by sunshine.
My friends held a big passata making day. Many tomatoes pulped, skins and seeds removed.
Many beer bottles repurposed. By the end of the day, they were gone and all kinds of jars and bottles were pressed into use.
And then, for the long, slow heating.
Ruby saltbush is still fruiting.
Several colours of leaves and of fruit.
I have been taking advantage of the season to collect for next spring’s planting.
I even managed to collect some more bladder saltbush seeds. Autumn is a lovely season!
Let me begin with some dignity, because it won’t last. Soon we’ll be back to silkworms and other silly stuff. Anne Harris of Annie’s Workroom would like to invite you to her exhibition. It’s in Brisbane, Queensland–I am sorry to report this means I won’t be able to see it.
Expressions of Love: Lovingly Interrupted brings together established contemporary artist Kim Schoenberger’s collection of treasured memories assembled from the humble teabag. And introduces emerging artist Anne Harris’s work of naturally dyed, painted and stitched images exploring the emotions of love. Official Opening 14th September 3.30pm. Closes 28th September: Gallery 159, 159 Payne Road, The Gap, Brisbane. There is a special bus to make it easy for sunshine coast people to attend. Please call Anne 0433 162 847 for more information or visit her on the web.
And now… for the silkworm update of the week. OMG, as they say in the classics, the silkworms are still hatching! I have been struggling to figure out a cross-national item to give a sense of scale (US coins don’t work for me). Here is my trial object. Let me know how I’m doing!
Here is a close up of silk worms in several stages of growth–with more hatching every single day two weeks after they started! They were all laid as eggs within a couple of days of one another, I hasten to add. What more can I say? There is still just one mulberry tree with leaves on it in the neighbourhood.
On the weekend, there was lemon preserving (the salty kind)… inspired in part by an anonymous donation of a bag of Meyer lemons left on our porch. Three cheers for the grower and the tree!
I had the urge to cast on, a lot.
I also had the urge to dye and since it was warm and sunny, took advantage by mordanting fabric for future leaf prints. I had the realisation some time ago that I had somehow managed not to find a section on mordanting cellulose fabrics, with quite specific instructions, in Eco-Colour. I had always wished there was a section like that in there. Happily India Flint has indeed put it in her gorgeous book and if only I had paid more attention… Anyway, since I can’t change the past, I have been waiting for sunny weather to dip and dry and dip and dry on a principle somewhat different to the one I have been experimenting with–and now the sunshine is here I got to it! Good dyeing times are coming…
Way back in December I was thinking about hot and cold mordanting processes. I decided on an experiment inspired by a post by Leena at Riihivilla which led in turn to a blog called From Silk Road. There, Jarek shows experiments with solar mordanting over 28 days, and one of the mordants he is using is Himalayan Rhubarb. Mine is the good old fashioned European eating kind… but perhaps the same principles could be applied? Jenny Dean certainly describes cold mordanting with alum and I have tried that previously with success. I was also curious about the findings of Pia at Colour Cottage. She has undertaken some experiments with rhubarb leaf mordant here and here and found it made no difference to dye uptake or lightfastness. So disappointing!
I started with 1100g rhubarb leaves (and stewed the rhubarb with orange juice to go with waffles… mmmm). Way more rhubarb leaf than necessary for the job, I think. I have no way to know if I am even using the same rhubarb as Pia… but I decided to err on the side of plenty of rhubarb leaf and not committing a huge quantity of yarn. I created two, 25g skeins of Bendigo Woolllen Mills alpaca rich ‘magnolia’, left over from some past workshop I ran. One was subjected to the classic heat treatment in rhubarb leaf solution (45 minutes on a bare simmer), left overnight to cool down and rinsed out.
The other went into a glass jar for a solar treatment, which was quite hot at times. It went into the jar on 16 December and our first 40C day of the year was scheduled for the 18th. I created two more skeins and mordanted them in alum, one using the hot process and the other packed into a bucket with a lid in the sun. Here is the solar mordant rhubarb jar (and some iron soaking in vinegar water on the left), in December. They’re sitting on a concrete surface with a concrete wall behind them. I’m trying for thermal mass in a sunny spot.
Things being what they are (by which I mean I have been too busy to think much about this experiment), I took the yarn out on 13 April 2014. Here it is before removal. There was a little layer of mould stuck to the lid, for those who are wondering. In retrospect, this would have been a great application for Stuff Steep and Store.
Here is the yarn after removal from the rhubarb leaf solution. I’d call that a dye and not only a mordant!
Here is my solar process alum-mordanted yarn after similar neglect for the same period of time.
Finally: my full selection dry and ready for use: no mordant, alum applied with heat, alum applied through solar process, rhubarb leaf applied with heat, rhubarb leaf applied through a solar process.
I’ve been puttering along on a number of different projects over the last few weeks… and lest this sounds unusual in some way, that is probably the way life goes most of the time around here! I returned to cold dyeing roving after retrieving my last spectacular failure. For good measure, I also dyed some local mohair locks. I am planning toward a textured yarn spinning workshop and I’m determined to go as close as I can to a local supply of materials for the participants.
We’ve had Ikea here for long enough that the op shops of the city now turn up these fantastic wool drying apparatuses. One came with a small supply of plastic animals. This time, just when I thought I had found them all, a small plastic dalmatian dropped out. Hopefully the child whose toys left home this way is not grieving and bereft!
This time, the merino braids turned out better than I had hoped. Perhaps I am slowly acquiring a better sense of colour. Those with a red base (at the bottom of the picture) were the ones I felt most tentative about, but I like them best of all.
The mohair is ready to have seed heads picked out of it and to become part of some textured batts for corespinning and other good times. Meanwhile, I have been preparing for a natural dyeing workshop focusing on eucalypts. Again, I need to provide materials, so I’ve been laying in what I need. It’s the season for bark collection so I have been touring the neighbourhood with my trusty bike trailer and a chook feed sack, pulling over if I’m passing in the car, or wandering out with a bucket, whichever may be appropriate to the day and location of the tree. In short, I am keeping the E Scoparia bark that is falling to the ground from being blown away, tidied up by others or crushed on the road. I have almost 3 sacks full so far. Seeing the bark shedding has allowed me to run test dye pots on a few trees I had been unsure of with more confidence. I’ve found several more specimens in the local area. Meantime, I have been mordanting fibres (wool with alum on the right) and continuing to convert my sow’s ear fibre into slipper-suitable yarn (left) as I knit up what has already been spun. I think that particular batch of unlovely spinning may finally be over. Two pairs of slippers are knit, one to go.
I’ve been converting milk bottles into sample cards, writing up notes and assessing the state of the Guild’s dye room. Today, I’ve got soybeans soaking ready to mordant cotton for the workshop. It has me wanting to dye…