November 12, 2018 · 10:11 pm
Some years ago, I bought India Flint’s little book Stuff, Steep and Store. I stuffed a lot of jars with all manner of small quantities of dyestuffs, and set them to steep. Some have been out of doors with their cardboard labels tied on with woad dyed wool, or with string made of leaves.
Some are still sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting. Recently I opened several of these jars and washed off the contents.
And here are the results.
It’s a bit sad that this thread dyed with weld was the entirety of my weld crop! I came out one day and found that it had fainted. Some critter or another had severed it below ground.
On the other hand, the colour from the black hollyhock flowers is stupendous. I will certainly save them again this summer for a future jar of dye. This method is fantastic for small quantities of plant material. But I must admit I was interested so long after the fact to see how risk averse I’d been in setting up all these jars of dye and yet dyeing so little fibre. Maybe next time I could be just a little bolder…
May 23, 2016 · 4:42 pm
This sewing machine was found in a shed. It was unwanted by the new resident, so it came to me for cleaning, oiling and a look over. You see it here with some of the upper casing removed to allow lubrication. It is now on its way to new users in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yangkunytjatjara lands. Meanwhile at our place, the threadbare flourbag shirt got some more patches added. Here, the glue stitching I mentioned in my last post holding them in position.
Here, the inside view.
And here, the finished–for now–view of the back.
Threads dyed with pansy, dyer’s chamomile and eucalyptus.
I took up my friend’s jeans. I feel like I have almost got top stitching denim sorted!
Top tips: use a jeans needle. If using top stitching thread, thread the needle by hand (should you have any other options, don’t use them); and leave ordinary thread in the bobbin. Use a 4mm stitch at least.
Buttons replaced in position and stitched down so they don’t get away. I had to laugh when one button fell off at work the day of the second mending workshop!
And another sewing machine cleaned, oiled, tested and ready to go to its new owners. My grandmother lived in a country town where getting your machine serviced was not easy to arrange (cost may have been an issue too). She was a fearless tender to her own machine and those of all her friends and told me many times that cleaning and oiling fixed most troubles. So I am in her footsteps here, but in this case with a manual to guide me. I took this machine apart and oiled all. the. places. It really whirs along! It is now headed to asylum seekers who have been released from increasingly notorious conditions in detention on Nauru, who were tailors in their country of origin and will make great use of this well maintained machine. It came to me because I was working on the mending kits and a lovely volunteer in an op shop asked if I could re-home a machine she knew needed to find a new home. I feel sure its new use would please the original owner very much.
March 30, 2016 · 3:52 pm
I still have some upholstery fabric left from having some chairs re-covered. It is natural linen, a lovely fabric. I have been wondering what to do with it. One day I went to an exhibition of Papunya artists in the City Gallery of Flinders University (on the ground floor of the State Library) and I came home longing to embroider. I can’t exactly say why. Perhaps it is partly that some of these glorious paintings are such clear manifestations of the principle that many tiny marks can make a whole that is sheer wonder. I marvelled at the capacity of these artists to hold entire desert landscapes and the stories of these places in their minds, and from these to create spectacular images which somehow communicate the story and the place. Even if I cannot begin to grasp all that they might have in mind in creating these works, I can still stand in awe.
I don’t need to be able to create wonder. I don’t expect to, and I don’t mind. But stitches are tiny. Perhaps the immediate thing was simply the invitation to begin.
These threads have been dyed with indigo, pansy, hibiscus and eucalyptus. I love their subtlety and the slight sheen of the silk thread against the matte texture of the linen. I love the effects of uneven dyeing, as it turns out. Even dyeing is overrated! Once I had decided I was done (which is a com0plicated thing in itself, I find), I settled on yet another bag.
The lining is made of patchworked silk scraps dyed with all kinds of plants.
And then, just because I can never make just one… I made another with a different piece of upholstery fabric and some scraps of recycled fabric of different weights.
December 25, 2015 · 8:18 pm
Summer is a brutal time here in South Australia, and as I was writing, we had just had a record breaking heat wave where we were up over 40C for four days. In my case, however–not facing bushfire, and I feel for those who have and who will. People have already died and summer is young.
I took some photos before the heat wave… Hollyhocks, whose flowers have been going into the freezer as they fall.
This year’s woad looking splendidly leafy.
Last year’s woad flowering and seeding for all it’s worth.
Our very own E Scoparia. Last year, skeletonising caterpillars left just the veins of every single leaf in a lightning fast attack, but it has come back.
Weld in flower (with rhubarb beyond).
Japanese indigo seedlings, now blessedly in the ground.
Cotinus looking like it will make it.
The madder looking the worse for wear. In Spring it was more like this…
And the pansies, may they rest in peace (they didn’t make it through the heat wave), which have given a splendid collection of tired old flowers to the freezer.
There is more… and I have been roaming the neighbourhood collecting bark and fallen hibiscus flowers and considering the other options too…
December 10, 2015 · 1:07 pm
This time, a little more about dyes and dyeing at the Spring Sewing Circle. In the main street of Mansfield, there was a great two colour display of pansies. I am not sure what the passersby made of me deadheading the purple pansies… I suspect no one noticed from their car. I took them along to the day’s sewing circle with me after they had spent a night in the freezer and this produced an impromptu class in dye chemistry from India.
Once a selection from the three kinds of water available had been made, I tucked the remainder of the blooms into some raw silk (the pocket bag from an op shop suit).
Into a clean yoghurt tub they went with some silk thread.
The colour got bluer…
Overnight it became turquoise.
It came home in my bags, and surprise! The water at home really does have the capacity to create greens. My last experience of this was not an accident or a one off. Thread that had been quite blue and fabric that had been purple and blue went green immediately on rinsing. I’m not complaining–these are great colours!
There were many incidental marvellings at the beauty of plants and fabrics…
I had a lesson in mordants I hadn’t used before, and some help with my issues with milk. Very exciting. Sure to lead to all manner of future experiments.
I had an unexpected visit to a laundrette (laundromat?) on the day I left home, and found one just doors from a rather good op shop that benefits Medecins Sans Frontieres. I spent the time my quilt was washing there and scored a long sleeved t shirt, which was the subject of these experiments. Greens… oranges… iron…
Using this technique for all-over colour and pattern is something I notice others doing to great effect but often don’t attempt. I’ve realised that when buying fabric I tend to plain colours or picture prints, and evidently I have carried this over into my own dyeing. Workshops are for learning so I tried stepping away from my habits a bit. It’s interesting to observe how entrenched some of my habits are.
The back of the t shirt. These last two photos show the garment laundered and dry.
For those who can’t resist the idea of pictures of food… picture this as afternoon tea! Extraordinary. India turns out to have the kind of fine cooking skills capable of making everything delectable. She also has the capacity to turn a few ingredients that might be mere sustenance in other hands (I am not knocking sustenance) into something irresistibly delicious. Macaroni and cheese much better than a restaurant meal. Just saying. We have an onion, garlic and dairy free household and India was kind enough to load me up with garlic and butter and other fabulous things we can’t share at home for the duration. Such happy pleasures for me and such generosity and skill from her.
November 14, 2015 · 7:25 am
It was a lovely weekend afternoon–my beloved in the shed with a friend, woodworking, and myself and another friend figuring out a few dyestuffs that had been saved in the freezer. I started out by cleaning up. I regret to say this is a pattern! Mohair locks had been steeping in a cold alum bath and it was into the cochineal exhaust with them!
The remains of two bunches of lilies that had been at my friend’s Mother’s funeral had made it into our freezer for this occasion. We consulted the dye manuals and found no really obvious approach to take for lilies. We started conservatively and tried pouring over hot water and steeping. Nothing magical.
We put the second bunch into a saucepan and heated it. Meanwhile, pansies from the parklands, deadheaded when I was support crew for a half marathon back in April or May, finally got their day in the dyepot.
I tried India Flint’s iceflower method and the dye bath was quite extraordinary.
Overnight, it deepened further still.
Following a post on India’s blog, I tried the same method with the leftover Japanese Indigo from last summer, but no blue resulted this time. These plants felt tired and sad when I harvested them for the next crop to go in, and perhaps they just were!
After drying, here we have pansy on the left and JI on the right
Even overnight steeping and being kept warm didn’t produce anything of great moment from those lilies, so I settled on Stuff, Steep and Store-ing them (India Flint’s preservation dyeing method). I have a jar of daylily blooms that has dyed the silk embroidery thread that is also in it–so I have some confidence in daylilies, but these may be a different kind of lily, and the ratio of dyestuff to silk is different too.
While I was preserving, I was curious as to what the pansies might produce after that luscious green, so popped them in a jar, and created two others with seed pods from a wattle (Acacia Baileyana) and a small native tree I haven’t been able to summon up a name for as yet. Now, we watch and wait.