It has been a crazy year with lots of things demanding my focus away from fiber arts. Finally today I had a chance to check on my neglected indigo vat. As I suspected, deep, dark, murky blue. Geesh, Why do I do this to myself? I know when it isn’t attended that this will happen. The indigo was totally out of reduction.
Balancing a neglected vat is like starting over. Here are the things I need to coax this back into a healthy vat. Yes, I do a bastard vat, or in other words, what ever works. The most important part of the formula are test strips. The pH has to be right for the vat to be happy and if that vat ain’t happy, mama ain’t happy!
Because my vat is in an opaque container, it is hard to see the color. So the first thing I did was scoop out a gallon of liquid into a jar. I added some magic but nothing was happening. Even though the pH was right, there was no reduction of indigo so no color was going onto the fabric. I heated the gallon of liquid, then added more Rit color remover. Finally, a bit of color change from dark indigo blue to green. There is a little coppery scum on top but no flower yet. It may take a little more tweaking. I know there is plenty of indigo left in the vat so no need to add any more indigo powder.
The big vat is staring to get some copper, no flower, but it is dyeing a healthy green on the first dip. More tweaking but it is starting to sprinkle and Arkansas needs the rain. I will check on my flowers later today to see if there is any change.
I have been eco printing for about 4 years. Some people call it nature printing, others call it botanical dyeing and others have inventive ways of all saying the same thing. The short description is that I coax pigment from leaves, twigs, berries and flowers and deposit it onto cloth in interesting patterns. I have been in love with the serendipitous results from the beginning. Lately I have been combining it with other surface design.
I have been working on a series for the Artist’s Altered Book Collaboration group I belong to. This year we are making 10 x 10 art work to exchange with one of the other 10 people in the group. Many of us decided to do a series since we are to use our own voice for this work. My series uses silk Dupioni that is eco printed, quilted and enhanced with other techniques. I have mailed 3 pieces so far and have these 2 to go out soon.
I think I struck gold! Extracting the dye from dried marigolds couldn’t have been easier. Simply put them into a jar and cover with water. There is almost immediate color. The problem was that in all my resource materials the only marigold dye recipe I found was for fresh petals. So as is common for me, it was a seat of the pants moment.
I soaked 50 grams of dried petals overnight. Then I drained them, reserving the liquid gold. I put the soaked petals into a large crockpot and simmered on low setting for 2 hours. Some natural dyes tend to go brown if the heat is too high so I use my crockpot in the studio to keep the heat low and constant.
I love the variation of colors from the dye pot. The lemon yellow silks are a ray of sunshine. The indigo pieces that were over-dyed got some much needed zip. The eco-printed long sleeved tee looks amazing and I love the splash of color added to the linen scarves. There was a lot of color changed on the indigo scarf, but not as much on the logwood. I think they are all keepers. The bonus is that I still have 2 quarts of dye extract. I will have to figure out a WOF (weight of fabric) recipe for fellow dyers who like things more exact!
A discussion on FB about ways to transport silk scarves to a show/sale sparked my imagination. I was going to use the standard pool noodle or pvc pipe to roll scarves on so they don’t get wrinkled.
Then I was sending a fabric order on Etsy and emptied a cardboard bolt. It was a light bulb DUH moment. Since I carry my inventory in vintage suitcases something flat would be perfect. So I got to work making my silk roll.
I covered the bolt with 2 layers of batting and then a layer of flannel. This is actually a flannel baby blanket with a roll hem. Simple.
I made certain to position the hem so it was in the middle of the bolt. This gives me something with some form to pin the scarves to with silk pins. Depending on the width of the scarf, I can roll 2 pieces side by side. I can continue to add layers of scarves, being careful to only anchor them on the bolt through the edge of the scarf. This also means my hang tags will lay flat and not get crinkled like they would on a pool noodle.
Works like a charm!
It was a mild winter and spring is early. My woad stayed green so I will have a bumper crop this year. I thought it best to use some of the leaves stored in my freezer. A funny thing happens with woad when heat is used. The indigotin present in the leaves turns shades of pink and maroon. When a dye vat is made with woad it is a beautiful blue. This was the blue dye plant in Europe before trade routes opened to the orient for other indigo sources.
2 upcycled silk blouses were layered with frozen woad leaves, then processed in the pressure cooker. The strong dye (indigotin) penetrated all layers of the bundles leaving full and ghost prints. I love the depth created with the leaves this way. Be sure to right click for an enlarged image to see the detail.
A local tree gave up dead limbs from a recent storm. I noticed they were covered with lichen so It was time for an experiment before they were carted off. I am always amazed at how nature continues to give to us.
the color within seconds of adding boiling water. You can see the color in the back cups after resting overnight. The left cup had a dash of bakng soda added, the right cup had a spash of ammonia added. The hanks are 1 yard of white homespun wool left overnight.
I can see that lichens are deserving of a dyer’s respect and further experimenting along with eco printing. However, a warning I keep reading about is to never remove these from a standing tree or rock. Only take windfall that might otherwise be headed for the burn pile. I don’t fully understand their part in our ecosystem but it is wise to be kind to nature.
A quick trip into Goodwill today yielded a silk wedding dress! Nearly all wedding dresses I find are polyester. So, to find an all silk custom made dress is a real treasure. Even the lace overlay and bustle are silk. I’m not a lace girl but who knows how this will get used? And the best part is they had thrown it into the costume category so it was only $10! I have big plans for this pile of silk!