Blue Explosion!

My Japanese indigo exploded this year. It has been in this pot for 3 years with a meager harvest. I had to pick tiny bits of leaves at a time to have enough dry to dye with. But this year, WOW! I am ready to harvest this pot and there is still time enough for it to grow for a second harvest.

Sunshine from Garden Marigolds

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.

extracting dye

 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!

Harvesting Summer Gold


By the end of autumn, my marigolds were in over drive. Yellow ones, orange ones and red/orange ones.  A bucket over my arm and fingers ready to pinch there lovely heads off was all I needed. They dried all winter and with dyeing season coming into full swing, it was time to see what these would do, but first the petals had to be separated from the sepal and the receptacle. But never fear, nothing is going to waste.

The sepals when soaked overnight in a pot yielded a soft yellow after a little alum was added. I was surprised! I might have been able to leave them all attached but would not want to dilute the strength of the final marigold dye bath.

Next up, results!

Winter is Coming Soon

So I thought I needed a new coat. I purchased this 3/4 length pure wool coat at an estate sale. The only alterations were to take out the shoulder pads and remove the outdated collar. Then into the eco printing pot it went. I am certain there will be nobody else with a coat like it!

Silk Information for Dyeing and Printing

Information on Silk Fabrics – Types, Terms, Weaves,

Fabric Terms

There are many types of silks. Listed below are a few of the more popular ones found in the US. To assess a silk one needs to consider three factors. They are: Silk Type, Silk Weight, and Silk Weave. Silks of the same type might have different characteristics because of different weights or weaves.

Silk Fabric Description Weight
Broadcloth, Habotai same as China Silk except heavier; wrinkles less; good for shirts medium (10 mm) up
Chiffon a soft plain wave fabric made with twisted yarns Sheer – Light to Medium
China Silk, Fuji Silk Spun Silk, best for lining and crafts; inexpensive, often called washable silk, wrinkles 8 mm up (light)
Crepe de Chine Popular for clothing; lustrous fabric; superior drape; made from twisted yarns 14 mm popular but inferior; 16 mm is good blouse weight, heavier available
Organza plain weave; sheer silk made of tightly twisted, fine yarns; use for interfacing, veils, under gowns Crisp, Sheer
Charmeuse crepe backed satin; rich luster; drapes beautifully medium; 16 or higher
Pongee a variation of tussah; slight rib and texture; inexpensive light weight; traditional summer fabric
Brocade Jacquard design often with metallic thread, usually contains some rayon; good for jackets heavy
Taffeta hand woven is best; crisp fabric that rustles medium to heavy weight
Shantung slubbed silk, duppioni yarns many weights from light to suit
Velvet pile fabric often containing some rayon; gorgeous drape medium to heavy
Peu de Soie skin of silk; satiny face heavy
Damask jacquard woven silk of elaborate patterns light to medium
Noil (raw silk) spun silk with nubby texture; appearance of soft cotton or wool; easy care, wrinkle resistant; travel well medium to heavy
Tussah (wild silk) wild silk, generally from India, loosely woven heavy, nice for suiting
Washable Silk see: China Silk, Fuji Silk above
Silks are woven fabrics. Fabric weave helps determine such characteristics as strength and durability of the fabric as well as beauty. Since silk is so strong naturally, less durable weaves may be used to achieve a particular look not capable in other fabrics.

Weave Explanation Comment
Herringbone most durable; diagonal rib switch back and forth creating rows of parallel lines which slope in opposite directions often seen in noil silk suiting
Twill a dense fabric (double thread) with appearance of fine diagonal lines; very strong and soil resistant an expensive weave
Rib variation of plain weave in which the yarns in one direction are heavier than the other creating a rib effect a strong fabric weave
Plain yarns runs alternately over and under one another; most common weave appearance is changed by looseness of weave
Dobby made with a special loom that creates small, geometric figures usually expensive fabric
Jacquard intricate weaving creating complex designs in the fabric popular
Satin uses floating yarns to create the luster of a pearl; imitations and copies: shine; beautiful!. can snag easily
Leno open weave using twisted fibers weak weave

Term Definition
momme silk weight; a silk of 6 momme (mm) is very light; a silk of 22 mm is very heavy (suit weight);
sericin the gum that protects the fiber in its natural state
Spun Silk short silk threads that are spun together to form a longer filament; a lower quality silk often seen in the so called “washable silk” class
Raw Silk refers to spun silk that has been brushed to give a cotton effect; popular; easy care; inexpensive
Dupionni other related terms: dupion, douppioni, shantung; fabric containing slubs, uneven; forms when two silk worms make their cocoons at the same time thus joining together.
Washable Silk This is a term of recent creation. It normally refers to a light weight silk such as “China Silk” (see above) and is not considered suitable for outer garments. It lacks the qualities of a long filament silk. However, it is popular for artist who hand paint scarfs and clothing. (Note: most silks are generally considered washable.

Thinking of Blue and Getting Maroon-ed

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.

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Lichen experiment on wool

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 tiniest bit of lichen in boiling water immediately began giving color. The cup in the foreground is image image

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.

The Result of Patiently Waiting


Wool eco printed fabric

Isn’t this glorious???? More than a year ago , and if I’m honest probably two, I eco printed this large piece of wool challis. And it was miserable. Meh! So it was stuck on the back of a shelf and forgotten. Moving into the new studio space I found it again. Can you believe I nearly tossed this out before? It was patiently waiting to be the star of the show.