Saturday, 29 December 2007

Inks, post Christmas blues and watching the Titanic

Both the DS's have gone back to normal life one to job and v.busy social life, and the other to finish his PH.D. DH has gone off to work so as soon as I could I went to investigate the "inks" I had made before Christmas. I had put a tablespoon of dye chips, except for the saffron which was 1g , added 100ml of water and put them into jam jars in the slow cooker which were making dyebaths for 48 hours or so. Then I filtered them through coffee filter papers into glass spice jars and left them till today.
Left Column top to bottom. Saffron, Cutch, Walnut with iron added, logwood with iron added ( surprising! and I have now added some washing soda to get purple).
Right Column. Cochineal with tin added after filtering & ammonia. Cochineal with iron & ammonia, Black oak -disappointing as an "ink" ,Cochineal with tin added at the soaking stage.
You can see from these samples how watery and runny the " inks/paints" ( I am not sure what to call them!) are so I thought that I would try and see what "stabalising" with gum arabic means. ( see previous post)
I hunted out some old dusty gum arabic and tried to find a reference in my dye books to using it. I am sure Liles has it in but could I find my Liles? Could I heck. In the process I found I have no less than two copies of Bemiss! Who is not a lot of use in this case. Nor were my other dye books although I must confess my search was a bit cursory. There was nothing in Cardon, nor in Jenny Dean's, nor in Susan Bosence books for example although I am sure I have seen a recipe somewhere.
I tried dissolving a few lumps of gum arabic in water in my studio microwave , but in the end heated them, stirring in a small pan till no more would dissolve and then added the resulting solution to my "inks". It did not make much difference and in the end I added in the order of 1 tablespoon of gum arabic solution to 50ml of " ink". I was planning to go back after I had eaten but succumbed to the temptation of watching The Titanic sink on BBC2-why I cannot think as it is a lousy film apart form the sinking bit which is quite dramatic so I put it down to being still post bug as as my legs still feel a bit jelly like it will have to do as an a excuse. So I will have to wait till tommorow to see whether I think there is any improvement . I have painted with dye thickened with gum tragacanth which makes a sort of textured paint so it will be interesting to see the difference between the different types of thickener.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Medieval Inks, buckthorn bark and being laid low with a nasty bug.

This is just a quickie as I have been laid low before and after Christmas with a horrible bug. Fortunately I was okay over Christmas itself but a new bug laid me low this morning. At least I will not be putting on weight this Christmas.

I have been doing a little research into inks and find that they are stabalised with gum arabic but so far there has been surprisngly little information in my dye books and I have had more luck researching online. So far I have only come across the standard walnut ink, brazilwood, iron and vinegar and a comment that greens and blues were made but that they were difficult.

Making Woodash
A few weeks ago I put about three to four inches of woodash lye into a bucket and filled it up to the top and produced a weak woodash with a pH of about 9 . That this was not enough is evident because I put 200 go buckthorn bark into a pan covered with the weak wood ash lye and left it on my heating Pad ( ones that are used for wine-these are flat pads which get warm). When I briefly checked on Christmas morning it was covered with mould and the pH was neutral at 7. Fortunately we have had a lot of very cold days and have had a lot of woodfires so I was able to fill a bucket three quarters full of woodash and this is now producing a wood ash lye with a pH of 12. I suspect that I will have to restart fermenting the buckthorn bark so I have lost a week. Very annoying as I am dyeing merino 100's for my next workshop.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Projects, painting with natural dyes and a felted stream

Picture above "Seascape" is painted with natural dyes with pastels over the top. And some samples of painting with natural dyes

I always find that the period between the end of Christmas and the start of the new year is the time for a bit of play and this year two projects have started growing in my mind and giving me something to look forward to after Christmas when I have a tendency to slide into post Christmas blues.

Natural Dyes as Inks

One project has been triggered by a fairly casual remark but has set off a train of thought. Last week I went to visit the studio of a local artist I met recently who paints vibrant and vivid landscapes of the Welsh countryside-his name is David Brightmore - and his work can be seen ( if the new website is up) at David showed how he works and paints using acrylic inks over shapes and pieces which he then peels off to reveal textured and patterned surface which he then works into further. I mentioned as we were chatting that I paint with natural dyes, which I initially learnt to do at Colour Congess but I have been working on it ever since. David said "could you make me up some natural dye inks in primary colours"? My first reaction was well natural dyes don't work like that colour wise , and in any case they tend to go off and smell. This is because I am a bit of a slob and leave the dye materials in which in the course of time go off. Cochineal is the worse for this as the smell is really dreadful after a couple of weeks. Then I got to thinking as, as so often happens, I walk the dogs in the hills. Firstly on the colour problem. Cochineal with tin will give reds, bright yellow I am hoping to get from black oak bark - I have some in soak now, because dyes like weld go greenish when painted onto paper and saffron , absolutely gorgeous as a paint, is on the orange side. Blue is the most difficult as I paint with an indigo concentrate and as David knows nothing about dyes I don't suppose he would appreciate having to keep it in a reduced state. I am wondering whether I can use Indigo sulphonate of which I have some ( made from indigo and sulphuric acid) or from logwood with woodash lye which in my water gives a blue, but a dark blue. You can see how fascinated I have become. Then I mentioned to a friend , Debbie the Mulberry Dyer who is very knowledgeable about historical dyes who told me she has a recipe for a medieval ink. I wonder what the definition of an ink is?

Filtering baths to create inks

On the problem of smelly baths suppose I filter the baths ? At the moment I have very concentrated baths in jam jars in my slow cookers where they have been for twenty four hours hopefully the continuous but gentle heat will extract the dyes. I almost never boil natural dyes as this dulls most colours. If you are wondering why I am not using extract dyes for this-well I could but as you need very concentrated dye liqours using extract dyes is an expensive way to do this. Furthermore extract dye do not respond to colour modification such as with copper and tin as well as do dye baths made direct from plant materials.

As I make my marzipan icing -yes late I know but I do have to drag myself in from felting/dyeing to cook-I find my self turning the problems over in my mind and and I think that I will do some research into ancient and medieval inks.
Second project?
Well that is a felting one and I think I will keep it for another day

Update on the hunt for black

I met someone yesterday w ho has givien the phone number of someone who will be cutting the alders by the riverbanks in North Wales. He thinks they might be prepared to let me chip off some bark for black. He also told me ( having spent a life time working with trees that when you cut alder it is white but goes orange in the air. hmm!

I was told by a friend that this blog was nice but very technical and only for the serious dyer! :( - Oh well it keeps me happy!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Scarf from the merino tops & silk dyed in buckthorn bark

Buckthorn bark. This is still happily fermenting away and is currently dyeing some yarn for a friend. She is keen on tapestry weaving and over the past few months I have popping yarn into pots for her. Altogether the 100g of buckthorn bark fermented in wood ash lye has dyed 200g of merino tops, a length of silk and about 50g of yarn. The length of silk , satin chiffon and some of the merino tops has now been been turned into a scarf. Inthe photograph on the left you see the felt side which is made with mostly the merino tops dyed in the buckthorn bark although there are some other colours and a very red silk cap layer. The silk became quite orange during the felting process. I call this scarf felted silk but you will sometime see it described as Nuno felt, from , I understand , Japanese meaning new. Although I have been felting silk for ages the process still seems like magic. You lay out on one side of the silk fabric a very fine layer of merino wool in this case with fine layers of silk caps ( raw silk) on top of the wool . After spraying the wool with water and rubbing with olive oil soap, you gently rub the single layer of wool fibres. The wool fibres push through the silk fabric and appear as a fine froth on the reverse side of the silk and as you continue felting the wool starts to shrink. The silk of course does not shrink so begins to wrinkle. In this scarf I achieved a seersucker like effect which is really attractive. ( At least I think so)

The person who commissioned the scarf wanted on that was dyed in autumn colours and I felt very happy with the result. I wish you could feel the texture as the combination of satin chiffon and merino wool is really soft and comfortable and the satin sid eof the silk fabric has a high sheen. In fact it was because I was wearing a scarf made from this combination that she asked me to make two scarves for her. The other one was blue but the time was so tight for getting it for her I did not have time to photograph it.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

A dyers cautionary tale

Two days ago I shot in to my studio and turned off two vats before going to my mother in law's funeral. This latter event must have distracted me as as instead of turning one bath off I turned it up. This morning I went into my studio and realised immediately I had burnt a pan of raspberry colour merino tops. Then I saw there was ash on the floor. To my horror I realised that my electric ring was red hot, the wonderful old teak bench - originally an old school chemistry lab bench- had a hole burnt right through it, I am still feeling somewhat shaky at what might have happened. If it had been anything else but teak I think my whole studio would have gone up in flames but as it is as you can see I have a hole. Still have not confessed to dh!
The fermented buckthorn bark is still giving colour. I added 100g of merino tops and within two days the tops were a deep gold that changed to orange in the air.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Fermented Buckthorn Bark and being excited.

Today I took the merino wool fibres and silk ( satin chiffon) out of the fermenting buckthorn bark bath. The fibres were mostly a deep gold except for where they had been exposed to air where they appeared a brown so I expected a change in the air but I was astonished to find the fibre changed to a deep orangey red. The silk has gone a more burnished gold/orange. The wool feels a little rough after being in alkaline environment for a week but not too bad and I will felt some next week to see how it goes and also to keep a sample and see whether it disintegrates.

I then did a colour modifiation tests. From left to right alum, alum and ammonia, copper, copper and ammonia, tin, tin and ammonia iron, iron and ammonia and now I am gazing at a row of deep reds. I am so excited the colours are just gorgeous and having spent so long struggling with the madder red which I find difficult to get I am particularly thrilled to get a good red.

Now I want to try alder buckthorn to see if the colour is different! Or better, and I will do some lighfastness tests.
Disappointment with madder
I have also been fermenting madder chips after a prolonged soak expecting to get the garnet reds which you are supposed to get with fermenting madder. I heard about this at Colour Congress but have never managed to get anything particularly wonderful. However I haven't tried since I got the heating pads so I htought I would try again but I just got a standard orange . :( (oh well you can't win them all!) & The pong in the studio is aweful! In fact thinking about it it may have been because the temperature was too low. I had a big stainless steel vat on top of the heatingpad, with 300g of madder, and 300g of merinot tops in. The heating pad could not really cope and the water was cool -only in the upper twenty degrees C. The bath went mouldy so after three days I took it off the heat pad and heated up to 60 degrees C
I think I shall to retry with a smaller quantity or get heat pads that will heat up the larger vats.
That's all for now . Back soon .

Thursday, 6 December 2007

So what about the white oak bark?

I mentioned at the same time as I was trying black oak bark ( yummy bright yellows-fabulous greens with indigo) that I had also been given white oak bark. I soaked it 2 days, heated it in a slow cooker, one day, added fibres and heated again for 1 day. A yucky beige/yellowy/brown/ nondescript colour not worth photograhing was the result. yuk!

Fermenting buckthorn bark.

Last Sunday, a week after I started fermenting the buckthorn bark chips in woodash lye, I topped the chips up with more water, added lye to keep the Ph at about 8. I actually added a bit too much and it was pH 9 however when I added 50g of premordanted wet merino tops it went back to 8. I just hope that a week in a fermenting alkaline vat won't destroy the fibres. For good measure I also added a piece of satin chiffon, although I thought that with both the wool and silk in together I might not get such a good colour on the silk, as happens with madder. However I was in a "what the hell mood" so in it went!

The stainless steel pan the chips are in are still on a heated pad. With more water in the temperature has dropped to fairly consistent 35 degrees C rather than the 40-45 degrees I was getting with just a little fluid.

Something a bit odd is happening. As you can see from the photograph, ( taken with a flash so the colours are a bit on the red side ) , the fibres where they are submerged are a deep golden yellow. Where they are exposed to the air a reddish brown.
The fabric to the left is the silk. The wool is to the right front and at the back right there is a small amount of the cotton muslin holding the chips exposed too. The unmordanted cotton is a good yellow too! You can also see the thermometer sticking out.
Incidentally the buckthorn bark dyed the normal way overdyed in indigo has given some lovely greens . The exhaust yelllows overdyed have given a turquoise. When the fibres are dried and we get some sun (!) I will put up a photograph. So all in all I am very pleased with the colours from buckthorn bark. A most underated dye plant at least by me until now.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

More on Buckthorn and black oak bark

I got very excited the other night. I had added the buck thorn chips back to the water, heated them slowly ( this is all in the slow cooker so generally for 12 hours or so) added some raw silks such as silk laps I had at the bottom of my mordant pot and left it on for another twelve hours. I added a dessert spoon about of ammonia. The silks went a wonderful deep russet red but alas alas it all seemed to rinse out. The rinse water was a blood red at one point. The wool in the bath was better and here is a picture of it.
The black oak bark 50 g of which I put into soak some three days ago and heated has so far dyed 200g of merino tops. The first 50 g was quite a deep yellow with a green tinge. The second which I left on by mistake on low ( again in the slow cooker) overnight has gone a golden yellow. Now I am going to over dye these in indigo as I have a commission to make a green felt bag but fortunately not till after Christmas!
Here is the full range of colours from black oak bark.
I have always wanted to dye with black oak bark so I am really excited to have done so and find the colours so beautiful. The significance of black oak bark is that it is light fast. As light fast as weld apparently so in this respect is very important. I just have to be able to get a good supply of it! This particular batch of black oak came from Earthues via Debbie the Mulberry Dyer so if anyone in the UK wants to try this she should be able to let you have some.