Monday, 30 June 2008

Back from woolfest 2008

Well back from the Woolfest feeling tired but happy. I had a very good Woolfest and really enjoyed myself meeting lots of interesting people and and talking a lot of dyeing talk. Enys who can be seen on the stall wearing a most amazing coat enjoyed herself too and sold loads of plants after a slightly slow start on Friday when she got into a panic and thought she would be taking them all home. This year we sold all the Japanese Polygonum (polygonum tinctoria) having sold none last year but Chinese Woad (Isatis indogitica) new this year was left behind. (Which is good news for me as I get it!) What people buy and don't buy is always a bit of a surprise. This year I sold a lot of my naturally dyed merino and quite a bit of hand painted merino 18.5 micron but almost none of my new inks. In fact the overwhelming reaction seemed to be "what are they for?"- and nobody wanted to play with them whereas at Wonderwool they received an enthusiastic response. :( I sold lots of my luxury felting packs and a few of my lovely eco brooches and bits of everything else. People looked at my solar dyed fabrics and pictures and felt stoles which I am teaching next year at the UK association of Weavers Spinners Dyers biannual summer school and made appreciative comments. I don't expect to sell pictures at something like the Woolfest, although I ahve done in the past, - I bring them more to show how I use my naturally dyed fibres. My stall is a mixture of a gallery and a shop. Sometimes I wonder whether I should choose to do one or the other?

I came back with more than a few ideas. Alison Daykin of Tinctoria Dyes was telling me of a student who has done a range of colours using extract dyes containing mordants such as oak gall, myrobalan and others ( ie high in tannin) and then overdying in the other dyes. That sounds fascianting. In the evening I also had time to read my Dominique Cardon and decided to try getting the turquoise on silk using fesh polygonum leaves. I also brought a kilo of organic merino from the mill down in Devon -Cold Harbour ( I think) . It is 19 micron and very gorgeous. This Iam going to Solar dye and aim to team up with my solar dyed fabrics. I am not sure quite where this is going yet but it is going somewhere.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Results of solar dyeing and good news about the dog.

This is a classic case of not following my own advice! I emptied this jar where the contents had been solar dyeing the other day about a month after I started it when really solar dyeing is better being left for as long a possible.
All the fibres and fabrics were premordanted. Silk caps overnight in a cold mordant of 35% alum (pottassium aluminium sulphate), the wool fibres in 8% alum, and 7% cream of tartar, the cellulose - a cotton gimp yarn I brought at Wonderwool from DT Crafts with 5% aluminium acetate. The cotton yarn was mordanted in the standard method of heating the fibres up over and hour simmer for an hour and allow to cool. The wool I heat slowly overnight. By the morning the bath is steaming but not boiling and I switch it off. I mention all this about mordanting as there has been a lot of discussion on mordanting on both Natural Dyes Online and the Online Guild of Weavers Spinner and Dyers. The latter have been running a fascinating and most interesting workshop in dyeing vegetable fibres with both natural and synthetic dyes. I would have really enjoyed doing it and in many ways I wish had but I also becoming increasingly fascinated by solar dyeing which fits alongside fermentation dyeing. and as we all know you can't assume the sun will be around-you have to seize the moment! I am also becoming increasingly convinced ( but don't have scientific evidence to back it up), that the raise over the hour, simmer for an hour allow to cool etc is the minimum and that long slow mordanting over periods of time and lower temperature result in better colours. I really need to set up a series of experiments to test this out-it would be a good one to do.

The dyes used were red cabbage, dyers camomile, coreopis tinctoria and some of my own madder. Everything was wet when I photographed it and the cotton has dried to a much paler soft colours very subtle!

ps Anyone interested in the case of my golden retriever might like to know that the Vet was extemely pleased with him on his last visit. His treatment has stabilised his condition and although he has lost a bit of weight he is enjoying life very much especially cooling his tummy in muddy puddles and having three meals a day. Formerly a G.O.D ( grumpy old dog) he is now a C.O.D ( cheerful old dog) and yesterday had two dog chews his and the one he snitched from the springer spaniel.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Extract and solar dyeing

I have just had a lovely session dyeing silk fabrics and silk bricks in extract dyes. This is partly in preparation for the Wool Fest and partly because I just want to make some fabric lengths in naturally dyed silk and 18.5 merino. I am not sure to what end but something inside me urges me on and I have learnt to follow these urges as they usually lead me to something exciting.
I also have a number of solar dyeing experiments going on too! I recently got India Flint's fabulous book on eco dyeing whic has got me experimenting with variations on her techniques of bundling and rolling fabrics in dyes. I have two jars layered with silk caps and yarns with dyes like red cabbage, dyers camomile ( dried from last year) chopped madder root, dyers coreopsis black violas and some of the maize which gives purple. The jars alternate between the hot plates in the studio when it is cold and solar dyeing when like today it is warm and sunny. They have been on the go for about two weeks, the jar in the top picture is just a couple of days after starting and the picture of the two jars was taken today. I notice that the bottom of one jar looks quite pink, but I don't know what is giving that. The colours are deepening but not as such as I expected, I wonder whether it is because there is a lot of silk there which is quite dense. One of the jars contains 2 metres of silk chiffon crushed into the top. Lying flat on the slate is the one that looks the least interesting but shows signs of being the most exciting as it 2 metres of satin chiffon layered with red cabbage, madder roots, black violas and dyers camomile and more. I dyed a lot with red cabbage leaves when I came back from Colour Congress in 2002 and experimented with this technique of crushing dyes into fabrics and found that red cabbage gives blue which dyed like this appear to have a good lightfastness at least the fabrics I did 6 yrears ago show no sign of fading although I have not done precise lightfastnss tests. Over the last few weeks I have been trampling the pack and now the silk shows areas of a deep deep blue going to turquoise. I feel very excited about this but once it is washed and steamed ironed to fix the colors in they may not be so vibrant as they seem at the moment . It is hard to wait though!
Right at the back in a demijohn is some wool solar dyeing in madder and looking very red.
Incidentally for anyone reading this who has limited space this is a brilliant way to dye. A sunny balcony or windowsill is all you need as the silk is mordanted cold. ( Wet out the silk overnight make up a solution of alum as 35% dry weight of silk in alum, dissove in hot water, add to a bucket of water,stir, add the silk and leave for 12 hours. hey presto done). I found this recipe in Dominique Cardons book Natural Dyes. Then you could wrap the silk in red cabbage leaves, onion skins , eucalpytus leaves- India.Flint says that you can get e.cinerea from florists.

I decided to do some workshops in these techniques too as I am enjoying myself so much and I want to earn some money too, so I am having three ; one on Solar Dyeing and bundling fabrics with dyes on July 12th, one on extract dyeing on July 26th and one on dyeing the blues using the chinese woad, japanese polygonum, and woad as well as indigo on August 23rd so if anyone is interested all the info is on the website.
In the meantime I have lost something. I buried a metre of mordanted muslin in my compost heap ready to show S4C, now I can't find it. Any ideas on how to hunt for some missing fabric!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

G.O.D and Eco brooches but not the fermented madder

Thank you for kind messages about the dear old dog sometimes called G.O.D -short for grumpy old dog because he insists on his dinner punctually -you can practically see him tapping his watch-"what time do you calls this?" he barks at 5.05 . You can tell from this that he is enjoying his life to the full and the few extra treats that have come his way as I have taken on board the suggestion that I pamper him a bit. A dear friend of mine, not the doggiest of people, emailed me to point out that he has been living in doggy heaven for the last eleven years-two walks a day & lots of company as I work from home. I am also reminded of another friend who said “when I am reincarnated I want to come back as one of your dogs".
Thank you for all you supportive comments both on and off list.

I was going to put up pictures of my fermented madder but they are not very good so I will try again tomorrow so tonight I want to tell you about the nice day I have had with my friend Anne. Anne and I have been making felt together now for many years and before that she taught me to spin and also the technique for rainbow dyeing fibres and fabrics which together we adapted to use with the extract dyes. We always find working together rewarding as we like each other's work very much but mostly because we not only inspire each other but strike creative sparks. Like two children we get very excited and jump around the room and so focused on what we are doing that we also find, like small children do, it hard to break off and go to the loo.
For many years we taught workshops together and last year we were going to teach felt at the biannual summer school for the UK Weaver Spinners and Dyers. Two weeks before this event Anne's husband Alex had a catastrophic stroke which left him completely paralysed down his left side and wheel chair bound. For a time it looked as for both of them that they had been stopped in their tracks. Alex from mountain walking, canoeing ,and most importantly painting ( he is a successful artist) and Anne now a full time carer from pursuing her textile interests which were and are a consuming passion. However slowly they have pieced their life together and today for the first time for nearly a year Anne and I had great fun making felt together .We made brooches- a new range of eco brooches using naturally dyed fibres and recycled silks. Here is a photo of the sum of our mornings work, pieces of felt on the way to be turned into brooches and a picture of Anne.

Monday, 2 June 2008

nothing about dyeing but a bit about reality

Anybody reading my blog about the fliming of the dye garden may very well feel that it sounds a little flat. I did enjoy the day and found it interesting but in the middle of the day I received a phone call to say that on the eve of exchange of contracts ( that is a house sale just about to become legal ) that the sale of my father's house has fallen through, and for the second time. My father lived next door to me, after the death of my mother, for three years in a big bright sunny bungalow with views of the Clywdian hills and loved it. He died 18months ago and I still miss him. I was looking forward to seeing someone else living there and being able to move on but we have been hit by the savage downturn in the UK housing market. I found it quite hard to put it on one side and be cheerful , while the film crew was here. The real underlying sadness however is that my dearly beloved dog a big friendly Golden retriever in his last days of liver cancer. The vet exclaimed with horror as he felt how much the tumour had grown and promptly gave him huge doses of steroids. He is back to lying down in shallow streams which he loves with a huge doggy grin, playing with his lead as we go out which drives me mad, begging for food -he always, like a lot of golden retrievers, has been greedy and even joins in with the springer spaniel's ball throwing games but he is getting slower very day and we watch with apprehension as while he enjoy life and at the moment he seems a cheerful dog who greets every human with his waving tail , the vet has warned us that it could all change very quickly.
Usaully I would disappear into my studio and start creating colour and I have indeed put some madder & cochineal combination and madder in soak reasy for a dyeing day. However I have had to face up to my accounts which have been reproaching me for a very long time. So with great determination I am spending three days sorting them all out. Thiswas something I have neglected for all sorts of reason and then found as the backlog built up it was difficult to start on it, so now I am paying the price, and so is the longsuffering DH. Bye for now as the dogs want their bedtime biscuits.