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Archive for the ‘dyeing’ Category

I was very excited to receive my half of the art swap last week and as well as these fabulous prints…

…Nick also sent me some tie-dyed fabric and tote bags that he experimented with during lockdown. I love the prints but the tie-dye blew me away! These tote bags are beautifully patterned and the dye distribution is so even.

The fabric turned out to be three big pieces which are just stunning. In fact, so stunning that I don’t think there is any way I can bring myself to cut into them! The first two are on muslin, which is quite sheer and difficult to photograph.

This one is on something firmer like cotton sheeting. The detail is incredible!

If you’re on Instagram, this talented gentleman is @nick_knox_777 and well worth following.

I’ve been playing with an idea sparked off by a partly finished Victorian patchwork quilt I saw in an exhibition about fifteen years ago. It was an English paper pieced quilt and the papers were still in place. Although the antique silks and velvets of the patchwork front were gorgeous, I was much more interested in trying to read the fragments of unwanted cards and letters which had been cut up to make the papers. Those hidden snippets were tantalising.

As usual, I’m working very small, so I decided to use one text for all my papers – Viola’s speech (“I left no ring with her: what means this lady?”) from Twelfth Night, which is about her hidden identity.

I also chose to keep the text in the right order, again because everything was so small and once the fabric was stitched round the papers, much more of the text, already fragmentary, would be lost.

I used some ordinary light weight cotton muslin for the fabric – after all, in this piece the fabric is very much secondary to the papers! Now it’s all stitched together the text is reduced to the odd word or partial word.

Perfectly hidden, unless you know what it’s supposed to be.

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At In The Stitch Zone, the weekly embroidery class I run locally (information in the tab at the top) we’re working on a longer project based on my avocado dyed long cloth which I began back in 2011 and am still stitching into on an occasional basis.

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Time to make up packs of natural dyed fabrics, threads, lace, ribbon etc. for everyone. I found some avocado, red cabbage and walnut dyed fabrics from sessions I’d done before, which was a good start.  I’d only even dyed with red cabbage and a touch of vinegar, so hearing that you could get an amazing range of greens with bicarbonate of soda I decided to experiment. The greens really are gorgeous – especially against some avocado and red cabbage (with vinegar) dyed pieces!

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DSCN7529 As I dye everything in the kitchen using my ordinary utensils, I don’t mordant and only use food stuffs as dyes. I know red cabbage is supposed to be fugitive, but some of the pieces I found (admittedly in a drawer) from the last lot of dyeing I did are eight or nine years old and are still a lovely colour.

I also bought some annatto seeds from our local oriental grocer and they were an complete revelation! Bright orange initially with golden yellow as the dye bath became exhausted and they even dyed a piece of nylon lace (which I unfortunately forgot to get a photo of…) No filter needed on these silk samples.

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As the annatto seeds are incredibly hard and I didn’t want to stain the coffee grinder bright orange, I crushed some in a pestle and mortar and when that got too difficult, just put the whole lot into the slow cooker to create the dye bath. Then, of course, they were nice and soft, so after I’d done the first lot of dyeing, I whizzed them up in the food processor (didn’t stain it, I’m glad to report!) and got a second dye bath out of the pulverised seeds. A softer golden yellow, but still lovely.

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Packs for everyone plus some spares.

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They are slowly turning into some gorgeous pieces of work!

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The first item on Dorian Gray’s list is: “the great crocus-coloured robe, on which the gods fought against the giants, that had been worked by brown girls for the pleasure of Athena.” So my first job was to do some research and produce some crocus-coloured fabric. It seems that wool and linen were the most common fabrics, with silk and cotton available later in the ancient period, so I sourced some matka silk, wool and linen as my primary fabrics.

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Although crocuses are more often purple, I suspect crocus-coloured in this instance means saffron-coloured and certainly in Ancient Greece saffron robes are associated with women and ritual clothing, so my first choice of a dye stuff was saffron. Turmeric is also an ancient dye and gives a similar colour, so that was my second choice and my third was ‘false’ saffron, or dyer’s safflower.

This would give me nine different fabric and dye combinations to choose from, so I cut swatches of my fabrics and started dyeing. One of the really nice things about this is that all three dyes are food stuffs and none need mordants, so I was able to dye in the kitchen using my own pans.

First, the saffron. The extra piece on the left is the cotton muslin I put the strands into. Then, from left to right, wool, silk and linen. Lovely soft, sunshiny, golden shades.

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Next, the turmeric. From left to right, wool, silk and linen. Fantastic deep rich golds.

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And lastly, the dyer’s safflower. Disappointed with these shades, especially on the linen, but it was probably my dyeing technique that wasn’t right. From left to right, wool, silk and linen.

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I love the way the wool took up the dyes but it feels a little heavy and ordinary for a ceremonial robe. From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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The silk is lovely but the matka which I’ve chosen has a very nubbly texture, which would make embroidery a little more challenging. From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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So I’m leaning more towards the linen, which was very widely used in classical times.  From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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As undyed linen isn’t white, it didn’t appear to take up the dyer’s safflower much and made the saffron look a bit muddy, but the turmeric has worked well and looks very similar to the colour of the saffron on silk, so at the moment, that is my choice for the fabric. Another bonus is that I have plenty of cheap and easily obtained from the supermarket turmeric left!

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The dyeing is the easy bit – researching the background information on my three dyes to add to the book and putting it into a short piece in my own words takes a lot longer, but I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading, researching, referencing and cross-referencing.

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