Thursday, March 31, 2011


saw this on my way to the streetcar yesterday.  made me immeasurably happy. spring will do that to a person....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

in the meantime

the indigo vat is still bubbling away down there, so i've decided to let it do it's thing, and i'll attack on monday and start making it work.  for now, i thought i'd show you a picture of a little 'extra-curricular' project i just finished - this teeny little sweater for my nephew's first birthday.

the school i go to twice a week takes me almost an hour an a half to get to, so i use the time for knitting.  the colours here aren't dyed by me, it's spud and chloe yarn i bought when i was in chicago.  but it's funny, not only did i unwittingly choose the colours of the soccer team where my nephew lives in france, but i also just realised the other day that the colours are similar to ones i have in mind for a seperate, naturally dyed project i've had in my mind for a while - a project involving some indigo and madder. 

have a great weekend and i'll be back on monday with some actual dyeing.....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

cooking up some blue

i'm making a zinc-lime indigo vat right now, a type of vat i haven't tried since i was in school.  it's a multi-day process, including the first day which had me feeling a little out of place at chemist supply warehouse, where i found myself saying things like CaO and the very helpful man said things like Ca(OH)2. Being a natural dyer does turn you into a bit of an amateur chemist sometimes.  the vat is happly fermenting away, and the photo above is what the top of it looks like right now.  i thought it might be ready to go when i got home today, but i have to wait a little longer until this bubbly scum turns into what's called the 'flower' - basically a big mound of foamy blue.  right now i've got the foam, but it hasn't shaped itself into the flower yet. indigo is like magic, and you can't rush magic. hopefully by tomorrow, and i can get dyeing....

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

studio assistant

there's a very sweet post on design sponge today about the design sponge team and their 'office assistants', so i thought that i would introduce you to my very own studio assistant, miss pepper. she's really not much help when it comes to dyeing, but over the years she has definitely made herself quite familiar with many a box of hats.

sometimes pepper is on quality control:

but usually she's just on napping:

Monday, March 21, 2011

a little colour for spring

karyn has posted some lovely photos of the student's work from friday's ombre and shibori  class on her flickrit was the first time that we had used synthetic dyes for a class at the workroom - decided it would be nice to offer a quick three hour class where students could get their feet wet.  it was great fun, and there was some beautiful results, like this itajime sample that jen made - i love how the yellow and purple shades blend together to make more muted colours.  arounna and margie also posted these nice shots of the things they made in the class.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

moon over weekend

hope that everyone had a great weekend - mine was lovely.  kicked things off with and ombre and shibori workshop at the workroom on friday - it was a very colourful few hours.  then a cold war kids concert, birthday party for my favorite three year old, dinner out at frank's kitchen to celebrate our (first!) anniversary, and some time spent working on my essay about manet as the first modernist painter.

i did a three year textile program at an art school in british columbia, and we did spend some time studying textile history and western art history.  but in the years since that i've been working  in textiles for myself, i often found myself craving some purely intellectual activity.  so a few years ago, i started to very very slowly work on a degree in art history at york university.  i'm writing the manet essay for my current class on 19th century french art.

this time last year i was living in paris, and i would visit the musée d'orsay often, so i was pretty familiar with some of manet's work.  but i've discovered two new favorites that i had never seen before:

au conservatoire, 1879

chez le père lathuille, 1879

Saturday, March 19, 2011

hits and misses

well, the experiment with these scarves was to see what would happen if i used some shibori resist techniques, but then rather than use the traditional indigo, use an immersion dye.  i already knew that the reason indigo is the dye of choice for shibori is that the item being dyed doesn't need to stay long in the bath, and indigo is relatively slow to strike.  so i knew what i was up against - dyeing a shibori item in a cochineal bath, for example, means that it has to cook in the bath for at least 45 minutes - tons of time for the dye to bleed in, and i'm trying to keep it out.  which is of course what happened.  my first attempt was a clamped (or itajime) piece - basically you fold the fabric up and clamp pieces of wood on either side of your bundle. with indigo it's possible to get a fairly clean crisp line, and a huge contrast between white and blue.  but as you can see, my result was much more blurred and subtle - so this is one of the yellow osage scarves from the last post, clamped then overdyed with cochineal:

much subtler than what i was going for, but still quite lovely i think.  and of course when you actually wear a scarf, the pattern gets a bit lost anyways and it becomes a lovely jumble of soft yellows and pinks:

so my next thought was that rather than overdyeing my cochineal scarves i would try to just post-mordant them, since this means less time in the dyebath.  i clamped up one of my pink cochineal scarves and did a post mordant of iron, which turns cochineal from soft pink to a lovely muted purple.  again, the results were not what i had hoped, but still interesting:

and again, quite a nice jumble of colours when worn:

i also tried one of each colour scarf pole-wrapped, which is one of my favorite (and easiest!) shibori techniques.  the yellow scarf worked, kind of, but for the pink one the iron bled completely through, so i was basically left with a solid purple scarf (though at least it's a gorgeous colour).  here's a photo of the osage then cochineal scarf - you can see a bit of the pattern of the pole wrapping, but it's very far from the dramatically beautiful results you can achieve with indigo.

so....not so great.  but i've also realised that the next big challenge in having a blog is getting better at taking pictures - especially of static things like fabric, and especially when the thing i may want to most convey is colour!  not so good at it.  if anyone has any tips for how to take photos to give the best representation of the colour of things, well.....i clearly need help!

i was happy that i kept one of each of these scarves behind.  i'm teaching the final session of this round of natural dyeing at the workroom on monday, and we'll be dyeing with indigo, so i plan to take the leftover vat home and attempt to do some 'better' shibori with the indigo........

Thursday, March 17, 2011

step one

i've been teaching so many natural dye classes at the workroom, but felt like i hadn't been doing much dyeing of my own lately.  my hats keeps me so busy for so much of the year, but the late winter and spring is when i have the most time to play and experiment, and it's this that i'd like to be sharing with you here.

so, i wanted to play around with some basic shibori techniques, and decided that scarves are an easy vehicle to start with.  shibori is generally done with indigo or other vat dyes, but i wanted to see if i could have some success using immersion dyeing.

as always with natural dyeing, i began with mordanting the fabric, first with a tannin, since my fabric is a plant fibre (i found some lovely bamboo jersey which is super soft and has a beautiful drape), and then with a combination of alum and tartar.  i'm more used to dyeing wool, which doesn't require the tannin step, and i'm always a bit surprised at how brown the tannin turns the fabric:

next i decided to begin with a first layer of colour, unlike traditional shibori, where you would begin with white fabric.  i had six scarves, so i dyed three with osage and three with cochineal. the resulting colours were a lovely and soft yellow and pink:

i have the scarves all clamped and bound up now, ready for the next layer of colour......

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

earth from above

once i had that pesky first blog post out of the way, it occurred to me that the next most difficult thing to figure out was how to add an image and hyperlinks. goes:

i first saw this image when my dear friend else gave me a postcard of it.  she had seen it somewhere and it had made her think of me.  i held onto it, and years later, when i first began dating my husband he saw it on the tackboard in my studio and recognized it right away.

it's an aerial shot of the dyer's district of fez, morocco, where they dye using natural pigments and recipes which have been handed down for generations.  it comes from the 'earth from above' series by yann arthus-bertrand. the caption says that the "colouring is derived from natural pigments: poppy, indigo, saffron, date nuts and antimony, used to obtain red, blue, yellow, beige, and black, respectively."

mohssine recognized the photo because he was born and raised in morocco, in a city not far from fez.  i've only been to morocco once with him, but he still has a lot of family there so we plan to go back often.  i hope on our next trip we're able to go to fez and see this incredible place in person.


well, because it seems that (so far) the hardest part about a blog is making the first post, here it is.  the first post.  i'll be back very soon, with something more than a post for the sake of posting.  and some natural dyeing.