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........


  1. interesting to see the end results! i was very interested after reading the prep and process before. definitely place the fabrics somewhere with great natural light :)

  2. natural light is the most important thing I think. Not direct otherwise it will appear washed out. Morning and late afternoon are the best but you have to watch out for shadows too.
    What camera are you using?

  3. I'm excited about your new blog and seeing the results from your experiments. Thanks for sharing! I like to put my camera on the "manual" setting, and manipulate the dials myself to get the proper exposure. It's worth it to study your camera's manual, and/or seek out on-line tutorials. There's a setting on the camera you can change depending on what kind of lighting you're using which helps with getting accurate colors. I've started using a tripod for when I'm shooting indoors with low light, and have been getting good results. Avoid the flash at all costs! Good luck!

  4. Hi Rubia, welcome to Blogland. I've added your blog on my reading list so I can see when your new post it up. I'm a natural dyer too and would love to see what you do. If I was living near you I would take your class, but Australia is a bit too faraway - Enjoy blogging - Nat

  5. love to see what happens with the indigo

  6. thanks guys! natural light seems to be a consensus - which i kind of knew, but it's good to hear from all you pros!

    margie, i'm (for now) just using a canon power shot basic digital point and shoot. i have an old analog slr that i've used a bit, but never a digital one. my camera savvy friend advised that i play around with what i have until i've exhausted using all the settings on it, and not to get ahead of myself, which i think is sage advice. but i do have tripod i'll try using.