Tuesday, April 26, 2011

growing colour

i received a small but exciting package in the mail today - the seeds that i had ordered for my dye garden this year.  i got them from richters, a great seed company here in ontario that specializes in herbs - they have tons of medicinal herbs as well as the dye ones which i ordered.

i grew some weld a few years ago, and was thrilled with the yellow colour that i helped create, literally from the ground up.  this year i decided to try a variety, including weld, coreopsis, golden marguerite, black hollyhock, dyer's broom and a few different kinds of indigo.  i think i'm already a bit late for starting the indigo seeds, but i'm going to give it a go anyways.

i always find myself realising that i'm too late for starting seeds indoors - so many things seem to call for being begun 4-8 weeks ahead of outdoor planting, and i seem to miss this (probably because at that time it's usually still snowing, and it's hard to even imagine gardening yet).  but this year i did manage to get some veggie seeds on the go, relatively early, and my studio window is delightfully full of little green sprouts right now. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

springtime skeins

well, for the last little while here in toronto the only colour around has been coming out of the dyepot.  i hate to reinforce any stereotypes about canada as a cold, barren wilderness, cause it's actually really beautiful here for a big part of the year, and in the summertime it's fully hot and humid.  but this year.....well, spring is certainly taking it's sweet time in arriving, and we've had i don't know how many days of cold, grey rain.  it's my poor husband's first full winter here, and back in february he declared that he didn't think the canadian winter was all that bad, and that people exaggerate.  and now....well, now that it seems to still be winter, he's changed his tune a bit.   i've noticed him more than once checking the forecast in paris, where he used to live, and the reports of sunshine and 20 plus degrees do nothing to lift the spirits.

but enough complaining, and time for some colour.  i dyed a bunch of skeins of superwash merino this week - a beautiful soft yarn that takes the dye amazingly well.  i've got a few projects to knit up with this yarn, and will also wind off some small skeins to sell.

some lovely variegated shades of cochineal

a mixture of onion skin, osage, madder and indigo.  i wasn't immediately taken with any of these three shades when they first came out, but then when i placed them together it produced a fun, kind of retro colour scheme that i quite enjoy.

onion skin and osage on the bottom, and straight weld on the top.  yellow is by far the easiest colour to achieve with natural dyestuffs (or at least the majority of dyestuffs yield some kind of yellow), but the wonderful thing is what a wide range of shades it's possible to coax out of the pot.  i was actually aiming for a colour somewhere in between these two, but i've also learned over the years that it's better not to have too many expectations as far as precise colours, and indeed both of these are quite lovely yellows i think, even if they weren't my original 'goal'.

cross your fingers for some sunshine.....

Friday, April 15, 2011

friday colour

i have been doing a lot of dyeing in the last two days, and have lots to show you all.  for now, here's a quick couple shots of those last two scarves, the ones i started way back herethe clamp-dyeing of these wasn't very successful, but while i had a bunch of pots going, i decided to do a little dip dyeing of the scarves i had set aside.  the first is my favorite, the whole thing was dyed in an osage bath, then i dipped parts of it into madder and cochineal baths.  the result is a lovely mix of yellow, orange and a kind of purply-pink.  i only wish my photography skills could do it justice.

the second one started out pink from cochineal, and i dipped part of it in another cochineal bath to make it darker, and another part of it in an iron modifier, to make it purple-ish.  it's very subtle, and perhaps hard to see in a photo, but it's a lovely range of pinks through purple.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


i have all sorts of natural dye projects half on the go, and felt a little bit like i was being held up by my zinc-lime indigo vat, which is waiting for a couple key ingredients - some more zinc to arrive in the mail, and for the weather to warm up a bit.  last week i took all the liquid out of the vat and heated it up pot by pot, then wrapped dear little vat up in an emergency blanket and some regular blankets.  and still, three days later, it was back down to 60 degrees.

so.....i decided to take a little pause and make myself a thiourea-dioxide vat - a quick easy vat that can be ready in about an hour.  i clamped up a bunch of fabric, and did some dipping:

you might wonder why i would even bother with a zinc-lime vat if it's possible to do a thiourea vat in just an hour.  and there's a couple good reasons.  once you get your zinc vat going (easier said than done) you can keep it going indefinitely with only a little bit of maintenance.  some people have vats that have been kept alive for years and years.  so your vat can be there, ready to dye whenever you are.  the thiourea vat only lasts for as long as you keep it hot (110-140 degrees).  you can heat it back up again, and add more reducing agent, but it's just not quite the same.

the other main reason, and for me the biggest, is that with the zinc-lime vat it's possible to build up much deeper shades of blue.  with the thiourea vat, even with multiple dippings, it's only really possible to achieve a relatively pale blue.  this is because the thiourea dioxide is actually a colour remover (it's what you would use in discharge printing).  so unless your vat is exactly balanced while you're using it, you may be stripping the colour off from the previous dip every time you dip.  with a zinc-lime vat it's possible to build up a range of blues, all the way to almost black.

the first image is for a project that i'll be pairing with a nice deep orange, so i would like the colour to be much darker, but the scarves in the second image will be layered with other colours, so the pale colour is actually fine.  and mostly, i'm happy to have done the vat, just to get the ball rolling a bit.  i'm hoping to finish up enough pieces to open up a small rubia weld shop next week......

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

beautiful montréal

spent the past weekend in montreal with my family, celebrating my dad's 60th birthday.  it's such a great city, and we had such wonderful weather, so we spent most of the time just wandering around, soaking it all in.  montreal has so much great architecture, in a style that is very different from toronto. 

on saturday we rented bikes and rode over to the quays and islands across from the main city port.  it was great to see the habitat 67 buildings up close.

 only in montreal do you find a store, right downtown, only one block from the big chain store shopping street, called simply "luthier".

speaking of chain stores, on a guilty pleasure note, i was pretty excited to see that a kusmi tea boutique just opened in montreal.  this time last year i was living in paris, and became slightly obsessed with kusmi tea, both because it's excellent tea, and also because i adore the tins the tea comes in.  i have quite a stash by now, and i use them to store all my buttons. just one more reason to love montreal.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

medina dreaming

so i know i've been quiet about my indigo vat, and that's because i've been having major trouble with it......still haven't been able to get it to a "living", dyeing state.  but i'm working on it.  meanwhile, everywhere i go i see deep blue things that inspire me - and especially colour combinations.  i love the dark blue/light yellow combo here:

this photo is from this home post and i've been kind of obsessed with it as it's the home of an american couple who own a handmade tile company in marrakesh.  my husband grew up in morocco, and last year we went there so that i could meet his extended family.  we took a little trip to marrakesh, as he had never been there either (he's from a city further north). while we were there we couldn't help fantasizing about buying a little place in marrakesh to go to (and bring our friends and family to) in winter.

the tile work in morocco is incredible, and everywhere. when we went to visit his grandma i instantly recognized the walls in her apartment from pictures i had seen of him as a child, since they're covered with beautiful mosaic tile.  

moroccan dreaming.....

Monday, April 4, 2011

one of a kind weekend

this weekend was the spring one of a kind show here in toronto.  i've participated in the christmas version of the show for the past four years, but i don't do the spring show, mostly just because my hats are so winter-y and warm, and by april the last thing any torontonian wants to do is think about winter clothes (i for one am pretty much ready to burn my winter coat).

but i did head down to the show on friday to work in kessa's booth for a while so she could have a break.  kessa's line of children's wear is called patouche and every single thing she makes is not only ridiculously adorable, but also specifically designed to grow as your child does, so that they can get more than one season's wear out of it.  one of my favorite items of hers is this little red riding hood cape:

and for her spring collection she had a lovely little girl's poncho, similar to this but with lighter fabric and little sleeves with cuffs.  i wasn't smart enough to take a picture of it, but hopefully she'll listen to my pleading that i would really really like one in adult size.

spent some time chatting with arounna and bre, both of whom have taken my natural dye class at the workroom, and both of whom had some lovely naturally dyed scarves included in their spring collections, which was great to see.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

glow worms

i'm not sure exactly how i feel about this, but it's undoubtedly amazing.  scientists have been experimenting with feeding dye to silkworms (along with their usual mulberry leaf diet), and the silkworms have been producing coloured silk......

you can read the whole article here