Category Archives: Dyeing

nothin’ like the smell of senescent soymilk in the morning

GAG. You know that garbagey, something’s-dead-and-liquescing smell that tells you there is something rotten in the State of Denmark?Β  I searched the entire house yesterday, thinking i’d find a decaying apple, a bag of decomposing rose leaves or an ancient pizza crust maybe that the DogFaced Girl had stashed. Turns out it was the soymilk i had made up for mordanting fabrics. GAG. Into the basement with that! I have one more dip to do tonight and then that crud is getting flushed!!!!!! GAG. Fortunately too, the Dye Dungeon is quite cool, the basement of a 107 year old house after all, and nothing is wafting up through the air vents!

While i was down there, i also poked the old indigo vat. I started it in the summer of 2011, managed to revive it even after it being outside and FREEZING through 3 Calgary winters, but Long Live the Indigo Vat, the Indigo Vat is dead………….

BUT Great Excitement abounds also! While the henna experiments failed as a dye, it’s working in a 123 indigo vat!!!!!! This is the stock solution below, and i’m hoping to get some indigo dyeing/shibori in this coming weekend.

Also started a conventional “chemical” vat, because i wasn’t going to hedge my bets that the 123 would work. That being said, i can now compare the two to see if i get the greener turquoisey results from the 123 i noticed while in a Yoshiko Wada workshop a couple of years ago.

And my threads arrived yesterday from my favourite supplier 123Stitch:

AND this weekend i am going with Susan to the UjaamaGramma’s sale, which means no doubt that some sad eyed puppy of a bag of thread or two, and sundry other heart-wrenchingly abandoned bits will follow me home. Good thing i donated too, so there’s room πŸ˜‰



lightfastness, and other current pursuits

Annatto, while initially strong, does fade substantially. I wrote about the marvellous depth of colour here, but after 5 weeks in the sunny Stoodio window, there is quite a difference in shade. Considering too that spring in Calgary does not have the longest amount of daylight or the strongest UV rating, this does not bode well for future use.

Left silk, right cotton, both with the folded over section on the left in sun, while the behind section was covered.

I’ll be overdyeing these, using them as a base colour, but will do more lightfastness tests, because it may still affect the final outcome. I do wonder though how substantive dyes allow other dyes over top—-indigo works, so will the annatto???


I also started two indigo vats today, one a conventional indigo/soda ash/thio and the other a 123 with indigo, calx and henna. Since the henna did not dye fabrics for me in a straight dye bath, i’m hoping it still has enough “chemistry” in it to work for the vat!

My friend Susan (also in Calgary, so we have location in common, but our water as well πŸ˜‰ ) has started a separate blog too, for her natural dye processes. We’ve been trading notes and she generously shares much info on dye subjects i have little knowledge of.



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Posted by on April 18, 2017 in annato, Dyeing, Indigo Dreams


small things, and lessons to learn

I had a hankering to do a spring heralding something this week. Saturday was a blissful, sunny 17C day. Sunday it dropped to 0C and snowed. April in Calgary as usual.

The bulb to the left is from March 2 years ago, rust dyed cotton and embroidery, the right one is this week’s effort, my favourite Caron colourway of the day, on indigo dyed cotton. I mashed up Emily Dickinson “A light exists in Spring” with Alexander Pope: “When Hope springs Eternal” on the shoot, since either as a start to something makes sense. “When Hope springs Eternal, A light shines in Spring, When Hope springs Eternal, etc etc etc”

I’d still like to make a bowl of these as a Spring tonic!

I was going to prune the Stoodio Jungle also this weekend, but up near the ceiling where there’s a snarled mess of live and dead vining, i found this:

Since the passionflower blooms lastΒ  barely a day, i’ll wait until tomorrow!



Oh fer…………………

The Callender “Shibori” book is FANTASTIC. Clear diagrams, lots of eye candy, concise instructions, plenty of inspiration, how to work with natural and chemical dyes. One should however think through what one is doing though, instead of just jumping in. Lessons learned:

  • A. Don’t make copious stitches on a substantively dyed fabric and then
  • B. put it in a previously untested dye substance and
  • C. suddenly discover that a leftover chunk from a previous project is actually a poly cotton blend and that’s why the *first” project turned out the way it did and
  • D. don’t further the insanity by using “saved” Procion that is past it’s due date and then expect any results…..

I got all Gung Ho on using Henna, thinking i would get a “rich brown” as some sources stated it would give, dumping in 1/2 cup of the powder to 2L of water. (Advice is that you must use 20-50% WOF.) The resultant slurry was a cross between mud and congealing chocolate pudding, fooling me into thinking i would get that said Rich Brown.

Uh, NO.

I’ll save the henna for the 123Vat.

About that poly/cotton blend that didn’t work initially: way back when i was first ecoprinting, i had a huge bucket of cottons and silks that i would use, but somehow this damn chunk snuck in and got used, predictably becoming a “FAIL”. I *did* make something beautiful from it after all, but why in hell did i never do a burn test to see what the fibre content was?????????????

I’ll get there yet…….



out like a lion

I really need to photograph this at my favourite time of day, the mid afternoon, when the light bends properly over tactility. There’s little left on the right panel to work, but i still have void areas that will get a bit of treatment to balance the left side. (Photo shows side panels folded together, with middle panel not visible.)

It’s time to map out areas time wise. The amount of hours that have gone/are going into this, now need to be divided into other areas. I’m ready to start the top moon to stabilize the centre panel.



residency plans again

This year, i decided to take the 3 month slot at ACAD for Contextural’s summer residency. It usually takes me a week or two while there to really get into the swing of it anyways (and i always regret not having more time), but i figure for the extra money it will cost (minimal in comparison to a one month slot), i might as well be really serious this year, develop some new skills, brush up on old ones, and truly enjoy myself —*and* expand the cloth arsenal.

a telling sign

Continue your journey

(This also means there will be LOTS of fabrics available in the shop, for my faithful followers and customers! Note: there are a few listings going in there within the week, from cloth made last year.)

I’m re-reading my faithful dye Bibles (all of Jenny Dean‘s books), and using highlighters, post-its and scribbled side notes to brush up, and focus on new things–and old things tried and tested that i haven’t done before. I’m collecting fabrics, prepping fabrics with mordants and stitch, making my lists, assembling the suitcase of necessaries, and getting more and more excited!

This year again, i’ll be working with my old faves of indigo, rust and potassium permanganate, along with dyes i haven’t had much success with, like madder. Madder has always fought me, giving only oranges and peaches, and the occasional oink pink (though i kinda like that fingerslip “oink” descriptor! πŸ˜‰ ). The only time i ever got red was from the cotton bag used to hold the dye stuff, a tiny 4″ square, way way back. I do love the corals and oranges though so am also going to work with annato, tansy and rhubarb again. This year i also want THREADS as part of the stash! I’ve done a few along the way, but except for the indigo, never really dyed enough to be worthwhile.

I’ll be doing a “regular” indigo vat at home, and hoping to start a 1-2-3 vat at the school with henna–i like the more green tone of this one. (Or maybe it was just greener because of so many using it and dipping strange things in it…….Yoshiko Wada workshop in August of 2014)


I’m planning on doing some ecoprinting again, something i haven’t done much of in the last 2 years, as it A. started to bore me, and B. everyone else is doing so much more beauty than i could. Of course, all those workshops that some can take do help, and yes i am SUPREMELY jealous. I think i’ve found some ground to stand on though, and will try some new things. If you learn something new every day, you know you’re not dead!

I want to try more shibori, and pole wrapping, more combinations of things, and more deliberate placements of dye and adjuncts like rust and leaf.

I shall be donning my goggles, rubber apron and tin foil hat, as the Mad Textile Scientist makes a long anticipated re-appearance.

Of course, i always remember words of wisdom imparted at my first res orientation back in 2011: “Make a plan, half it, half it again, and expect to not get even that much done.”



winter dye adventures, part 3, weird science

Well, mixed results! Surprising results. Chemistry is very obviously at play here, in the purest sense of the word. Playing with me: blues and purples from the privet berries showing in the pot, dark greys and deep greens when they come out and are still wet, drying to shades of celadon, ghosted sea blue, odd mixes with tansy and madder (all on silk hab), wonderful jades in the threads (silk and wool), brilliant with soda ash modifier. Iron didn’t do much at all, not saddening or shifting shade deeper.

Leaves and stalks(twigs/fine branches) hardly worth it, a really pale yellow on the threads,which surprised me, because they are usually the more reliable dye source.Β  I threw those into the berry pot too, as they are so wishy-washy as to be pointless.

Berries? Sort of a greeny grey green, like faded Celadon (?). ImPOSSible to photograph, so here, like this:



Updated as i write this post: my expensive DSLR camera could not capture the colours, no matter what i did in terms of lighting conditions, but the cheap camera on the cellphone worked. More weird science, go figure.


BUT, will they be lightfast?

Regardless of all this, i probably won’t be dyeing with privet again. It’s toxic, it’s expensive and it has to be imported, even if the importing is from BC πŸ™‚ Still, it was a nice little interlude, and learning experience in the wintery season of Calgary! And after a couple of weeks, if they don’t fade, they will be added to the thread and scrap arsenal.

Now back to the monumental stitching.


Posted by on February 17, 2017 in Dyeing, Ecoprints and Natural Dyes, privet


dye lot woes

Damn. Caron’s “Pebbles” (Wildflowers, #011) has been a favourite colourway of mine since i started working with the natural dyes. (My cloth is naturally dyed, not *most* of the threads, though some are occasionally.) The soft variations of purple and pink worked so well with rust and brazilwood, but alas, i noticed with the recent order that it wasn’t different pinks and purples, but completely different……………

The original on the left, the new on the right: greens, blues????????


Same name, same number, different dye lots.


I’m quite disappointed, but not really surprised. I’ve been buying this number for at least 5 years, and knew that eventually the dye lot would change, as it’s impossible to duplicate things over time. I did however think it would at least be close. Buying online precludes being able to actually see the difference, especially when the photo used is the “original” one. Even then, in real life, there would have been no guarantee that any in stock would all have been from the same batch!

Having used up one skein that was 3/4 left from other projects, i have one left of the original colourway. I’ll have to either integrate the new one, or find a reasonably close sub: Smoke is too blue, and Ash has too much white…..

In the grand scheme of things, most won’t notice the difference on the actual work, but i wanted that particular dye lot for other work as well.

AND lest anyone suggest i dye them myself, and ask why i’m not using naturally dyed threads instead of commercial “chemical” ones, i haven’t the skill, time or inclination to dye 1000’s of yards (praying that i get close to the colourway), and natural dyes do not do well on finer cotton threads in MY experience. I’m also not that much of a purist that everything has to be “natural” to get the colours or effects i want. Potassium permanganate after all is a chemical, not a natural. In my books, colour is colour, period. If that offends ya, too bad. My circus, my threads πŸ™‚

C’est la Vie!


Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Dyeing