Category Archives: Ecoprints and Natural Dyes

“Almost the end of Summer” Sale!

20% off all fabrics, and as always, any extra shipping paid will be refunded.



maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that, maybe it’s neither, or both

I’ve never before experienced such vacillation in choosing to do something! The residency exhibit is going to be hung Aug 27th, and i still haven’t started anything for it, going back and forth with so many, too many ideas that just aren’t inspiring, or gelling. I *do* usually have a fallow period after completing a big work, but months long is just not going to cut it.

I am still looking at this cloth though:

now with these:

and maybe doing a free style work like this from 2010:

Haystack, 2010, hand and machine embroidery, naturally dyes, ecoprint. In private collection.

combined with elements from this (2011):

“Girl: Strength”, 2011, natural dyes, hand and machine embroidery, in private collection

Obviously this year the work will be much smaller than previous years, due to the time frame! Best get cracking!!!!


becoming a purple thread

Certainly a vanity, thinking one knows everything, but i’ve always subscribed to “Learn something new everyday, and you know you’re not dead” — i *don’t* know everything, but i do my research and i’m happy to not only do the correct thing, but to riff on that once the lesson is learned. If i need an affirmation of something i’ve done or a puzzlement needs solving, i’ll ask, but i don’t JUST ask and expect the whole answer “with 8×10 glossies and paragraphs and arrows on the back” to be handed to me on a silver platter.

I remember asking a Contextural member a long time ago how she achieved a certain shade in her natural dyeing/ecoprinting, and she sweetly and truthfully replied “Every dyer has her secrets” with no smugness, and in all honesty. I took that to heart, learning what i could and often failing because i didn’t follow the basics first.

I’ve got that part well sussed now, and am quietly thrilled with the tried and true, and the experimenting. All of this past week’s naturally dyed threads here have notes on each as to what it is, but you’ll have to figure out certain parts for yourself 🙂

And the details in close-up:

Where these threads go next will be “the long white gown”,  metaphorically speaking.


string theory in the hollyhock bed

In physics, string theory is a theoretical framework in which the point-like particles of particle physics are replaced by one-dimensional objects called strings. It describes how these strings propagate through space and interact with each other. Here’s my version 🙂 Let’s see how one dimensional my threads are after they propagate with dyes, mordants and modifiers, and how they interact with a needle and cloth!

I’ve collected hollyhock blooms ever since i realized they could be used to dye with (2010). “Amassing” is not really a word i’d apply to this practice though: in the beginning i had huge swathes of them growing beside the house, but as the years went by, rust disease and aphids took their toll.

Above, this is what it looked like when we moved into this house in 2009.

And now……

very sad in comparison, but there is hope, because last year it looked like this:


These were the darkest i’ve had before:

I have maybe 8 plants now, only 4 of which are any good for dyeing with. One of my summer morning rituals is to go with coffee in hand, and collect the finished blooms from all the dark flowering specimens. The pale pinks give barely any results, and anything in any other colour family yields nothing. Each plant gives up maybe 30-50 blooms each *over the season*, so there’s not a lot of frenzied picking activity! Patience and anticipation are the key words 🙂

This year i have this beauty in the side bed:

Darker than any i’ve had before, and with a huge bloom, i’m keeping them separate from the others, curious to see if there is a difference.

These are the wool threads i did with the smaller blooms collected from previous years:

I’ll have to wait probably until the end of August to have enough of the new darker blooms to work with though!

I have a fermentation hollyhock bath going as well, and will decant that when i can stand waiting no longer.



Posted by on August 2, 2017 in garden dye plants, hollyhock


keeping the ball rolling

Definitely a different weight, lovely, looks like #5 perle when relaxed, but with tension in stitch will be equivalent to a #3–perfect!!

And i’ll be rolling it into balls–no desire to fight the twangles otherwise!

I had to resort to card bobbins after all for the previously dyed batch—the skeins are too fine to keep unsnarled otherwise, even in little zippies. (The silk i will leave as is ( :O ) as it actually is easier to unravel as i work!)

I’ll be doing all these colours again, as this new one is a silk/wool blend (previous was all wool), but am going to add some other colours as well, and some fermentation dyeing as well. I have a lovely vat of bubbling hollyhock…………….. I’m premordanting today, and tonight will pop them into their sweaty little baths.

I’ve been busy fondling and admiring these and figuring out what to stitch next. I think some will be on this fabric:

Tired yet of seeing that one languish in a heap!  I’ve never before experienced such vacillation in choosing to do something! The residency exhibit is going to be hung Aug 27th, and i still haven’t started anything for it, going back and forth with so many, too many ideas that just aren’t inspiring, or gelling. I *do* usually have a fallow period after completing a big work, but months long is just not going to cut it.

I might look to this for inspiration:

Haystack, 2010, hand and machine embroidery, naturally dyed cotton. In private collection.



natural dye thread results

The Booty, the Loot, the Prize:

For the record, i *never* actually store my threads this way, “cute” as it looks, because they develop kinks, and wool especially is snaggy, so better safe than sorry. . I don’t like those little cardboard “bobbins” either, for the same reason. These will be unwound after their DeMille close-up, and bagged. And why yes, they do need to be unreeled and smoothed, and unsnarled, some of them.

By the way, all photos are clickable, then click on the “size” above that photo’s “page”, and you can see more detail, and larger.

Most of the threads i use are cotton, commercially dyed and big brand names, though i’ll use whatever i get my hoofies on as long as it’s quality. I’ve used lately more silk, bamboo and rayon, most dyed “commercially” in the sense that they were originally intended for weavers, as finer warp and weft threads. (A VERY VERY generous friend gave them to me several years ago, and i’m slowly working my way through them, with no replacement possible.) I think i’ll be attending weaver events now 🙂 There’s little natural dyeing done for this market, at least locally, but that’s okay–if i can find finer wools* in cream, beige, ivory, off white–well, you get the picture 🙂

Since i have had little luck with deeper colours on cotton and linen (both cellulose) threads, i ordered a fine wool thread (protein) (ordered from Valdani, no current local weaver events!) and got these pleasing results.

Rhubarb root (no mordant/substantive on its own) left and right, rhubarb root/soda ash modifier:

The same thread piece above left with one end modified with ammonia, the other with copper (rhubarb by itself in the middle):

I still like the glow i got on silk thread 2 years ago though! I’ve thrown some more of that in the pot too 🙂

I notice a greener tinge to the above, dyed with fresh rhubarb root, and the truer yellow of the dried, #4 thread in first photo at top of post).

Just for reference, i had played with rhubarb root in Oct of 2105 and got these results on fabrics:

  • 1.cotton first dip with bottom modified with soda ash dip
  • 2. 12mm silk hab rhubarb dip only (both this silk and the lone cotton strip were from the first bath dips)
  • 3.third (silk) strip shows how fast the bath exhausts
  • 4. the first silk dip with the first soda ash modify
  • 5. silk dyed in apparently exhausted bath, modified with ammonia
  • dyed in apparently exhausted bath, modified with soda ash
  • 7 silk from exhausted bath with soda ash dip
  • 8 is an 8mm silk hab, being tested for future work) from exhausted bath and ammonia dip

Note: rhubarb root gives quite deep colour, but the amount of plant material to fabric is REALLY high, probably 200 to 1 (!), so only the first use has any real value and it exhausts FAST. I’ve tried the leaves before but didn’t have great results. That being said, it’s easier to cut leaves off the one in the back 40, rather than digging up the roots that are left, thusly decimating the whole plant. Time to play with that again as well. All the rhubarb root i have is from a plant dug up two falls ago when they were tearing down the house next door. Nobody else will let me dig theirs up, go figure 🙂

Left, brazilwood/alum mordant/soda ash modifier on wool; centre, brazilwood/alum and iron mordants/soda ash on wool; right, brazilwood/alum mordant/soda ash modifier on silk (AMAZing the colour uptake difference, ay?):

Since the silk went in AFTER the wool, i’m assuming the wool took up most of the reds. Wonderful though! EDIT: more wool in brazilwood, back to reds, obviously VERY different uptakes/reactions between wool and silk.

I’ve also ordered a 20%silk/80%wool blend thread, that i hope will give me an entirely different range of colours. Given the difference between the silk and the wool in the brazilwood, what will happen when both are in the mix together?

I must say the two on the left above were surprising: i thought the gallnut mordanted thread would be a deeper shade, not a *different* colour than the alum. They were done in two separate containers decanted from the same bath, so it’s not a case of one taking from the other. Proves that proper mordanting (and modifying) can really affect things! EDIT: I did a second batch where i switched the same containers, thinking it was a fluke, but nope: alum gives the blues with hollyhock and purples with gallnut, BUT i think the hollyhock bath started to ferment, as i got these darker shades on the right! It’s also starting to smell like poo….. I think i’ll throw some threads and scraps of fabric in, and try the long ferment method as well. Waste not, want not 🙂

Hollyhock/alum/soda ash left, Hollyhock/gallnut/ammonia right :

and then i switched ends and dipped the alum mordanted in the ammonia, and the gallnut mordanted in the soda ash, but same difference, no third colour, odd!

A couple of “variegateds”, rhubarb root with brazilwood/gallnut/iron/soda ash top, and rhubarb root/alum/brazilwood/soda ash, bottom:

I did all of these as 10 yard pieces, thinking that’s enough for sampling. The colours i really like will have more done (with hoofies crossed that the results are reasonably consistent.) When i buy wool thread again, i want a slightly heavier weight–these are lovely but probably equivalent to a 1 ply 20wt! *The only problem with buying wool thread, is that there is no standard for weights, like there is for cotton. I always know what i’ll get with #3/5/8/12/18/20 in cotton (and silk is always fine due to its nature), but wool is labelled as lace, fingering etc with no real idea of what that means manufacturer to manufacturer.

Not sure yet what the next stitching work will actually be, not even sure i will have anything to show for the end of residency exhibit, but oh well. As i said, it’s been a slow Slow Summer, and i’m fine with that.


Posted by on July 26, 2017 in Dyeing, Ecoprints and Natural Dyes


slow slow summer

All i’m doing is experimenting, and adding knowledge, no stitching since finishing “Tabula Memoria”.

In all honesty too, time at ACAD for the residency has slipped away and i am left with a little more than a month to go, with very very little to show for it. Most of my ideas though are being utilized at home though so no loss really!


As much as i love all my commercially dyed threads, especially all the permutations of the variegated ones, i also want more naturally dyed choices, so i’m doing it myself. I can’t/won’t be doing huge batches, but enough to keep me happy at least. I’ll still use the “boughten” threads, and hopefully if all goes well with the pre-mordanting, will have a range of natural dye colours to supplement the arsenal.

I’ve gone through all my dyes and have enough of everything to get a BIG collection of colours, after different mordants and modifiers. This is more manageable in terms of space, time and effort also, as the batches can be quite small for threads.

Hoofies crossed.