Category Archives: Ecoprints and Natural Dyes

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


winter dye adventures, part 2

The big question of course is, are these lightfast? Some one said no, but Ethel says yes πŸ™‚ Old dye books sometimes have erroneous recipes and results though. And dandilion roots STILL don’t give magenta, pink or purple πŸ™‚


Most of the threads and silk chunks are still in the pot, marinating as long as possible, but i removed a few pieces to test some modifiers. (The only mordant so far has been alum.)

privet-various-mord-modsOn the two yellows left, which were from the first teeny pot, the soda ash (alkali) really brightened it, but vinegar (acid) seems to have stripped out the colour on the bottom!! The berries gave a completely different colour, something that *doesn’t* always happen. The alum mordant alone gave a lovely greyed shade, while soda ash turned it green, and vinegar changed the shade SLIGHTLY more blue (barely worth it.)


I’ll test too an iron mordant to see if it darkens, changes hue or can’t be bothered to do anything πŸ™‚

Stay tuned for part 3, sometime at the end of the week.

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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Ecoprints and Natural Dyes, privet


winter dye adventures, part 1

I always forget that i have access to plant materials that are suitable for dyeing with! Though i enjoy my DayJob, i try not to bring it home, except for the occasional orchid bloom, one gerb, some old roses, or the rare exotic specimen, but a few days ago paging through the FB dross and pearls, i chanced upon some of Morgen Bardati’s work, and lo and behold–a gorgeous deep green from privet. And privet just happens to be “seasonal” right now, though an import still, and since it readily falls apart, and one crappy scrappy stem is usually left after arranging with flowers, it behooved me to bring some home and try it.

Had to do a little research first, as i was afraid it was one of those temperamental ineedtobefresh things. Not a lot online but i did discover that it’s TOXIC, to humans AND animals. As with *all* natural dyes, i NEVER EVER NEVER assume—Β  just because it’s “natural” does NOT mean it’s SAFE. Seriously, some natural dyes are as scarey as synthetics, so don’t fall for the kitchenscrap all encompassing goodness that some sites breathily exclaim is so pure/eco-conscious/earthmagic.

So, the most i could find was boil up the leaves, chopped stems and (bruised) berries, throw in some alum, and see what happens.

Meh. Mind you, my first experiment was with a (gloved!) handful of berries and one chopped up stem/branch, so there wasn’t a lot of colour, but it did colour, and the colour was decidely green. Pale green. Again, small amount of plant material.

More research yielded up using salt–i’m guessing Glauber’s Salt, a chemical used by a lot of wool dyers. Not table salt, as again the Ensorcelled Cauldron Witches would have you believe toΒ  “set” colours, but Sodium Sulphate. Well, i don’t have any, but it *is* a chemical used in making soda ash, and that i have, so i threw a wee bit of that in.

Instant colour change. Yellowy-greeny-yellow. Standard plant colour from a million plants!!!!!!

So, it being the time of year when we are ordering a lot of stuff for Valentine’s Day, i asked for a whole bunch of it for myself to play with.

privetI added the chopped stems and leaves to the first pot and the second pot was just the berries.

No greens however, as i saw in Morgen’s photo…………

Because the first pot had soda ash in it, my threads (silk and wool) and silk scraps are yellowy.


The berry pot *looks* exciting, but i’m betting i’ll get greyed tones with a HINT of lavender, not the purple here.

privet-berries-dyebath-aΒ  These pots will sit for a couple of days at least.

Further tests will be done with different mordants and modifiers later in the week, as will light fastness tests. If i get the colours i think i’m going to end up with, i won’t use privet again. You never know though what results you will get, due to the season, where the material came from, how fresh it is and what your water does. It’s good to experiment, but not all outcomes are worth repeating, even if “successful”—as i have often mentioned, you can get yellow from so many local plants that specialty ordering is not the way to go. (The privet is not cheap, being $45 for FIVE branches–and yes i got a discount as staff so paid half of that, but still……)



There was quite a bitter exchange on one of the natural dye groups i’m in, with one ecoprinter getting all huffy saying that “Are you people mad, eco dyeing causes no harm.Listen lady there are groups that have been doing this eco dyeing for years, I suggest you research that and them and stop pulling yr hair out. ” WHAT THE FUCK???? This is exactly the mind set that reputable, safety conscious, responsible dyers get our panties in knots about. If you want to poison yourself, your dog or kids and husbands, by all means cook up that possibly toxic plant in the same pot you cook the soup in. That would be called Darwinian Karma. However, if you do the research, you’ll know what the possible dangers are.





Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Ecoprints and Natural Dyes, privet


hexes rising

indigo-hexes-jan-24A few years ago in a Yoshiko Wada workshop, i fortuitously dipped two previously ecoprinted hunks of silk in a henna based indigo pot. In the ensuing years i’ve often dug them out and admired the greeny blue that resulted, though often thought the mud colour induced by chemical reaction over the ecoprints was well, too muddy. Sometimes i’ve wondered about just tossing them or giving them away.

Whew, i didn’t. You never know what will be Useful and Beautiful and Perfect, if you throw it out. The earthiness now of those colours are what was called for in secret by this piece. I listened.

My biggest challenge with this though, is finding a UBP slab of true madder.


I’ve been tuning into certain words and phrases now as i stitch in the evenings, hearing from the strangest sources quotes about memory. A cheesy B movie yielded up β€œWe survive by remembering, but sometimes we survive by forgetting,” and a Cicero quote from an episode of Criminal Minds β€œβ€œThe life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” Proves one never knows what might be relevant or inspiring, and from the oddest “sources”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



are you experienced?

jan-12-bAs i work with this large expanse, i’m better appreciating the nuances of colour created by chemical reactions between rust, potassium permanganate and brazilwood. Pinks, purples, teeny bits of blue and charcoal, russets and washed out reds. Amazing how that works, and really wondering how i managed to get such clean whites too!


These long lines of seeded backstitch, paths, divisions, separations, they appeal to the memory and sense, for otherness, unpredictable, centering, old consciousness. I’m struggling to express this in words, but words are an important part of this project as well. I’ve been writing a lot of free association exercises on my work blog, and will be condensing them down to make clear what it is i’m making, sharing, experiencing. I think of everything from Jimi Hendrix, to memories of childhood, passed friends and washed away river banks.



appreciating what you already have

When i created these fabrics during the 2016 Contextural summer residency, i knew i liked them but stashed them away as for use in a Someday project, thinking they would probably just be cut up, and incorporated into other projects.

They are beautiful. They can stand on their own. I hadn’t really really Looked at them. The softness of the colours, the strong yet delicate markings of rust, the motifs that occurred during the process are perfect for a background, while having enough interest to accent in some areas as i move through this piece.


I didn’t want a seam down the middle, so i tore one chunk in half and attached it to either side of the main fabric. This is going to be a large work, as you can see by the yardstick left in there for scale πŸ™‚ (I’ll have to have an appropriately sized stretcher bar set custom built, as i haven’t this size in the stoodio!) The seams aren’t terribly obvious, because of the similar colourings and process, but they are there enough that i wanted to segue them into each other. Immediately, i knew i wanted to use my technique of melding the fabrics into each other with a multitude of seeded back stitch. (I used that technique a lot on “Ebb and Flow” from 2014, on the indigo pieces.)


On New Year’s Eve, i watched part of “Expendables” and then all of “Expendables 2” (i deliberately choose “Cheesy B”Β  horror or action films to keep my mind and fingers activated, but not concentrating on the tubage.) and in the space of three hours, managed a section of 12×2″. These seams are 46″ long so i need to update my watch list!!! HA! “You WILL be a-seam-alated!” (I think i’m SO funny….) (Edit: as this post goes live, i have another 13×2″ done—yeah!)

So far, only two variegated colourways have been used there, but a third will pop in as well. One i am going to run out of, hopefully not until the seams are done, because it’s just not available anymore! The other two can be ordered again, and hoofies crossed that the batches aren’t so different as to be noticeable to anyone but Moi. Below, though the differences are not terribly apparent–which is kind of the point of blending—-i’ve used a silk in the centre, edged with a Caron Wildflower Sticks and Stones. Those edges will be edged into also with another Caron Wildflower “Pebbles”.

stitch-detail-1Unintentionally, that “strip” echoes the squiggly lines of dye and rust. The subconscious mind at work i suppose, because watching cars blowing up and manly posturing with bazookas sure didn’t influence it.

On the fun side of things, i pulled this out and have started playing with it. A riff on the original Beautiful Bones from 2009, and conceived in 2010, it’s mindless and silly, and an enjoyable change from Serious Art!





First Rabbit Moon done

First rabbit moon DONE. With wild roses for his bed, a sky full of stars for wondering, and mountains and clouds for dreaming on. Definitely an Alberta Jack Rabbit



He’d also be very hoppy to live at your home πŸ™‚