ice ice no ice baby, snow no, not either

ZUT ALORS!!!!!!!!!!

Much frustration the other day: i’ve been experimenting with different techniques and dyes (because some dyes behave differently than others), wanting a little more dimension and visual interest in the naturally dyed cloth i offer in my online shop, and thing just weren’t doing what i wanted/expected them to do.

So i XXXXXX’d and BBBBBBC’d and even XXXBBCD’d and then turned off the damn stove and lights and went to pout.

At the end of the second day, i had these:

 

Above, lac on madder (silk habotai).

Below, lac on undyed cotton/silk blend (not sure which was the higher content, but i had premordanted for silk).

Below, lac on tansy (silk habotai), hard to see any tansy left!

Below, the truer colour.

Today, i will be testing the method on cotton and linen, expecting “harder” definition, and with other dyes than the lac, on previously dyed and undyed pieces. Hopefully, by the end of Monday, i will be able to share some in the shop!

And no, there is not even ONE bit of snow or ice used in these. That’s all 20 feet away in my wintery backyard, and can stay there. (Or rather disappear in our projected Chinook for this week 🙂 )

And yes, i am keeping the method to myself. It’s up to each dyer to develop and progress with their own techniques. Those who think that artists of any ilk are obligated to share the whole process are sadly mistaken. I see that every day in dye, botanical print, embroidery and mixed media groups with some getting quite huffy when you won’t lead them from step A to B to M to Finished. Learn the basics then find your style/practice/method! I remember asking a local ecoprinter how she had done XYZ and she sweetly smiled, winked and said “Every dyer has her secrets”. That may smack of elitism or Guild nastiness, but it isn’t, and it encouraged me to immerse myself, paying attention to the journey. And i’m still friends with that dyer 🙂

Found on one of my river walks with the DogFaced Girl.

There will be “Broken Kaleidoscope” packs in the shop on Sunday Feb 28th. Not exactly as shown, as the velvets will be different, and I’m not sure how many packs I’ll have, but here’s a heads up! EDIT: Listing open, and going fast!

 

WAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

OH MY GAWDZ, my Indigo suffruticosa is getting flowers!!!!! It’s been under a professional level grow light since Sept 30th, has doubled its size and is looking properly woody shrubs and now there are flower spikes in the leaf axils!!!! I was going to harvest at the end of October, but I want to see now if the flowers go to seed. Hoofies crossed!

growing indigo in a northern clime, part one

Specifically, this type of indigo is Indigofera suffruticosa, a more tropical type than what most grow. Please bear this in mind for my “review” of growing it. Results may vary with other varieties like Indigofera tinctoria. (I have grown Persicaria tinctoria before, but that’s another post, and a variety/species to try again next year.) I was asked by Deb McClintock to share this as advice and experience in a climate than is very different from Texas (where my seeds came from her plants) and other warm/hot/temperate states, provinces and countries, compiling several previous posts and the final results.

I of course started my seeds indoors, May 16th, and placed under a grow light, a necessity in Alberta’s climate. Even the seeds released some blue after soaking overnight! We have a shorter growing season, colder nights (down to 5C –even in the summer—due to our altitude), temperatures rarely going above 30C (86F) and while we get lots of sunshine, my yard is not optimum for catching it! They were sown in a regular potting mix, augmented with a bit of sheep poo fertilizer. I watered them by soaking once a week as they didn’t seem to need much –in fact i’ve never had them wilt even when i forgot to water! Kept under lights until the end of May and then planted in a small pot, they didn’t grow much at all, though they did survive 3 hailstorms! I chose to pot them also because i have a very tiny yard, and the best way to get enough sun on these babies was to put them in something moveable, which was done up to 3 times daily.

By Aug 13th, there wasn’t much growth or improvement, so i transplanted then to a larger pot placing them inside the radius of a large peony cage as well, again with a good layer of sheep poo, a composted manure that usually helps enough that i swear i can see things grow 3inches to a foot a day depending on the plant …..not so much this time…… and wrapped the cage in plastic to trap heat, and which also protects them from hail, a too common occurrence in Alberta summers. I had noticed that any time the night temperature dropped to or below 15C, the leaves would fold down, like a mimosa pudica (the ol’ kids favourite “sensitive” plant). Incidentally, a larger pot does not guarantee growth–i just figured if they DID suddenly go crazy, i wouldn’t have to shock them by transplanting after the fact. Each week, i gave them a weak feeding of Alaska Fish Fertilizer, as i don’t know how deep the roots go, or if they are even down to the layer of sheep poo amendment.

Wrapping them did seem to help. The photo below was taken Sept 9th. I covered the top as well with plastic, creating a small greenhouse. We did have ONE night of frost warning Sept 8th, but i don’t think it actually went below 2C, so the plastic helped, though i also snuggled it up to the tomatoes and threw a heavy flannellette sheet over the whole area. The plants at that point were at a  barely 10″ height.

In the week before i brought them in, Sept 22nd to 29th, our temps started showing autumn, ranging from 14C to 23C during the day and 4C to 8C during the night–this was also the period, it showed an impressive change, filling out and getting woodier stems! At this point, they are still only 12″ high, a far cry from Deb’s 6-8′ beauties!   I figure it might have improved greatly as a last ditch rally: “NO NO NO, i don’t wanna die because winter is coming! Imma making leaves, lookit me, maybe i’ll flower! Don’t let me die!” 🙂

 

 

Incidentally, though we had something in the yard that chomped all my honeyberry leaves down to nubbins, and then attacked my rose, nothing seemed interested in these babies. Perhaps luck, perhaps no pests here of the type that would be interested. No yellowing due to soil or water factors, no sun burning, so viruses of any type. Hoofies crossed that no spider mite will occur now that the pot is indoors.

I didn’t want to tempt the Fates though, so brought it in on the 29th–and FREAKED the morning of the 30th as it had folded down so much i thought it was dying!!!!!!!!! I set it up the evening of Sept 30th under “professional” grow lights, near a heat source, and it recovered, so i’m hoping it was just from being near a partially opened window for that night. (By “professional”, i mean Grow Lights, the kind used in the industry–greenhouses, plant nurseries, cannabis set-ups–not the cheap dicky ones sold by Wallymart or the like. If i’m going to invest in something that takes time and some technology, i invest in as top of the line i can afford, or don’t bother.)

Here’s the grow light set-up, nothing fancy: a saucer on a stool, a heat vent in the floor behind–though i put a small cardboard diverter on that so it doesn’t blow directly on the pot—-NOT LETTING CONDITIONS FOR SPIDER MITE HAPPEN!!!!!!!!. and the grow light hanging from ceiling about 2.5 feet above. The light can be adjusted up as/if the plant gets taller. (HOPE HOPE HOPE.) I intend to baby it for at least a month, thinking that longer than that is not going to do much for growth or volume for use.

 

Had to put a dark bag on the outside though to save our eyes, as this is in the living room! The light goes on at 6am and off at 7am, hoping the timing is okay for hours. (It’s not like there’s a manual for this sort of thing, for any plant!

Part two will be written in probably a month as i see what happens in its new crib :), and then hopefully, enough leaves gathered for at least a teenyschmeenyweensy indigo extraction experiment.

EDIT OCT 3/20—-Talk about freaking my beak! Within 5 minutes of turning these lights off at night, the leaves fold down COMPLETELY. I would assume this is a defense mechanism of sorts to conserve both heat and water expiration, so light *and* temperature affects this. Fortunately, they come back to full mast in the morning, on their own, as soon as light starts to creep in from the patio window, or the light is turned back on.

madder returns, and baby blue hopes

So………………..this is the culmination of 3 and a half years of growing madder. There were 4 winters in that time span, and the first three i had the good fortune of a large garden, where the huge pot could be heeled in (buried and well covered in other words) for our harsh winters. Not so with the recent move and downsizing though: i kept the pot against our sunny house wall by the heat escape vents, wrapped and covered it well, but no growth at all when spring started. Time to “harvest” roots, regardless, as madder is good to dig up in at least it’s third year (5 is optimum apparently).

I dumped the pot, and pawed through it, working as fast as possible because there was a new ant home in the bottom (i HATE ants: they creep me out, have done since i saw Salvador Dali’s “Un Chien Andalou” when i was 16…..) and was very disappointed. Not only did the roots never get below the depth of half the pot, but they were SMALL, stringy and unfortunately, had started to rot. POOP.

I ended up with 65 grams of “fresh” root, which as i understand means they would dry down to about one sixth of that, not quite 11 GRAMS…… I can see a red tint to them, but am not hopeful for good depth. I will use as soon as i can because they don’t *have* to be dry to use, though it’s suggested that letting them “age” develops more of the alazarin. (Although as i hit “publish” on this post, i note they have been drying now for 32 days, admittedly a far cry from drying for a year 🙂 ) I won’t be trying to grow it again as our new garden space is too tiny to heel anything in, and seriously, the “return” on all the effort was not worth the effort… If i ever win the lottery, and have my big space in the country and a proper greenhouse, well, then we’ll revisit that.

Most of the Indigo suffruticosa seeds i planted did pop up. I lost a couple to drying out, because of the winds we’ve had lately, and due to the fact that Calgary is very dry at the best of times. I’m not assuming these will get as big as they grow in Texas at Deb’s though (SHE”S HARVESTING ALREADY!), because we have a shorter growing season, much cooler nights (due to our altitude) and so far this season not a lot of heat….. They did manage to get through 3 hail storms unscathed, probably because they are so tiny! I’m going to cloche them for awhile, trying to keep some heat in, and hopefully they will get big enough that i can get something. I still have a very tiny harvest from my first indigo Persicaria tinctoria attempts at the old house–a handful stored dry since 2015! (Edit: Even cloching these babies didn’t do much though they did double in size in a week. Still pretty teeny! And i don’t know if a bug/virus got them, or it’s the cold weather, but they are all spotted.)

I’ve decided in future, i won’t be sharing much about the actual process of natural dyeing, just the results. I get a fair number of hits on my “how to/how i did it” posts, but since 99.9% of readers don’t acknowledge even with a simple “thank you”, it seems rather pointless. (I’m sure it also bores the hell out of my readers that don’t care about that part of the process.) I seriously think schools have done a poor job teaching anyone HOW to research correctly, but i ain’t getting into that. All i can say is “just because it’s on the internet, or “popular”, doesn’t make it true”.

first multicoloured naturally dyed embroidery skein

It’s been my goal since the beginning of March to create 5 colour threads, using a minimum of dyes. I know which dyes blended will make certain colours (ie yellows like weld, osage, tansy and blue (indigo) will always make greens though different factors can make many shades, and indigo and madder always make purple and again shades with varying factors), but have been experimenting with other dyes that are less predictable.

I have managed to make my first 4 colour skein (silk/wool blend) using 3 dyes (logwood, osage and quebracho rojo), though it’s just a prototype as the process needs refining. The pink is too weak, the purple and yellow areas too long, and there’s not enough green to really be noticeable. However it does have lavender, pink, purple, yellow, green and coral, and that means it was fiddly work, but i figure practice will make perfect, as with all things 🙂 Still pretty pleased with myself!

My dream/wish/expectation is to make threads with colour breaks like these leaves:

They were done in these piece with “orts”, leftover bits of thread no longer than 3″–i want one thread skeins that look and act like this!

I know there there are dyers using naturals, and dyers using synthetics to make huge multicoloured knitting skeins, but since my focus is embroidery, it’s a bit more precise what i expect the end result to be. I still have to experiment with various post modifiers as well, a lightfast test for that green, and how well the process works on cotton threads.

Studying and “labbing” on!

two and a half weeks of rainbow

I ♥♥♥ variegated threads. I used a lot of commercially dyed ones with earlier work ( pre 2017) but when i switched completely to using naturally dyed, there was a dearth of them available anywhere, and i was petrified at the thought of doing threads! I have since refined my use and skill level of natural dyes, and while i had successfully dyed solids, i hadn’t really thought about variegating any, beyond the simple step of post modifying dipped areas.

Last week i had shown photos to an acquaintance who waxed so eloquently rhapsodic about the colour breaks in these little leaves:

 

They aren’t variegated threads however; they were “orts” (scraps, ends) of naturally dyed solids that i couldn’t bear to throw away. Just as i have found a use for one inch squares of naturally dyed velvet, so too do i save bits of thread that are at least 3″ long!

But i started thinking about this. Much of my work is finely detailed and there is no way to get such tiny breaks of colour, unless one becomes really neurotic about the method. (Yeah, yeah, i know: some many  a few think i AM neurotic but i ain’t that much…) But, never say never. While i will not attempt breaks of 1/2″, i can do 1″. Some of the colour combos too are practically impossible: i’ll never get a half inch of green on a predominantly pink, purple, blue thread, but i can get close in each colourway. And then use 3″ long bits, NARF.

So, for the past two and a half weeks, i have been working with thread instead of fabric, playing and testing, using different combos of 4 dyes (madder, osage, cochineal –that old moldy one STILL!–and indigo) and overdyes, post modifiers and timing and got these results:

The above are two colour breaks, pretty basic, but lovely nonetheless. Obviously, indigo over anything makes magic 🙂

And a mix of the 2 colour variegateds and solids from this work, thrilling to say only 3 dyes, and some indigo :)!

I dyed many of these in larger skeins so i can divvy them up, some for me, and *some* of these for the shop, in 10 yard lengths. All are cotton, except for the three in top photo, the bright red, bright yellow and salmon, towards the right of the photo.

Next i’ll be trying 3 colour skeins and continuing this way, i’m hoping to get to 5 colour breaks, something that my tired brain actually has to draw out to figure the correct sequences.

One thing that made me really happy was that i finally got a lavender/lilac/wisteria/whateverflavour you call it in your palette (centre of bottom photo). This one is NOT going to be anything but what it is, no modifying, no other colour additions. (Until the next time.) Again, from the moldy old cochineal. I’m not saying the mold had anything to do with it, just that there is no reason to waste a dye because it’s gone off, looks funny, or is fuzzy. Yeah, if it was completely foosty, but not as a surface deal 🙂 Obviously, if this happens to you, do some tests first with a small amount, don’t just take my word for it. *Your* mileage vary vary greatly.

I must now get back to a piece that is slated for a show, due March 31st–hurry, hurry, hurry hard!!

 

Caliente! Picoso! Candente!

Very very happy with latest thread colours, a mix of old moldy cochineal (yup, really, astounding colours), madder, osage, marigold, combinations of, and various post modifiers, all 100% cotton.

 

The linen was sunny too! Osage over marigold (Only because the marigold was weak. So weak in fact, that it fainted on the way to the dyebath. Dyeing yellow over yellow for any reason still gives you only yellow 🙂 ), and over madder.

The full Panoply of Sweet Pepper Power:

If you click on the photo below, you can see all the lovely nuances in these lavender ash and grape skeins. YUM.

And i’m hoping when this velvet below is dry, that’s as beautiful as i think it’s going to be!

I have two sets of some of the threads in the shop too 🙂 Edit: one set left!

plugged back in, part time

I’ve been reveling in the colours achieved, now that i “know the waters” here 🙂

(All the purples, greens and reds have already gone to a great home.)

I’m working on a new batch of threads, in various weights and plies, as i am running low myself, and would like to offer them again in the shop.

I rejoined a local fibre group, one that while i really enjoyed on an artistic and intellectual level, felt i never personally “fit” in. To hell with that mind set, i am what i am, and if they look at me like i have a third nostril, so be it. If all goes well, i’ll be joining the group show in April (appropriately, themed “to evoke a sense of community, place-making, inclusivity and intention”) with this from 2011 as a starting point:

HA. Or so i thought. This is the ONE piece i can’t find in ANY box of UFO’s, bits, nada, nuttin’ zip, zero, zilch. I *know* i didn’t throw it out during the move because i still see the potential it has–and yes, i really did toss some unfinished pieces in the trash, because i knew i would NEVER finish them, but this decidedly was not one of them.

SO. The deadline for this show is March 31st. Of course it is, because if i could find the above piece, i’d have somehow been working for a show with a further away deadline. You now how it goes 🙂 (That’s called Magical Thinking.) Because i have to start from scratch, i have 50 days to get cracking, and finish. And there’s no guarantee i will get in either, so it could just be an exercise in time management….

This is my base fabric:

See the face?

This is the sketch i’m working from (OLD and used in many ways since it’s inception in 2014):

These are my colours:

I may switch out the peachy toned one for a duller yellow, a rhubarb root dyed piece.

I know too that the pieces i have of these are not all long enough, so will have to re-invent the wheel maybe to get the effect i need.

 

It’s also going to be a good while until i can show you the “finally” set up studio–we have to re-drywall, move electrical boxes and lights, paint, and figure out storage configuration, so suffice it to say, i have enough room to work, but have to still move piles, or dig to find things.  It’s been a lesson in “clean up as you go, and organize as you store”!

 

on fire in the Dye Dungeon

These are the results of my boiled water madder pot. (Note: the water was boiled first, cooled to proper temp, then madder added. Madder does not do well over 180°F/82°C) I’ve never had such deep reds on silk before, but it *might* be because of the rayon blended in. I don’t honestly know if boiling the water made any difference, except for the removal of chlorine, however i’m not going to complain!!!!!!!!!!!

First extraction/use gave me these:

The second was these:

The top one is mottled because it was on top, and because i didn’t add more (boiled) water, it didn’t have as free movement as it should have. Even so, i love the results, a wonderful mottling!

Linen from the second pot at the same time was a bit disappointing, but still good.

Cellulose fibres like cotton, linen, hemp, rayon etc don’t have as much uptake, but linen is the hardest (in my personal experience) to get deep colour on.

I’m doing a third use with cotton eyelet, but i can see already the pot has had most of its red component used, and has more brown tinge too. Kind of reminds me of an antique coral, so that’s okay too 🙂

My dyeing week is almost over, and next week the plan is to get to some stitching again.