Category Archives: Home Cookin’ the Cloth

making my own rules, potassium permanganate

I really like the effects i get with potassium permanganate, but there’s not a lot of info available, online, or in old books, when it comes to using it with cloth. Most sites tell you how to get rid of the “stains” when you are working with it, in either metal or wood applications, but not how to keep it! I *think* we might have done something with it in the textile arts program in the early 90’s at Capilano College, but if we did, i either took few notes (usually when i wasn’t that interested!), or i threw them out in a long ago purge…….

First of all, this stuff is actually Scarey Dangerous. Yes, very, no exaggeration, in application, storage and with other chemicals. It can be explosive, toxic, mutagenic, corrosive. I cringe when i see people sticking their hands in vats with no protection, but this one in particular made me yell at someone during res who did just that. But it’s also used as an anti-fungal, an antiseptic, water purification, in garden applications, for livestock use, and in science labs for staining specimens and slides.

(Ignore the “antidote” notes on the above, and check the MSDS for the real deal.)

It’s not a “natural dye”: it’s a chemical compound. So why use it if it’s so freekybeaky? Because i like the warm browns it can give, i like the way it chases (discharges, technically) indigo, i love the effects with rust and ecoprints. Respect for what we use as dyers, whether chemical or natural, can go a long way though and i have always stressed safety first in any of my own work, and certainly when i have taught classes. So i will use it, and with pleasure! (The few sites that have had any information make me shake my head too, as they blithely swish things around with bare hands……..)

I know brown is not an exciting colour to most people, and most natural dyers are going to use walnuts, chestnut, cutch or sequoia, or combine different dyebaths with various mordants and modifiers to get brown when they do want it πŸ™‚ (And i have, and do that as well. ) You’re not going to find potassium permanganate for sale on any dye house sites though, chemical or natural. I searched through chemical suppliers, university science sites, and finally water purification shops, and bought mine at a local supplier forΒ  “HVAC, Water Treatment, Fluid Handling and Conservation Industries .”Β  (I’ve heard it also referred to as “Condy’s Crystals”, an archaic name for it, and supposedly available at pharmacies/”chemists”, though i suspect that’s more in the UK than anywhere nearby!) And i asked for and got the 6 page MSDS that should go with ALL chemical use. (See that first link in this post.)

Initially, it’s expensive. I just about had a bird when i called and asked about the size they had on the website (10lbs)–$169.00!!!! The gentleman on the phone said though that they did have smaller 5 lb packages, at slightly less than half of that amount. In use though, it’s cheap, cheap, CHEAP. At 1/4 to 1 TSP per litre of water, it’s going to last a looooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time, great Cost Per Wear!

(HA. When i picked it up, he said someone else had just called and wanted that smaller size too, something he hasn’t sold much of in a good while. Maybe another dyer?)


ALL “mixing” of this will be done outside in a corner of the back40, wearing gloves, respirator and safety glasses. And lest anyone think i am totally looneytunes using this potentially bombwhacko product, a lot of textile program school scenarios have a vat of it in the wet studio, and no one has reported any Incidents. ALL dyeing should be handled with respect, safety and care.

I remember there are a few other things i can do with “potperm” and cloth, so am off to refresh my memory, and make my own (SAFE) rules for use.




euc in the house

I missed a week at ACAD–summer holidays with the Greyman, and some serious Garden Hard time, both necessary things, and also time to think on things. If the school studio is too cool now for my favourite processes, what else can i do?

My favourite eucalyptus in “in season” again–that means it’s an import, as it just doesn’t grow in Alberta! One of the perks of working in the fffFlower Mines means access to things that just aren’t available in my garden or neighbourhood. There *are* certain “go-to’s” i can pick fresh, but the majority of plant materials that give satisfying results are neither “native” nor zone 3 hardy.

Yesterday i stitched in the home studio while these were percolating.

Two euc “trees” πŸ™‚


LOVE this silk:


It was a good day.





revving and refreshing skills

Honestly, i haven’t done any ecoprinting in probably over a year, so thought i’d best get back at it. I need to refresh my skills for the upcoming res and for some slated workshops in the fall.

Below, cranesbill on privet dyed silk with annatto overlay:

Very soft but quite clear detailing, but you’d have to be very close to appreciate the nuances.

Dock dyed silk, with Grevillea ecoprint, softly coloured, but not wishy-washy at all. And look at the detail from the Grevillea buds!

One thing immediately apparent with this method, is that the base colour has to be STRONG, as some of it disappears in the cooking method. (Steaming has NEVER worked for me.) Next up, some premordanted fabrics to be dyed. In cotton, because that’s what i work with, and prefer, i’m hoping the recent gallnut excursions help with colour development. I never had problems before getting richly detailed, deeply coloured prints from leaves and flowers on cotton/cellulose fibres, but now i want true depth, more colour laying and dye fastness also.



Still just peering over the edge of the rabbit hole, but on the way up now. It was a long fall.

paintPaint on paper above, painted cotton below.



machine-on-paint-1FM on painted cotton above, hand embroidery below.



As i’m writing, i realize this exercise made me think of this:

beading-hoodoo-sky-2009(Hoodoo Sky, 2009, in progress)

Tests for possible work, i still have 2 other techniques to try with the remaining painted fabric.



There’s nothing more satisfying than bringing a cloth to life. I could easily stretch and frame these beginnings on their own, but that needle and thread thing is so addicting, and really, the translation from flat image to textured story is what turns my crank.

“A Birth of Silence”, 2015, base cloth to finished translation

While i “designed” the base cloth for the one above, because it is an abstract, i had no idea when i made it what i would do with it, story wise. Sometimes narratives just happen. Stockpiling cloth like this is like prepping a bunch of canvases, or journal pages, no dreading that blank space!

Admittedly, the deliberate shape and design of a face means the face is the story, but things still can become what they are as they want.

ot translation

“Original Truths”, 2016, from deliberately designed base cloth to completion.

The story will continue.


second batch ice dyeing

While it may look i am on a binge right now, that’s not the case πŸ™‚ I have one more batch soaking in soda ash, and when that is done, there will be a hiatus as i still have lots of stitching to do with Leighton exhibit work! I do however need to rebuild the stash after clearing out a lot of old fabrics that simply are not “me” anymore. (And besides, it takes time to make more ice cubes!)

These are the second batch done yesterday:

ice 1 2


The mandala effect on the one below SUX, for whatever reason…..

ice2 2


I must have discharged or not washed out enough of a resist on this one at some point, because look at those spirals!

ice 3 2


Screen printed scrap:

ice 4 2


Another piece with discharged or resisted spirals:

ice 5 2

Strange how on the one below, that the satin face didn’t take as much dye as the back side of the fabric, a very solid matte:

ice satin face

Not as successful as day one, but there are areas that are definitely very pleasing, and will certainly get pressed into use. The fabrics i used were different from yesterday, one being softer and almost having a nap, the other (previously screen printed) very crisp, and possibly some polyester content? I “batched” as usual, so method is not the problem.

This time i used warm black, violet and red, and i know with this one that because i used “base” colours, there wasn’t as much colour variance, but i also expected the red and the violet to be more saturated. My first batch was using a new warm black, a very old golden-yellow and a very old scarlet, which all struck beautifully. You’d have thunk i’d used many many dye powder rainbows! All grist for the mill, nonetheless, and obviously i’ll be using more of the “mixed” colours. I suspect my “pure” (base) turquoise is not going to be very striking either πŸ™‚

My old Procions are from a garage sale score about 15 years ago, and i don’t know how old they were then! They survived floating around the basement during the 2013 flood, with half dissolved labels and rusted on lids as the only “damage”. I gotta say those lids are TIGHT because the powder was/is dry as a fossil. I don’t know about the shelf life of these powders, and am assuming some potency would be lost, but will see what happens when i use the new i have.

And now, i’m gathering again in the thrift shops, as i need to replenish my stock of dyeables—i have lots of ideas for the upcoming ACAD/Contextural Residency 2016, involving my usual rust processes with natural dyes.


Ice, ice, Baby

Part of my “training for creative strength” over the past three months, is to try things i haven’t done, or at least haven’t done successfully :). I signed up for Susan Purney Mark‘s ice dyeing class, thinking i’d like to add some more colour fabrics to the arsenal.

Good thing it is ice dyeing, because Calgary this winter has had a great dearth of snow. It’s been the brownest one i’ve ever seen. And OH MY, what a difference having proper instruction makes!

ice 1

ice 2

ice 3

I know now that my previous results were extremely wasteful of dye powder—another reason i gave up at that time. Though i know it’s not the last available, any i have is hoarded until i periodically slap myself and wonder what the use is of just storing them πŸ™‚


I also am tired of trying to re-ecoprint failures, as they have never worked for me. Once done, they seem to be done, and most of the time if they DO ecoprint again, i end up with a muddy dark ugly mess of a cloth…….This means i have more than a few boxes of fabric that is uninspiring, horrific, embarrassing and with a face like a can of smashed ass****s. Cloth of course should NOT be thrown out regardless, and can always be overdyed. Naturals weren’t cutting it either, so for this next little while, i’ll be winnowing out the deformed and grotesque, and whacking some ice and Procion over it. There’s no rule book that says you can’t combine natural and chemical. And i LOVED the golden yellow and violet Procions bits added to the indigo overdyed grevillea ecoprint in previous posts :).

This is the last week of Jane‘s class as well. I admit to falling behind and must spend the coming weekend catching up—no point in not pushing myself to the limit, and hopefully beyond. I’ve learned more than a few things about myself, the way i work, and why i work the way i do, valuable.


colour prompts

We can all agree that usually FB is a colossal waste of time, gets our blood boiling with some postings, or makes us want to puke with the schmaltzy canigetanamendreaminspirethislittlegirlwillamazeyouhavethepowerchangetheuniverseyouarethequeenoftheuniverse memes, but i do find it handy as a prompt also! I think of the old history programs, when FB kindly reminds me that “on this day, you posted this” and shows you what happened each year on that date–assuming anything did happen πŸ˜‰

On Feb 8 of 2009 i posted this:

metal and lace 2009

WOWZERS, look at that colour saturation and look at that texture! Now WHY am i not still doing this? I have the tulle, i have the metal (remember those stacks of things in the stoodio that rarely get used???)–what am i saving them for? (I’m NOT getting rid of stuff like this i admit, in the interests of honesty and Purge.) And you know what else? I COULD, CAN, WILL do this with the naturals and neutrals too.

The recent lessons with Jane Dunnewold’s Creative Strength Training class are paying dividends: colour, new designs, deep thinking, writing exercises, i’m getting it all.

A playful piece, the colour of this is rich and saturated. There are ideas here that will go into more “serious” work. I still can’t merge fun and “serious work” from those labels, these colours and techniques……Working on it! I DO believe you can do serious concepty work and still have fun—pleasure is subjective (metaphorically maybe!)

prima vera figuresAnd there is still scissor work slated for this one.