fire burn and cauldron bubble, a little commerce too

As i mentioned in a previous post, learning to work with the vagaries of water in natural dyeing is a prerequisite to knowing what colour you will end up with! (Although it can still be a wee bit unpredictable, but that’s for another time.) Honestly, it’s mind boggling that SO many things can influence this, from mineral content, Ph, hardness, enzymes and, if on “public water”, the additives used in city water treatment facilities. We never noticed the smell of bleach in our water at the old house, but sure as hell do here.

I checked with various water treatment companies and ascertained that boiling water for 20 minutes would off gas the chlorine MUCH faster than letting it sit overnight to dissipate and doesn’t need to be in a really wide mouthed container as off gassing would require. Bonus, several dye pots have now been boiled clean 🙂 Adding ascorbic acid will also facilitate removing the chlorine, but i have none, and it does raise the acidity of the water (Ph), so not going there.

Of course, IF THE MAN WOULD REPLACE THE DAMN MEMBRANE IN THE REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER FILTER TANK, all of this would be a moot point because that’s part of its his its job……………………………………………………… ∇

Now i have to wait for it to cool down, because i want to do madder today and the temp can’t be over 60C, and boiling water is obviously 100C. Between the steam from the pot, and the smell of rhubarb root being dried in the oven, it’s rather witchy in here right now. CACKLE.

HEY! I live in Calgary. It’s winter. Calgary in winter is cold. Calgary has temps right now of -24C. Well, duh, Captain Obvious, stick it outside on the snowed over patio.

‘kay, moving on.

Remember that weekly plan thing i was working from? It’s only been a week since i started it, but happy to say, it helped. I crossed off a few things as DONE, migrated some to next week (which i figured would happen anyways, as that’s the way lists go, period), and have a new plan for the 20th to 24th, which is slated for JUST STITCHING. As much as i love the dyeing, i also love the “making from” part, or what’s the point?

So, here are this week’s Velvetarian’s Delight(s). These are packs of 3 colours, and each pack is sold separately:

Above, 3 packs available. Below, 1 pack available.

Below, 1 pack available, BUT i love this combination so much myself, that i’m going to try to create more of these colours!

I am offering these packs in the shop now, and for less than they were before for the 3 pieces per pack. Unfortunately, my supplier sent me cloth from a different bolt (hey it happens, they run out), and these are thinner than previous, while some have flaws as well. They are still luscious, fun to fondle, in delicious colours, and actually the thinner quality makes them more malleable, more liquid and easier to manipulate. I do suggest however that they be interlined with a soft cotton of toning colour so that stitches and beading show better.

 

I have GOT to get some threads wound and prepped for dyeing as well–i’m coveting that lilac and the moss for my own use!

i’ve got piles

Some “new” colours because of the different water (which is a good thing), but i want some of my “old” colours back as well! But i CAN live with this, if i can have both 🙂

(Click on the photo–as all of mine are–for tactility close-up.) SCRUMMY.

planning the plans to plan

I don’t know how other full time artists handle the tasks associated with making a living in the studio, but i’ve decided i have to treat this like a “job”. I don’t mean cut and dried “you MUST do this today” or “from 211:315AM to 32:3719 PM, you will be weaving gnats hair into celestial robes” kind of job, but being serious about what i want to do, need to do and would like to do. It’s too easy to get side tracked when the studio is “in home”! There’s always a dog to walk, a dish to wash and “Oh look! Cat barf! Goody! Gotta scrub that.”

Hours, how do we manage this? It’s easy to say it could be a 9-5 job (Oops better write this fast as it’s now 10 minutes to 9!), but i think a *little* flexibility could work 🙂  I wrote a post last year (gah, last year seems so far and so close away already…) touching on the subject (3rd paragraph) and parts of it will work, but as i mentioned: tangents! possibilities! potential! As a natural dyer, there *are* certain things that *must* be done; scouring, mordanting, dyeing, the winding of thread skeins (running really low on those to use), the labelling and storage of, and the decision on what to sell and what to use.

On my work blog (private, neener neener neener) i have draft posts with each week’s dates, but not so neurotic that any but the first are lists of what the plans are. Sample, this week Jan 6-10:

  • mordanting! (some are pre-tannined already: linen, chenille scarf, get them in alum)
  • new indigo vat needs starting  DONE ON WEEKEND!
  • dye with indigo, madder and weld: velvet, linen, trims
  • trees for moon pieces–smaller than done before, and larger
  • ORGANIZE studio better…… UN-ENDING JOB!!!
  • wind threads, scour, mordant, dye, combination colours
  • chair cushions-indigo (there has to be personal things made too)
  • finish chenille scarf (a test, post about that later)

I also realized through December that while i can work in front of the tubage, and don’t need to concentrate fully on what i’m doing in the stitching corner, that it *does* slow me down, just enough that i start feeling pressured IF i feel i have set a deadline. I can wind threads, but not embroider with them with “Stumptown” or whatever on  …… Instead, i talk to the DogFaced Girl……

But, not all studio work is Work either. There has to be time to make the art, the pieces that are in our hearts, that are sketched out excitedly and that the stash is culled for. Play it by ear: this week is that list above, but the week after can be the Art Part, because those listed things HAVE to be done or nothing gets done.

I do also stop for lunch, coffee refills, bathroom breaks and skritches for assorted animals. 🙂 I have too, lately, cleaned up the work space every night–not cleared completely of course, but at least organized and tidy for a fresh start the next day. *We’ll see how long that lasts, as i usually end up with “inspiration” and “possibility” piles everywhere! Sometimes there are going to be days when i just go in and “WOWZERS what happened, it was a GREAT DAY” without even noticing what time it was. Sometimes those days are like this:

See the teeeeeny little green buds on the stems? I cut these raspberry canes two weeks ago, thinking it was a futile exercise to save some of the raspberry bushes from the old place. (Remember i live in Alberta and it’s ^%$#ing cold and snowy in the winter. I never managed during the move to dig up even a small piece.) Last night, we noticed GREEN. That’s sometimes how things go in the studio, indeed in life also: hopeful, life affirming, chance, luck, caring.

 

How do you deal with time management? Any tips?

 

laughing at myself

First project of the year, a little test for scale, motifs, use, this needle book is for me.

5×4″, indigo, madder, cochineal, tansy, osage, sandalwood, quebracho rojo, linen, cotton, silk, naturally dyed “*orts”, beads. I won’t show you the inside: apparently some 4 year old snuck into the studio and worked that part! 🙂

I had grand plans for this little work, thinking i could make multiples and offer them in my shop, enticing people with price and portability. HA! If i actually charged what that *should* be, no one would pay the price. A common problem many makers have, either inadvertently, or deliberately, is actually pricing the true value/worth an object has cost in terms of time, skill, design and materials, assembly, and in my case, the dyeing of cloth and threads, and hopefully a small markup for profit. This Thing took the same amount of time and work as one of my larger moon pieces! Would *you* buy a $100 needle book? Nope, me neither.

At least i know my new indigo vat is working though and i *did* cull some ideas for other work from the making and thinking time!

*Orts are the left over short ends of threads (or teeny weeny scraps of fabric) used in other projects.

the new digs

It’s been a very tough 1 month and 22 days since MIL’s passing. Stress, grieving, anger, logistics, managing 2 houses for clearing, cleaning and moving, official paperwork, semi-serious health issues (yeah no cancer in bowels or gastric system!), family dramas (resolved), and just the day to day stuff of a normal life means i have lost 12 pounds (it’s a start…..) and am physically and emotionally depleted. There is light at the end of the tunnel though.

I now have a studio space that is bigger physically, a room that ironically started me on a serious look at textile art (as much as i hated being there with MIL constantly disrespecting boundaries and privacy), and that i have returned to after 10 1/2 years! I *will* miss my big studio window, and have to photograph things in the master bedroom because of the light 🙂 , and no more easy access to plant materials as DogFaced Girl and i got our exercise in lots of green space, (this area is very residential), but i have more wall space, better storage options and even room for a table and 2 chairs should any one ever drop by for a cup of whatever. It’s not a magazine pretty place, but it’s out of the way (basement) and a definite, defined, definitive work area and that’s what i need, especially with the paucity of creativity for the last year or so. (I have never had a “pretty” studio and don’t give a shit about that anyways, so a moot point:) )

 

HA. I haven’t done anything creative since the end of September, unless digging up rhubarb roots for natural dyeing counts, so i’m itching to get this organized. There are two more of those big wall units to move in here, and a large 4×8′ table to set up. The Rubbermaids  still have to be sorted as to garbage, donate or keep, (with 8 more still at the old place! SORTED! Only 5 full, 3 empty!) but what is left will be stored under the stairs out of the way. I got rid of 4 large plastic bin towers, but somehow “inherited” 2 from MIL that didn’t get tossed, so they will probably go against the same wall. Mostly useless as i found along the way–drawers too small, too many drawers for same thing because of the size, not very stable, not really stackable as the weight presses down and prevents easy opening of drawers below. Fine for small studios with less stuff to store, but ultimately not good for my purposes, and practice! Two though are manageable and will have the tiny stuff no doubt. Or i may just toss/sell after all. The walls have to be patched and repainted, and more lights put in, but it will be functional very soon.

 

 

Once the washing machine and TV are out of the way! The space is about 20 x15 in main area, with a little 8×4 alcove.

 

OOOO, i’ve found a LOT of spruce cones in the immediate area, so i’ll have to give those a go for dyeing with. Might only get tannin results, but wth 🙂 And i have to amend that crossed out line in the first paragraph: we’re within a 25 minute walk to one of the largest urban provincial parks in Canada! Fish Creek Park here i come! I have to respectful though (as i always am when gathering) as it is a protected area, both for plants and wildlife, which means gathering only windfall and invasives. DogFaced Girl will have to stay on leash, not quite as enjoyable for her, but we follow the rules in this regard–and sometimes there are not only deer, porcupines, rabbits, skunks and snakes, but cougars and bears!!! And considering that when i stop to”harvest” she usually (and sometimes annoyingly) lies at my feet, it doesn’t matter that she’ll only be leashed 🙂 (If i could just get her to hold the bags open for my collecting, or carry them after….)

In the flurry of tossing and donating my MIL’s “stuff” (i am SO tired of this), i did exhume some treasure, hidden under enough household linens to wash, dry and bed 5 households (i swear):

 

 

Gorgeous pristine white cotton crocheted tablecloths, embroidered and cutwork pieces, battenburg lace, filet lace, small pieces of crochet, needlelace, a few machine embroidered bits, these will be scoured, mordanted and treated to spa days in various dye pots. I’m thinking too of wearable art again as it would be a shame to cut up some of the larger pieces! (Note, these had been “collected” by Jane, as she sadly had neither the talent nor the will to do such work.)

Since i have a rather mundane sewing task today, sewing up privacy curtains for the old house (doing the landlord a favour, because we still love that place!), i’ll be starting the switcheroos down there today. Dig me out in a couple of weeks, would ya?

this is why we scour and mordant

Oh, but it’s a pretty colour anyways.

Well, i can always overdye it.

But it was/looked clean when i bought it to dye.

It doesn’t matter, my clients like this colour.

But Famous Author *always* does this.

I don’t wash these anyways.

Did too scour: I washed this with my socks, before i dyed it.

Vinegar is too a mordant, you freak.

You’re just jealous i got dye from strawberries, ______, _______ and _____. (Insert appropriate inappropriate plant material here.) (This is usually said when said player has it explained to them, that even mordanting will not “fix” fugitive dyes.)

 

Here’s why you should scour, and pre mordant. Left to right: unwashed cotton, dye didn’t penetrate completely, many white spots visible, stiff as a f*****g board. Next, scoured only (soft as a baby’s butt!!!), no mordant, some colour uptake. Last, scoured and premordanted, deeper colour uptake. All were dyed in same pot of quebracho rojo, at the same time.

 

And please “but the colour is so pretty anyways” is not a good way to dye: the colours on the unscoured and unmordanted especially will/did wash out and will continue to do so, the scoured only will lose most of its colour with each subsequent wash, while the scoured and mordanted piece will keep its colour. And even “new” fibres that look clean need scouring.

Below cotton also, right scoured and mordanted, left scoured but no mordant.

 

A perfect example of what happens if you don’t scour properly, lesson learned in June last year:

I thought i had done enough on a new thread, but when i put them in tannin, this happened:

GREEN?????? I contacted Maiwa, my trusted supplier, and asked if perhaps it had been the soda ash in the initial scouring that had reacted (maybe not rinsed enough), as gallnut is a clear tannin, and stays to the “browner” tones after being used and stored. Nope.

Hi Arlee,

This is rare but it does happen, but it is not from the soda ash. Fabrics are often pretreated and contain substances which can leach out or react with the mordant. When used on it’s own Maiwa’s gallnut extract is usually a clear/colourless tannin. I would suggest trying other cotton fibres from different sources and comparing the results.

Best,
Danielle

I had to REALLY scour again, properly, to get the green out of the threads!

I have noticed since, that even tightly plastic packaged new thread can show brown, yellow and PINK (!!) dirt in the water after scouring. Don’t skimp on this step. Even “PFD” (prepared for dyeing) fabric in MY opinion should be scoured—a. it’s been “prepared” for synthetic dyes, and b. you don’t know how much it’s been dragged over warehouse floors, handled, packed or shipped. (MMM, someone had tacos for lunch and wiped their fingers on the silk. SHARESIES!)

I mordant EVERYTHING first. I *know* substantive dyes like indigo and walnut don’t require mordanting, but given that i use a lot of dyes that do need it, i’d rather have everything pre-done in case i grab the wrong chunk. Pre mordanting will not hurt substantive dyes. Some may be stripped out by a chemical indigo vat, but you should mordant again after indigo if you are going to overdye with another natural dye.

HOW to scour? Maiwa: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1086/6542/files/natural_dyeing.pdf?2077475857497476456 NOTE: different scour methods for cellulose vs protein fibres.  I use neutral soap and soda ash, or neutral soap and borax, or just neutral soap, depending on what i have handy, and depending on the fibre type.

HOW to mordant? Maiwa: https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1086/6542/files/natural_dyeing.pdf?2077475857497476456 I sometimes add a tannin step to protein fibres, not because they need it, but because they will extend the colour possibilities.

Yes, they are the same link. Maiwa has the BEST, FREE information available that is accurate, researched and trustworthy. Save the link, print it, share it, USE it.

 

Samara, Samara, will you ever be?

I don’t know WHAT it is about this piece that keeps stalling work. I LOVE the idea, the form, the work so far (with a few minor colour quibbles), but she’s been pinned to the design wall again for 6 months with no more stitching done.

She started like this, created during my ACAD residency in 2016:

In August of 2017, she had this much (little!) work done on her:

Rolled up and stuffed away, until i got ruthless in October of 2018 and cut her into pieces:

She got this treatment also in October of 2018: body dyed in osage, wings in madder (the iron on this really purpled it!), and the background tossed in a weak indigo vat. (The iron of course affected the osage as well, browning it, which is okay because a bright yellow body would be NFWay 🙂 )

In November, i start stitching the wings and the thread colours really livened up that dark purple:

And the finished wing (mocked in crudely) had ZING when backed with some of my naturally dyed silk velvet:

Like this:

The second wing was done in November also, but is STILL not attached to the velvet backing. SIGH.

But, looking at her last week, the background still seems both dark and weak at the same time. So, i got brave again–because it took some teeth gritting and hoofie crossing when i cut her into pieces the first time—pulled the background off its stabilizer, mordanted the cotton with tannin and alum because even though gawdz knows there’s already a lot of iron on it, cellulose fibres do better taking up dye with these premordants, and threw it in a fresh pot of the 34 year old madder.

And so:

Wow, the hexes shrank.

This has been scoured, rusted, washed, dyed, washed, mordanted, and overdyed again, so why now? Ah well, just means more beautiful fabrics behind the hexes, peeking out.

And of course, part of me is incredulous that all the rust and cream coloured fabric is now “gone”, but that’s how it goes. Because you know what? She has a sister! (I did TWO pieces like this during the 2016 session.)

I’m thinking too, her body is much like a husk at the moment, but husks hide secrets that are revealed through peeling away layers. Things escape husks as well, corn silk, seeds, errant old petals. We’ll go with that and see how she evolves there:

(Something else i realized too: if and when she is ever finished, this will be the first big piece i have done with all natural dyes, from fabric to threads.)

Bets on when she actually soars?