Thursday, May 19, 2011

My bucket list for the winter

As I watched the weather report the other night, I was struck by the powerful line of arrows showing winds, rain and storms heading inland in sweeping unison from the western ocean.

I am in a direct line for any battering the winter may send. 

Already I'm hunkering down, sorting my workspace and my office and thinking about unfinished Things.

One is a quilt I have pieced and stashed in my blanket cupboard.  I made it for my partner - it has been in the making 4 years and all I have left to do is the binding.

He particularly asked for post and rail.  A strong uncomplicated pattern.  All the fabric I had at the time was in red, gold and purple - so we agreed that was a reasonable compromise
some of the pieces I had handmarbled at a long ago class. 

he chose the backing which was a stretchy deep rich brown/maroon fleece fabric.  At the time I knew very little about quilting and this fabric was a challenging choice.  The joins of each patch were tied by hand in the corners with a soft muted maroon Shetland wool - the fabric wriggles too much to join the top to the bottom any other way.  There is no wadding - it weighs a ton as it is.  The nude was painted by my daughter when she was 16.

I can't say my sewing room is now as orderly as when I began the project.  The table is covered with collage and half finished ecoprint aim this morning is to clear it, put everything I'm not using NOW away, and then have fresh snapper and avocado on toast for lunch.......

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the world is full of a number of things.....

After an enormous NE blow, there were monsters on Hudson's beach with ropey fingers

 and puffball humps
stretching from one end of the beach
to the other
four planets - Mars, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus aligned outside my back door in the early morning dark
my 90 year old Dad, who takes no medications at all, landed in hospital for the 2nd time in his life.  The first time he was 8 and he fell off the horse he was riding 4 up to school with his siblings.  He's now home and recovering well.

and a couple of pretty things flew up on the clothes line.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Getting a grip......

Recently I've been working with a combination of collage and journaling to move myself past my own cliches. 

It's a technique from an e-study course offered by Shelley Klammer
It takes maybe an hour each morning to rip up some images, assemble and own them and write. 

It's not a thoughtful process - it's an instant identification of my current state of mind. 
I've learned in the past week that whatever images "land" on my page are me. 

So this morning, having struggled to put words or feelings into any order at all since the Christchurch earthquake and now the Japanese quake and tsunami, this is what is on my page.

I am Anger

I am the scream of the buried
the drowned
the burnt
the displaced

I am the snarl of the lost
the broken
the hobbled
the Dead and Undead

I am the hope against impossibility
of an olive twig on a bare branch

good morning cows

 the milking herd has arrived for breakfast in the predawn mist outside my study window
last year's heifers are often last into the shed and last out into the paddock
they arrive at a trot - strip feeding means first up best fed

it's serious stuff this eating

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Is it a perennial?

On page 44 of her remarkable book Eco Colour, India Flint has a photo of "drying bundled goldenrod". 
A whole armful of it!! What bounty.....
I have 3 plants, given me last year by my organics teacher and carefully split so if I happened

to lose one in a drought
or through neglect 

or just because it disappeared never to be seen again under a rampant overgrowth of couchgrass
I would still have 2 others.

Which made me think about exactly what sort of a plant goldenrod is.
And how India managed to have such a lovely big bundle to dry.

My reading told me it is considered an invasive weed in China and Germany and that it is a perennial.  That means it comes back each year without having to "do" anything about it.

But I also have the choice of waiting till my 3 precious plants seed, and then saving that seed for resowing in Spring....."Propagation is by wind-disseminated seeds ...."(Wikipedia - Goldenrod)

Or, I can also let autumn roll on a little longer and wait till the flowers have gone and then divide the plant which grows......"  by spreading underground rhizomes which can form colonies of vegetative clones of a single plant." (Wikipedia - Goldenrod)
Better sharpen my spade, so I get a nice clean cut. 

Knowing a little about plants has deepened my love of ecodyeing.  There's magic and knowledge in their Latin taxonomic names - Solidago canadensis; Solidago virgaurea; Solidago spp and the clues names give to the properties of and even colours hidden in the plants.

Even if you only mutter them as a mantra to keep your brain stimulated and give you another tool of knowledge. Especially if like me, you have no Latin!!!!

India has a comprehensive section on pgs 49 - 64 labelled
 "Some Traditional Dye Materials". 
It's a great resource and she has included the common names and parts used.

Friday, March 4, 2011

in my own back yard

Tibouchina urvilleana
fresh leaves lying face down on merino and lyrca mix

once the leaves are peeled off

overview of the whole piece showing the depth and variation of colours

detail of print on merino lycra mix in the almost spent woad dye bath
 Amazing what you can find in your own back yard.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday, February 21, 2011

more magic with woad

who would imagine this dye bath could go on producing wonderful colour for so long!

a first for me...I splashed out and bought a remnant of merino and lycra for $8, wrapped it round a little piece of driftwood and was stunned at the result.

was there more to it than that??
Well, yes - I did find an old axle on the beach and load it into the dye bath for a "metal fix".
And I had wrapped my soy mordanted linen frock with pohutukawa twigs and spent flowers and put that in the same dye bath.

it's still magic whichever way you look at it (even upside down if you're a fish on a wall)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

woad and weld

Pinks and blues from woad

greens from weld

I still have bundles wrapped with woad leaves so I'm looking forward to the colours those prints might be.

On the clothes line is the light linen dress I dyed at Lud Valley Nelson last November. I've had it soaking in soy milk before I re-wrap it and try the last extraction of colour from my woad dye.

and I've picked the first leaves and an odd flower of my only plant of Hypercium perforatum (St John's Wort) . I'll simmer it with some silk thread in an aluminium pot.

I took a little cotton 70%, linen 15% and raimie 15% jacket down to the beach last night and gave it a swish in the that's drying and waiting to be wrapped. I think pohutukawas leaves in the last of the weld in an aluminium pot - should make a nice contrast of deep purples and the limey green of the dyebath.....but who knows what will really happen.

in no time at all, a whole morning has gone by. The clouds have lifted. The sun's out and the tide is full. Time for a break.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pink my ride

......."remove the leaves and squeeze out the liquid

....the leaves can be used for

a 'regular' dye vat

for yellows or pinks.

The colour depends

on the strain of woad used

and the water - mine is rain water......maybe that has less of a chemical and mineral load than spring or bore water. Certainly less than treated commercial city water....

The next installment will be decanting any remaining sediment out of the bucket where it is settling.
It will then be washed clean water in smaller open necked bottles and allowed to settle again
Finally we'll figure a way to spread it out to dry so it can be stored.....

QUESTION - do we have an old teflon coated dish in which we can let the evapouration happen.

This seems to be the easiest way to "peel" the pigment off a surface ???

And then comes the interesting bit - what to do with it when we have pigment

Monday, February 14, 2011

soft summer blues

At last I've harvested and processed the woad that's been maturing over the summer.

To the left is the original colour of the raw silk I've cut out into a rather stylie top. In the middle - the same cloth after 8 successive dippings in the woad bath - for 15 minutes a time and then the aeration for a further 15 minutes after each dipping. The silk hanks have been in and out for 10 dips and are a deeper shade.

Isatis tinctoria - woad in flower

silk out of the dye bath after 3 dippings

Here's how it all happened......

once upon a time I met an old gent at the Craft Out West fair and had an indepth discussion with him about ecodye colours, and co-mordanting with the pots only ( no added chemicals. )

The 84 year old told me he couldn't find decent cloth anywhere to tailor himself a pair of trousers - from his own wool and spun and dyed by Himself - and he would have to resort to building his own loom.....and then he sent me the MOST wonderful package of fresh living viable madder roots wrapped in damp spaghnum moss and two little containers of his own weld and woad seed.

So, this weekend when my partner and I spent 5 solid hours processing 6lb or 2.7 kg of fresh woad leaves picked from the garden into a range of blue hues - depending on the fabric or fibre.

After extensive research, we decided to go with the method described by Sarah Dalziel

We found this the easiest and most comprehensible. We still needed specialist equipment - we borrowed a laser thermometer and a commerical pH meter from a friend. We used white vinegar to reduce the pH to 3 at the beginning of the process and soda ash (sodium carbonate) to increase it to 10 before oxidising.

We used a heavy duty drill with a beater attached to oxidise the dyebath. It foamed up quite a bit but it was easy to see the colour changes during the process. At the end when we expected the froth to go back to yellow, we had to scoop slightly below the top froth ( which was a gorgeous blue) to see the yellow tinge.

aerated woad dye turning BLUE

We would also have a couple of bags of crushed ice available next time to get the dyepot cooled faster. Cold water in the bath with a couple of random slicker pads was not that efficient.

It would be a great deal easier and quicker to bring the dyepot back to boiling after adding each few handfuls of ripped leaves if we used gas. The ring on the stove is too slow, especially when your stainless dyepot has a wobbly bottom and heats irregularly. AND - we'd pick a day when the inside temperature was NOT 28 degrees and upwards.....maybe an early morning would have been more efficient.

But I think the results are well worth the effort and I can't wait for next season. Fortunately I now know I can make successive monthly pickings of the woad leaves.

Friday, February 11, 2011

the last of the summer wine

Sometimes the beauty of the colours and prints in a piece are almost overwhelming.

I dyed this shirt before taking a few days off in the city and left it to dry in a warm spot. Test pieces on raw silk from the same dye bath gave an uninspiring grey. Even the wet bundle looked insipid and disappointing.

So....I couldn't help holding my breath as I drove in the gate, slung bags and parcels and brocolli seedlings on the deck table and sat with my little grey cat purring around my legs to undo the bundle.

The leaves I'd used came from her favourite beach on the peninsula - it's now severely eroded from the last nor'east storms and king tides, and the trees are clinging precariously to the cliff edge

I always tie my parcels with white wool or silk so I have fibre for stitching. So that's the first part of the fun of unwrapping ecodyed treasure......The wrapped shirt was still a little damp and warm from the filtered afternoon sun. As I wound off the wool ties, the colours changed from soft green to purple and peach.

I peeled open the shirt and carefully lifted each pohutukawa twig off the fabric. Already the colour had magically changed from grey to purple. The first leaf patterns started to emerge. Perfect - each little characteristic spot and freckle from the leaves deeply embedded in the cotton fabric.

But the thing I can't capture for you is the scent of warm honey that was enfolded in the shirt. The scent is lighter and "higher" and full of sun and browsing bees and long hot summer days. Even when the summer winds have stripped the trees bare of their christmas red, the smell lingers on.