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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

last flowers of summer

Finally - I'm getting to some of my outstanding ecodye projects.

A friend gave me some spent dry pohutukawa flowers and twigs and a container of the fallen scarlet threads. I know these leave wonderful prints and little wiggly lines in maroon so I've been rolling adult tshirts with them.

The weld is all out of the garden and in the copper dyepot - bubbling away with bundles tied around old metal pipes, folded in on themselves, wrapped in leaves inside and out.

I've planned for the sizes 14 - 18 t shirts to be primarily NZ plant prints - but then I rediscovered geraniums and onion skins ( which I haven't used in ages ). That combination has the potential to be such a soft end of season colourway, I couldn't resist.

Thank goodness the hammock I dry them in is well out of sight - at the bottom of the garden in my workshop. It has a wonderful wind flow (well -it's a converted woodshed with a farmgate to keep the stock out ) - so I can just leave the bundles swinging there for a week, before I need to even take a sneaky peek....

and when I unwrap them I'll have turnips, the Manukau Harbour and the smoke stack from the Glenbrook steel mill right outside the gate.