So inspired by wonderful March workshop with India Flint; sometimes [rarely] a class can be life-changing: having already been starting to learn to construct simple wearable pieces with cloths woven on the Saori loom, India’s Second Skin class taught me that I can make simple garments stitched by hand with lovely natural or recycled fabrics, then dye them in the ways I have been learning to do, with plants and natural mordants; a meditative and gentle process that feels totally right to do, and causes no harm. So I find myself enjoying wearing the garments that I am making; I love the comfort of them, and the ethos of them, they make me feel connected to the earth. Community awareness of the destruction the textiles industry is inflicting on the environment, and the exploitation of its workers, is growing; as with food, it is impossible to un-know the realities of mass production and of the inherent problems with the toxins in synthetic materials once we understand them; and the power we have is to individually change our own approach first.
Have spent a week here in our holiday cottage stitching some simple dresses, skirts and tunics with Marion’s lovely silky merino [Beautiful Silks at Allansford]; and now the cauldron is simmering with local eucalyptus leaves and bits of metal [the Daylesford market is a treasure house for old metal discards!] and garments being bundled with autumn leaves, eucalyptus leaves and sundry other mark-making bits and pieces…………..as the garments come out of the pot it is always a surprise; the beauty of this method is that if the surprise is not entirely positive, there are always ways to cut/patch/cover/re-dye!!
In between the stitching and the dyepots, lots of long walks in the glorious autumn landscape; a beautiful environment to work in and be inspired by:
The experimenting has been going on for months, but I have found eco-dyeing to be quite a humbling process; just when I think I have nailed a process, the next lot of fabric comes out of the pot murky, dull or just plain awful! Some notes to self at this stage:
- My dad used to quote: “Blunt pencil better than sharp memory” ………
…and he was right, when it comes to eco-dyeing experiments, often the best results I have had seem to be the ones where I have lost track of the process I used, and that can be a bit frustrating; am trying very hard to at least scribble down some notes before I put pot on stove
- PATIENCE PAYS……… definitely; am learning to let dyed fabrics sit and cure, I dry them, even iron them, and then wait as long as I can [at this stage a week or two but I am sure longer would be better….] then when I wash them out there seems to be very little colour coming out of them and the results are much better.
- There is a LOT of info online and in books. Reading about other people’s experiences can be very helpful, and save a lot of grief repeating mistakes that seasoned dyers already know about; on the other hand it can be also very confusing, as there are quite a lot of diverse opinions. So I will keep reading, but also keep trying some things out for myself especially when there is debate.
- Playing with mordants, after-baths, combining different dyestuffs is addictive, time consuming but definitely worth it….which is where point 1 comes in!!!
- I can get lovely colours from powdered natural dyes, but it is not nearly as satisfying as getting them from my own gathered plants, even though the results are much less predictable and often need over-dyeing. Also not at all happy about not knowing the provenance of a lot of the powered dyes…..
- Overdyeing can work beautifully …..it gives the opportunity for complex patterns and colours to emerge……
- Every new day in the dyeing space is an adventure , new experiments planned and new gifts emerging from the dyepots…
- I have started attempting to dye garments at last, until now it’s been bits of fabric for slow stitching………….love the process, ethos, practicality of eco-dyeing clothing; India Flint’s books are an inspiration, wealth of info and need to be read again and again to absorb everything she has to say. Workshop coming up soon……can’t wait!!
Still hoping for: strong red markings ; I have had trouble finding the right eucalyptus plants but have had a small taste with a few small pieces I’ve used in my Eucalyptus Cloth [work in progress!]…..
also still looking for stronger prints on the garments I have dyed so far….but the process is magical, addictive and so much fun.
will resist the temptation to open too early…….the cooked bundles are like gifts waiting to be unwrapped! [the element of surprise can lead to thrills or disappointment of course……..]
Some of the latest colours emerging from some unlikely sources……unfortunately the iphone camera pales the colours off a bit, wish it would stop trying to help and “adjusting”……..some of these scraps have emerged from red cabbage baths with various things added [an iron bar and some alum produced some lovely blues! not sure how permanent they will be but for now they are lovely, and satisfying the blue-craving until I learn how to make indigo vats……on the list!!] ……..the chewed pinecones from the local park , which have been dropped willy nilly on the grass after the black cockies have devoured the pine nuts, have produced a lovely warm tan; a perennial cottage plant in the garden which is one of the few plants I have whose name I don’t know…..must research, it makes lovely rich pink; and pine needles from the same black-cocky-food tree, simmered with some metal pieces, again producing some lovely blues to greys.
Perhaps i should change the name of this blog to “feast or famine”…….posts are very sporadic! this may be the start of a run, to catch up on my own recording; the blog has been a good way to keep track of the journey.
I am pottering away with eco dyeing; it’s a consuming interest really, hours can disappear with the pots simmering and the “what-if’s” bubbling up along with the brews. Some days the results are disappointing, other days so exciting; and i feel very much still at the beginning of the learning curve. A projected three day workshop with india Flint coming up in autumn will be a wonderful opportunity to learn from someone who is such an inspiration.
These pics are of a cloth i am working on based entirely on fabrics dyed with eucalyptus leaves…..am playing around with some embroidered bits, not sure if I will incorporate them in this cloth or not; maybe will just gently quilt it and let the glowing colours speak for themselves.
Also my first attempt at eco-dyeing a garment…in this case an old op shop singlet-tee, which went from dull washed white to a very interesting print! I am still not achieving the clarity of prints I would like but the effects are still really interesting and encouraging me to continue..
At the end of a busy winter of stitching and dyeing [see more on that in next post!], have decided to pull together some of the various pieces of cloth that have occupied me. Seems time to construct a whole, rather than parts…just for awhile. So I have finished and hung the “warm winter cloth”: the intense embroidery stitching, very simple blanket stitch, chain stitch and running stitches, were satisfying on long winter evenings, as was the warmth of the felted fibres that were the base, beautiful and soft to stitch through..
I have started to assemble the blue-green pieces that have been on-going for quite some time, into a cloth loosely called “watercolours”
and the warm, madder-based cloth , a combination of naturally-dyed bits, old sari scraps and other warm-coloured pieces
so a lot of stitching to do, and textures to add, to both of these cloths, but they have a bit of a direction happening now.
Sad farewell this week to the brilliant Leonard Cohen, whose wonderful poetry inspired the name of my blog….
short days and chilly weather, very conducive to stitching! Autumn Cloth all but finished…a few stitches here and there will probably go on for awhile….
and have started the bare bones of a warm Winter Cloth…..base coming together with the help of the felting machine; lots of hand stitching and embellishment to follow!
Have also finished another Turquoise piece, which was looking a bit sparse