Saturday, 16 April 2011


I have been having fun - trying out some experimental dyeing, having been inspired by a number of good souls in the blogosphere.

India Flint creates some wonderful colourful fantasies here, and here. Jude whispers up her fibre tales here with stitch, cloth and colour, Susan is doing interesting stuff with jam jars and bits and bobs and Velma is another great source of inspiration.

I am thrilled by the way in which the Web allows all these people, whom I have never met - who don't know me, to inspire and share their creativity across miles and times zones and the world washing sea. It is an extraordinary thing to be able to see what talented souls are doing in their own private spaces and an inspiration to someone whose mother, much missed, always asked "well what are you doing to DO with it" or "you mustn't start than until you've finished this" or worst of all "is it going to make a mess in my kitchen?" - this to my request to try out batik for a school art project

Ermmmm yes Mum!

So, with a bit of inspiration, a few snippets of knowledge gathered from the web and books, I gaily embarked on my first experiment - sort of home chemistry really.

I understood from what I'd read, that when dyeing one needed to pre mordant the fabric to make the colour stick. Having nothing really to hand apart from this old aluminium saucepan (of Mum's!) and some malt vinegar, I thought that might achieve something, so simmered water and vinegar in it for about an hour, then used that to soak some of the great store of hankies I harvested from Mum's - "what are you doing with those Kath?"
"nothing Mum, just stuff".

Having created the "mordant" I steeped the hankies in this, while simmering a fat handful of onion skins in the same saucepan for about and hour'ish - you can see this is a very controlled experiment!

While that was happening I stitched some of the hankies, pulling the stitching up tight to create areas where the dye won't reach. This is my very poor tryout of a technique called shibori, which is shown in masterful style here in this, for me, fascinating insight into Japan's Shibori heartland. the skill and patience of these craftsmen and women is marvelous.

So, all this pretty amateurish "stuff" having happened to the hankies, including wrapping some bits of old iron in one of them, I simmered them for about an hour and a half - I think - ! Three were removed from the pot last night, the remaining one, with iron enwrapped, was left to steep overnight. The results this morning are three bits of golden yellow, variegated cloth on the line

 and one which I'm sure has some mythical creatures hiding in it somewhere!

Now where to go from here?

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