Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Cedar Bark workshop - Day 1

I am back at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN this week attending the National Basketry Organization Conference. I am taking a three day workshop with Dawn Walden on Contemporary Cedar Bark. I am so excited with the amount of technical information we are getting in this workshop!

The image below is the start of my base for the vessel we are going to make. I love working with cedar bark. It is so much like leather when damp, but then very sturdy when dry.

After my base was twined, it was attached to a mold, to form the shape. Then I wove a twill pattern for the body.

Here is my finished form, drying on the mold until tomorrow at which time we will embellish it with cedar and spruce roots. Can't wait!!!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Natural Indigo Vat

Working with a natural indigo vat is wonderful! I made both a weak and a strong vat in my studio. This provides me with the ability to dye a wide range of beautiful indigo blue. I love that the indigo is ready whenever I want to dye with it; however the vats do require daily attention to be sure that they are always reduced. 

This is the 3ply Paternayan tapestry yarn, with a 3, 5, and another 5 minute dip in the weak vat, from left to right.

Below is the Harrisville Highland  2ply wool with the same 3, 5, and 5 minute dips. The results are so much paler than the tapestry yarn. So I concluded that not all wools dye the same. Perhaps there is more spinning oil in this yarn than the other, despite my scouring it before dyeing it. It still is extremely beautiful. 

Using the wool yarn that I recently dyed in goldenrod, I used the weak vat to over dye the rich golden yellow in one dip of 3 minutes and a second dip of 5 minutes. I am very pleased with the results. 

I then took those same three samples and modified the colors using a warm bath with ferrous sulfate (iron) in it. The iron causes the color to become a little duller than the original. I just love this ability to dye one color of natural dye and then modify it using indigo and iron!

My last set of samples on the tapestry yarn, from left to right are:
Goldenrod, goldenrod and a 3 minutes dip in the weak indigo, goldenrod with a 3 and 5 minute dip in indigo, goldenrod and iron and goldenrod with a 3 minute indigo dip followed by iron.

Stay tuned for more experiments using both of my indigo vats!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dyeing Wool with Goldenrod

As a continuation of my natural dyes workshop at Arrowmont, I decided that the summer months were the perfect time to try dyeing some wool using goldenrod. I gathered some not too far from my house and spent a good part of the day extracting the color from it, mordanting the wool and dyeing it with the goldenrod. I am delighted with the results. 

Here are the freshly picked flower heads.

I placed them in my enamel pot with enough water to completely cover them and allow them to move freely.

As they gradually came to a boil, I simmered them for a good hour. During that time I watched the bright yellow color dull down and the water gradually gained a rich yellow color. Then I strained the flowers out of the liquid.

Here are my small skeins of wool being mordanted with potassium aluminum sulfate. 

My dye bath with the wool showed me that not all wool takes the dye at equal rates. I am dyeing some  Harrisville Highland 2ply and some 2 ply Paternayan tapestry yarn. The tapestry wool definitely took up more dye.

Here is the result of my dye day using goldenrod. I LOVE the resulting yellow colors and plan to use them later in the week with ferrous sulfate as a modifier and a dip in a pale natural indigo vat. As I reflect on these gorgeous colors, I think about being part of a wonderful history of when our ancient settlers in the Northeast had dyed in a similar manner for their weaving.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Natural Dye workshop Day 5

These samples are the results of my exploring color using a base color of natural dye and then modifying it using ferrous sulfate as well as one dip in indigo. From left to right, in sets of three, are cochineal, madder, Osage orange, pomegranate and cutch. The colors are a little bit off in hue, but I think you have a good idea of what can be done with just a few colors of dyes to work with. I am going to continue this exploration of color in natural dyes over the next couple of months, creating a sample notebook of recipes to use for future reference in dyeing wool for my tapestries.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Natural Dye workshop Day 4

I had a busy day today, dyeing base colors of natural dyes. We did cochineal, madder, pomegranate, and Osage orange. The Osage orange was a special treat. The resident artist in the wood studio had some Osage orange wood shavings and gave them to use to extract the color from. 

Here is the gorgeous yellow we got from the Osage orange dye bath on my wool.

I had a chance to help grind some cochineal bugs into a powder and then extract the beautiful red color from it. Here are my dyed samples on wool.

We did a madder dye bath and got this nice strong orange color from it.

I explored some over dyeing at the end of the day and discovered that one two minute dip in the indigo vat made a huge transformation in the colors. I absolutely love them!!!!! This is the beginning of a color study of natural dyed yarns overdyed in indigo. I can't wait to get home and order the supplies needed to create my own indigo vat and get started.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Natural Dye workshop Day 3

Today was a day full of glorious color. 
Here is a so-so picture of my five step value gradation of the indigo on tapestry yarn. The picture does not do the yarn justice.

Dye baths were done today using cochineal, ground up from the actual bugs. What an amazing process, with rich color yield. The fibers are sitting overnight, so I will have pictures tomorrow. A bath using cutch was also done. Both of these dye baths have samples of cotton, silk, linen and wool for the class to share and bring home for reference,

Late in the day several of us put yarn and cloth in the cutch and cochineal exhaust baths. These will of course give a lighter value of the original bath, however the color is still beautiful.
                  Cutch is shown above
             Cochineal is shown above

I decided to make a dye bath using madder, so that I could complete the Tencel warp and weft that I brought. It was done at a 5% depth of shade, so it is a medium value. My plan is to apply two different mordants to it, ferrous and titanium, to alter the original color of the madder. Ultimately this is a way to dye just one color but get numerous others in just two processes. I hope to have this done by the time we finish class on Friday.
             Madder is shown above

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Natural Dye workshop Day 2

Today we worked with thickened and unthickened natural dyes in a direct application process. We had weld, madder, cochineal, pomegranate, and cutch to work with.
For my thickened dyes, I decided to work on some silk broadcloth that I brought with me. Instead of doing the typical swatches of each natural dye, I hand painted a variety of marks of each color. I also made a decision to test two different ways of finishing the piece: one by steaming the fabric when dry and the other to just let it sit for two days and then boil the cloth.

Here is a picture of my hand painted cloth before it was cut in half to finish. On Friday I will post the two side but side for comparisons.

I also used the unthickened dyes to paint a small skein of yarn. I am doing three methods of finishing the yarn to research which approach will give me the best color yield.
1. Steam the  yarn right after it was painted and still wet
2. Steam the yarn when it was bone dry
3. Wash the yarn two days later

Here is the finished skein immediately after painting.

Here is the steamed yarn on the bottom with the dry yarn above it. I was amazed at how  much more intense the colors became, although it seems like the madder and cochineal lost their intensity.

I also began dyeing in the 1-2-3 Henna Lime Indigo vat today. I dipped my sample, using the indigo paste resist, three times. I'll have the before and after pictures tomorrow. 
I also started a value gradation study on my 3 ply tapestry wool in the indigo vat. So far I love the results. Next I need to start designing a small monochromatic tapestry with those beautiful yarns.

We also extracted this gorgeous yellow from Catharine's weld dried plant material and then used it to create two dye baths: one for wool and the other for cotton, linen and silk. 
Here is the wool sample:

More tomorrow!!!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Natural Dye workshop Day One

I am so happy to be at Arrowmont School of Art and Craft this week, studying Natural Dyes with Catharine Ellis. We began our day with the preparation of a natural indigo vat. I LOVE this recipe because it uses natural indigo extract, henna or fructose and lime (calcium hydroxide). There are no offensive smells like in your typical synthetic indigo vat, only the sweet aroma of the henna or fructose. In addition to that, I can now make a strong and a weaker vat and maintain them properly over time and be able to achieve lighter values of indigo blue from the very beginning and still not worry about sacrificing light fastness.

This picture shows the wonderful surface of our natural indigo vat as well as the flower it created in just a few hours. We are letting it sit overnight to continue reducing. Please excuse the shadow from the porch where we were working outside. The vat itself already has a beautiful mustardy yellow quality to it. 

We did a test strip and it looks beautiful. I'm anxious to see the difference in tomorrow morning's test strip.

We also talked about the role of tannins and then prepared some of our cellulose fibers with a tannin. I brought a prepared Tencel warp and some weft to weave a scarf and treated that with tannin. I cannot wait to start dyeing my warp tomorrow. 

We ended the day by making an indigo paste resist. It is water soluble and very easy to rinse out of the cloth. So I used one of my new stencils from The Stencil Girl to apply the paste to my cotton fabric. I will post pictures tomorrow.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sketching and Dyeing

I've been busily dyeing three strand Paternayan wool for this series of small tapestries that I plan to weave over the next few months. I've got a pretty good inventory of colors that will work really well in a series that deal with my passion of Fall colors in New England. One more dye session to achieve some lighter values of colors for the backgrounds and I should be ready to weave.

I recently bought an iPad to use when I travel but most of all to use as my sketchbook. I want to say "Thanks" to my artist friend Sue Bleiweiss for recommending an iPad app for my sketches. It is called Paper by 53. I spent most of yesterday learning the tools and making some sketches for this series of tapestries. Here is one of them that I plan to use as my cartoon for the first tapestry.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Finished Tapestry

I finished my tapestry for the online course, learning many techniques. I've got some problems with the width, that didn't appear obvious on the loom. I guess this is all part of learning a new art form.

Now it's time to design another tapestry! I did this quick sketch last night and now I need to work on it a little more and decide what colors to use and which techniques will provide the right effects. This new work will be 8" x 8". I am really looking forward to doing some color blending to add some visual interest. The dye pots have been busy, preparing numerous colors of Paternayan 3 strand yarn to use in future tapestries. I think this design might also be best done by weaving it sideways, due to some of the strong verticals. Then it will be displayed, orientated as shown.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tapestry - Second Section

I finished the second lesson of my online tapestry course. This new section, from bottom to top, introduced me to weaving chevrons, triangles and blocks of different shapes, all bordered by a couple of different styles of soumak knots.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Pine Needle Basket

In addition to my new love of tapestry, I have returned to basketry and creating three dimensional form.  I used to make and sell my baskets at craft shows back in the early 90's when I lived in the state of Washington. Now I am approaching the basket as a piece of sculpture, exploring the materials in a more contemporary way. 

This pine needle basket was made in a recent worship that I took with Jean Poythress Koon. Jean is a great teacher and just had the honor of one of her pine needle baskets juried in to the Small Expressions exhibit, sponsored by the Handweavers Guild of America. My basket has an oyster shell in the base, followed by randomly using marsh grass and pine needles, stitched with artificial sinew. I plan to make more of these and also try dyeing some of the pine needles.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Tapestry - first section

I enjoyed this first section of my sampler, where I learned the following techniques:
Wavy Lines, Weft Interlock, Pick and Pick, Soumak Knotting and Slit Tapestry. As I worked through each section,  I thought about how that specific technique might be used in my first body of work.

One thing I need to do is buy myself a sketchbook and start working on some drawings that can be used as the cartoon for the next tapestry, after this sampler is completed. I may not draw that well, but the rough sketch is all I need to provide the shape. After that it is the choice of color and creating shape that will make the piece successful.

Saturday, June 08, 2013


Over the past few months I have been missing weaving on a loom. I decided that tapestry would be a wonderful form of woven textile to explore, so I bought a 12" Mirrix loom. I can weave a piece 9"W x 22"L on it, which is perfect for the limited time I have to work. I like small format tapestry and plan to use my own hand-dyed wool in a series, once I learn the basics of tapestry.

I am currently learning tapestry from an on-line course developed by Claudia Chase from Mirrix Looms. This class is offered on So far the course is very well written, with PDFs to supplement the video portions of the class.

Below is the beginning of the 6"W sampler that I will work on, through the lessons. I have warped the loom, added a twined edge and woven the header, in preparation of working with color. More to come soon.