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Archive for March, 2015

Margaret had attended this year’s Road to California and taken the shibori dyeing class. She brought back what she learned to our Out of the Box quilt group. We had a lovely Sunday afternoon in Nela and Jan’s garden. PicMonkey Collage4

Margaret showed us some of the fabrics she had dyed in the shibori class.

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With the range of colors available to us with dyes, we took the traditional Japanese indigo dye art out of the box.

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Margaret showed us wrapping the fabric around a round tube, tying it with string, and painting the dye on. We experimented a bit with pre-wetting the fabric and painting the dye on dry fabric. On the right, the top half was fabric dry, and bottom half fabric wet. This method is called Arashi shibori.

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Other techniques we played with was folding the fabric in triangles, and pinning with clothespins and clamps, this method is called Kumo shibori. We also tried wrapped fabric around objects and dyeing. And also using rock salt to spread the color! It was a great afternoon of experimentation and fun. No measurements were made and no recipes followed. I can’t say if I used 1tsp or 1 TBS of dye powder, and sometimes I was mixing dyes together without knowing what I was using, but I can say I had fun!

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Here are my three fabrics I made. The top two were wrapped around a pole. The top pink was wrapped at a diagonal around a skinny broomstick handle. The middle blue was wrapped straight around a wide PVC pipe. The bottom was folded in triangles, pinned with clothespins, and dyed in a light brown. Once dry, I refolded into triangles again, pinned with clothespins, and dyed with pink.

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This piece is my favorite from the day’s experiments. I like the layers of colors the double dyeing gives. And I like the random pattern within the repeats. Makes me want to use it in a quilt!

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Looking at these fabrics, I remember the feel of the sun, the sparkle of the spring flowers, and the laughter of the ladies as we chatted and played. As we celebrate the first days of spring, I am grateful for friends and creativity and projects to come!

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This weekend, I met up with my friend Tiffany to give her a brief introduction into natural dyeing. Since it was the following weekend after the mushroom dye workshop, I was excited to put some of the new things I learned into practice!

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Here’s my impromptu dyeing setup in the backyard: table chairs and stove! I dream of the day when I can have my own dye workshop …

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First new thing I tried different than in the past – little tests of yarn! Here Tiffany is tying small bundles. Since it is between seasons here, we didn’t really have any good plants to collect, so we used plants from our kitchen! We tried dyeing avocado skins and red cabbage leaves.

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The other new technique I tried was the double boiler! I really like the way it allowed to do multiple colors at the same time. Controlling temperature was also easier, as the jars never went up to a rolling boil. However, I should have taken the time to see how hot they did get. Next time!

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Avocado skins on the left, cabbage on the right.

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The avocado skins came out a simple tan color (alum mordant). Lovely!

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The red cabbage we did a neat experiment with! All three little skeins were mordanted with alum. After pulling all three out of the dye and rinsing them, we left one with only the alum mordant. The other two we played around with the pH. One was dipped in a vinegar bath and simmered for five minutes, and the other soda ash. The vinegar was supposed to turn it more red, and the soda ash green.

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The word supposed to is never good to use! When we first dropped the yarn into the soda ash, it did turn a pretty green. But then after leaving it for five minutes, the color changed to the muted yellow. Above, you can see a little green on the yarn when rinsing one skein touched the soda ash skein. Next time we should try pulling it out sooner! Above is also the vinegar on the left and the no change on the right. I don’t see any difference in their color, do you?

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A very fun experiment for a Sunday afternoon. Can’t wait for spring and summer to collect more dyestuff and to continue to play!

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Two weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending a Mushroom and Lichen Natural Dyeing workshop at the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, taught by Alisa Allen.

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This was my first formal natural dyeing class, all my previous experience has come from books and experimenting on my own. It was great to learn from someone with a lot of experience and passion. I picked up a few neat tricks that I look forward to incorporating into my home dye practice like pre-making test strips of yarn. Each string is a different mordant, tied together, ready to put in a small experiment batch of dye to see what range of colors can be achieved.

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Another trick I think is just brilliant is using one big pot with smaller glass jars as a type of double boiler. This allowed her to have multiple small batches of color going. This is a great way to speed up the process, dye many colors at the same time, and control temperature easier.

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Alisa discussed basic mushroom and lichen ecology, how to identify and where to collect. She brings a dehydrator in the field to dry the mushrooms after collecting to save for later! This also allows more predictability in repeating recipes, as the dry mushroom can be accurately weighed.

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Some of the lichens shared were crazy! When collecting lichens, she explained you only harvest off of falling branches, never live from a tree. Some lichens dye this crazy magenta purple. To test to see if the lichen has that ability, she shared a neat bleach testing method. Look at that color!

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The other very fascinating thing about mushrooms and lichen in dyeing, is that in addition to using mordants to bring out color, they are extremely susceptible to changes in pH. By making the dye bath more acidic or basic, the color can wildly change! Alisa would add vinegar or ammonia, checking pH as she went, to achieve optimal colors.

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By the end of the five hour class, we had twenty glorious colors all made from mushrooms and lichens the instructor had collected in California. DSC01664

Each skein was divided among the class participants, and we made a card showing the recipe to make each color. Along with a guide for what the mushrooms and lichens look like and where to collect them, we left the workshop well prepared to give it a try.

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We also each got to make a shibori silk scarf. We wrapped the scarf around a tube, wrapped with twine, scrunched it all down, and submerged it in dye. After unwrapping the whole bundle, a pattern almost like that of tree bark emerged. I can’t wait to try more shibori in the future.

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While I’m not sure if we have any mushrooms or lichens that dye colors here in the desert, I look forward to using some of the techniques learned in my other dyeing, and to forage for mushrooms next time I find myself in a more wet environment. I highly recommend taking one of her workshops if you have the opportunity. Thanks Lesley for being my model!

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