Not knowing where to start is a frequent problem for me, no matter what type of art I am doing. There is always the question of color, design, thread. What colors look best together? What is my overall plan? Should I use regular DMC cotton, Perle cotton, or some fancy silk thread? This is what bogs me down.
So Friday eve, I began to attach cloth scrap to cloth scrap. Thinking about design but not really planning. And I came up with two pieces:
These were meant to be vertical strips of cloth. The sun has been on my mind, or lack of sun. So gray skies with barely visible moons and a sun trying so hard to break through. But then I realized these pieces didn’t feel right for what I had in mind. Back to Spirit Cloth–ah, plan a design? Sketch it out? Hmm I don’t do that. Ever. But I can start.
At 9pm, when I am usually reading, I grabbed the remainder of my Bengala dyes set (these Japanese-made mineral dyes are so fast and easy!) and proceeded to dye 4-inch squares of cotton cloth. Enough for a 9-patch. On Saturday, I ironed and heat set the marbled designs. Pinned and ready for SunMoonStars.
Lately I have been revisiting natural Shibori dyeing, manipulating cloth in preparation for some slow stitching with Jude Hill, author and creator of the Spirit Cloth Blog. I have been quietly following her blog for several years, stitching along in the evenings on my own, but with no particular plan in mind.
Jude Hill has opened her “Sun Moon Stars” class to all. For free. It’s a class she has taught before but now will teach again. This time I have cloth ready. Samples below are all either cotton lawn or organic cotton jersey. Soft cloth, easy to stitch. Easy is sometimes good. You can find Spirit Cloth here: http://spiritcloth.typepad.com/
Stitching posts will follow. <Sun Moon Stars> More dyeing, too.
Shibori dyeing offers infinite ways to bind, stitch, fold and compress cloth. Each type of binding and dyeing is meant to attain different patterns with very different results.
I started simply using “kanoko” shibori–in the West we commonly call this “tie-dye.” Certain sections of the cloth are bound to attain results. I used natural logwood (purple) dye and bound the cloth with corks and rubber bands.
Then I tried “arashi” shibori, wrapping the cloth on copper pipes with strings. I used logwood for some and quebracho (red) for others. I added some Fustic dye for dots or circles on one design.
Finally–just for fun–I clamped large buttons onto paper and steamed in the same Quebracho red dye pot. And now I have two moons.
Two summers ago we did some indigo dyeing, and although it was a tremendous amount of work (especially for Marilyn who prepared the indigo vat)–I have been thinking about the shibori dyeing we did as part of our indigo dyeing day. We had gathered, stitched and bound shibori cloth prior to the indigo day and had very successful experiences. Here you can see the bound corks I used for my large cotton gauze cloth.
To refresh my memory of different shibori techniques, I checked out a few library books, among them Lynne Caldwell’s “Shibori: A Beginner’s Guide” and a lovely book on the history, designs and methods of shibori by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada entitled “Memory on Cloth.”
Many shibori practitioners today use acid or fiber reactive dyes, but in keeping with my desire to use only natural dyes, I decided to begin there. Start simple. I gathered odds and ends from my household which could be used for making patterns in the shibori tradition. Next week, I will post about my first experimental shibori dyeing with NATURAL dyes.
Sometimes the WOW factor is not desirable when eco-printing. And when would that be, you ask? When you are stitching story cloth, for art quilts, for hand-embroidery. For mixed media collage. When you want to follow subtle patterns and not be drowned out by bold purple, orange and red leaf prints.
I enjoy stitching on linen, and so with that in mind, I cut some strips of scoured new white linen fabric, then mordanted it with alum acetate. Wrapped a few geranium leaves in a flat bundle, along with a few stray crape myrtle leaves and stems. Steamed in plain water with a touch of pomegranate powder for about an hour. Oh, and there were some quick leaf dips in iron water, but not with all of the leaves and stems.
Unwrapped immediately, air dried. Waiting now for my stitching. A new story to tell. With cloth and nature and thread.
Recently, my friend gave me leaves she had collected on a recent trip to Florida. I was anxious to discover whether or not they would produce botanical prints. While I usually eco-print on cloth, I decided to experiment with handmade paper. I have collected a small assortment of handmade paper–some purchased on Etsy and some gifted by a paper-making friend. In addition, I had a few sheets of Fabriano paper leftover from another project.
I started by gathering the leaves from Florida, which I had frozen for preservation: cape myrtle, bougainvillea, live oak and sumac. Although I had never before printed with these particular leaves, I had read about the possibilities. I also decided to do “leaf dips” with various modifiers: vinegar, pickle juice, and iron water. My kettle was filled with plain water and a small amount of diluted sandalwood powder for color.
I simmered the kettle for an hour and then removed the paper bundles immediately. I have observed in my past paper experiments that additional time in the pot was not beneficial–the paper began to disintegrate in some cases. I have preserved the leaves and will do further experimentation. (Only the live oak leaf did not print!) Below are the results:
Lately I have been holding private or semi-private eco-printing classes in my home studio. Teaching one or two students at a time gives us more space and enables me to tailor the class to the individual. My latest student is a designer who sells her unique garments at juried art fairs around the country (USA). She specifically requested lessons in making direct contact prints with leaves and flowers.
We primarily used oak and maple leaves, black-eyed susans, smokebush, rose and geranium leaves with a few marigolds, cosmos and coreopsis. I prepared a purple dye bath from purple carrots in one kettle, and plain water with onion skins in the second kettle.