My eco-plants are blooming, which is making me very pleased and excited for the coming season of eco-printing and natural dyeing. Some of these plants are newish–just planted last autumn–so they have not been tested yet. Primarily I am talking about the Japanese maple tree and lily of the valley, both of which appeared to be dying last winter. But they are alive!
I know that the Japanese maple leaf will probably print well, as friends gave me samples last “printing” season. I’m unsure what can be done with the lily of the valley, but I really planted it because I have fond memories of collecting these for the May Queen (Catholic grade school).
And then there are last year’s proven eco-printers: wild rose, golden barberry and false indigo (turns yellow instead of blue).
And one last note: I have been working on slow-stitching Project Deux, which started out as our planetary system but which is now evolving in a different way. Stay tuned.
Ten days have passed since my first attempt at spring cleaning, and the problem seems to be that as I begin to clean I find more and more fiber treats. Then, of course, I must sort through them. That involves remembering when and where I acquired them. And making new piles of fiber. And putting aside a few choice pieces for current projects.
And then there’s the roving which I can now use for spinning. Yes, I am trying to teach myself how to spin. Don’t those videos of spinners make it look so easy and relaxing? I am not there yet.
And then there are the small weaving projects which sometimes get incorporated into my slow stitching projects.
And natural dyed scraps which have been tucked away for future projects. There are buttons, beads and trim, and plenty of embroidery threads. So many choices and so little time.
My 9-patch is slowly blooming with suns, moons and just a few stars. Stars have always been tricky for me. I usually cheat and make the Jewish star with two triangles. But here, for the 9-patch, no cheating. A star made with bits and pieces. And a growing constellation.
Patching together a slow-stitched journey to the Universe, I thought about Jude Hill’s idea of holes (Spirit Cloth)….looking through cloth to find stars. I had a difficult time finding textiles in my house with holes. But finally, a vintage, much-loved Huck towel with a few holes. Made-on-purpose holes and a few not. Thinking of adding to SunMoonStars as Constellations. Maybe. That means cutting the towel. Maybe next time.
I incorporate natural dyeing with plants in many different types of fiber arts. I use mulberry silk skeins for hand-embroidery, wool roving for felting, silk ribbons and yarn for weaving. But I also enjoy “slow stitching,” and so it’s always good to have a small collection of cotton squares and crochet pieces for incorporating with free-form stitching projects, such as shown in these photos:
Cellulose fibers are treated differently from protein fibers when dyeing with natural plants. Mordanting involves several different processes, depending on your preferences. There are 2-step tannin/alum mordanting and 3-step involving tannin/alum and tannin again. Some folks I know use soda ash or calcium carbonate in their mordanting process. It all depends on preferences, water quality in your area and the types of dyeing you intend to do.
I experimented with alum acetate and calcium carbonate as mordants in preparation for using a saved madder exhaust bath and a newly prepared pomegranate dye bath. My intention was to build up a larger collection of hand-dyed pieces for stitching projects, as well as having extras to trade with other fiber artists.
Here are the results of the madder exhaust. You can see in the photos where the dye “struck” first, leaving a variety of madder shades–from salmon to deep pink–almost red–and a hint of raspberry. I included cotton scraps as well as vintage cotton crochet pieces from my stash to be dyed.
My second dye pot contained pomegranate, which came out in the photo below a bit lighter than in reality. These pieces are also cotton, and may be over-dyed later with other plants or perhaps eco-printed as samples in future experiments.
In any case, the pieces are bagged and labeled and ready to be used or traded.