Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Using madder to dye

Madder is the root of a plant, which gives various red, pinks and browns of different hues.  On Sunday I went to a workshop run by Lizzy Emery, the third one of hers that I have taken.  She shared her extensive knowledge on natural dyes and mordants, this time Madder.  One of my pieces was a merino wool scarf, which I folded with metal clamps into triangles, and this was the result (I love this, I was so delighted with it).  The mordant was alum, which I have not yet used myself, it had been premordanted when I bought it at Adventuress, where the workshop was held in Port Adelaide.
a lovely chestnut for madder dye on wool

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Natural Dyes

Recently I've become very interested in Natural Dyes and Mordants.  I tried to set up a new Page here to devote to my experiments in dyes, but Blogger wouldn't co-operate so I'll just use the usual Page.

My first attempts were at a workshop run by Rosi Gates, who is one of my fellow Textilers as well as a member of other art groups.  She has been exploring natural dyes for a while now and I was able to benefit from her experience at a workshop recently.  We used, among other things, eucalyptus leaves on silk to print some lovely effects.
eucalyptus leaves on silk
Once I was home again, my attempts were somewhat paler, though rather nice and delicate:
variety of eucalyptus leaves on silk
eucalyptus cinerea - comes out a pinky colour, on silk again
My main information now is coming from a book by India Flint called Eco Colour though I have borrowed a couple of others from the library, and of course the internet is full of information.  I bought Eco Colour from Dymocks because I wanted to support a local retailer - not many bookshops left in Adelaide.  I do often order books elsewhere to save money but other times my conscience kicks in and I try to buy locally.
The next thing I tried as a natural dye was Red Cabbage - easy and cheap to buy at the greengrocer (means going to another shop after the supermarket, but if we don't use them they will eventually close down and give us no option but the supermarket).  There is lots of information about dyeing with red cabbage on the internet, such as this one, and I used a quarter for each of my two stainless steel pans (which I bought from local Op Shops, one $5, one $6.50).  Chopped up with about 5 litres of water in each, I used in one pan some cotton sheeting, (an Actil 100% cotton from the Op Shop) that had been mordanted in washing soda, and in the other pan a piece that had been mordanted in vinegar.  I'll talk more about mordants in another post, but I wanted to show you the difference in colours with the different mordants, because the mordants are different pH's, and therefore take up dyes differently.
This shows my first attempt with red cabbage dye.  That lovely pale blue was on the cloth mordanted in washing soda; the lilac in vinegar.  However the blue dried such a pale colour you couldl barely see it, in fact when dry the camera picked up no colour at all, it appeared white.
This was my second attempt with red cabbage dye, complete with bits still stuck on the fabric - not strained  perfectly.  This was mordanted in vinegar.  The colour is slightly uneven from sitting in the pan unstirred overnight.
More to come -  about my results at a Madder workshop - next post.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Freestyle machine embroidery

I've been working hard on extending my machine embroidery skills.  I've been following mainly a book called "Freestyle Machine Embroidery" by a textile artist I admire greatly,  Carol Shinn.  She gives lots of detailed information, and exercises which I found very useful to follow through.  The book is available from Amazon.  In the end I made a piece inspired by my recent holiday to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory depicting my favourite scene - a Jabiru eyeing the river cautiously, as he was surrounded by saltwater crocodiles.

Jabiru, freestyle machine embroidery on soluble film using a loopy stitch worked upside down.  Appliqued to dyed and machined  background of nets and laces, 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Textile Books

A while ago I made a textile book out of habotai silk, but was unable to complete it, because I could not get the binding right.  I tried several methods of making these four double-sided pages stand up on a structure, so that I could exhibit it open.  None worked, the 12" pages were simply too big and floppy.  Lesson learned, don't make floppy pages if you want it to stand, use something solid inside the pages like heavy cardboard or buckram.

Anyway, I realised that if I was going to complete this project and relieve it of a life at the top of the cupboard, I would have to find another way.  I decided to do the obvious and put hinges on the pages in such a way that it would lie flat and the pages could be turned normally.  Being two silk pages with cotton batting in between and being hand-quilted (back when I could still hand-quilt) it needed something fairly delicate.  A rivet hole was going to be too harsh and heavy, dragging on the fabric and out of keeping.

I can't hand stitch holes any more so I tried a sample piece of machine stitching a circle, free motion stitching (feed dogs down, darning foot on, straight stitch).  Using plain white thread, this worked well.
The circular hole machine stitched around 3 or 4 times

Next step - cords to tie through the holes, which had been cut open with a seam ripper and applique scissors (carefully!). Here's how I used some strips of silk scraps to make machine cords (switch to zig zag, size 4 worked well) - the rest of the above machine settings remain the same.  Twist the strip round and round while anchored by the needle through the strip - have about an inch (a few centimetres) sticking out at the top to grab hold of - then feed the strip through.  The zig zag will keep the twist in and make a cord.  I made one for each hole (five) and fed them through, cut the ends off and tied each in a reef knot.  I did pull up the knots loosely at first and checked that the pages were turning comfortably, then tightened the knots.
The book with the tied hinges

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

"Breaking Boundaries" exhibition by the Textilers

The textile art group that I belong to, Textilers, has just held an exhibition in which we made the effort to break our artistic boundaries.  I would say that everyone succeeded very well.  It was a terrific show.  These are my own entries.
Meditation Bowl - totally recycled yarns from Op Shops over strips of recycled fabrics.  Boundary Broken - using traditional coiling with non-traditional basketry materials.
Phoenix Regenerating - rayons threads in machine-embroidered feathers and head, real feathers.  Boundary Broken - extending my machine embroidery skills.
detail of above
Rundle Mall.  Machine-stitched figures from my sketches.  Boundary Broken - drawing people, fifty years after being told I couldn't draw.
detail of above

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Machine stitching feathers

I have been working on one of my favourite things – feathers.  I love the softness, the colours, of feathers.  A wall hanging I have just made combines stitched feathers with real ones.  
In the first picture, you can see a stitched semi-plume feather which is one that has the central shaft (the rachis) and vanes with barbs, but no barbules, which are the tiny hooks on the ends that zip the edges of the feather together and keep the shape.  So it looks much like a little fluffy Christmas tree.  You will notice how I have stitched this with a few machine stitches to a shred of wool roving and the feather itself is in variegated metallic thread.

The next picture shows a couple of feathers stitched in bright yellow rayon thread.  I have combined these with yellow wool roving and a real feather – that’s the white one.

I have left lots of loose threads because I like the texture, and it helps to give a slightly raised look, along with the feathers themselves being malleable, as they are stitched on water-soluble film.  Always do at least two lines over each other before dissolving.  The result if you don’t is distinctly weird!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Cable stitch

Continuing with my machine embroidery experiments, I tried cable stitch – that it, working upside down so that the bobbin thread is the right side.  I used a red silk hand embroidery thread in the bobbin – wound on by hand – and white top thread.  The top tension is loosened, the bobbin tension tightened.  Do this a little at a time –it is better to buy a separate bobbin holder to use for machine embroidery tension loosening, as it can be hard to return the screw to the correct position for normal sewing.  The top thread will appear to be couching the bobbin thread and as the feed dogs are down, you can make the appearance of the couching very close to spread far apart.  In the small end of my paisley, you can see how working straight stitch rows on top of each other gives a heavy texture.  I can imagine this becoming valuable when working rock strata in a landscape, or various other more conceptual types of work.  Notice also how, on the curves, there evolves some straight stitches at right angles to the line of the bobbin thread – still the top thread coming through but it stretches out as you move the stitch line on a diagonal.