My kitchen now has an indigo vat that I made in the workshop on May 1. It was the first of the two classes with Michel Garcia. There were 3 of us in the Berkeley studio. We brought our buckets, ingredients, scales and a 4’ dowel for stirring the vat. Then we brought them home to do homework in preparation for the second class on May 8.
This is a picture of my vat. This is what a healthy vat should look like. It was wonderful to see immediate results. The best part was learning the chemistry to explain how the “magic” of indigo dyeing actually is accomplished. And how to maintain a healthy vat. Also wonderful was that it is really quite simple with Michel’s 1-2-3 method with only 3 ingredients plus water—and they are all safe.
Our homework is to test the vat every day for the week and watch how the vat matures or changes. With Michel’s method it was easy to do many dips in one dye session. My sample fabric is a cotton from a Japanese flea market.
Besides the big test piece I made small bundles of fabrics. One bundle is silks and the other, cottons and linens. Just like my other dyeing experiments, all the fabrics in a bundle were dyed the same; the differences in color occur because of the different fabrics in the bundle. More results at the end of the week. Stay tuned!
This is a fragment of a cotton Japanese summer kimono called a Yukata. I must have gotten it at a flea market in Japan. The cloth is 13” wide, selvedge to selvedge—the common width for many Japanese textiles. The length of the piece is 48”. It is so soft to handle that I’m loving handling it again for this post.
The reason I’m thinking is it a piece of a Yukata is there is an area where the cloth hasn’t faded over time. It probably was inside the area around the front opening.
It is so soft because it is extremely worn. In fact it has holes in it where the cloth wore out. It is almost tissue paper thin. This cloth was salvaged and re-useable because another fabric was added as a backing.
The indigo dyed cotton backing is also what makes it have a lovely body as well as being so soft.
The entire piece and I assume the entire yukata was stitched to attach the backing and back the holes. The rows of stitching are consistently ¼” apart. The stitching and the ikat pattern work beautifully together, I think, which is another reason I love the piece.
I was showing it to a friend and she immediately thought it was a lovely piece even though she is not a textile person. The more I looked and talked with her, I began to think about the double ikat pattern. It isn’t precise like in my previous posts. I think the cloth was dyed, woven, and re-purposed by a farmer’s wife. Cathy and I visited maybe the last farmer’s wife to grow and dye her own indigo in Japan. Traditionally, the women would grow the indigo and weave the family’s cloth while the farmers tended the fields—could be rice paddies.
I love the hit and miss of the warp and weft pattern yet the tiny areas of the threads in the pattern cross exactly in the right places throughout. Once in awhile I could find where the weft ikat pattern really crossed the warp in the right place. This close-but-not- exact gives a real soul to the cloth, I think. It made me think of the woman planting and growing the indigo plants. Then making her vat not with heat, but with cold water. Her son told us that to make the ash for the alkali, they burned the wood for two months which kept them home. Then she tied the warp threads and the weft threads in the ikat pattern. Then the threads would be dyed in the indigo vat and finally woven. I doubt that she minded that the pattern wasn’t precise and thought it was fine the way the threads hit pretty much perfectly. I wonder if the original cloth was a futon cover—a larger piece—or was it always meant to be fabric for a yukata. After the weaving, would be the hand sewing. When washing, the pieces would be taken apart and then put back together again. Probably there were many washings before the cloth was stitched so carefully to the handwoven backing cloth.
I’m making a scroll with the fabric so that I can have it out to look at. The soul of it touches me. I’ve pinned the pieces on top of the fabric for now, but I think I’ll move them up higher.
This was forwarded to me by Yoshiko Wada–my textile guru who I adore. I’ve been on several of her trips to Japan and taken wonderful workshops at her studio in Berkeley. Slow Fibers Studio is her website. Her trips anywhere are fabulous and she is enormously knowledgeable about so many things and people where ever she goes. She gives classes on many of the techniques you see on the video. I took one by this master in Japan in the town of Arimatsuwhere the video is located. The town is a lovely town with traditional Japanese architecture everywhere. It is south of Nagoya. Nagoya itself has a fantastic museum: the Toyota Museum–Toyota first was a loom manufacturing company and there are wonderful old and modern looms working on display. There also is a huge and wonderful automobile section.
My mobile is 9 feet tall. We had to rent a photo studio to be able to take pictures for the entry. All the pieces are dyed with natural dyes: indigo, green persimmons (kakishibu) and black walnutes.I dyed lots of different white fabrics to get so many shades of colors.
It was exciting to be in a real photo studio. The Image Flow Photographic Center has this studio is in Mill Valley. There was equipment all over the place and being there made it possible to get these great photos by my photographer, Bob Hemstock.
The bamboo structure on top is constructed like an Alexander Calder mobile. Until we got it permanently balanced and held in place, it got knocked down time and time again whenever anyone touched it to rotate the pieces. To have it change sides and rotate in the air currents we used 7 fishing gear swivles.
A detail with mostly green persimmon dye. The Japanesse word is kakishibu. I got many colors and shades with it. I have quite a stash now of white fabrics that take the dyes differently and I have figured out ways to get mottled looks. The transparent blue fabric peeking out from the back side was dyed in my indigo vat.
This detail shows how I took shiny silk and turned the pieces 90 deagrees so the light caught it in different ways–similar to nap. I liked the way the fabric looked when it wasn’t ironed completely flat. That makes it shimmer more I think. Wish me luck at getting accepted into the international show.
I have revived my indigo vats and neither of them is dark enough for my taste. This picture is what I gave as gifts to the artisans we visited in Japan last year. The writing is Peggy Osterkamp. Gift wrapping is important there. This is the blue I hoped for with the revived vats now. [click images to enlarge]
This is what I got from my oldest vat after many dips. I was disappointed but maybe I’ll learn to like it. I plan to dip again in my “younger” vat and see if I can achieve the depth of color.
The technique I learned from a class with Yoshiko Wada with Chris Palmer. After folding the cloth I wrapped it on a pole for dying–called “arashi shibori”. I love the technique and the mysterious lines it makes.
I have my indigo vats from some months ago and they look awful but i was determined to revive them if possible. The vats were covered with mold.After I doctored up the little vat, I think it looks pretty good–the flower looks just fine, but maybe the surface needs to be more coppery–not just along that edge.
Here is my asparagus cooker vat–I love the size for doing the small pieces that I do and the basket inside keeps things from getting lost in the vat and off the bottom, too. My tiny kitchen in my apartment is also my dye kitchen. When I’m not heating dye pots on my two burners, my dish drainer sits on the burners. This is my ironing set up for small pieces. I take my iron down the hall to a regular ironing board when needed. I absolutely love my cordless iron–it has points at both ends. Mine is a Panasonic.
In Japan, one always gives a gift when visiting someone. When we visited an artisan or maker, we always gave our more “important” gifts.
Our guide took us to visit Kubota-san in Kyoto, a stencil dyer. We had a lovely time visiting after seeing his studio where they were printing a kimono-length piece of cloth. When I gave him a silk handkerchief I dyed after folding it an interesting way and then doing arashi-shibori (pole dyeing) in my indigo vat. He was pleased and immediately put it into his pocket! I had been worried that it wasn’t useful, just a unique piece of silk!
I took a workshop with Yoshiko Wada’s Slow Fiber Studios in Berkeley, California recently. We learned to fold cloth in origami-like ways and then we did arashi shibori (pole wrapping shibori) with the cloth and got these lovely simple patterns. The teacher was Chris Palmer and his book is called Shadow folds: Surprisingly Easy-to-Make Geometric Designs in Fabric by Jeffrey Rutzky and Chris K. Palmer. I folded and dyed 11” silk squares I got already hemmed from Dharma Trading Company. This was my first attempt at arashi shibori and I used my own indigo vat. I am proud of the results for such a novice. They can be used singly or as a group as pieces for the wall or gifts. I took small pieces I’ve dyed and made little collage compositions and mounted them on squares of dark indigo linen I got in India a few years ago. We went to see the Matisse and Diebenkorn show yesterday and I decided to call these pieces “My Little Diebenkorns”! They can be used singly or in a group, too. I have put similar pieces in CD cases to present them! They also could be little coasters or gifts.
I’ve been making hangings using my dyed fabrics. Indigo for blues, turmeric, saffron, and henna for yellows, green persimmons (kakishibu), for pinks and browns. There are 7 hangings. I’m showing one for reference and then detail photos. I loved putting the pieces together.
Each composition is made up of fabrics that were in the same dye pot. The differences in the tones are due to the different fabrics I put into the pot. I love these subtle “colors”. The yellows were from woad plants. The browns were from green persimmons over dyed with indigo. I especially find myself liking things that have almost no color at all. One of these is from oak galls. I can’t remember all the specifics but I like to put dyed fabrics in a bath of iron water to “sadden” the color.
Over the holidays I dyed a lot in my very first indigo vat. Lots and lots of dips were necessary to get the different shades. I always used a variety of silks and cottons in each dye bath to get a variety of close tones. I’m thrilled with the results and all the “colors” I could get just by using different cloths. Then I did similar experiments with saffron, henna and turmeric. It has been fun seeing what I could get. My next post will show some of the art pieces I made using these small pieces.
I’m weaving 125 fine threads per inch so I can weave another ruffle (see my gallery) which I will shibori dye with indigo. Then the ruffle will disappear and appear in the dyed and un-dyed areas. [click any photo to enlarge]
I’m trying to weave with finer-than-ever silk threads. I should have starched them first but didn’t because I didn’t realize it would be necessary. That would have made the threads stronger. There are 125 threads per inch and I made more threading errors than I’ve ever made in my life. I have spent hours correcting these almost invisible threads and have lost a few and a few have broken –there are 16 threads to date that are hanging off the back of my loom and I expect I’ll have more as I weave along. Here is a close up of the weaving and one broken thread pinned in. (I’ve been mending the threads with sewing thread so I can see them.) I used this stand which I’d used when I was weaving velvet to rig up a way to keep all the threads from tangling. Knowing that the only thread that can’t tangle is one under tension this is what I did. I took the threads as they came from the warp beam and made a cross to keep them in order.
Here is a close-up of the cross I made to keep the threads in order. To further keep them in order they went through this grid.
Here is how I tensioned the threads. These are fish net shuttles I used when weaving velvet.
Here are photos of my show that is up now until December 4th at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library. It’s a lovely venue–really feels almost like an art gallery with the exception that if there is a meeting or activity in the room, no one can see the show.The opening reception was a big success. I made a list of the times the show is available to view for the month. If anyone wants to see the list of times, I can email it to them.
We are going to hang my new work in the gallery in the Belvedere-Tiburon Library today. The opening reception is tomorrow from 6-8 pm in beautiful Tiburon, California. Please stop by and see it. It will be on until December 4, 2015.
Now I have all my pieces for my solo show in November done! We hung the Boro today on my wall –the first time it’s been hanging on the board with Velcro I made. Before it was always pinned up on my studio wall. It’s hanging well, thank goodness. The safety pins that hold the three layers together take the light nicely, I think. The blues are all fabrics I dyed in indigo. The brown pieces are from a thick, stiff textile sack used in making sake. I got it in Japan and loved the tannin effect of it.
Now, all that’s left to do for the show is the pricing, inventory lists, contact list and sending out the invitations. I love them–you’ll see it in a post nearer to the opening of the show.
I dyed several pieces I’d woven out of the sheer silk threads that collapse and was thrilled with the results. There are a few more but since they are a dark indigo, they don’t show up as well as in person. I’d woven the pieces in various ways to encourage or control the collapse areas. However, that was a few years ago. When I put them in the indigo dye vat, they all were flat. What wonderful surprises I got.
The reason I call them caskets is the mounting I’ve done. One of them shows the piece in a frame—the frame is made of very thick foam core board for the depth and covered with a frame of mat board with beveled edges on the window. The pieces themselves are stitched to a backing piece of mat board. Then I put a sheet of Mylar over the top and held it in place with a few stitches in the corners. Thus the pieces are protected and encased but in a simple way. They could be framed more properly later. I plan to show them this way in my show at the Tiburon Library for the month of November.
Note: I had a professional framer cut the foam core frames and the top mats. I stitched the pieces themselves to the mat board on the backs and cut and stitched on the Mylar myself.
If you click on the images to enlarge them you can really see the loops and textures better.
I discovered these oak galls under an oak tree. I have always thought they were gorgeous—and that they make a nice dye, too. I’ve given away all my dye chemicals and pots but wanted to see what color they would give. I smashed some of the less-beautiful galls and poured boiling water over them and let them steep with a couple of scraps from my boro project—silks and cotton flannel. I soaked them over night and was not impressed with what I found the next morning. So I went to the internet and of course there were entries about dyeing with oak galls (and more about the galls). I discovered I needed to soak the cloth in a solution of rust and vinegar or lemon juice after soaking the cloth overnight in the gall and water solution. You can see what I’ve gotten so far. [click photos to enlarge]
I’m seduced with the subtle colors so far and want to continue experimenting with longer gall-soaks followed by longer rust soaks. So far I’ve just done overnight. The info said I should get black with this recipe but I’m very far from that. Greys and darker shades would be fine. The two darker pieces were light indigo dyed before I did the two oak gall processes. I think they have a lot of possibilities, too.
[twentytwenty] [/twentytwenty] This before-and-after photo show the silk crepe cloth I wove before and after dyeing. It took the dye much stronger than the other silks. The cotton flannel hardly took any color at all. I think it was darker because the threads were undegummed silk—silk organza is made of this type of silk. I clamped the middle to make the resist that formed the diamond in the center. You can see my “dye pots”. Dying in my tiny kitchen(ette) in the retirement place where I live is a challenge. I found a chipped latte glass and glasses from Starbucks and The Oakville Grocery. That way I can keep them separate from the glasses I drink from. I heat water in the microwave and stir with a chop stick. This is perfect for the small scraps I want to use in a new boro piece. On the left is a solution with just the pulverized oak galls and galls. The right glass has just the solution of rust and lemon juice (and some water) and some rust before it was pulverized. Getting the rust was a lucky break for me. I told a friend I needed some and her son chipped off a jarful of it with 2 cups of gorgeous rust. When I pounded the rust into a powder it worked much better giving darker results. Rusty nails or steel wool is supposed to work for the rust. Taking the photos was a challenge. Bob, my photographer and web guru, had me lying on my stomach to shoot me pounding the oak galls.
I arranged all the cloth pieces I’ve been dying in the indigo vats from Yoshiko Wada’s Boro workshop to make my own large “boro futon cover”. All the pieces are pinned to a flannel sheet on my pin up wall. Now, the hard part comes: how to get it off to stitch it to a backing fabric. I’m thrilled with the whole process and can’t wait to start stitching.
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Yoshiko wanted us to be able to make our own indigo vats at home and her method seems doable, even to me. I am so excited about what we got in the class (and an extra day on our own) that I will surely make a vat of my own. You can see from the photos why I’m so excited. We did clamping and stitch resist and dipping multiple times. I dyed pages from an old Japanese book I have and scraps of my own weaving and a wonderful white silk cloth that I bought long ago to make an outfit.The picture of the used clamps just look nice and arty, so I included it. More of our dying results are in the previous Boro class post.
I bought this little baby’s top at an antique store for $20 because it was so terribly soiled, thinking I might use it for patching. Yoshiko Wada would have nothing of it. “that was a very healthy baby”, she said and the stains are testimony to that. You should wash it and then stitch on patches to cover the spots. She suggested I use my own woven scraps. At first I rejected the idea, but came to love it. I dyed some of my scraps in indigo and turmeric and stitched them on. It was so pleasurable doing the composing of the patches and the stitching, too. I have lots of spools of sewing thread in my studio for weaving so I could match the colors quite well. My stitches aren’t all beautiful, but they got better with practice. [click photos to enlarge]
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The workshop was two consecutive Saturdays ending over the weekend. My creative juices went wild. I worked really hard the week between sessions to get as many ideas as I could started. My glove leaked when we made simple and effective indigo vats each day. On Easter Sunday I began to work with my weavings that I dyed in the class and here are some of the results. The yellow piece I dyed in my kitchen at home with turmeric (an idea I brought back from India). We also focused on stitching for Boro (mending) and here is the beginning of a book of sample stitches–all running stitches plus the knots I had to learn how to make.Some stitch work was inspired by Kantha cloths from India. The cloth I own has back stitches as well as running stitches, so I practiced some of them.
The patching work I did isn’t finished yet but is exciting, too. You will have to wait for a future post for that. It has been wonderful to be so inspired and energetic. Thanks, Yoshiko! [click first photo]