Slow Fiber Studios Presents ~ Conversations with Cloth

A note from Peggy…

“I have absolutely loved every one of the many workshops I’ve taken with Slow Fibers Studios. Check out the video and you’ll see why. The workshops are deep in many ways: culturally, artistically, and creatively. I’ve taken classes with both Yoshiko Wada (and taken trips with her) and Ana Lisa Hedstrom and they always give a wealth of information as well as the tools to understand how to make things. I find each one has inspired me and Yoshiko has praised me for being “uniquely creative”. Whether you want to make your own creations, become more knowledgeable, or love seeing wonderful textiles, this is the place for you. Yoshiko and Ana Lisa’s depth can’t be surpassed. Yoshiko wrote the big book on shibori—in fact, she re-introduced shibori to the Japanese themselves. Ana Lisa’s fashions sell at Bergdorf’s in New York and are wearable with great pride and pleasure in the Bay Area as well—timeless, unique, stunning. Her creations are truly  conversations with cloth. I own two stunning, unique pieces that I wear to the fanciest places as well as on just nice occasions.


Conversations with Cloth

A four-part presentation on SHIBORI hosted by 
Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada with Ana Lisa Hedstrom

STREAMING SERIES ON ZOOM
10/28, 11/18, 12/9, 1/6

Conversations with Cloth – Fall/Winter 2020 Series Teaser from Slow Fiber Studios on Vimeo.

Conversations are streamed talks with esteemed textile artists and artisans, specialists, scholars in the field of textile art including in shibori, natural dyes, sashiko and quilt, weaving, fashion and costumes, delivered through Zoom webinar. 

The program will be interactive with Q&A after each presentation/conversation. We welcome participants to forward questions in advance using the online form

You may sign-up for the full streaming series at a discount or pick and choose episodes to attend. If you miss a specific episode you registered and still wish to see it later, we will send recordings for you to watch, for two weeks after the event date.

Guest Presenter: Ana Lisa Hedstrom

Ana Lisa is known for her signature textiles based on contemporary adaptations of shibori. Her textiles are included in the collections of museums such as the Cooper Hewitt, the Museum of Art and Design, the De Young and her work has been exhibited internationally. She has taught and lectured at numerous international Shibori conferences and schools, her awards include two NEA grants, and she is a fellow of the ACC.

Host: Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada

Yoshiko I. Wada is an artist, curator, and textile scholar, president of World Shibori Network, founder of SFS, producer of the Natural Dye Workshop series, and co-chair of the 1st – 11th International Shibori Symposia. She is the author of pioneering publications on kasuri and shibori. Today she continues to lead a wide range of workshops, lectures, tours, and symposia internationally, emphasizing sustainability & tradition.

Beware of Scammer!

Here is a piece I thought I sold. I got an email saying that this person wanted to buy a piece of my art to surprise his wife on their anniversary. AND would I accept a check. I emailed back that I proposed this piece, the price plus crating and shipping, and that a bank check or payment by PayPal would be required. I was a bit suspicious, so didn’t want to spend much energy on it.


Meanwhile, I began to get the piece ready: meaning finished. I dyed all the shiny silk fabrics and pinned them to the background for the finished piece, complete with hundreds of pins. He texted back that he needed to send his personal check because his wife dealt with the family finances and he wanted it to be a surprise.


A close-up of the piece I call “Shiny”. Another text said that he was transferring to the Philippines and that a shipper would contact me about sending the work. And he would accept that I required that a check needed to be cashed by the bank.


I realized that squares of on of the fabrics were curling at the corners. Oh, my! I thought that wasn’t too bad but wouldn’t look like the photograph I’d sent. So, I set about flattening each and every one with archival double stick tape. The next text said the check would be coming and that it would include extra money that was to go to the shipper.


All of the pieces were laid so that the grain of the fabric switched 90 degrees to create the checkerboard effect. I also liked that often the silks weren’t ironed flat and added another shine to the fabrics. After awhile I got a text that the check had been delivered by Fed Ex. Soon it came to my door—empty except for a check written for an extra $1,000 written by a bank. I immediately mobile deposited it on my iPhone and a notice came that it would be held for 13 days. When I texted him that news, he said to take it to a teller or ATM because he couldn’t wait because that it would spoil the surprise for his wife. I called my bank and was told something was fishy if it was to be held that long. So he said to go ahead and deposit the check which I did. When the confirmation was emailed to me it said the reason for the hold on the check was: “Paying bank states check may not be paid.” I texted that back to him and have refused to respond to a couple of his further “testing me” texts. THE END.


Scrolls Show Up At Last

Here are the first of 14 scrolls. The final photo shows them all together. It’s my first chance to see them all in a row as I imagined months ago. The fabrics are linen (one silk) and all began as white yardage I bought in India in January.


Here is the next batch, working from the left to right. All of the pieces in the center of one scroll were dyed in the same dye pot. That is, I put a small piece of each white fabric into the dye pot. They came out all a bit different simply because they were different fabrics to begin with. The backgrounds I dyed each separately.


The third batch, working toward 14 pieces total. I used yellow onion skins and black walnuts for dyes plus three tannins I brought home from Japan: Myrobalans, Quebacho, and Brugeriera. Then some I put in an iron bath at the end and a few in a copper bath. All were mordanted with alum.


Dyeing linen was much more of a process than silk, wool, or cotton. The big difference was a two-hour scouring process in the beginning.


The end of the row. The idea of scrolls has been with me for a year or two. And for years, I’ve been buying any white fabrics I could find with the idea that a variety of fabrics will give me a variety of tones and shades when dyed.


Here’s a gallery view. It’s been a long process. All during the pandemic.


What’s Next?

Since I think I’ll be locked in for a long time ahead, I’m beginning to think about the white silks I brought back from India. Again, like the linens, I expect the different fabrics to take a variety of shades and tones when they come out of a dye pot together. I have 21 different ones.


The silks look nice bunched together even before dyeing. I think they will look better bunched up somehow, rather than flat like the linen scrolls.


These are the samples I dyed with red onion skins and the 3 tannins I’ve been using. They are on a cloth I wove just before the pandemic. Maybe my scroll project is finished and I need to think of another way to present the silks.


These were dyed with red onion skins. I don’t think I used a mordant. I like the mottled colors I got from bunching up the fabrics in the dye pot and not stirring them much.


Here the colors are more even. I like them, too.


Now I have a good supply of red onion skins and yellow, too. So, maybe I’ll just plunge in—next week??


Finished Linen Scrolls: Looking Back

Here I a photo of all the background fabrics I dyed. This was in a post at the end of June—seems long ago. I loved the results, seeing them lined up, and felt they would look good together.


All the were white when I began about 3 months ago. All (but 1) were linen which is a fabric I love. The second from the lightest end turned out to be silk. The reason I wanted so many different whites is that I knew they would vary slightly when put into a dye pot together. I think the salesmen at Linen Club in Chennai, India were perplexed why I got “a meter of this, 2 meters of that” etc. and when I asked only to see the white ones.


On the scrolls, I made the “art” the dyed fabrics that were in one dye pot together to show the subtle variations.


More of the fabrics in a single dye pot. I only used 2 natural dyes: onion skins and black walnuts to make the 14 scrolls.


Another set of fabrics. I used 3 tannins (quebacho, myrobalans, brugeriera), alum mordant, and iron and copper with the onion skins and black walnuts.



Scroll Project Update: I Will be Hanging Them Soon!

The linen scrolls are finally finished! And all 14 of them will be hung in our gallery space in the common areas in the retirement place where I live. Here are some of them hanging ready to be rolled into a room to be quarantined for a week. I began with white linen fabrics that I brought back from India in February—just before the pandemic hit. Way back in March I began dyeing with onion skins from our kitchen’s chef and black walnut dye I made a year ago.


Here is the rest of the 14 in the collection. I began with 9 different fabrics with the idea they would be subtle variations in color when they came out of the dye pots together. One fabric turned out to be silk so in all the different dye baths it was always the lightest one. Usually silk dyes the best and linen the lightest but I used techniques for dyeing linen and the silk wasn’t happy. The Ellis and Boutrup book came to me just at the right time. It’s hard to believe that everything started out white sometimes.


Here is one of the scrolls. I almost always arranged the pieces in the center from light to the dark. Often I basted the swatches to a backing pad I made out of cotton. Then I attached that to the background fabric. To make the small pieces lie flat I used French knots to tack them down.


Since I have been in lockdown all this time, I could not get to my studio to find matching threads for the French knots and stitching. I used what I had, matching the value of the thread to the fabric. Colors of the same value blended in so well they were barely noticeable—just like the threads had matched. I had a lot of spools of thread of different values to work with.


What is a Scroll? A Trilogy of Scrolls?

Introduction:

What is a scroll?
My inspiration is Japanese scrolls. They are narrow “wall hangings” that hang in little niches where art is displayed–usually a flower arrangement. Usually they are long and have a nice background with a piece of art mounted on it. I went to an exhibit in Japan a couple of years ago and the artist’s scrolls were many shapes and sizes–all with a background she chose for the art displayed on it. So that is what I’m calling MY scrolls. I’ve been matching up backgrounds and art. Sometimes parts are made by me –woven and/or dyed or things I’ve brought home from many trips. I’ve been under lock down since March 8 and can’t get to my studio where my looms are. I’ve been enjoying looking at what I have in my apartment and using what I have on hand.

Another background cloth from the striped warp in previous posts.

The background this time is plain weave. The warp threads are DMC 6-strand embroidery cotton. Someone gave me two cartons of cones of the stuff we usually see as little tiny skeins. The colors are wonderful and can be subtle. I took some light ones and some dark ones for the stripes.

Here is a close up of the art. They are shiny silk squares I cut from fabrics I dyed all with black walnuts a year ago or so. I attached them to pieces of cotton fabric (also black walnut dyed) with a museum-quality double stick tape. I love this tape and use it a lot. I got it from a bookbinding supply place in Brooklyn. The name is Talas. They have an extensive catalog and do online orders. I then attached these pieces to a flannel cloth for just the right amount of body for the hanging.

I’m thinking I have a trilogy—not a triptych; but they might hang together.

Here is a close-up of one section. In all the sections I turned the shiny squares 90 degrees so the way the light catches them makes the checkerboard pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fabric for the squares in this section was an upholstery fabric, I think. One side is silk, the other is cotton. The squares didn’t like to stay flat with time! However, it shows you how I mounted them with tiny bits of the tape in the middle of the tops of the squares.

Three Scrolls: Almost Finished


I was determined to get 3 pieces ironed and the bamboo added today. Worked until 9:00. This is the original one all wrinkled. Thanks to all the advice I got about ironing and dampening.

This one my neighbor collaborated with me on the composition. She is just the right person for me.

This is another one. No rolling pin needed today, just hours of ironing. I enjoyed the day completely. A joy to see the linen iron out so flat.

Scroll Project Going Ahead

Introduction:
I got several good suggestions about ironing my linen fabric. They all seemed to remind me of things I’d known but not thought about. The main thing is that linen likes water and it should be damp then ironed dry. One recommendation was to take it from the machine and iron it then. I’ve done that with great success—but this time I was worried that the spinning in the machine might put in permanent wrinkles. Read on.

I ironed it at midnight then hung it in the shower overnight. It is beautiful.

One person suggested sprinkling it with water and rolling in a towel overnight to evenly moisten the cloth. That is what I did but did it after lunch and waited until bedtime to iron it.

Around midnight was when I got to the ironing board. The cloth was nicely and evenly damp. One suggestion I received was to roll the cloth with a rolling pin like the way they use a mangle with pressure to iron linens in Scandinavia—Sweden? I used to do that years ago with linen and forgotten completely, however finding a rolling pin was an issue. I looked in the back of my drawers and there was none. So I called our kitchen and was able to borrow a big, heavy one—4 pounds. I ironed a portion on the front, then on the back, then used the rolling pin on the board on the area. It looks beautiful. The cloth is seamed so there are two layers and all worked out fine. Yea! Now I’m rolling ahead again—what a good feeling it is.

A close-up of a portion of the cloth. Next is to hem the ends, put on the swatches and the lovely piece of bamboo I have for the top. Then the first one will be DONE. I’m glad not all of them need such treatment, but I think they will be beautiful hanging together.

Scroll Project Interruption


This is the first scroll in the linen project and I decided that it was too long given the size of the dyed pieces section.

Here I folded some back at the top and bottom and decided I liked this proportion better. So I was all excited to cut off the extra and have a beautiful finished piece instead of a first draft. I cut off the piece and finished the top and bottom and was all ready for the beautiful ironing part.

I practiced some on the cutoff piece with my wonderful wrinkle releaser and decided to go to the main piece. On the main piece some blotches appeared where the releaser was and they didn’t iron out! Oh dear.

So I decided to spray on my fingers and pat an area that had a wrinkle for a more gentle approach. If you look carefully, you can see my palm and fingers on the cloth! I knew that wouldn’t do but also knew that it would wash out. So I soaked it in a basin of warm water with some Dawn liquid detergent and sloshed it up and down, wrinsed it, and hung it to dry. Beautiful. Now I’m at square one again! I am thinking that I’ll just dampen it with plain water and iron it like the olden days. But I should make some more trials on my practice piece probably first. The issue is that the cloth is double–can I get both the front and back ironed nice. Or, must I take out the seam and start over but be very careful not to manhandle the cloth and get more wrinkles when I redo the seam and finish the ends. Any advice or thoughts are welcome. I’m letting the project marinate for a few days, but a bit sad that the oomph I had last week has died down a bit.

The Scrolls: It’s the CLOTH that Counts – More First Drafts

Introduction:
I think the reason I’m enjoying this project so much is that I get to enjoy so many textiles close up, over and over and over. The woven linens just speak to me; even the selvedges. I’m afraid my photographs aren’t doing them justice. (I need some encouragement.)

This piece is short and wide. I have been inspired by a show of unique scrolls in Japan a year or so ago. There were a couple that were short and wide like this one that I can’t get out of my mind. I began with cloths that were different sizes and that determined the size I had to work with for each scroll.

The black marks from the safety pins during dying dictated the shape for this one. But when I saw the shape, I knew it was right.

This was my favorite dye outcome—wouldn’t you know, it was the smallest piece I bought. I think it might be silk and it probably was expensive. In all the samples I made with it, it came out darker than all the others. It’s an open weave and looks like linen and I treated it that way, so it stays in the linen collection.

This is another short one. The cloth wasn’t wide enough to double so it and the black one is only one layer of cloth. I matched up each bundle from a dye bath to its background. When all 12 are finished, I may rearrange them and make my final decisions on dimensions. Part of the excitement is that I know this is only the first draft.

My Dyed Linen Scrolls Progress Report

Introduction:
Here is the center piece of my first dyed scroll. In previous posts recently I’ve told about dyeing linen fabrics with 3 tannins (myrobalan, Brugueira, and quebracho) before mordanting with alum before dyeing with onion skins or black walnut dye. Sometimes I only used the tannins after-mordanted with alum and no dye. Sometimes I used an iron or copper afterbath. That means with 9 different fabrics I ended up with a lot of swatches too good to just go into a notebook.

I featured the swatches on the background cloths I dyed a week or so ago for my scrolls. Here is the first one. The pieces are only based in place. They came from two dye baths: myrobalan, alum, walnut and myrobalan, alum, onion with iron afterbath. The different fabrics took the dye deliciously different I think.

Here is the whole scroll. The background is dyed with myrobalan, alum, and onion skins. The linen fabrics ironed beautifully but wrinkled when I manhandled it. When I’ve made final decisions, I’ll do a good ironing with my wrinkle releaser and it should be beautiful. As of now, I’m not exactly sure of the dimensions and exact placement. The swatches can be exchanged around, too.

Here’s how I handled the black marks made from the safety pins during dyeing. I folded the pieces anyway I could so the marks wouldn’t be on the right side. The seam could hit anywhere in the back or on a side. You can see the mark on this one on the upper right.

I’m So Proud of Myself!


This is the most I’ve ever dyed all by myself! And I love looking at the pieces all together on the shower rod. (Couldn’t bear to take them down this morning to take a shower.) These are the dyes and the linens I chose from my samples; the first time I ever made anything from sampling. I’m thinking of using them for the backgrounds of scrolls.

I love to see the fabrics after they’ve been ironed. I was up until 2:15 last night ironing them all. I just hung each one up after I finished and I like the arrangement a lot.

The black and grey textured ones I just ironed with a hot iron. The black came from putting the cloth in an after bath of iron.

For the smooth ones I used the wrinkle releaser spray I mentioned in a previous post. I am in love with the cloths and colors I got.

Look what my safety pins did! I guess I will have to sew tags on if I need to keep track. The label is cut from a US Mail plastic mailer or a plastic Amazon mailer.

Is wasn’t bad enough that just where the pins were made marks but where other fabrics’ safety pins hit the good fabrics, they left a few marks here and there. I learned a good lesson. Not sure how I’ll deal with the smudges. Maybe add some of my own? Anyhow, I won’t use safety pins again.

3 Tannins and 21 Silks, Oh My!

Introduction:
When there are 21 samples for each dye bath, it takes a lot of organization to figure out what is needed and to make small bundles of the 21 different silk fabrics. Then sort which pots to put them in. Afterwards, I found it important to organize the swatches so I would know what I got. The next step is to choose which ones I want to repeat for large pieces and for small ones. I love the colors and seeing them bundled up. They are much nicer to look at than the swatches.

I like these large samples and am thinking they might become a scroll. I safety-pinned them to a piece I wove not too long ago. These are the same tannins as in the previous post but on silks, rather than linen. From top to bottom: Myrobalan, Brugueira, and Quebracho. All were in an iron bath after dyeing. The first one took all the iron out of my iron bath but I didn’t realize it so the other two didn’t get enough to show much but I liked them the way they were so didn’t redo them in another stranger iron bath.

A closer look at the silks dyed with myrobalan with an iron bath after wards. The swatches show out of the original bath and then afterbaths of iron and copper and a folder dyed with onion skins after the tannin and then with iron and copper after baths. What a job to organize all of this. Each line is one dye bath. Some have fewer because some swatches got loose in the dye pots.

Brugueira is the tannin for this selection. Same processes afterwards as above.

Quebracho is the tannin. Same processes.

Here’s what I was working with. 21 different silk fabrics.

Three Tannins: Myrobalan, Bruguiera, and Quebracho

Introduction:
There is a wonderful dye shop in Kyoto that I visit every time I’m in the city. I always brought home dyes and white fabrics for dyeing. These three dyes I’d heard of in a dye class I took at Slow Fiber Studios that was all about tannins in dyeing a summer or two ago with Michel Garcia. But I had no idea more than that. Then last fall “Exploring Tannins for Mordanting and Dyeing” with Catharine Ellis came to Slow Fiber Studios and I knew I needed to take that workshop. We made lovely samples, I took great notes, and Catharine is a wonderful teacher. That was the end of that until now I decided to see about those dyes I brought back from Kyoto since my apartment was in dye mode already with the onion skins from our kitchen. And I had all that fabric I brought home from India. This time I wanted to dye the 9 different linens I got at a shop in Chennai: Linen Club.

Here are the samples of the three tannins as dyes on linen. Boy was dying cellulose a lot more complicated than silk! The Art and Science of Natural Dyes by Catharine Ellis was invaluable. And I’m thrilled with the results. It took 2 hours to scour, 2 hours in the tannin bath, 2 hours in alum mordant bath before the dye bath itself. That was all day Saturday. Each group is from one dye pot with the 9 linen samples. (Sometimes a sample got loose in the pot so there may not be exactly 9 different fabrics.) From the left are the Myrobalan samples, then Bruguiera and Quebracho with alum mordant. The variations are all due to the 9 differences in linen fabrics. That’s what I love to play with.

The book showed lovely grays using an after bath of iron and I love the ones I got. They were in the iron water only a matter of seconds or a minute—I don’t know, I just watched until they got dark. So, these gray fabrics were dyed with the alum mordanted tannins then put into the iron bath which I made long ago.

These fabrics were dyed in yellow onion skins after they were dyed with a tannin and mordanted with alum. Again, from the left it’s Myrobalan, Bruguiera, and Quebracho.

These were dyed in black walnut dye I had from a year ago (the dye that leaked on my fake-wood floor in my kitchen a while ago).

Here’s what the undyed fabrics looked like. (I’ll have to check, one might be silk, but it got the cellulose “business” along with the others.)

Organizing them took some thinking so I could make comparisons and make choices on what dyes/fabrics to repeat. I am determined to use up what I brought home! I stitched them onto file folders and that way I can close the folders and the swatches are safe. I had to get them organized right away before my labels got separated from the swatches. I was up until 2:30 Sunday night, but I had to see what I got! I’m beginning to make plans for a set of scrolls, I think. I’m so excited with the linens!

Mordanting? Do I Need To?

Introduction:
Over a month ago was when I got my first batch of onion skins from Danny, our Chef and I said maybe I’d start “next week”. Now I’ve been at it for 2 ½ weeks. The apartment is more of a mess than ever with fabrics everywhere, dye samples, and bundles of dyes. I was excited with my results until one day when Yoshiko Wada called and said I must use a mordant with onion skins as a dye. We mordanted in dye classes I took, but I’d never done it at home, only choosing dyes that don’t need mordants (which I thought was the case with onion skins). I did have alum but never used it, so I guessed I’d better try it.  A mordant is a metal salt that is used to fix a dye in a fiber. The word comes from the French word mordre, which means “to bite”. Usually it is done before the fiber is dyed, but not always.

Here are two bundles of silks; the stiff ones (undegummed) are on the left and the silky silks on the right. Boy, does silk dye deeply and easily. There were all mordanted in alum. It wasn’t such a bother as I thought.

I put a small batch of unmordanted silk in with the mordanted into my pot of onion skin dye.

This book became my bible. It is so user friendly. It does refer you to another page often, but the organization makes it easy to use. And I took notes for what I needed. I took a class with the author; Catharine Ellis last fall and it was wonderful. I just hadn’t looked into the book until now. I knew that my linens would be the next challenge and really appreciated everything she wrote about dyeing (and mordanting) cellulose fibers as well as silks.

Because I’ve promised myself that I am going to dye the fabrics I brought back from India, I knew I needed samples first to determine which fabrics would do what. It was fun organizing this swatch chart and it took a good bit of time. The 11 degummed silks are in the left 2 columns and the 10 stiff silks (undegummed) in the right two, for a total of 21 different silk fabrics. The unmordanted ones are the left ones in the pairs. Looks like there is very little difference in the colors with the mordanted ones. However, Yoshiko said mordanting made them more color fast. Since mordanting wasn’t so onerous, I guess I can entertain the idea of mordanting a lot more (or not??).

Dyeing Silks and Playing with Light


I’ve been weaving a lot of white lately, mostly silks that Iinherited from Ethel Aotoni when she died. I had the intention to dye them. The silk threads took the light differently whether you looked at them warps wise of weft wise. This fabric is a white 12-end satin. I tried to see if I could make it completely warp face with strong colored wefts. i.e white on one side and red or black on the other. When I had the fabric in hand I noticed that it changed color accoring to whether the warp or the weft was vertical. You can only see the borders and center when the light is just right. (You can see bits of white showing the warps peeking through on the edges of the squares I cut). These are works in progress, nothing is set yet. [ click to enlarge any photo ]

Here is what the red and white pieces look like when looking straight on–no borders or center color change.

This piece I dyed with black walnuts. Weaving the 12 end satin going in 11 stages from warp face to weft face. It didn’t look very interesting as a whole but I liked a lot of the sections. That is why I decided to cut the squares. Then I realized the light-play and came up with this design.

Another satin warp of silk dyed with black walnuts. I dyed the weft silk before weaving. Then I dyed the whole piece again in a light walnut dye with iron after bath. This photo shows how the light changes the darks and lights.

This was the first white warp satin I did and I couldn’t bear to dye it. It feels gorgeous, and I love the way the fabric takes the light.

I Got Accepted into the China Show!!


The Chinese National silk Museum is in a huge and beautiful building.

Here is one of the exhibition spaces. I wonder if our show will be there.

Now I have my business cards made–It is beginning to feel like it is really going to be.

I am going with my very favorite tour guide, Yoshiko Wada, with Slow Fiber Studios. There are two tours with her plus going to the BoND Symposium. The tour before is around the area of Shanghai and the tour after is to the Yi Minority Autonomous Region in Southwest Cina. Yoshiko’s trips are THE BEST. If you’ve folled my blog you know. I think registration is still open. Contact Slow Fiber Studios.

“Colorful World: Overview of Natural Dyes” The First Biennale of Natural Dyes 
The advent of synthetic dyes in the 19th century has brought a steep decline in the centuries-old productions of natural dyes around the world. The beginning of the 21st century, however, saw a revival of interest in natural dyes as more people turn to nature for solace and harmonious living. Now, many international communities are advocating the use of natural dyes in modern practices and promoting researches on ancient dyeing techniques. In recognition for these artistic and scientific endeavors, the China National Silk Museum (CNSM) organizes the first biennale of natural dyes, with an aim to embrace the beauty of nature, as well as to explore the ancient wisdom and knowledge embodied in the traditional craft of dyeing.

Neddle Cushion Details


Here are the needle cushions as they were woven, before cutting them apart. After sampling, I was happy with the way they looked. See below for some of the problems that needed solving.

I hated the spaces between the pattern threads as seen here. Read how I solved that below. I chose different colors of the pattern threads and doubled the number of threads to make them thicker. Then I was satisfied.

I went to my bible on Overshot techniques, Helene Bress’s book. On page 206 in the Overshot chapter was my answer! Her book has such depth with many ways to think about how one can design things. There must be thousands of images.

© 1981 Helene Bress

 

 

Needle Book Mania??


I wonder if I have a “thing” about needle books. The first one I had I made in 4-H when I was 10. I never saw the use of it and never used it. Then I saw one my friend Mary Rowe had when I was in New York. I think it was her mother’s in New Zealand. It was the cutest thing I ever saw so I made one for my best friend’s 40th birthday years ago. She still uses it a lot of years later. [ click photos to enlarge ]

Last month or so a weaver/friend died and I took care of finding homes for her loom and stash. I found the most wonderful needle “cushion” in with her things. (The colorful one full of her needles.) It now lives on my new dobby loom. I had to weave some of my own! I’ve been dyeing with black walnuts so I thought I would dye the cloth and the pattern threads–what whimsy and fun that was. I made a lot for gifts when I travel. On the rest of the warp I had fun designing 4 new fabrics without changing the threading.

These are needle books I have lying around–in my sewing box at home and near my looms in the studio. In 4-H I learned that one needed protein fiber for pins and needles so they won’t rust. So all the pages are wool fabrics. (The new needle cushions are made with silk).

The round yellow crocheted needle book is like the one I saw in New York and made for my friend. The inner “pages” are made from scraps of wool overshot fabic I wove when I was an apprentice with Jim Ahrens.  The tiny heart shaped one I found in a sewing box at a thrift store–lovingly crocheted. The round, fat pin cushion with sashiko stitching I got in Japan and couldn’t resist it.

The last is a pin cushion I made and use now. We wove yards of this wool fabric in a production weaving class with Jim Ahrens at Pacific Basin School of Textile Arts in the 70’s. My inspiration was a pin cushion I got in Whales at a weaving mill  made from their scraps. The red book came from there, too.

Photographing My Entry for an Exhibition

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.