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.