the prism house

to drink it in

:the joy, and the life, and all kinds of new things I am learning, and sunshine and mangoes, and coffee (literally) and the ocean (not literally).

Narrows - Oct 26

perfect day for a little coffee and park sitting.

Today’s activities:

Eat mango in the sun.
Inhale ocean breeze.
Prepare wool for dying while sneaking out onto the terrace for sun salutes.
Eat delicious bagel and drink delicious coffee.
More sun, more breeze.
Great meeting at Eastern Edge.
Dye experiments with powdered plant matter.

To expand on that last point:

Tonight in the studio was my first solo foray into the world of natural dyes. I have four skeins of wool, which takes dye nicely, or so it seems. I was alone and listening to music, reading weaving books while I waited for things to soak up their new hues. It was truly joyous, and my hands look like art student hands again. A very good day.

See below for my newbies rough-guide to some natural dying! I am so sorry, I didn’t have my camera with me today so I don’t have step by step photos. But a few on my phone turned out ok!

(You can check out Maiwa Handprints for dye supplies and resources- much recommended by the very knowledgable and intimidatingly talented craftspeople at the Anna Templeton Centre. Maiwa also have a free educational PDF which covers the bases of cellulose and protein fibres, mordanting – preparing your fibres for dying – and all the details of a huge range of natural dyes. A must-print for anyone even curious about this magical process!)

cochineal skein finished - I set the bottom half in water & cream of tartar, lifting it out section by section over about 45 minutes.

cochineal skein finished – I set the bottom half in water & cream of tartar, lifting it out section by section over about 45 minutes.

Step 1: Weigh the fibers dry.

Dye does not naturally want to bond with the fibers, so we must create a link in that chemical chain. That link is introduced during the mordanting process. General rule of thumb is that your mordant should weigh roughly 15% the weight of your fibers when they are dry. So figure out that number before heading on to…

Step 2: Scour.

Throw those fibers (gently) into a bucket and give them a good (gentle) wash. We use sunlight soap. Then give them a nice rinse.

Step 3: Mordant the fibers. 

For this I used alum at 14% weight of fiber (WOF). My (dry) fibers weighed 400g, so I used 60g of alum.
I tossed the alum into the pot and let it get nice and hot, then threw in all my wool at once. It hangs out on the stove for about 45 minutes, before being pulled out. At this point it is a great idea, if you have the time, to hang the fibres on a rack until they stop dripping, turning every so often so the alum is evenly spread. Then wrap them in a damp, white towel, and leave them for 24 – 48 hours, ensuring they stay damp.

Step 4: Prepare the Dye Vats:

Tonight I used cutch (ground up plant matter) and cochineal (dried bugs. When you grind them up they’re pure pigment!).
These were actually fairly simple to prepare, I just needed to put them into the pots and let them heat up a while, ensuring the powders were fully dissolved. There is a decanting process for cochineal, but it’s not a must, and I didn’t do it. You can check out the Maiwa guide for details.

Step 5: Let ’em sit.

It is important not to let reds boil – this I know. The Maiwa guide also has handy instructions for how much heat to apply and for how long. I let the cutch sit for just over 2 hours at just under a simmer. The cochineal I let sit for an hour, then pulled out to do some colour shifts:

Step 6: Sample Extravaganza!

There are a number of simple ways to shift the colour of a given dye. Tonight I explored the following: Soda Ash, Cream of Tartar, and Vinegar. Each yields different results depending on the dye. Below are my cochineal samples – the cutch is still bathing in some Soda Ash at the studio to draw a reddish hue from its toffee-browns.

from left to right: soda ash, cream of tartar, vinegar, nothing.

from left to right: soda ash, cream of tartar, vinegar, nothing. sorry about the colour on this one.

And there you have it! A newbies guide to a couple of dyes. And one seriously great resource.

Happy Saturday night!


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This entry was posted on October 27, 2013 by in Crafting, new work and tagged , , , , , , , .
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