Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Sewing Sunday at Studio Ace

Making Fabric self-portraits in 2019

Clothes made from my Bali fabric collection

Single ikat hand-woven fabric

Batik fabric custom made for me.

Fabric dyed with natural dyes.

Fabric purchased at the batik factory.
Another custom designed batik made with the assistance of the  batik master.

News from 2018-2019

    The best experience of 2018 was my trip to Bali. Bali has an amazing cultural tradition of woven, printed and dyed textiles. The focus of this trip was visiting local artisans and observing hand-dying and weaving techniques such as ikat and double ikat, batik printing and dyeing, dying textiles with indigo, and hand painting on silk. In addition to visiting homes and art studios where these amazing textiles are created, we experienced the beautiful beaches, mountains, and food of Bali. Art and spirituality are embodied in the people and culture. These photos will show some of the unique splendor of this island and give highlights of my once in a lifetime adventure.

Art is everywhere in Bali!

One of the many Bali Hotels on the beach.

Working with the Batik Master to make our own fabric

Single ikat fabric being woven by hand.

More weavers at their family compound/weaving village.

Incredible "heritage" cloth passed down in families and used for ceremonial purposes.

Double ikat weaver in the world heritage site Tenganan village.

My hand painted silk made in the artist's studio.

Shibori tie-died fabric we made at the natural dye textile workshop

This is just a taste of the many experiences during this 19-day trip. Next I'll show beautiful garments I made from fabric purchased and/or made in Bali.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Plans for new work 2017-18

I'm planning two projects for the next three to six months. The first is a quilt, or possibly a series of quilts about my mom. My mom turned 88 this year and we were reminiscing and looking at old photos. As I looked at pictures from a time that I only know from her stories, I was drawn to somehow memorialize her life through fabric and thread. I have been recording her words, scanning old photos and planning a piece that not only celebrates her life, but the world remembered by the fast disappearing "Greatest Generation". As I record her words I begin to underestand how listening is the greatest gift to give another. My mom is in good health for her age, but I don't know how much longer I have with her. This project gives me joy but also fear, for the time of loss somewhere ahead.

Here is photo from my design wall:

Here we are with a quilt that we made together. My mom made the blocks in a quilting class several years ago that was in her "UFO" drawer. I assembled it and hand embroidered imagery from documented crop circles from Wiltshire, England.

My other long-term project is the series on the Tao Te Ching. My next piece is for verse #47:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

More Natural Dye Experiments

I continue to experiment with plant materials that I've gathered in my neighborhood. Ivy berries are found on hedges and banks in many yards. Abundant eucalyptus leaves, bark and pods are easy to collect. I found large fennel plants in my backyard, as well as red cabbage that was too woody to eat. The kitchen provided onion skins that I saved over a 6-month period. The range of colors I got from each dye batch varied based on the fiber. Silk organza and wool yielded the darkest hues. Other weights of silk and rayon gave lighter colors. Here are some of the results:

Ivy berries gave a rich pinkish-brown color:

Fennel gave a pale yellow color:

Onion gave a rich gold color:

Red cabbage gave pale purple and eucalyptus ranged between pale brown and a rich dark reddish brown. 

More eucalyptus variations:

It took me several months to collect enough avocado pits and peels for another dye experiment. It made a warm, pale apricot color that, unfortunately, doesn't translate in this photo:

After making juice from our grapes, I used the pulp to make this dark purple color:

I was able to gather enough elderberries from a friend's tree and combine them with last year's harvest in my freezer to make this pinkish-lavender dye:

My last experiment for 2017 is with fresh indigo. The seeds took a while to germinate and grow large enough to transplant into a sunny corner of my garden. The plants are very hardy. They are still growing and blooming since July and my first experiment. 

Fresh indigo dying is a simpler process than the fermented vats that create dark blue. I gathered about one pound of leaves and used an immersion blender to grind them with water in the dye pot. Then I dipped the fabrics into the pot, stirring them for about five minutes. Then laid them out on the drying rack. 

Fresh indigo yieds a teal color. The greenish pieces on the rack have been previosly dyed with fennel, then over dyed with the fresh indigo.

Here are the range of colors I got with different fabrics. The darkest is silk organza and the lightest are rayon, cotton, and linen. I also got darker colors with multiple dips.

My final experiment for this year will be with Pokeberry. While I was on vacation a friend in Bonsall  froze five pounds for me that she gathered on her property.

The pokeberry should yield a dark burgundy color. I also hope to harvest the more of the indigo and process it to make a traditional indigo vat, a long term project that I look forward to realizing.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Natural Dyeing Project

     After working with fiber-reactive dyes for more than ten years, I began to think about the use of natural materials for dying fabric. In the spirit of reuse, reduce and recycle I wanted to know if there were any readily available locally grown plants that I could use to put color on cloth. Of course, this simple question was hardly that. The art and craft of applying color to surfaces has been with humanity since the time we began to seek shelter and wear clothing.I discovered an overwhelming amount of information about the history dyes and pigments as well as numerous resources for the contemporary textile artisan to explore and experiment with. 
                    History of Natural Dye

     Using dyes, whether synthetic or natural, requires adherence to recipes and rules that can seem vague and esoteric to the beginner. The correct part of the plant must be harvested in the correct way and the dyestuff extracted and concentrated. The dye extracts themselves must be paired with the appropriate mordants, modifiers and fibers (silk, linen, cotton or wool) to achieve desired results. Dye recipes in the middle-ages were family secrets passed down through families and the guild system. In our modern era of mass produced textiles, we have forgotten how cloth and clothing was incredibly labor and time intensive to produce.


My own dyeing practice has always been experimental. I enjoy happy accidents and look forward to unexpected results. I’m not interested in mass producing or repeating exactly a specific color or pattern. It is important, however, to take notes about what you used and the amounts, the processing time, and the results of your experiments. These notes are important to learn from as you develop your own recipes. They become essential if you want to achieve a specific result for your own creative vision

                          Local dye plants

     I decided to limit my experimentation to plants that I could grow, harvest, or collect in my own neighborhood. This severely limited my color choices, but limitations can be overcome with persistence and experimentation. These are the plants that I had access to in my garden, kitchen and neighborhood:

                    Eucalyptus          Ivy Berry              Elderberry           Onion

                              Dandelion           Fennel                  Red Cabbage

              Fabrics to use:

      I used plain white silk, wool, silk and rayon, and silk and wool blend fabrics and pre-made scarves (blanks) for my experiments. Cotton and linen are more resistant to the absorption of natural dye so I did not use them in my experiments. I set up a “dye lab” in my back yard with two electric burners for the dye pots plus spoons for stirring, tongs for lifting, strainers, 5 gallon buckets and a drying rack. 

      All though there are many more resources available, the books listed at the bottom of this post gave me the most specific methods and recipes that I could work with as I conducted my own experiments. In my lab I discovered that I did not always get the results described by the books. Natural dying processes are affected by the soil the plant was grown in, sun exposure, time of harvest, the alkalinity of the water, and the interactions of mordants and modifiers. In the spirit of experimentation, note your own results and remember that you can always re-dye your fabric or fibers and note any new results.

            Experiment one: flower pounding variation:

     Part one of my natural dyeing journey began in March 2016. I started with a variation on “flower pounding”. The color is extracted from flowers and flower petals by pressing or pounding them into fabric that has been treated with alum and soda ash. 

                 My variation rolled the petals into a bundle that was soaked and pressed in the mordant solution. All though I used pink, yellow and purple flowers, the color that fixed to the fabric was primarily pale green and pale yellow, with a bit of blue.  A second try was mostly yellow with a few golden and greenish highlights.


My next experiment: Ivy Berries: 

Resources for methods and materials: 

Burgess, Rebecca. Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes. 2011.

Dean, Jenny. Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes. 1999.

Duerr, Sasha. The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes. 2010.