Posts Tagged ‘textile dyeing’

78 degrees

December 27, 2013

deliciously balmy….

To backtrack just a bit, while “everyone else” was getting buried in snow and ice, we were “basking” in a balmy 78° last Sunday – unseasonal and it brought out creatures unseasonal as well. As I had a project to complete for my son, and the day was my only window, naturally, I took full advantage.


from the home-grown

In the process, I also “approached” cleaning and organizing in the studio. This meant throwing out a couple of vats. The first to go was the fresh-leaf  which I was discouraged with and had ignored for more than a few months.

The results of that were ugly. In cleaning up before actually pouring out the indigo solution, I realized that the liquid was a rich, deep blue which caused me to hesitate and provoked a few questions. The image shows the final results of that serendipity. There’s still more left to work with.


fermentation of another kind

Over this holiday, someone gave us an Amish Cinnamon Bread starter – not just tasty but engaging.  Having a  bag of fermenting “stuff”  to “mush” daily brought to mind, of course, the vat.

It needed to be stirred for roughly 10 days, feeding midway through that time; then again,  feeding it at the end before turning it into bread. Walking through that process was a simple reminder of the need for similar activity with indigo – a thing to be looked forward to in the next season.

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

Spring. We haven’t had enough winter cold yet and we need some before we are ready for that balmy season. I  do look forward to that cold, but I’m also looking to the softness of spring and its promises.

the beat goes on….

September 26, 2013


Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Yes it does. You can call it practice, study, research…whatever. The fingers and brain seem to need that constant repeated movement to hone the skill. In my case, it might also help to “feed” those memory banks.

Of course, as I mentioned previously I’m also making samples, but it’s also testing some theory.


So, the week has been a good one except for a tiny unexpected visit from an old ailment affecting my knees.  I’d almost forgotten about it. Fortunately, I could work around it and it calmed over the week.

The photo on the left is again (I’ve done similar earlier) comparing two methods for achieving a similar pattern.  I still favor the one on the right.  It’s a challenge and my brain fights doing it.  This time, though, I may have made a small breakthrough.  I’ll need to repeat it a few more times though, just for affirmation.

The weather has been surprisingly autumnal (atypical for this area, it’s usually more summer like) with a suggestion of coolness in the air – great days for dyeing.

beginning the week

July 8, 2013

3159The first thing going in my studio today was to get the first bath going for the cotton pieces (plant fibers) I plan to dye in Cochineal. I don’t have anything special planned for them with the exception of 2 gauze scarves. I know what I have in mind for one, but not the other as yet. The other pieces are cotton hankies, a bandana (furoshiki perhaps) and another odd piece. It’s an experiment, for information and fun, as this is my first experience dyeing like this.

After a bit of research, I’ve settled on Wild Colours as my reference for this and it has been an invaluable resource already.

So, at this point, my pieces are in their first alum bath.  They have pre-soaked (in water) and been added to a pot with diluted alum and soda ash.  They have simmered for an hour and will soak all day and overnight in the solution.  Tomorrow I’ll hang them out to dry, then move on to the 2nd bath in tannin.  This process could take most of the week (or all of it, depending).

3230   *     *     *    *

Related Vocabulary tidbits:

1. Cochineal – エンジムシ – 臙脂虫/ えんじむし(enjimushi) – the cochineal insect (Dactylopius coccus), —生臙脂 /しょうえんじ (shouenji)- cochineal and コチニール (kochiniiru)

2. Mordant – 媒染剤 /ばいせんざい (baisenzai) (n) mordant &

   媒染/ばいせん (baisen) color fixing; mordantizing

3.  Simmer -煮立つ/にたつ (nitatsu) – to boil;  simmer

some time out

July 7, 2013


Perhaps a little low-key, quiet break is what was called for. I was hoping to be more productive over this holiday – perhaps a few more experiments in that rich Cochineal red.   I wanted to work with cotton this time round.  What I didn’t realize was the time it would take to prepare the cloth before the final dyeing – several days or perhaps a week or more, depending on the weather. We’ve had a lot of rain lately. So, as usual, I need to be patient and pace things.

In the meantime, at a friend’s recommendation I finally made it to the Nasher to see Wangechi Mutu’s Fantastic Journey. Needless to say, it’s a provocative exhibit, the images are powerful and beyond unsettling at times (of course and for a reason).

I’m barely scratching the surface here, but finding connections in some of the books I’m currently reading: Cold Running Creek – Zelda Lockhart, Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States – continuing with my “American” education – always learning.

Later in the day some japoniserie beckoned at the NCMA  – a collection on loan from the Chrysler Museum (Norfolk) – a tour was offered and went to investigate this collection.  After the brief tour, there was time to “really look” at these paintings.


Lefebvre’s Une Japonaise (The Language of the Fan) was probably a draw for most of us and a pastel-colored Cassatt. Moving to a different gallery,  Milton Avery’s Blue Landscape made for a very satisfying ending to the gallery visit.

June reds

June 20, 2013

June reds 3

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

I had decided earlier that June would be the month I experimented with Cochineal. It seems that if I plan like this, it’s likely that I’ll follow through.

It isn’t always the case though, as I do have pieces I’ve planned or are still in process from months or years before. It’s just that I’ve learned that sometimes, if there’s a thing I want to explore and a certain season or likely conditions make it more possible, then, it simply has to be done (or something like that). At any rate, I marked June as the time for Cochineal – at least the time for beginning that exploration – however long that takes.

The approach brought to mind working with acid dyes and there probably is some correlation. While I have worked with other dyes, I’ve gotten used to the immediacy of indigo, so it was a different way to work.

The process went more quickly than  anticipated.  I had planned not to do any dyeing until probably Friday, but from the information gathered, it seemed that everything was in place and that I could go from the mordant to the actual dyeing earlier than planned.  So I took the risk and moved on.

The image here, shows a few silk pieces simmering in the pot.  It seemed that the dye color went deeper the longer they soaked.

It required patience on my part, as I so looked forward to the results and they were fairly unknown except for the hue. After seeing the results, I understand the ancients’ love affair (see Amy Butler Greenfield’s A Perfect Red) with that dye color.

Shibori swatches

June 17, 2012


Originally uploaded by j9leblanc

I stepped away from the studio on Friday to spend the day at the Gregg Museum. Janine told me that there were some swatches that needed some “attention” (you need to see these!) and they also needed some documentation. I took snapshots until my camera battery was exhausted. Then we switched over to Janine’s.

This example is only one small example. Not all are authentic shibori, but printed or woven examples. Still aspects of these pieces are quite wonderful and I find them inspiring. This is, again, just a very small sampling of what’s in the collection of this ilk.

Woad & Indigo

June 1, 2012

Woad & Indigo

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Moving on with this project – I went as far as I cared to with these particular pieces. This photo was taken before they were rinsed and washed. There were some changes in color again after that. I thought they looked even closer in hue after that part of the process.

I’ve put them away for a bit. I’ll have to re-evaluate again later – so much blue and looking so closely at them – after while I don’t know what I’m seeing. I like both though.


May 25, 2012

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

The rain and cooler weather seem to have finally passed leaving us with the strong rays of summer and some humidity. I relish the cooler weather, no doubt about it, but I also look forward to this hotter time of the year. It’s good for the indigo vat and explorations along that line.

I also couldn’t wait ‘another minute’ to get a woad vat going. I’d bought some at the festival. There’s been that lingering question that I suppose many dyers of blue wonder about – the differences between woad and indigo.

This short project has only just begun, it’s open ended, just looking at depth of color and differences in hue. Then again, is it obvious which one is woad?


March 20, 2012


Originally uploaded by SOFennell

Jude, I got the message. It was in the making during a brief storm this morning.

This stormy spring weather’s putting me on edge. Working with some imagery helps. This was a satisfying beginning and it was good work while the rain poured. It let up in time for me to hang it on the line.

A  tidbit:

春嵐・はるあらし/しゅんらん – spring storm

Thanks for the word, Jude!


March 19, 2012

Originally uploaded by SOFennell

We’ve had some terrific thunderstorms lately. One ferocious one came around 1:30 a.m. that had me visualizing the storm in shibori. I haven’t worked out the process on that imagery yet.

This is much more ordered – the calm after the storm – then again the last day of winter which doesn’t feel one bit like it (80s today).

Anyway, this is a fairly large piece (44′ x 44″), from an old piece of cotton from a friend. I don’t know the history of it, but it was showing age. It seemed a good way to use it.

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