Natural Dyes on Silk – Comfrey Leaves

This sample experimented with shibori stitching prior to dyeing which resulted in several vey pale wavy lines of resist made by where the stitching gathered the cloth to prevent dye entering.

Result after dyeing shows Shibori stitch-resist as pale wavy lines. (Stitches are removed after full dye process.) The idea to make ‘waves’ by stitching in ‘curves’ worked, but contrasts poorly on pale colours. Large pegged sample shows dye-bath original tone at bottom right, and darker result top left, after adding iron modified. (black marks are the iron water splashed as I poured in iron solution, so take care with fabric proximity)

Preparing dye-bath with comfrey leaves

Cut up comfrey leaves and soak overnight. Also soak silk in alum mordant overnight or for some hours beforehand. Silk often dyes well without mordant when using some plants.

Boil up and simmer for an hour. When just hand hot, drain comfrey out and put dye liquid in a bowl to soak the silk. (I never boil this ahimsa silk as it becomes matted in high temperatures) Agitate to distribute dye equally for first 15 mins, then leave to soak all day, redistributing in dye occasionally to ensure even dyeing.

Dyed and washed out, the ahimsa silk has an ecru beige colouring where first dyed (top left) – with additional dulled, more grey colour where half of cloth was soaked into iron modified dye bath. Out of the sunlight, the iron modified sample is quite dull and darker, to be used as one would a grey.

Sample (gallery top right) compares comfrey colour dye result with Ladies’ Bedstraw, peach. Samples (gallery bottom right) show iron modified comfrey sample in centre; between (left) Hawthorne dyed silk (left) and natural, non-modified comfrey dyed silk as original ecru (right). Note: A second dye-bath is made by reboiling the leaves, and soaking silk again. For the second weaker bath I use a mordant to encourage take up.

Conclusion: Comfrey gives a very good neutral tone suitable for use with any silk painting over. Longer steep in iron (ferrous sulphate) would make it greyer, as needed. Experiment with quantities of iron added. I use either water from a rusty-nails-jar as well as purchased powder.

This piece will be silk painted over in a design, to become part of a garment in due course… updates will be posted here with link to the garment in making.

Natural Dyes on Silk – Lime Yellow with Tansy

Tansy growing prolifically along the Tarka Trail; tall clumps with rosette grouped flower heads – from my dye plant foraging trip.

Dye Bath Procedure

  • Cut up Tansy flower tops and soak overnight in water (pond or river if available)
  • Boil up in stainless steel pan, then remove plant dyestuff and allow dye bath to cool to just hand hot. (cotton can be simmered, but silk may get matted if boiled).
  • Soak silk for some hours in orange coloured water The colour of the dye bath water is no indication of the final outcome on dry silk. Remove soon if you want a pale colour; leave overnight for stronger colour.

Agitate silk in dye bath occasionally, redistributing evenly in liquid during first 15 -30 mins to ensure all areas are covered when first absorbing dye. Use an upside down lid to keep silk beneath surface.

Silk soon absorbs the dye colour in the strong Tansy dye bath. As this silk can be matted slightly by over heating, and simmering, I only introduce it to a hand hot dye bath. I left it soaking overnight to achieve best strength of colour before rinsing out several times in warm water, until water runs clear.

Wet rinsed silk – drying. Do not squeeze out too hard, or twist creases may occur which don’t completely iron out. In summer silk dries fairly quickly and can be ironed smooth while still slightly damp before any creases set in.

A few dark ‘spots’ are splashes from another dye bath with iron I was doing simultaneously. Only do ONE dye bath at a time.

This lime yellow is very vivid (see comparisons with other gold colours), so I will overpaint with silk dyes or bundle leaf prints. However, it could be useful to over-dye with madder to give a good orange, or with woad for a turquoise blue. The future life of this piece will be posted here….

Natural Dyes on Silk – St. John’s Wort – Dye Plants Foraging – Tarka Trail

The Tarka Trail old rail track – Barnstaple to Bideford was my 10 mile route for foraging – using Jenny’ Deans plant spotter book. Late summer finds many of the traditional dye plants along grass verges, especially in areas untouched for ages.

The Dye Plants

St. John’s Wort – Tansy – Hawthorne berries

St. John’s Wort yellow flowers easily available at nearside verge to path

St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) easily produces a good gold and is also well known in herbal use for depression

Preparing the Dye Bath

Processing for dye bath

  • Soak flower tops overnight in rain water. I use pond water.
  • Boil up and simmer for an hour
  • When cool enough not to roughen silk, soak silk, stirring occasionally.
  • Leave overnight to absorb dye colour
  • Dye a second piece of silk using up remainder of dye

Stunning gold colour achieved by soaking silk in dye bath all day, and overnight.

  • First dye bath absorbs a lot of colour.
  • Second silk piece added on top through the night.
  • 2nd day: Remove first stronger dyed silk piece and rinse out, not squeezed too much and leave to dry.
  • Drain seeds and flowers and heat remaining paler dye bath. Add second piece again for half a day.
  • Rinse out when water completely clear. Colour was blotchy, so I cut it in half.
  • Heated dye bath again, allowed to cool, before adding tablespoon of ferrous sulphate for third final cut piece of silk. (for khaki colour) Silk must not be exposed too long to iron mix as can weaken it. Colour change is immediate so 5 mins sufficient.
  • Silk dyed with no mordant = GOLD: Silk modified after dyeing with iron + KHAKI
  • Notebook: I bought the iron (ferrous sulphate) specially, but you can make your own. I generally experiment with adding water from a jar of rusty nails and screws; about half a tea cup to turn grey or khaki. Top up jar as rusty liquid is used. Even a spoonful dulls a colour adequately.

Finished Dried Silks

Shade (left pic) or sunlight (right pic) gives different looking gold to the strong gold dyed piece.

Image one: L-R St. John’s Wort first strongly dyed silk – Second paler dyed silk – Third silk with iron added as modifier.

Image two: L-R Woad dyed 2nd dye bath soak – St. John’s Wort first strongly dyed silk – Woad dyed stronger piece.

Future silk painting on these dyed pieces and clothes making will be linked to here in the future.

“One Horrible Village”

Travels in Vietnam and South East AsiaUK to New Zealand cycle trip by my niece and partner. Incredible stories. Check out all their blogs.

Going in Circles

South East Asia part 9: Da Nang, VN – Da Lat, VN.

Things have been getting better for us as we track more south in Vietnam. The monotomy, heat, humidity and traffic have been thinning out with more varied landscape, smaller roads to take, cooler days and even quite a few rain showers. We’re not going to lie, we are finding Vietnam tough. Not because the cycling is difficult, or the climate is rough or the interactions with the people being distant, but rather because we don’t feel like we are getting any mental stimulation. The coast of Vietnam seems to all be the same and feels like it’s dragging on for ages. I don’t think that this is an inherent issue with Vietnam itself as a country. It is not a boring place by any means. Perhaps this problem stems from the fact that we haven’t spent so long…

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Logwood Dyeing with Batik and Silk Painting for Dresses

PROJECT: Experimentation with beeswax batik resist as background texture for silk painting

I made two samples with silk pieces: 1st logwood dye bath produced strong purple after drying (but it got burnt when the steamer boiled dry, so I made another one), 2nd logwood dye bath using the residue of first dye bath, which resulted in light-dull grape colour. Useful to discover; means can use a small amount of logwood for paler tone.

Result: 1st Logwood dye bath

Gallery: Deep purple dyed silk shows where shibori technique worked (scrunching up with gathered threads) leaf vein and butterfly edging. Leaf areas did not work as resisted, so dye bleach was applied to design area. This is ironed out when dry, and worked only partially. It seems logwood is almost impervious to chemical bleach.

Design areas were outlined again with a dark dyed gutta for more emphasis of, before adding fresh dye colours to images. Silk sample burnt in steaming, will feature in another dress from strips salvaged. (Gallery)

2nd Logwood dye bath – Batik preparation

BATIK: Silk piece stretched to frame. Design drawn with blue water soluble marker pen design drawn. Applying bees wax to silk, with brush end and brushes.

Design drawn with water dissolvable blue marker pen.  Wax is applied as hot as possible. The centre motif worked best (and lightest outcome) where wax was hottest.  Keep heating up wax by placing dish over boiling water pan. Other surrounding wax markings with brush end dabs and hog bush worked less well.  The clearest resisted area is in the centre, where the wax was originally just off the boil. It also came away the easiest when ironed after dyeing. So I would not recommend using weak, faint brush marks when applying wax. It won’t form a strong enough ‘cover’ and the dye will seep behind which can be seen in image below, although a feint texture was achieved.

Shibori test techniques

1st logwood dye bath test created white resisted butterfly outlines (above) after stitching threads very tightly together. Rows of loose stitching, and threads pulled as much as possible, creating a ruched area which creates a resist area against dye penetration. 2nd soak in same dye bath (when most dyestuff had been taken up) revealed poor resist, using shibori stitch gathering (shown on waxed piece). Note: Shibori works well if fabric excluded enough from dye bath – so use thick embroidery silks or string type thread. Simple cotton thread was not thick enough.

Removing batik wax

When dyed fabric is dry – iron over thick brown paper (parcel paper type) placed over silk and wax; iron several times, with fresh paper and hot iron. When wax seems all removed, wash silk in hot water and soap. Any stubborn wax can be scrubbed very, very lightly with a soft brush, to loosen. (Note: wax batiking in this way for fashion, is not ideal on silk) Cotton is a firmer base for artwork where it wouldn’t matter if some residue of wax remains in fabric.

Result: 2nd Logwood dye bath with Batik Lilac-beige silk texture – subtle result after washing out logwood dye, and removing wax.

Fabric co-ordinates: Blend and contrast ideas with batik colour result prior to silk painting. (View Gallery)

Fabric co-ordinates: Final choices of fabric colours to create patchwork dress, to go with half finished silk painting.

Dulled pinks and dull brown with lilac seemed best combinations for the silk batik ground. The pink taffeta has a lilac sheen.

Choosing the pansy print as a co-ordinate allowed the addition of pansies in the silk painted design. This design didn’t really have a preconceived theme, only to use the nigella seed pod as a motif, and for the batik background experiment. Adding maroon silk seemed a good darker linking colour from the pansy print.

The green butterfly came from a photograph I took, and the red butterfly came from another printed fabric design.

Painted silk design result with co-ordinated fabrics chosen for dress.

Pansies added around seed pod design. Co-ordinating fabrics chosen.

Finished silk painting over batik with embroidery for added textural effect

Added embroidered lines on pansies give sparkly effect. Nigella seed pod is enhanced by dark seeds inside pod (arial view) and light embroidery on the pod ends. …The banana leaves would benefit from embroidery also.

Silk Painting ‘Nigella Butterflies’ made into dress centrepiece

Pink silk top – fabric co-ordinate taken from a blouse: colour is similar to the palest background in the logwood batik. Pink bodice top sewn to silk painting just under bust; simple overlap stitching. Original V-necked pink blouse was cut on the cross, so will stretch over varied bust fullness.

Fabric co-ordinate Brown cotton with lavender-pink design – added to bottom of silk painting, and usefully some dress parts could be utilised for armhole bands, as an additional design feature.

Front bodice Contrasting armhole band taken from neckline of co-ordinating fabric (dress). Pinned to pink silk bound edged armhole for stitching join by hand.

Back bodice – Contrasting armhole banding cut from back and underarm of co-ordinating fabric (dress).

Dressmaking process to be continued… August 2019

Clothes Treasure Paradigm

upcycled fabrics dress

A new fashion paradigm being experienced by designers, businesses and consumers is one by which clothes are treasured and valued for a variety of reasons based on overall sustainable production. This contrasts greatly with the existing buy-today, throw-away-tomorrow fashion business model.

UP-CYCLED – RECYCLED – ETHICAL FASHION

Vintage fashion is enjoying a wave of popularity, as consumers look for more individual, original garments, which now have a higher emotional value than the current season’s clothes from high street boutiques and chain stores

Why the growth in up-cycling?

The slow fashion CONSUMER is happy to spend more on garments which are sustainably produced.

The slow fashion DESIGNER or maker is happy to take longer on manufacture.

The constant waste of materials, with their associated production costs, is both an environmental and health dilemma. If you value the raw materials, of sustainable, ecological origins, you may value your garment more highly, and wear it for many years with a focus more on your clothes being timeless. (witness the popularity of ‘vintage’).

Dress, recycled fabrics

These days there is a proliferation of cast away clothes, a wasteful situation caused by fast fashion trends and cheapness of garments. Charity shops are brimming with last season’s clothes. Textile recycling and disposing companies are selling old clothes to Africa, impacting indigenous economies by reducing artisan production.

Shamanic Nights uses fabrics from charity shops, mostly very new and good quality. ‘Stonewashed’ Angles above, uses coffee/white dress prints, combined with original silk painted panels of angels and plants in colours to coordinate with fabrics used in dress, by Amelia Jane Hoskins, owner.

UNSUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODELS

STOP OR REDUCE LANDFILL

Textile waste statistics are alarming; 13 million tons per year in USA.  Organisations are growing to help with this problem.

High street chain fashion stores rush to produce ever cheaper clothes to compete with so called ‘demand’. But the demand is created by designers and companies who put out seasonal ‘fashion trends’, providing them cheap enough for customers to buy new stuff every season, to be ‘in fashion’ but obviously the main reason is to increase companies’ profits. Many of your clothes are made in sweatshops in far away lands, where labour is cheap.

People are finding labels from makers, as cries for help, in their garments.

http://www.ecouterre.com/two-more-primark-shoppers-find-worker-cries-for-help-in-their-clothing/

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/19/rana-plaza-uk-pressure-compensation-fund-victims

SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODELS

Slow fashion entrepreneurs and companies wish to change the unsustainable fast fashion model created since the industrial revolution. Their main criteria is to use ethical fabrics and/or small scale production; and to provide fair wages for garment makers.

Some designers are choosing to use ecologically produced textiles, some choosing to use pre-worn clothes and discarded textiles to remake into new originals for the discerning ethical buyer.

Ecologically minded consumers and fashion businesses support the development of sustainable fabric production and sustainable garment manufacture. Rather than relying on mass production, with associated use of cheap labour and possibly poor manufacturing quality guidelines.

SUSTAINABLE TEXTILES

Ecologically friendly fibres such as organic cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, grown without pesticides. Expensive pesticides leach into water systems causing health problems. Textile production is the second biggest contributor to water pollution globally. 20% of global industrial water pollution comes from treatment and dyeing of textiles.

Textiles produced in small quantities by artisans in small scale village communities, provide rarer originality of fabrics to be treasured by end customers. Natural dyes may be used. Collections may be limited. ‘FAIRTRADE’ cotton is available. Wages must be fare.

ORIGINAL FASHION

My personal philosophy is that there is already enough fabric in the world! Rather than buying new fabric, I’m personally committed to finding the best second hand garments to cut up, to recycle the best unworn fabric and combine in new ways. The result is a tailor made, freshly designed, totally original and new garment.

We must value our work in the new paradigm – unique and sustainable is best, and probably more expensive, rather than falling in line with the old paradigm, where cheapest is better despite the cost to the environment and peoples’ lives.

Some good books are:

TO DIE FOR ‘- Is Fashion wearing Out the world’? by Lucy Siegle.

SHAPING SUSTAINABLE FASHION‘ Changing the way we make and use clothes, edited by Alison Gwilt and Tina Rissanan, pub. Earthscan.

REFASHIONED‘ Cutting Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials by Sass Brown

Kimono-dress ‘Tasmanian Blues’ with bark-dyed silk AND shortie dress tunic ‘Nigella Blues’

Hand made patchwork dress in blues – featuring hand dyed silk collar and nigella seed pod appliques

Deep Gold natural dye achieved using Tasmanian eucalyptus bark
Dress available on ETSY Shop Shamanic Nights. ‘Tasmanian Blues’

Story of golden Tasmanian eucalyptus tree bark dye

Name ‘Tasmanian Blues’ is derived from Tasmanian origin of the eucalyptus bark (found in Hillier Gardens, Hampshire), used to create a dyebath. Silk collar and patches on garment are hand dyed (Habotai Silk 10) which took the dye bath so well – just soaking for an hour. Bark was previously steeped 24hrs then boiled, simmered for 2 hours, before removing from heat and adding silk.

A very deep gold was produced with the eucalyptus bark dye, which shines incredibly richly in sunshine. Lace pieces were left in the dyebath overnight and even though mixed fibres, took on a gold tone. Seed design applique motifs uses the lace dyed with eucalyptus bark. 

Gold dyed Habotai silk was painted on with Kniazef steam fixed dyes. The gold dye was so strong, that painted dye colours were hard to see, and needed redoing. Even specialised bleach for silk dyes did not work, so well is the eucalyptus dye fixed!

Habotai silk dyed with eucalyptus bark –
Left piece, modified with iron afterwards. Right piece original dye bath only.

Original dyestuff is bright gold in sunlight, but darker indoors. The darker gold piece is modified afterwords with iron sulphate (rusty nail liquid). Bottom right shows lace pieces dyed in cold dyebath overnight.

Story of patchwork blues.

I chose the blues to go with the gold silk, because 3 of the prints have gold areas with blues. Blue and gold are a classic mix, setting off one against the other.

Front buttoning strip features Chinese style print of Phoenix bird (right side) and tail of dragon (left side) which looks attractive as a focal point.

Two fabric prints have animalistic feel: the leopard or cheetah in blue/grey/black, and the navy blue/white ‘pheasant’ feather print. The blue lace was the right colour to add in. The light blue with text also has navy and some brown which blends in. By putting a variety of fabrics together, a new design idea comes alive. Phoenix and seeds could be a new theme.

Applique seed motifs

Bark dyed lace seed pod appliques, with silk dyed pieces added in centres

Using the eucalyptus dyed lace, emulated the texture of dried seed pods. Centre seed capsule part (in shadow from photo/drawing) is shown in dark gold dyed silk remnant on right-side garment, and left-side garment shows a lighter silk, bundle dyed from various seeds and dried flowers.

Making steps: ‘Tasmanian Blues’

Garment started by using a polyester dress as LINING. I kept the cross-over ‘V’ neckline and fitted my fabrics to it. NOTE: its useful to have neckline and shoulders of a lining garment to start off with. Once patchwork is attached to that, patchwork can simply continue down to hem. Its very useful to use a bodice top from another garment as lining to fit sleeves to. I often make an under bust, high waistline seam below the length of an upper patched piece, darting under bust; also optionally at back for better fit.

The lining dress only has short sleeves, so I used other polyester fabrics to lengthen them in patchwork. Outside sleeve fabrics are viscose floral print and others, seen in making photos. Last four photos show cuff addition to lengthen sleeve and give print interest. black fused interfacing ironed on. Fold extension over to show other fabric as an edge border contrast. Fold down outer onto lining. Pin cuff extension to outer sleeve patches. Machine or hand stitch down.

To give a fuller underarm, similar to kimonos; after inserting sleeves, I left underarm and side seams open, and cut strips for underarm gusset, using viscose fabric outer and navy lace inner: an elongated triangle about 4 inches to a point from underarm centre into sleeve length. (the lining dress was small size, so these inserts also enlarged fit up to 38″ bust.) Darts can be seen at front and back of bodice sections.

Back neck facing and simple front facing cut to fit dress front neckline.

A curved frill piece was used from the original lining dress to create a fit, which curves around back neck and fits to front edge of ‘V’ neckline. Cutting adjustments made to allow a shape that would extend the curve from centre back neck (left side photo 1.) continuing around to fit to dress front V neckline, and produce a simple fold back collar only at front. Once the under-fabric was established, an identical shape was cut in white cotton, to use as copy pattern for upper fabric patchwork, (which incorporates the eucalyptus dyed silk). Photo 2. ‘Collar/facing was firmed a little with fine fused black interlining.

Finnish kimono dress lower patchwork making:

Once upper bodice is completed (with or without sleeves), the lower skirt part of kimono dress is made by cutting rectangles and joining until there is enough to fit around the high waistline. This is the stage to consider which colours to juxtapose in lower garment. You may save some special pieces to show at front. Symmetry is a good idea: working from centre, to sides, repeating colour/shades similarly on either side. Start at the centre on the back, and work to the sides, adding patches until the desired width is reached, in correspondence to the upper bodice of dress. I describe an ad-hoc method of choosing fabric patches one by one, until enough are made. Alternatively, by calculating desired length of dress, and desired size of patches, you can calculate how many patches of each fabric colour or printed pattern will be needed in advance of cutting and machining. Lay them out on a table to desired colour juxtaposition, keeping in mind how the front and centre back will look. Work similarly from centre back, adding patches across and down, until length is reached. Create the patches in columns, then machine down the long rectangular panels, onto the under lining. (Fabric, or garment used as lining base). Allow 2-3 inches more at front and back, which can be gather-stitched to fit before seaming the bodice and skirt parts together. This could be darted if preferred. I darted the kimono-dress.

Tunic top ‘Nigella Blues’ in my ETSY Shop

There was enough blue themed fabric left to make small tunic dress. Again, patches are stitched onto an existing garment; a cream/white/brown/blue flora design A-line short sleeved flared top, which becomes the lining. The beige and blue on creamy peach work well with the blue patchworks, and also provide a light background to the blue lace patches, contrasting the lace: see top back photo and front lower side. (Light coloured lace can utilise darker backgrounds.) Short sleeves are unlined patchwork with bound viscose print hems.

The armholes were large, for a Plus size, so I darted the lining from armhole to bust point, and did same with upper patchwork. I cut down the centre due to extra width, and folded over edges for front facing firmness, still having enough to overlap for buttoning.

MAKING – bound button holes;

Making – Bound Button Holes

  • Mark width of button, add a little more. Sew a rectangle over button size area on right side of fabric.
  • Machine around, cut centre, cut into corners
  • Fold rectangle through to wrong side, Press flat with folds meeting, as shown.
  • Hand stitch lining to bound edges.
  • Top stitch on right side (optional). I did so here, due to fraying of lining fabric.

Applique motifs are inspired from Nigella seed pods grown in my allotment. Photos and drawings simplified for cut and sew. The centre silk has been dyed with eucalyptus bark before painting on (same silk as ‘Tasmanian Blues’ collar above), although darker due to after-modifying soaking in iron (rusty nail water makes a considerable darker change). Right photo seed pod has silk centre of bundle dyed silk with seeds and petals. Lace seed ‘pod’ fabric has been also dyed with eucalyptus bark, left overnight after initial silk dye has taken up most of the colour. Its always a good idea to see how deep a colour you can dye in the ‘left-over’ dye bath. See eucalyptus dying blog: