Deborah Chandler, a name well-known in the weaving world, has been working for many years with Guatemalan handweavers to help them find a way to sell their beautiful work at a fair price to help support their families. But she also understands the economic challenges this creates. This is a thought-provoking discussion of the dilemma faced by handweavers, as well as many artists and craftsmen, not just in Guatemala, but throughout the world.
Most of us do at least some of our projects and experiments using natural dyes. And many of us know Kathy Hattori who has a company called Botanical Colors. Kathy has recently been in Alaska finding dye sources and is featured in a short video by Jenny Nichols called Wild Alaska. Here is a look at what she has found.
On this warm day we met to once again experiment with our indigo pot. There were seven of us: Phyllis, Sandy, Sharolene, Ann, Anne, Natalie, and Laura.
Ann’s shawl on the left was originally bright pink until it was dipped into the indigo pot. And her shirt on the right was bound into pleats with rubber bands at the neck and the hem for a decorative resist when in went into the pot.
Natalie, one of our new members, is also learning to spin on a wheel that has a history and is in need of some tweaking. Several of us helped her determine that there was a bit of a wobble when the wheel went round but we think she can make an easy fix.
We experimented with immersing items in the dyepot for a longer period of time versus repeated dips to see if there was a color difference. There did not appear to be but we will see if the color fades less in the one we left in the pot longer.
We also discussed ways to connect with others like Natalie and Laura who might like to share in our adventures with spinning, dyeing, and weaving. A very nice day!
We had our usual indigo dye pot and a cochineal dye pot as well. (Cochineal comes from a small beetle that lives on cactus pads!) We are also making kumihimo lanyards for the Conference of California Handweavers (CNCH) meeting in 2018. Here are some photos of some of our efforts. Of course, Phyllis’s dog Flicka had to take a look too.
We met, as usual, in Phyllis’s back yard on one of the hottest afternoons of the year. We came prepared with fibers and fabrics that had earlier been soaked in an alum solution (called a mordant in fabric talk). There are various elements that can mordant fiber. All help the dyes fix to the fabric and often affect the kind of color the dyes provide. Alum is a safe and easy-to-use mordant.
We are always interested in learning what we can about using natural dyes produced by plant and animal products as opposed to dyes created in a chemical lab. People have used these dyes for thousands of years to provide color in there fabric and sometimes even to paint their bodies. (We are sticking to just the fabrics.) Today we are using osage orange (Maclura pomifera) twigs and cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) produced by tiny bugs that live on cactus plants. We will also use some indigo (a plant dye that produces blue) on some of our fibers after they have been dyed yellow or red.
Anni introduced us to the wide range of colors that can be produced by natural dyes.
We then set to work with our own fibers. Here are some of the results of our day of dyeing.
We meet on the third Sunday of the month from 12:00 to 3:00.
On a perfect summer day we met at Phyllis’s to prepare for our dye workshop next month. We needed to mordant our yarns and fabrics to prepare them to “take” the cochineal and osage orange dyes we will use next month. For dyers a mordant is “ “. In our case we are using alum.
After weighing all our fibers, we soaked them thoroughly to ensure they were wet throughout:
We measured alum by weight, using one-tenth the weight of the dry fiber, and put it into a small bit of water which we heated to dissolve the alum. After removing our thoroughly wet fiber from the pot and wringing it out, we added the alum and fiber to large pots of water, heated it and simmered it for an hour.
And then we hung the fiber on the fence to dry.
While all this was happening, we had plenty of time to talk and show each other our latest projects.