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 learned kumihimo braiding. Kumihimo is a traditional Japanese technique of braiding to create intricately colored cords. The cords are strong but slender, and have a multitude of uses. Samurai once used kumihimo as laces for their armor.
We had a great, unexpectedly large number of members who showed at this meeting. We had an indigo pot and Sandy, Sharolene and Marcia did shibori folded indigo dyed shirts.
Sharolene’s shibori indigo dyed shirt.
Sandy’s Indigo Shibori Dyed Shirt
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. But in October 2017 we will meet on October 29th ( fifth Sunday) due to various conflicts.
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 “a substance used in dyeing to fix the coloring matter“. 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.
Our meeting on a beautiful Sunday afternoon had us dipping into the indigo pot again. Once again we experimented with the results of various ways of patterning our fabrics.
And Shar processed some madder root for a red dyebath some day.