Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Indigo Days

Woven shibori samples, Monk's Belt threading.

My second time indigo dyeing included 3+ PFD cotton swatches, nine woven shibori samples (Twill, and Monk's Belt), and one woven shibori scarf (border area of Monk's Belt).  I'm using the cotton swatches basically to test color before dipping the handwoven pieces.  

This was my first attempt at achieving shades of indigo (photo above), and had some success and look forward to trying for more (and keeping accurate notes).

Scarf with woven shibori borders.

The last piece dyed this day was my first woven shibori scarf, woven to have a border at each end, and solid blue in-between.  After the first dip, I could see a couple areas where the dye he not penetrated through the cottolin threads, so it was given a second dip, leaving it a very dark blue.  The samples and scarf were rinsed many, many times; after nearly dry they were pressed and hand-hemmed. 

I had hoped to have more scarves woven and be on the porch dyeing again, but have been sick the past four days.  While sitting here, thought perhaps tomorrow I could at least dye a bit more PFD cotton (I'll do something with those swatches someday), but a check of weather revealed the high will be 44 F.  So, three or so days of weaving, then more indigo dyeing Friday through Monday when warmer and sunny.

My 5 gal. indigo vat is parked in my kitchen on my woodburning range (not in use at present), and even with a lid on, I can smell the contents.  Hoping to move it out to the porch soon, but need the nights to warm up more.  Now, I need to start gathering supplies and begin learning shibori techniques, as well as how to get various mottled, cracked, and other effects on the cotton (non-shibori).  There are 28 yards here to use for learning.   

After a last snow/sleet/ice storm late Mother's Day night, spring has finally arrived in the WI Northwoods.  Forsythia are in bloom, the lilac has leaves, and my apple tree, too.  Perennial herbs are emerging.  And with windows open at night, I am treated to a symphony of spring peepers, the whippoorwill singing, an owl hooting, coyotes howling, and a couple other unknown nocturnal birds calling occasionally.  And of course, the loons on the lake call to each other during the night.

My yard has turned into a porcupine hangout!  A few nights ago, about midnight, through an open window, I heard a sound I'd heard before, and it suddenly dawned on me what it was,... porcupines chewing on wood.  On my wood sawhorses on the porch!  Last fall they had done this and I'd laid the sawhorses up on their sides up on a long table, but I'd set them down again so I could do my dyeing on the lakeside porch.  Well, what could I do but shout, stomp, and herd them toward the steps and off the porch, then moving buckets aside, hoist the sawhorses up out of their reach.  Sorry, no photo.  But,...

Baby porcupine on the ground, mom trying to climb.

On the afternoon I started to not feel well, I looked out to see a porcupine on the old salt lick (hasn't had salt on it for perhaps 15 years).  I grabbed my phone/camera and went out, and discovered there was also a baby underneath it!  Mom, in an effort to distract me, immediately tried to climb, bumping her head on the "roof" of the structure, and quickly discovered she could get around it,...

Mama porcupine climbing high.

... and climb much higher.  I snapped a couple photos and went back inside.  Perhaps an hour later, I looked out again,...

Baby porcupine, turn its back to me and raising its quills.

... and the baby was on the empty salt lick, mom was still up the tree.   After a couple more photos, I left them alone.  

As I write this tonight, it is raining, and looking outside,... there is a porcupine on the salt lick.   

My nighttime reading, "A Different Kind of Luxury, Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance" by Andy Couturier (Stone Bridge Press).  The book profiles ten individuals living in old, mountainside homes, living simply, growing their food, practicing their arts, living intentional lives. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Woven Shibori and First Indigo Dyeing

First attempt at indigo dyeing!

Perhaps four years ago or so I purchased "Woven Shibori," by Catherine Ellis, and was fascinated by the both the technique and the results when dyed.  A year or so ago, I signed up for an online self-study class, "Let's Dye with Indigo" by Glennis Dolce - Shibori Girl,  The class is set up with lessons on a blog, you work at your own pace, and there is also a student forum where you can post photos of your work, ask questions, and get answers.  I'd also picked up a couple books on the subject including "A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing" by Vivien Prideaux.  

Finally, a couple months ago I beamed an 8" wide warp to weave samples, leaving it set up for the 10 shaft twill I had been weaving.  The warp and weft were Swedish 22/2 cottolin which I had on hand.  Needing something strong for the gathering threads, I used seine twine, having a couple partial tubes on my shelf.  I've never been able to break that  with my hands, so felt pretty sure it would not break during the gathering process.

The second cottolin warp was made 10" in width, the loom was re-tied and threaded for Monk's Belt, for a couple samples and two or three scarves.  Cottolin is not my first choice for scarves, but for experimenting with ideas, it is working fine.  I also expect as I go finer with threads, the results are going to change somewhat.

Not having a good indoor space for dyeing, and living where winter sometimes seems endless, I had to wait for decent weather to begin.  I finally set up yesterday for my first indigo dye attempt.

The outside temp was about 64 F., so I decided to set up on the lakeside porch and enjoy the sun and view (photo above).  I brought out all my supplies, and using the directions from Dharma Trading Co., mixed up my first indigo vat using Pre-Reduced Indigo, Thioureau Dioxide (Thiox), and Soda Ash.  (Follow the instructions carefully and use recommended safety precautions!) 

Pre-reduced indigo vat with "flower" forming on surface.

After mixing the vat, I waited a bit, expecting to see more "flower" on the top.  When that didn't happen, I cut about 1/4 yard+ off a bolt of PFD cotton, cut it into thirds, and after soaking those pieces of cotton along with one woven shibori sample in water, wrung it out and lowered it into the vat.  Bringing it out, it was yellow-green, and as the indigo oxidized, turned a beautiful bright-dark indigo blue.  I dyed the other two cotton swatches, giving one a second dip for a darker navy color, then the woven shibori sample.  All were rinsed five times, and still blue was coming off in clear rinse water.

Woven shibori sample, tightly gathered, one dip in vat.

Freshly indigo dyed cotton swatches and woven shibori sample (on right).

I laid them over a drying rack, with plastic underneath to catch the drips, and let them start drying, later moving them inside over a floor heat vent.

Had I pulled the gathering threads tight enough on the woven shibori sample?  Did indigo penetrate all the way into those tight "pleats?"  Would I need to untie all the knots on those remaining samples and tighten those gathering threads even more?  I had to find out before dyeing the remaining nine samples and scarf. 

After cutting a few knots I started to gently open the pleats.

So mid-evening last night, I carefully clipped the tight knots along one edge of the sample.  I'd read the threads would not come out easily if the piece was still wet, which it was (not dripping wet, but not beginning to feel dry, either).  Now on this piece, I had started with four rows of plain weave between pattern (twill) rows, after a few inches had increased it to eight rows, and a few more inches later, increased to ten rows. 

Sample nearly half open, and changes visible.

In the area of four rows of plain weave and gathering threads close together, I could start to open it but it wasn't easy.  I changed from small pointed scissors to a blunt needle to, thread by thread, ease the gathering threads out.  Further down, at eight rows of plain weave, the pleats opened easier, and at ten, easier yet.  Why had I woven the sample that way?  To see the effects of the indigo, to see what happened with the now elongated twill line, and to see what kind of effect the spacing of the gathering threads would have on how far in the indigo penetrated the pleats.

All gathering threads removed.

At four rows, you see the now steep twill line moving across the piece; at eight rows the movement has nearly stopped and there is a bit more light blue appearing; at 10 rows the vertical lines appear a bit wider and more blue penetrated into the pleats.

I rather like the few "irregularities" in it where short lines cross the long vertical lines.  I believe they are the result of a few areas where the pleats, when gathering, didn't gather and line up exactly as all the rest, despite my attempts to fix them.   

So today, I will examine the other samples to see if I want to tighten anything up before dyeing them, particularly the Monk's Belt, where the gathering threads are long floats with I believe ten rows of plain weave between each pattern row.  I expect, as in the  bottom of the above photo, more indigo will be work its way into the pleats. 

In a video in Lesson 1, Glennis demonstrates how to take amounts from the original vat, add to water, to get lighter shades of indigo, something I will also be experimenting with for these samples.  

I did notice on the plain weave on each end of this sample, with one dip, the indigo had not totally penetrated the threads, but I did not want it any darker.  Reducing the strength of color will allow me to dip the samples more than once.   

There is more warp to weave off, perhaps a couple scarves worth.  And now there are tubes of 16/2 Swedish cotton (from Glimakra USA) waiting, along with tubes of 20/2 cotton (from Lunatic Fringe), so a lot more weaving and dyeing coming up. It's going to be a wonderful summer!

P.S.  Glennis Dolce is about to leave for Japan, leading a silk, indigo study tour, so if you contact her, please be patient! 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Spring Activites at the Studio


"Lammskinn" and "Skinnfeller."

The second book I sent for, on working with sheepskins arrived, "Lammskinn."  This is the book mentioned in a previous post that I'd seen in issue 1/2013 of VAV Magazine.  "Lammskinn" is in Swedish, and appears to focus more on items to wear.  "Skinnfeller" is in Norwegian, and is more functional items, along with the stamping done on the leather, an old art in Norway I am told.  I am just beginning to translate them, using Google Translate along with a little help when needed, when I need clarification or something doesn't make sense.  I am doing this for my own learning.  Photos are wonderful, but I want information, too.  Why did I order these?  I wanted to know how sheepskins are stitched to woven coverlets, and though I could just put it together, I wanted to know how it is done in those countries where this type of coverlet is a long tradition.  Thankfully, "Lammskinn" has a couple photos with diagram of how to stitch the two together.  A lot to spend for that bit of information, yes, but there is so much more contained in these books and I want to learn.

First woven shibori scarf, in progress.

After weaving ten samples, most on the 10 shaft twill threading, and a couple on Monk's Belt, I re-warped the loom with enough warp for two or three scarves, the photo above is of the first, in progress.  This will be a scarf with woven shibori border at each end. 

Scarf (far left) and ten samples, ready to be dyed.

On the left, above is the scarf with woven shibori border at each end, and the ten samples.  Such a tangle of threads!  Laying horizontally across the top is a sample with the gathering threads trimmed.  I want to be sure things are tight enough before trimming the rest as it will be easier to tighten and tie with the longer threads. 

Woven shibori is an interesting process, full of possibilities.  You weave with white, warp and weft, and the gathering thread.  Off the loom, you gather from one side, tie tightly, then gather and really tighten things up from the other side.  Most of the samples were 8" wide at the reed, and the scarf was 10" wide at the reed.  After gathering tightly, they are now perhaps 1 1/8" to 1 1/4" wide.

If all goes well, I hope to make up my first indigo dyepot tomorrow, and will test if the vat is working, and depth of color, with a small piece or two of PFD cotton, then try one of the woven samples.  After they are wet, and the first sample dyed, I will probably open it up to see if the tightened pattern threads kept the dye out, or not.  If not, I'll have to open up and tighten all the threads on all the samples and scarf, then proceed.  I'll be taking photos during the process, and of the results afterward. 

I kept hoping for spring and warmer temps, and late in April we did have a couple warm days, then it went back to cold, freezing rain, sleet, and even a bit of snow early in May.  Tomorrow should be 64 or so, warmer would be better, as I want to do the dyeing outside on the lakeside porch, close to water source, and stove, or hotplate or something if I need to warm the vat a bit.  Also, I can tie clothesline between the house, a pine tree, and a fence post to have a place to hang the samples and scarves.  I'd really prefer to not have indigo soaking into pine floors.

I had hoped to possibly start the dyeing this morning, but then the phone rang...  it was Wild Instincts (I am a rescue driver for them).  Could I go out and get a loon that had landed on a road?  Yes.  So put bin, bag with heavy gloves, etc. in the back of my vehicle and was on my way.  Arrived, no loon, no people, checked my phone, they had called back, the loon had been taken to an animal hospital, so turn around and head down the highway. 

I put the box the loon was in into my large bin as I didn't want it deciding to try and escape or get injured further.  All was well until I reached Rhinelander when there was a fair amount of thumping going on in back.  I pulled off the road and sure enough, the loon had had enough and was trying to get out of the box.  No choice, but to put the lid on the bin (there are lots of airholes) for the last 10 minutes of the ride.  I'd left it off as I didn't want the loon to overheat.  When I arrived and took the lid off, the loon was, of course, still in the bin, but no longer in the box!  An intern examined the loon and found scapes on the bottom of both feet and one "toe" was a bit split.  Injuries were sprayed with appropriate meds and it was determined the loon could be released right away.  So back into the bin, I drove the intern a mile or so down the road, and she was able to release the loon onto a now ice-free lake.  That was one happy loon!  The three photos below are from early this afternoon.  I've been doing this rescue driver work for perhaps twelve years, and this was the first time I was there to witness a release.  What a joy!

Common Loon, after treatment, back in bin for ride to a lake.
Wild Instincts intern releasing the loon at a northwoods lake.


The loon immediately swam away, and began diving.  A very happy ending!