Saturday, October 6, 2012

Heading Out On An Adventure

A few months back I spent some time playing with a sampler box of exotic dyestuff. At the same time I was reading a wonderful book about Navajo weavers that included stories of hunting for the roots and bark that were used for traditional colors. I tried the dyes in my sampler box then gave Queen Anne’s Lace (which was running rampant across our back fields) a try and ended up liking it best. I quickly realized that what truly excited me about my initial experiments with natural dyes was the possibility of producing beautiful colors from the plants and trees growing right in my own back yard.

I started scouring threads on Ravelry related to natural dyeing.

I stumbled upon Grackle and Sun and Whatzitknitz - two blogs I love to visit now because of the  generous way these fiber artists share their discoveries.

Somewhere in my surfing I heard there was a workshop being offered by the talented fiber artist and author India Flint, and everything- the timing- the location- and the funds came together so that I will be able to attend.

India has developed a process she calls “Eco Printing” which she writes about in her book of the same name. Her process involves bundling the dyestuff in fabric and then processing the bundles in various ways. She focuses on regionally available materials and gathers them responsibly- often using windfalls. She avoids poisonous mordents and embraces the fact that some of her color and prints may not be fast.

Walking out back I noticed we have a shrub that was just covered with small dark purple berries.  When crushed the juice was inky purple. I asked a friend of mine who is a horticulturalist to help me identify it. He told me it is called “Common Buck Thorne”. He also mentioned most people consider it a weed shrub.  Well I guess my taste leans toward a love of weeds because I think the shrub itself is pretty attractive.

I decided to do a little playing around with the berries. I soaked an old natural colored cotton/linen shirt in vinegar- gathered a bowl of the Buck Thorn berries and some other leaves- mostly wild grape- and some goldenrod flowers. I arranged them on the shirt- rolled it up- tied it up -and let it sit a few days. When I unrolled it color had transferred to the shirt in really interesting ways. The photo doesn't really do the subtle color variations justice.

I’m really excited to be able to work with India and the others gathering for her workshop. I have been preparing my supplies and packing- ready to head out tomorrow.

I am taking twenty pieces of fabric – a mix of wool and silk. They needed to be labeled so I cut little patches from a favorite old and very worn cotton shirt. I printed the patches with a monogram stamp I carved. Then I sewed them on my fabric samples with various colors and stitches.

I noticed after I cut up my shirt that I was left with the pockets and the button bands.  We are to bring a nametag so I got the idea to sew my pockets together and use the button bands to go around my neck. Then I decorated it with a patch stamped with a face and added my name.  The pockets sewn together actually form three pockets and it seems like it will be a handy place to stash my iPod- or glasses or a little notebook and pencil.

I’ll be back home midweek. Then I touch down and regroup to head to Wisconsin for a work related conference.  It will be a busy but fun week and probably a little quiet on the blog. I’ll catch up with you latter-

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