Above, cochineal and indigo on cotton voile
Summer's here and the time is right for... indigo dyeing! Actually, any time is right for indigo dyeing, but in summer you can hang your pieces outside to dry. They always look more beautiful in the sunlight.
My theory on dyeing is simple: There are virtually no mistakes. I mean this. If you create a color or a pattern that doesn't appeal to you -- or, let's face it, that you can't STAND -- then you simply overdye it, or discharge it, or make it into a garment that maximizes its seemingly limited potential. I have dyed fabric that I really thought was unsuccessful, only to sew it into a garment and have it turn out to be really appealing!
Now, having said this, I have had my share of flops, particularly with natural dyes. I find dyeing with natural dyes a far greater challenge than dyeing with chemical dyes. You have a harder time getting saturated colors, for one. It takes more work. Also, it's much, much harder to get the full range of colors that you can achieve with chemical dyes. Turquoise, for one, is an elusive color to achieve with natural dyes.
However, I do love the feeling, concept, ethos, whatever, of using dyes that come straight from nature. No detours, no factories, no threats to our threatened environment.
OK, enough lecturing!
Today, my friend Joan Rusitzky and I got our hands (and her floor) blue in an indigo vat. Joan is a wonderful dyer and shibori artist who sells her work at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY, among others.
Here are some of the results:
This, above, is a full view of the cotton voile yardage that I dyed in cochineal and indigo. I first immersed this piece in cochineal, not minding irregularities or blotchiness. Then I immersed it in an indigo discharge vat. (Someday I will make a fermentation vat, but that's another blog post.)
Finally, today, I rolled the fabric up lengthwise, tied it with rubber bands and string, and dipped it about five times in an indigo vat. The fabric you see is still oxidizing; it hasn't been washed yet and certainly hasn't been ironed. I'm not at all sure what I will make of it or what embellishments it needs -- but isn't that part of the fun? Discovering what something "wants" to become?
This is a scarf blank that I purchased from Thai Silks. It's a wool/silk blend, which gives it a nice hand and an interesting texture. Initially, I dyed this with onion skins and then walnut, to give it a golden-brown base color. Then I folded it, placed two wooden blocks on either side, clamped it, and immersed it about three times in the indigo vat. The darker color is a deep teal, which I really like.
This is another piece that needs more work. I may add another layer to this scarf, maybe a lace layer using fine wool/stainless steel yarn from Habu Textiles, knitted up on my knitting machine.
As every textile artist knows, the ideas come a lot faster than the final product. You have to love the journey.
To all my fellow fiber travelers out there: All those who wander are not lost, that's for sure. We create a lot of beauty as we wander!