Wednesday, March 28, 2012

And to Think that It Happened with an Indigo Vat!

With apologies to Dr. Seuss...

Well, not JUST an indigo vat. These scarves were dipped (how many times for each, I don't know) in an indigo vat and left to oxidize for several days. Next I immersed them both in a vat of Quebracho red with walnut dye solution added as an afterthought. I was just playing -- who knows how long or how much of each quantity I added!

Finally, I clamped on some circular disks to create a shibori resist and then immersed each scarf in a discharge vat. I used thiox to discharge the color -- which is the same ingredient used in my indigo bath to reduce the oxygen. Hence the unusual colors, because the thiox reactivated the indigo, creating wonderful and definitely unpredictable colors.

If anyone reading this knows more about why this happened, I would love to hear from you! I've had this happen before, where a discharge bath can reactivate the indigo color. I also know that an indigo bath can act as a discharge vat for other colors.

For the circle designs, I sometimes used wooden disks that had some blue acid dye still on them. It makes the circles look like the sun in an eclipse.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sunrise Sunset Coat

This coat was just juried into the fashion show for Convergence 2012, the biennial international conference sponsored by the Handweavers' Guild of America. This year's show and exhibit takes place in July in Long Beach, California.

My entry is titled "Sunrise Sunset Coat," marking the many changes this winter in the lives of the people I love. It's dedicated to my father who turned 88 in January and is now in long-term care at a wonderful nursing home, Penfield Place, in Penfield, New York.

The coat is woven on a warp of 60/2 silk, hand-dyed in two alternating color ways, which you can see in the stripes.

I used two different wefts: one of hand-dyed 60/2 silk (on the right side of the photo above) woven in stripes of 3/1 and 1/3 twill and the other of Habotai silk ribbon and handspun merino (on the left in the photo) dyed a deep burgundy and woven in plain weave. I love the way the warp flows every which way in the plain-weave fabric, which resembles a rag rug.

The pattern is by Issey Miyake, Vogue 1069, now out of print but still available from the Vogue website. It has a wonderful construction that drapes beautifully and flows gently over the body.

Thanks to Timothy Fuss for his artistry in the photos! They definitely show off the coat in its best light. For more on his work, visit

Monday, March 12, 2012

Woad vs. Indigo: Here's What Happens When You 'Get the Blues'

Last Saturday at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center, I taught a class on "Getting the Blues: Natural Dyeing with Indigo and Woad." The short story is that, among some 275 plants that have usable amounts of indigo in their leaves, woad and indigo are the most popular worldwide, indigo itself (indigofera tinctoria) being the most popular natural blue dye of all time. Both have been used for thousands of years (woad, for example, was used in the British Isles by the Picts to paint themselves blue during warfare). The textile industry in southern France, centered in Toulouse, was devoted to woad -- until the 16th century, when indigo was introduced from Asia and, literally, blew it out of the water! (OK, so I can't resist a bad pun.)

Indigo has the most concentrated levels of the blue pigment, which is why it's preeminent among its competitors. So I thought we'd have a class to demonstrate why. The photos below give you some of the results. (There are several qualifiers here: We were using chemical vats, not the fermentation vats of tradition, and students were using a variety of fibers. None were mordanted; all were soaked in water, some for days.)

 Above, Janet Leone's wool yarn dyed in indigo (left) and woad (right).

Photo: This was some wool roving that Judith Trolley brought along. She hadn't had a chance to soak it in water -- but the results were wonderful, none the less. She dyed this with both woad and indigo, to achieve a varied effect. Next comes the spinning, which I hope she'll share with us!

Photo: Mohair boucle brought by Eleanor Hartquist -- the skein on the left was dyed with woad, and the skein on the right was dyed with indigo.

Conclusion, from our brief and less-than-scientific experiment: All else being equal, indigo does, truly, provide deeper blues. Woad yields a lighter color, with just a bit more aqua to it, but equally beautiful, if not more so, to my eye. Ah, yes, the colors of southern France!

Thanks to all for a wonderful mess, er, class. And thanks especially to the folks who helped clean up. The dyeing kitchen looked pristine when they finished!

Weaving on the Curve in 20/2 cotton

Sampling on 16 shafts with different wefts (top to bottom):  S-twist linen crepe, Z-twist silk crepe, 60/2 spun silk 16-shaft sample with 60...