Friday, October 19, 2012

Shibori Dyeing with Walnut and Indigo

Silk chiffon, first dyed with indigo, 
then shibori-dyed using walnut

It's not easy, at least in my view. The colors of natural dyes are far more subtle and the behavior of natural dyes is far more quixotic than with man-made dyes. With acid dyes, what you want to achieve and what you achieve can be one and the same, or very close. With natural dyes -- well, it depends and it depends.

How much dye do you use? Which mordant and how much? How long do you let the fabric "cure"? Indigo, of course, has quite predictable colors -- but try creating shibori effects. Not so easy!

Even so, I insist on trying, because the colors are so gentle and the patterns so intriguing.

Quilting cotton, first dyed with cochineal,
then over-dyed with indigo, then tied and immersed in walnut,
then clamped and immersed in indigo

In addition to the challenge of achieving predictable results, I think it's the softness of the colors that distinguishes natural dyes from man-made dyes. It's an understated palette -- unless, that is, you devote countless hours to dyeing and overdyeing, in order to achieve really saturated colors.

Wool gauze, dyed in two successive walnut baths,
then clamped with resists and immersed in a discharge vat,
and finally clamped with resists and immersed
several times in an indigo vat

This last fabric, pictured above, was perhaps the hardest-won, in terms of the colors achieved. First I immersed it in walnut. Then, not quite satisfied with the depth of color, I created another walnut vat and immersed the fabric once again. I might have stopped there -- the color was a deep, rich brown -- but I wanted some kind of resist pattern on the piece. So I tied it up and immersed it in a discharge vat, then retied it and immersed it in an indigo vat. The results were disappointing -- VERY disappointing. A wrinkled fabric the color of mud, with a darker muddy pattern and permanent creases from the heat of the dye vat. (No photos of THAT, needless to say.)

Final steps: trying once again, I threw the whole piece in a discharge vat. It worked like a giant eraser, taking out all the color of the previous two steps. Back to a rich walnut color. Finally I clamped the piece with resists and immersed it again in a highly concentrated indigo vat. Yay! Colors and pattern that work just fine.

I'm teaching the course next spring at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center. Details to appear soon in the "Classes" section of this blog.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are extremely beautiful results Denise! The magic and mystery of natural dyeing, always that element of letting it happen and relinquishing some control. I love Black walnut. The brown has a richness, warmth and depth that is so satisfying to me. And mixed with indigo - well that's just sublime.

Sampling, in Search of Beautiful Cloth

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