Monday, December 29, 2014

New Warps, New Camera Lens, New Year!

To paraphrase the old cliche: I don't know much about photography, but I know what I like. And I really like my new "Nifty Fifty" lens that my children gave me for Christmas.

All I know about photography, other than a class I took back in the day, is that a digital SLR takes the best photos because it has the most powerful sensor. That and something I learned from Rachel Biel of Rayela Art, founder of TAFA, the Textile and Fiber Art List. When I joined TAFA, she looked at my Etsy page and made a valuable comment: While my photos were good, they could be even better if they had a shallower depth of field. This would highlight the garment and make the background all out of focus, both literally and figuratively.

How to do this? I had no idea, as I had learned about photography back when you manually set your own F stops and shutter speed. On the new digital cameras, I hadn't a clue. So I asked my son, a professional filmmaker and videographer (visit Jake Kovnat at Sons and Daughters in Toronto by clicking here). He told me that all I needed was a "Nifty Fifty" lens, which meant a 50mm lens that you could set at a 1.8 F stop. (Don't ask me; that's all I know.)

So now I'm good to go! Oh yes, about those two warps: They're silk noil, I think a 17/2 weight, that I dyed using WashFast Acid Dyes. The colors are what I call "Chagall," meaning that they derive from one of his wonderful paintings set at midnight with lovers flying through the sky.

The warps are ready to beam for a sample for my upcoming MAFA class, "Paint 2, Beam 1," looking at how to achieve an ever-changing color palette in your weaving by painting two individual warps and beaming and weaving them together as one. (For more on the Mid-Atlantic Fiber Association and its July 2015 conference, click here.)

Here's an example of what you can do with "Paint 2."

Updates to come, as I beam and weave my Chagall warps....

Monday, December 15, 2014

Scenes from a Class on Shibori with Natural Dyes

Two samples of arashi shibori on cotton by Joan Rusitzky, 
using osage orange (gold color) and indigo.

"Sawdust, Leaves, and Bugs: Shibori with Natural Dyes" is the full name of the class, a workshop I taught over the weekend at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center. Students brought in cellulose fabric (cotton, linen, rayon, and silk) for dyeing in three different vats: osage orange (for golden yellow), cochineal (for magenta) and indigo. We also did some discharging of dyes, using RIT Color Remover.

The results were wonderful. Students went from vat to vat, clamping, tying, stitching, folding, and otherwise creating shibori resists that allowed colors to blend or contrast in a number of patterns.

Above: Barbara Mauger dyed a silk scarf, beginning with a base of osage orange 
(made lemon yellow because it was simmering in a copper pot), 
then clamping with spiral forms and finally dipping in an indigo vat. 
The red color on the lowest spiral comes 
from a bit of old dye that was still on the spiral resist.

We learned that natural dyes could successfully be discharged using RIT Color Remover. I had used this often on man-made dyes but had no practice on natural dyes. Nor could I find anything online to document that it would work. So we found out for ourselves that it was effective, with the vat being hot enough (about 160 degrees Fahrenheit) and enough time elapsing (at least 15 minutes) for the fabric to sit in the vat. Another insight: Michel Garcia recommends that cotton fibers will work better in natural dyes if they are pre-mordanted in aluminum acetate rather than the traditional aluminum sulfate mordant. I looked this up online and found that an over-the-counter pharmaceutical product, commercially named Domeboro, is made of aluminum acetate. That's what we used, at approximately one package of Domeboro per one ounce of fabric. It worked great!

Typically, it's hard to get saturated colors on cotton fabric using natural dyes. I believe (and this is not based on research but rather on my own assessment) that it does help intensify the colors.

Eleanor Hartquist used long cords to scrunch up her fabric, 
which we think was either cotton or linen. Not sure. 
The brown color you see here was a base color, 
achieved by dipping first in osage orange and next in cochineal.

Eleanor's fabric, after immersing in cochineal once again, then opening the fabric, 
 then again folding and clamping it and immersing it in indigo.

On the final day of class, just for fun, I made a vat of onion-skin dye, which produces a lovely golden/rust color. Below is a photo of some silk yarn that Eleanor decided to wrap (an Ikat technique) and immerse in the onion skin dye.

Eleanor's onion-skin-dyed yarn, using Ikat techniques. The color in this photo 
may be skewing a bit toward the red end of the spectrum, but you get the idea! 

Lots of fun and color for a December weekend. I'm thinking of presenting anther workshop along these lines in the future, perhaps using madder, onion skins, and woad. Let's see, that would have to be named "Roots, Peels, and Leaves...." 

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties. Please Stand By.*

*Warning: This post is just partly about fiber. Remember those test patterns on your old black and white TV? They were typically accompanied...