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...." 

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