Friday, 29 February 2008

Doing too Much! Plus Woad, Genista and seeds.

I am doing too much.
These are all the things I am doing if I list them I might be able to see what can be dropped. I feel that if I was doing Master Chef ( if you are not in the UK and reading this just don't ask it is too complicated!) I would be told to focus and that dyeing does not get harder than this!
Projects on the go I am enjoying doing.
Inks-on the back burner at the moment but I had a big read of David Carvalho (40 centuries of ink) while waiting for a friend to get through her physiotherapy. I have taken notes and which need to be transcribed onto the computer as they are in two different if not three notebooks, I now want to try the recipe for black ink that includes logwood.
Fermenting Dyes and slow dyeing
I really enjoy doing this as it is:
a. Possible to leave stuff fermenting for days on my hotplates
b. It is really ecofriendly
c. It appeals to my desire to experiment
d. I want to write a booklet about it
e. Most importantly the colours seem so rich

Natural Dyeing using the extract dyes
I was one of the first people in the UK to use these and one of the few as a far as I aware who uses them to paint fibres and fabrics. However there are plenty of people who are using them now and I want to keep abreast of it all. I want to write a booklet on this as a part of the series ( Colours of the Earth, Colour of the Sea and Sky being the other two)
I am trying out all sorts of mixtures and it is the keeping of records and photographing the results that takes time however when I wrote the indigo book last year I had a wonderful time really enjoyed myself but it did take about three months of fairly intensive work. It was just after my father died and because I had been looking after him I did not have much work it only really picked up in April & May.
School Projects However I now have two school projects one on Celtic brooches/celtic inspired pencil cases. and one a community project both a week long. I can 't drop these and am committed to them and I need to start ordering fibres and making samples. On is in March one in April
What else- well a one day workshop with kids dyeing fibres and making celtic brooches in March, A brand new workshop Felt Sketchbooks in May for which I need to do some more work, getting a stall ready for the Regional day at Liverpool being run by Embroiderers in April and also the two day event Wonderwool at the end of April for which I not only need to make up packs and kit but also all the associated stuff-leaflets etc.
As I write this I start to feel quite panicky ! I am not sure that I have done much more than freak myself out and I either cannot drop a anything or don't want too!

Oh well!

Enys dropped off the list of seeds she has ordered for the dye garden. Fortunately all I have to do is read the list and make admiring noises.
Baptisia australis
Dyers camomile
Asceplias Tuberosa - don't ask! I can't find this in my dye books but Enys says that her herbal books say this is a dye plant.
Asarum Europ
Genista Tinctoria
Black pansies - I grew these last year ( well Enys grows them I just use them!)as a friend Annee Silk told me about them. They give a beautiful fabulous rich blue colour but not very lightfast but I want to try again and weather permitting try solar dyeing with them.
Annee has already sent me chinese woad
Incidentally my genista is coming into flower. Ilove Genista Tinctoria- this last two years it has given a fabulous colour as strong as weld but I have now used all of last years.

And today I dyed with this years new season of woad leaves and got a pale blue with two good handful of leaves and on about 25g of wool tops. see ! I should have been doing boring stuff like my accounts but I could not help trying out the leaves to see whether they would give a decent colour this early in the year.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Sketchbook collage

This picture on the left was the first collage using newspaper . Above is the second done about a week later using naturally dyed paper to collage with and focussing more on the lighthouse. The one on the extreme right was a bit of fun as I put the Gherkin in instead of the lighthouse from the London skyline. My family thought it looked like a Thunderbird and christened it Thunderbirds are Go. However I liked the sea.

The Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers have been running a workshop on sketchbooks. About a year ago I took the decsion to keep a sketchbook rather than just mount the bits that "worked" in a folder. I paint a lot in natural dye which are very watery so I needed something very heavy duty and bought my self a RKB Fat PAd with 300g/m2 or 140lb NOT water colour paper which was the heaviest I could get. It has been a discipline but I have enjoyed using it and have justt filled all the pages although some are real disasters! However I bought 2 more but regret not buying one of the Fat pads again as I liked it the best but it was very expensive ( £25 or so ) However I still felt I was not quite getting there with my sketchbook there were lots of different images but not one that had been fully developed. So I was pleased to join in the Online wsd workshop. One can drop in and out and it is really interesting watching how other people develop their ideas. The suggestion was that we should use cityscape but my eye was caught by a picture on the front page of the Guardian showing Porthcawl Lighthouse in South Wales almost submerged by a very high sea. This was about two weeks ago. The picture on the right above was the first one I did from the image using natural dye paints and pastels. The one to the left ( don't ask Google put them in that order why I dont know!) is the second one also in natural dyes. The one underneath is painted using indigo and my own gallotannic ink,
Google won't let me add any more images so onto my next post with the rest

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Gallnut ink

I am in the process of making a gallotannic ink. On the left are 50g of gall nuts about 10 years old -at least- I have had them on my shelf for least six years and my friend Anne Campbell , who taught me to spin, gave them to me and she had had them for a while.
I rolled them up in a tea towel and bashed them with a rolling pin till they were crushed this took about a couple of minutes. ( top right)
Then I put them into soak. Jenny Dean in Wild Colours says to leave them in soak till they become soft. At first they floated on the surface, it is only now only two days later that they have begun to sink and they are still hard.The water has become a dark brown.
More later!

Monday, 4 February 2008

Inks from natural dyes

I feel quite nervous about putting up my findings from reading about inks. Partly because I feel that some real expert will pop up and tell me I should have done my research more thoroughly. This is no doubt because I took The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Paintings by Daniel V Thompson on holiday and read it beside the pool making rough notes form which thse notes come.
Well here goes:
As I am interested in creating inks which are brightly coloured indeed intense I have tended to go for the inks used in medieval manuscript painting as these appear to have been the brightest most intense colour.

Daniel Thompson feels that colour could be applied to parchment ( made form skin), to wooden panels or to walls. By and large the colour that could be used to apply to parchment was described as ink as it could flow through a nib or be painted with a fine brush. However the issue of light fastness does come into play. Dyes used as inks in manuscripts did not have to be so lightfast as dyes used on panels or on fresco's.
Ink comes from "incaustum" meaning burnt in.
Lampsoot Ink The ink of Antiquity
A Suspension of Carbon
The oldest form of ink, known to Egyptians, was soot, water and gum. Lampsoot was valued because the particle size was very small so required no further grinding and was made by letting a flame play on a cold surface. The Chinese however developed lampsoot ink to a very high standard and an artform too using lampsoot, water and gum and various other ingredients to help it run smoothly and smell nice. It took long beating and was designed for brushing and painting on the very absorbent surfaces of handmade paper. The art side of it happened in as Chinese ink was dried and compressed and set in wood moulds with carved pictures.

Lampblack and gum does not bite into surfaces as does gall ink but sits on the surface and if the gum becomes brittle or has not been prepared properly then the writing disappears.

In the medieval age carbons were made from charcoal from young shoots of grape vine, but others such as peach stones were highly favoured.

Black Gall0 -Tannic inks
These are the suspension of black organic salts of iron mixed with other salts which become black after use.
Oak trees form galls or gallnuts as a result of a sting of an insect and thse galls are full of tannic and gallic acid which Daniel Thompson says can be soaked out of the galls. Jenny Dean in Wild Colour, say to crush, soak until they are soft and then to simmered for an hour to extract the tannin. When these acids are mixed with iron salts such as ferrous sulphate ( rust) a purply black ink results.
Modern techniques are so good that the black is not visible because of the purity of the ingredients, but in medieval times some black colour was produced otherwise the black appears on oxidation and improves with time. Some gum arabic is usually added to thicken and to improve the flow.
Well that is all I have time for tonight .

Friday, 1 February 2008

Mohair dyed in indigo and fermented buckthorn bark

I have had someof this mohair for a while now so started to pop it into the dye pots. This one was dyed in one dip indigo and then left in the fermenting buckthorn bark while I was on holiday. I had actually forgotten it as there! It has come out the most fabulous colour.
The mohair comes from Lesly Prior's farm and you can see pictures of her mohair goats on her blog at
I also have some of her Bowmont fleece which I am washing in my small slow cooker about 50g at a time. I spindle spun some on holiday plied wth silk-which I really enjoyed doing. I want to dye this fleece in the dark turquoises I dyed my Shetland Ryland cross and fortunately now have a new delivery of the Green extract which will give this colour. My problem is that I have too many things on the go, and now I also want to do the latest workshop on the Online Guild of WEavers Spinners and Dyers which is on sketchbook an area I feel that I could learn a lot. sigh-not enough hours in the day!