Friday, 31 October 2008

A lovely book and I am in it!

Look what popped through my letter box two days ago! This is Textiles Now by Drusilla Cole published by Laurence King ISBN 978-185669-572-5. It is book of glorious photos of Textile Art. Some of the artists in it are ones that I know like fellow blogger and batik artist Robin Paris and Isabella Whitworth, who paints the most fabulous scarves, as well as some of my favourite artists such as Alice Kettle whose stunning and huge embroidered textiles I have admired for a very long time. ( I have one of her preliminary sketches for the Odyssey). And lots and lots of fabulous work by artist new to me that now I shall look out for . The colours and the textures are fabulous and the quality of the book is outstanding I think. And I am in it too.! I am so proud to be in such a fantastic collection of work. It really made my day, as it is the first time I have ever appeared in a collection of work. Dru contacted me shortly after my father died in January 2007 which gave me a boost at the time. She had seen my name on Natural Dyes Online and then had gone to have look at my photos on my website. It shows how good it is to have an Internet presence. The two picture she chose were Sea and Sand and the Rough Sea both sold, the Rough Sea recently. Below is the Rough Sea and another Sea and Sand also sold, part of the same series as you can see from the name but not actually the one in Dru's books as I can't it find that on on my computer -odd. Oh well.

Here is the picture of the wall at the local gallery with my current pictures on it. Not a brilliant photo I am afraid as I had real problems with the reflection in the glass.

Oh! I forgot to say yesterday was my blogaversary! My blog is now one year and one day old.

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Here are the results of dyeing with cosmos from my garden .

I picked 300g of flower heads, covered with tap water in my traditional style slow cooker and left this on overnight. The advantage of this slow cooker is that unlike the more modern electric casserole it does not reach boiling but heats to between 80 & 90 degrees C and can therefore be left on overnight without too much fear that the studio will burn down and the colour will be spoiled by boiling. I allowed ( this really means that I was to busy to do anything with it ) it to cool, when the bath was red and then dumped in what I had left in my mordant pot which turned out to mixed fibres of silk laps, Lesley Prior 's Bowmont, teeswater fleece and some 18.5 micron merino. These had been mordanted in 8% alum, 7%cream of tartar and I left them to heat gently for about 24 hours before removing. This morning when I came to check, the dye bath was a soft yellowy green which for some reason does not show up well in the photos. I made samples as follows. I remove about a 100ml - (this is quite approximate incidentally)- of liquid and added to it appropriate chemicals as follows. A small glug of ammonia ( about 5ml) ), a 1/16 teaspoon of stannous chloride , the same plus ammonia, 1/16 of copper sulphate and the same plus ammonia , 1/16th teaspoon of ferrous sulphate and the same plus ammonia. I then gave these a minute in the microwave to provide some gentle heat, remove the fibres rinsed and labelled. The ammonia turned the dye bath a deep gold so I added a glug to the main bath and took a photo after about half an hour of gentle heat.

I probably dyed about 100-150g of fibres but I will check tomorrow when they are dry. I have not obviously done light fastness tests yet but according to John and Margaret Cannon -Dye Plants and Dyeing published by Kew Garden, cosmos sulphurous (my cosmos is in the same genus), is in the same dye group as coreopsis tinctoria and dahlia. Originally they came from Mexico and were used by the Aztecs before the Spanish invaded Central America. I first grew these plants because my mother in the last few years of her life grew them and they reminded me of her. Enys and I think I brought a packet of seeds and handed them to her but we both have been very pleased with them. They obviously have enjoyed the wet summer which is surprising as my mother lived in dry Surrey but they have been fantastic this year. So another dye plant which , like dyers chamonile, coreopsis tinctoria , lythrum salicaria and to a lesser degree genista tinctoria, is both beautiful and useful. The picked plants are already flowering again so will no doubt go in giving pleasure till the frosts come.

Friday, 24 October 2008

No reds but turquoise and artisans.

I started to blog the other day -meditating on whether I had been hit by the recession ( unofficial as yet but definitely here). Well I nearly fell asleep reading it so I decided not to inflict it on you either.

I have been dyeing , but the sort of unremarkable routine dyeing of fibres for lots and lots of up and coming workshops. As I was making up packs I got panicked by lack of certain colours so I have been doing much panic stricken dyeing mostly greens and purples and thisis despite the fact that my studio is a sea of boxes full of dyed fibres. I usually use the extracts for emergency dyeing but even with them and mixing I really have a problem with getting reds, because a) I have soft water i.e. not easy to get red from madder , b) a lot of reds turn towards the purple when felted (it is the alkalinity of the soap that does it). Brazilwood is the worse for this. I then discovered to my dismay I am out of bugs, although I could have sworn I still had a 200g left-
:( so I can't do my favourite cochineal/madder mix for reds. No reds. Ho hum! I have got turquoise though, lots and lots of yummy turquoise, using "green" extract over dyed with indigo.

I am simmering cosmos as I write so tomorrow or possibly Sunday there will be an update on that! ( it is looking promising with a deep orange coloured bath from 300g of flowers).

PS What do you call a craft market when the word craft has been so bastardised. As for handicrafts -bleh. I have come up with "Artisan Market" with a nod of thanks to Karen Casselman who uses this instead of crafts. I would be interested to know do you all who read my blog think artisans is better than crafts person or man/women and is Artisan Market better than craft market?

Friday, 17 October 2008

garden in autumn

Enys came round for her gardening stint today and you can see her looking pensive in the background with a visiting springer spaniel-mine is out of shot.

I am running a workshop tomorrow to which Enys is coming. She came to survey my packs and decided I had not got enough range of colours. "You need golds, terracotta and green packs" she said doing her usual job of getting me organised. My studio which had looked reasonably tidy ended up looking as if Attila the Hun had been for a visit but we made up some fabulous packs so tomorrow my 9 students will have a choice of no less than 18 yummy packs . I have my eye on one which I find really exciting, dark reds, soft greenish greys with some lovely patterned fabrics for the surfaces so I hope that it will get left and I can use it as my demo.

Enys parting shot to me was " you need to use the cosmos for dyeing". You can see these in the pictures and they look so lovely I can hardly bear to cut them but Enys says they won't last much longer, I have not used them before but according to John and Margaret Cannon in Dye Plants and Dyeing they contain similar dyes to coreopsis.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Death of the old dog

Today we had to make that heart rending decision to put the old dog to sleep. He had started to go downhill and was painfully thin even with his three meals a day and last night we got up 14 times to let him out and this morning he looked at me with woebegone eyes. When the vet arrived it was hard for him to stand for more than a few minutes although he managed a deep woof but his rear legs were trembling with weakness so we all knew it was the right thing to do . He went with his head peacefully in my lap lying on the dining floor next to his bed being stroked and being talked to.
The springer spaniel looks a bit bemused but we went out for a walk and enjoyed ourselves, although after the walk she had a good sniff around the house . Talking to the postman who is a great dog lover and owner he reminded me how awful it is when the only dog goes which is no doubt true but the old dog won't be replaced much as we loved him and enjoyed his company- keeping two dogs is proving a luxury we feel we can no longer afford.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


Posted by Helen
I always like to have the long wools. They have an irresistible lustre and sheen and look so enticing and some of you may have noticed that my dye sample are often a clump of long wool. It is so easy to pop a handful into the dye pot and they tend to take the dye beautifully with a sheen and a depth of colour that is somewhere between short wools and silk. I have dyed and spun Wensleydale, Leicester long wool and Lincoln long wool but this year I discovered Teeswater. I bought a kilo at Wonderwool and loved it. It has the length and lustre of Wensleydale but costs less. At Woolfest I bought another lot that has been washed . I understand that traditionally they used to run sheep through a river to get rid of the worst of the dirt and the grease and now they are doing this again but not through a river but a something more akin to a sheep swimming pool although I doubt it is heated. I have a picture in my head of a curly fleeced sheep doing a fast over arm through a pool with a disgruntled expression on it's face. I wish I could draw it.

I am not the only one who likes Teeswater. My friend Bettina likes this fibre too and has been dyeing it in tops form
If you want to get some yourself I found an excellent supplier at Teeswater wools who also tells you the technical stuff like staple length and fibre thickness.

Here is my most recent basket of dyed teeswater. Centre is cochineal, then at 1 o'clock coreopsis tinctoria, at 2 o'clock fermented madder and madders, 3-6 o'clock coreopis exhausts, 7 o'clock logwoods, 11, I am not sure -12 o'clock goldenrod exhausts.
Just in case any of you find these as mouthwatering as I do I sell these in an A5 zip lock bag full ( about 75g) for £3.50 +p&P