31 October 2011

Eco Dyeing: A Small Success Can Become Fuel For Further Experiments

A piece of white vintage kimono bundled, steamed and dried. Oh! lala..those glorious colors!
You never know when a chance bit of information can your current direction on it's ear. When my friend Janet and I went to Tacoma, Washington for the Association of Pacific West Quilters she was reading this book by master eco dyer India Flint. Janet had mentioned the process to me when she returned from her silk studies class in Japan but I'm not sure how much I understood.  The book made the process a bit more clear to me and I had to buy the books. If you've never read any of India Flints work - you should. She a casual, slightly humorous style that is fun to read and the dyeing information she relates is really fascinating...another whole dyeing concept. It made me wish for some local eucalyptus leaves to play with! India Flint's blog is a treat as well.
I think is India Flint's first book - it is, at least my first of her books and I love it

I do have to admit to quite a being discouraged by the results I had gotten with my experiments  before today. The colors I got tended towards muck and the leaf imprints were iffy at best. I considered returning to 'comfort zone' of regular dyeing and leaf imprints with inks and paints. 

Today I decided to just change it up a bit and give it one more try before I was hopelessly lost. I began with a base of newspaper upon which I laid a piece of white vintage kimono silk with a love watery looking pattern. On top of that I layered some leaves we had collected from Shaw Island (with discouraging result in two earlier experiments). I placed a layer of crisp silk chiffon on top of that and then carefully rolled the fabric layers up into a small bundle. The newspaper got deep sixed having completed it's position as a supportive player. I carefully tied the bundle with string and put in a ceramic Corning Ware pot (now relegated for dyes). I decided, just for the heck of it, to add a smidgen of Iron in the water bath. The bundled simmered on the stove top for about an hour and then the bowl was placed on top of our stove (gas) to cool down. Next I took the bundle out and blocked out as much water as I could and set the bundle on top of out stove top water supply.
Another look at the vintage kimono silk. The pattern really worked with the colors. What a surprise!
As it came time time unwrap the bundle I was honestly not expecting much success. I hat no reason to hope for anything more than more muck. Surprise ! I was thrilled with the results I got. Depth of colors grey, green, lavender, yellow, brown. Yum!

With such vivid success on the kimono silk I was really not holding out much hope for the silk chiffon. Once again though I was left some what amazed at the rich, earthy colors and the distinct outline of the leaf prints! Finally! I am so stoked by these results that I am, once again, charged to try a bevy of more blossoms and leaves. Any one have some eucalyptus they can send? I'm ready for more eco dyeing awe ! Glad that I decided to give it one more try!
Check it out ! Yahoo!
An area with a bit more saturation and a bit more blue and grey
Here are the mystery leaves we picked on Shaw Island. They were red and lovely and, obviously very rich in tannin . Does anyone know what this tree might be. I can ask a friend who goes to the community center over there more often to check for me.

29 October 2011

Beautiful Natural Dye Results and Seasonal Earrings s

Wolf Moss Lichen & fabrics: top: Silk Chiffon Bottom: Silk Charmeuse
I've been very excited and anticipating trying a bit of the dye solution I made from my cache of Wolf Moss Lichen that was gathered in Roslyn, Washington last month. I wanted to try small oddments of silk so that I might have a better idea of what to expect before I sacrificed a lovely silk scarf to this briney brew.. Thankfully, I have enough of the raw ingredients to make another batch which I will save along with the remainder if batch number one.

The top piece is silk chiffon that had been sitting in an alum mordant for longer than the piece of silk charmeuse had. It did make a difference in the depth of color - and also I did not microwave the charmeuese ( I hit the chiffon with a minute in the micro) which may also have affected the results. Both pieces of cloth were put in a glass and covered with dye solution and let set on the heater (gas) for an hour. I am thrilled with the color I got! It's a rich green cast yellow. A really a special color! I am now confident enough in the color to try it on a shibori tied scarf blank. I also want to see what the addition of another mordant will do - or not do. Some experimentation coming up.

My next planned experiment may be bracken ferns which we have in abundance - at least if I pick some before we have too many more heavy frosts.

The history of this fascinating, nearly fluorescent looking lichen is quite interesting and the following information is taken from the Washington State Department of Ethnobotany.
Letharia vulpina 
Wolf "Moss"
The color ranges from a brilliant yellow green to a duller yellow ochre under drier conditions. It is the easiest lichen to spot, noticible even when driving at fast speed from the highway.

Letharia vulpina is most commonly found in dry coniferous forests. The species also occurs in Europe southward to North Africa. The species is found on twigs and stumps of most conifers. In Washington, you won't find it in coastal Douglas-fir rain forests, but in drier inland Douglas-fir stands, where it can be very abundant. It seems to be adapted to summer dryness [in fact, the alga's photosynthetic maximum is 7oC, and doesn't drop much even to 0oC, (the freezing point)]. So it is active mostly during winter precipitation. There are, however, instances of the lichen found on bark of other trees, and human made substrates like houses and fence posts. It sometimes occurs on rocks.

Use: Used as a yellow dye. For this purpose it was boiled in water, alone or with Oregon grape bark. This dye was used mainly for basket materials and fibers. As a medicine, this lichen was boiled and taken in a weak solution for internal problems and, in stronger solution, was used to wash external sores and wounds.

This lichen is... poisonous that the Achomawi in Northern California used it to make poison arrowheads.

And how did the common name come about? It deals with the European usage, which (barbarians that they were) was destructive. It was mixed with ground glass and meat and used to kill wolves. The vulpinic acid is toxic, although it is not clear if the ground glass may have been enough to do the job. Perhaps it caused stomach perforations and allowed the vulpinic acid (note the name) to be readily absorbed. 
Plant and habitat description, as well as the source of the common name from Europe comes from Scott Kroken, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, who is currently...."

Another excellent description of this fascinating plant can be found on Wikipedia.
I've never been a huge Halloween fan but I am a crow fan and I though a bit of experimentation with a seasonal erring might be in order. I made several pairs of felt crows to see what size I liked the best and these are the ones I chose to make into earrings. I considered making some for sale but had to figure out a way to be able to make several pairs at once.  I made several pairs individually but now see what making a sheet of the needle felted base will shorted the production time quite a bit. I made a felt sheet by needling black roving onto a stiff interfacing base and then added a glint-y little eye  - voila! Seasonal earring that display my love of corvids!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Personally, I've been in a bit of sinking spell lately but think I'm on the upswing once a gain thank goodness! I hate it when that happens!

Don't forget,  we all "fall back" on Sunday - providing us with shorter days and time to knit, felt, paint, quilt and create .. that is if you have any energy left in the evenings which I generally don't !!

24 October 2011

Freedom From Fear - Of Color Mixing That It Is! A Class With Gail Harker

Gail Harker
The San Juan County Textile Guild offers a wide range of workshops that reflect the varied interests of the members. I'm always grateful that although we live in a county composed of many islands the Guild manages to offer high quality workshops and classes from very well know artists. One of the recent offerings was a color studies class. I had wanted to take a course from Gail for quite a few years but traveling to her studios plus the cost of the courses was prohibitive for me. I was thrilled to know that she would be here to teach.  Financially it was stretch for me to go to this class but thanks to my friend, Janet's, urging I applied for a scholarship from the Textile Guild and was able to attend! 

Gail Harker is very well know to some people and not too well know to many. She is a graduate of the London Cities and Guilds and her mission is to encourage her students to be the best that they can be. Her list of course offerings are varied - there really is something for everyone in the list of classes and she has recently offered her first on line class (in color) since she is aware that many people cannot afford to attend classes at her studios.
Adding color swabs of primary colors to our pages. We worked with Golden fluid acrylics.
The first exercise of the two day  workshop was to place swabs of color (primaries of varying hues) on three pages; one for blues, one for reds and one for yellows.
Two students to a table. This was ours when we were mixing primary yellow with cyan.

Here I worked with Pyrrole red and Cereulan Blue. Rather than waste the paint that that remained on our palettes, we made mono prints from the 'left-overs'

Some of the work from the first day of class. Two different color wheels and mixing from primaries.
I have taken some excellent color study classes and I have learned a lot from them all. This class though really was an eye-opener and manged to erase one thing I had struggled with - the fear of color mixing. Thanks to this class I no longer have an hesitation to mix color and play. Janet suggested that it would be so easy to create a scale or two in the evenings after work. A sort of no brainer that will still allow you to connect to some art - adding to your color scale pages.
A mono print from some palette 'waste'
I was so fortunate to have been able to take this workshop! I learned a lot. Connected with some very creative, friendly artists and had a very good time. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend taking any of Gail Harker's workshops. She is an excellent teacher. Although we filled many pages and learned a lot the class never felt frantic or hurried. Gail knows her stuff and is a very encouraging teacher. I had a very memorable time!
Working with complementary colors

One of my favorite exercises was creating neutrals from three primaries.

Another favorite exercise was neutralizing a complementary. Here you can the neutrals that develop between Diarylide Yellow and Permanent Violet Dark. Yum!

This exercise really amazed me. Creating neutral colors from complementary colors. I used Sap Green and Napthol Red and the range of gray and neutral browns that I managed to achieve was really an eye opener!

This was from working with 6 color primaries. The column on the left : Pyrrole Red & Diaylide      Yellow; middle column: Quinacrodone Magenta & Cobalt Blue; right:                                       Cobalt Turquoise and Hansa Light Yellow

6 color primary wheel

15 October 2011

"Lost Crates" : Put A Little Magic In Your Life!

This is top of the of the 'crate' that arrives at your door. I love the air mail stamp. Originality is a big part of the 'Lost Crates' experience and I love it !

NOTE: This is a long post about some really unique products that I received in a 'Crate' from "Lost Crates". I think you will find that many of these wonderful offerings will be things that you too would find to be a really special "gift-to-yourself" from "Lost Crates". Please enjoy this review!

I first learned about Lost Crates from my forays to the 'Chatter' forum on the Fountain Pen Network. If you love pens then Fountain Pen Network is the place to visit! I joined the organization in 2008 and I find it to be one of the best run, most friendly sites in the cyber world. I may be prejudiced, nut that's my story and I'm sticking to it !

The concept of Lost Crates, having a 'crate' filled with imaginative fun goodies shipped to you each month, intrigued me. When I began to do some more investigating I became even more curious. Part of the order process, which you can play with and change each time if you want to, is to take a fun little test that gives Lost Crates a peek at your personality - making their selections for you more targeted. The test really intrigues me and I had to write and ask the one of the founding members about the test and about the company. Below you will find the questions I posed and the responses I got from founder Danny Levi.

This is what you see when you open your 'Crate' Again, all of the personalization is very nice. The packing is shredded paper and the contents are wrapped with white string and tissue paper.
1. How did you come up with the name "Lost Crates"? We chose the name Lost Crates because of the image that it created when we thought of it - this sort of rugged box/crate that has bounced around and accumulated things from across the US and the world, and at long last found its way to your door, full of new goodies. 
2. Can a subscriber take "the test" every month is they want to mix things up? Subscribers can take the test as many times as they want. We try to mix things up as is so that users don't feel as though they have to re-take the quiz many different times in order to get a better variety.

3. Am I correct to say that there was no scientific background to the test then? It was predicated more on a choice of say 'cottage' style components versus 'new modern' products?  I think that's a close rendition to what you've explained. We want the "personality quiz" to strongly indicate user preferences without being too scientific and specific. In terms of scientific background to the quiz, we did a good amount of user testing with the quiz and often talk about ways to improve it, questions to change, etc.
In terms of the quiz - we wanted to ask fun questions that we thought related to each customer's personality without relating specifically to the items that we are selling (i.e. the questions are not specifically about notebooks, pens, etc.). We know that not all of the users like all of the questions, and as you have seen from the copy above the quiz, we wanted the answer options to be a bit polarizing.
4. How did a group of you find fellow entrepreneurs to begin this company? Was it chance meetings or more of a structured search for similar minded people? Lost Crates came out of a Chicago area incubator (Sandbox Industries), so there were many people at the company already really interested in Lost Crates, and since launch we have added a couple more to the team.
The idea came from a discussion about all of the types of items that we are selling and how many great products exist that aren't always easily found in this industry. We want to help expose our customers to many of these really awesome products (which we ourselves are always using), and we chose to do it as a monthly subscription because we see it as people buying themselves a gift - the contents of the package are always a surprise to the customers.

5. Do you have stock of some - or all- items? DO you supplement as you find new things? We keep a limited inventory and are constantly adding to our product selection as we find new, awesome items!

A personalized note telling you what's in your 'crate'.
I also questioned the subscription process. Currently, a subscription is offered at a cost of  $38.00 per month which does include shipping. I have to agree that the product value you get is at least that much if not more. For many of us (like me), spending $38.00 a month for beautiful surprised is just a bit too much for the budget to manage.  In answering my question about subscription alternatives I received the following answer. We are currently considering other subscription options in addition to our monthly, cancel-at-any-time option, but nothing is set in stone yet. Hopefully we can ramp up development of that on the website and offer some new options in the not-too-distant future.  Being able to go bi-monthly would make this a possibility for me - and I would enjoy the expectation of receiving this beautifully presented 'Crate'.  I think that this would make a very special gift package for a special occasion. Since you can order a month and cancel at any time I think this would be a possibility. I've read of people who change their 'test' results each month to change up their product categories. That sounds like a cool idea to me.

Lost Crates is, to me, all about their very creative marketing. I love the special, personal touches and I was really thrilled with the selection of useful, fun and unique products I received. Yes! If I could afford it I would be a regular subscriber.
Photo above: The first two notebooks that caught my eye when I opened the crate:  left a seriously cool 'DeComposition Notebook' and  right an Archie Grande

The DeComposition Note with Soy ink from Michael Rogers Bookinding. This one has already become a favorite and think I may just have to get more for gifts.The notebook is made from re-cycled paper and uses soy inks. I really like graph pages!

The 'titles' of these little gems fit every occasion !
From the very Swedish, terribly refreshing company, Archie Grand, comes one of the nicest little notebooks I've seen in a while. The buzz from their website: 

Introducing the Swedish notebook corporation, Archie Grand: For Friend & Foe. Archie Grand produce high quality notebooks for shopaholics, artists, fashionistas and 25 other breeds of charlatans, scoundrels and luminaries.The notebooks are made with great care given to their quality. They have a rigid hardcover, are thread sewn and have a matte leather-like lamination. Each notebook contains 120 blank pages of high quality paper that soaks up the ink perfectly. 

The US website for information and ordering is slightly different than the original (a link for the original is highlighted above).  Even the websites are full of color and fun. The smooth paper in the notebook is fountain pen. The quality of a notebook's paper becomes more of a consideration when you are an inveterate fountain pen user like I am. Things like bleed-through & ink feathering become more of an issue than then if you use a ball, gel or maker pen.
The bold label of the Archie Grand
These choice little "Susy Jack"magnetic clips were a real appealing addition to the Crate. A simple idea that really fills a niche. The magnets on the back are powerful enough to hold hold what you clip on.

As these simple instructions show this notebook from Revolver Bound Books 'revolves' and gives you ruled pages on the black side and blank paper on the blue side. This is one fun, useful & stylish little notebook!
This is one of the most unique components in my Crate and I was instantly enchanted! I've  never seen a notebook anything remotely like this one. I suppose the principle has been around for many, many years but I've never seen it used in this capacity!  It made me think of those funny little "turn-it-inside-out' wallets that were popular and almost gag gifts many years ago. There's no gag about this treasure of a notebook. You have one notebook that has two colors and both blank and ruler paper. Once again the paper is good quality, thick, thoroughly pen friendly paper.
They are made by Revolver Bound Books and come in two sizes & several color combinations. Mine is a small size ( 4" X 5") with 64 pages of ruled and 64 pages of blank paper. They also offer a 5" X 7" model. I think this is one of the unique journal or notebook products that I've come across. DH asked asked why you would use it - I replied "let me count the ways! and how can not be totally impressed?!"
Next to the last item that was nestled in my Crate, may have been the smallest thing in the Crate but it is by no means the lest appreciated!  These sweet, colorful Orange Beautiful letterpress gift tag assortment is delight! I was so excited to get them out of the package and feel them! What a treat! I love letterpress and I love orange - so I knew I would love the cards even before I opened the package.  They are are beautifully crafted, color coordinated -  just perfect! I'm going to have to go and browse more of their product line.
The final thing that I unearthed from my Crate was this pen  with the art of Joshua Davis on it. It's a product distributed by the Spanish company Miquelrius. I was actually thrilled to get it opened to try it since I am on a new quest for the perfect pen to use on art journal pages. It works smoothly and writes well over many different surfaces including paint, matte medium, acrylics, watercolor etc.
I am quite impressed by Lost Crates. They have found a niche and they re filling their niche market well. I have not heard of any of the brands that were enclosed in my Crate. Their product lines are eclectic and have a decidedly International flavor.  The marketing scheme of Lost Crates is equally unique and is, I believe a work in progress. The company was kind enough to send me a Crate for review but the things I have said about all of the products are completely honest and would have been the same if I had found and bought the products myself.

I am really hoping that the will add different subscription categories so that I can subscribe to get a Crate full of cool, unique, useful things to play with shopped to me with care and flair! I may just order a holiday Crate - or maybe it would make a fun gift for the holidays. One way or the other I think that the folks at Lost Crates are onto a great idea. I can almost feel the energy and dedication of the the Lost Crate team.

Single words that can explain my impression of a Crate: cool, colorful, useful, innovative, personalized. The Crates really are a well thought out offering of items that would please everyone and any one. The composition of your Crate are selected based on your responses to their fun quiz.  What a great "perk-me-up" this whole idea is. Well done Lost Craters! Thanks for the happy moments!

05 October 2011

In Memorium: Steve Jobs

I was saddened to hear that Steve jobs lost his fierce battle with pancreatic cancer today. We have lost a visionary, a luminary in his field, and a person that I considered to be a good human being, although I never met him. Apple products have enriched my life and I pray that Apple will carry on and continue to make Apple the company that Steve Jobs always envisioned it would continue to be. I offer a prayer for Mr. Job's family tonight.

03 October 2011

Silk Charmeuse dyed Caramel & Deep Gold

I had a great weekend this week. I finished stitching some more shibori designs onto scarves to be dyed. I dyed this silk charmeuse scarf that is 15" X 60 " (38.1 cm X 152.4 cm) using a combination of red and yellow onion skins in approximately the same proportions.  I was hoping to be able to achieve this rich caramel and deep butterscotch colors. I am very happy with it! It's destined to be a gift this week - so I hope my friend will also like it. I used both white vinegar and alum as mordants for the scarf and used approximately the same amount of red and yellow; heated them in an old crock pot set on low over night to extract the dye. 

Initially, when I first unwrapped the scarf I found some areas that I had wound too vigorously so I retied some areas and over dyed some of the whiter areas. Eureka! It worked ! Now I am asking anyone that can spare their onion skins to save them for me. If you are able to and care to - I will gladly pay for postage.

I am enthralled at how rich the colors came out - almost like a burnt creme brulee and the other area looks like deep golden butterscotch. I can't wait to make some more of these. Meanwhile I have 6 scarves tied and wrapped and ready to get dyed. I can't tell you how soft this scarf is too. Yummmm

For those of you have an interest I would like to recommend an excellent site for information about natural dyeing. The site mom is Kimberely Baxter Packwood. She also has a personal site of her art work. She been a natural dyeing maven for many, many years and knows whereof she speaks!. It's : http://thenaturalsurface.ning.com.  I have already found lots of useful information and friendly responses on the site.