Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dyeing with frozen dandelion flowers

As I posted recently, very recently, I used some frozen flower heads to try dandelion dyeing.  I didn't have that many but I didn't use that much silk either.  I have already said that the colour was a bit blah so put a few grains of copper sulphate to green it up a bit.  That wasn't entirely successful.

However, since rinsing and drying the fabric, I have decided I don't mind the colour, especially with the cotton gauze laid over it.  It is quite pretty really, ever so slightly greenish-yellowish.
Hmm, the photo doesn't show up the greenish, yellowish tinge.  I must try playing around with the camera settings a bit more. Later.

I took Penny, our dog, out for a walk this morning, before it heats up too much for her.  According to the radio, it was only 19C (I can't find the symbol for degrees and I can't be bothered writing the whole word repeatedly) but it was much warmer in the sun.  Penny kept going from shade to shade spot.
She lay down in a little field of dandelion flowers and I was momentarily tempted to pick the flower heads - but it was definitely only a momentary thought.
I like the fabric but I don't have the oomph at the moment to spend the time picking each individual flower. Someone had the thought that I might have got a yellower colour if I had only had the petals but that thought just overwhelms me - fancy picking all the greenery off all those little flowers!  Definitely not worth the effort at the moment.
Then the moment passes as the seasons change.  Maybe next year.
I am currently wishing I had been into dyeing when the oxalis were out, I was a bit slack about that this year. Maybe next year again.
I hope you all have a great year next year - not far away now!
And today is my last chance to have 31/13 as the bookends of the date.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Using dried hollyhock petals for natural dyeing

Today I took the silk out of it's plastic bag.  The dye bath looked much darker and so did the silk. I rinsed it out with water, to get rid of the bits of petal.
Looking much darker.
Then I took it inside to have a proper rinse.
So far, so good.

After it had dried, it didn't smell quite right. I decided to do a final rinse with a little bit of vinegar - well, was that a mistake or not?  I am not sure - but a lot of pink dye came out of the fabric, making it less purple and more like the other blue-grey fabric. I don't know why the vinegar did that.  I suppose it is good to have done it myself and not given it to someone who would be disappointed to have the colour change in that way.

I took a close-up photo of it while it was drying the first time, there were little bits that looked yellowish. I think they might have been from the part of the flowers where the petals are held together.  I didn't mean to have them in there but a few managed to be included. 
This photo came out a lot pinker than it was in actuality.

This is the final piece, dried and ready for me to use - for something, one day.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Still feeling slow

The weather is BEAUTIFUL today.  It is sunny but not hot - perfect summer weather.  Unlike yesterday which was just weird. I took the dog out at 6.00am to beat the heat, it was only 12C and it was a bit cool. Then the day heated up to the mid-30s, then a cool change came - very windy - and brought the temperature right back down to the 20s.  I like it when it doesn't stay hot!
Anyway, I went out and turned over my pieces of silk, still leaving the plant-stuff in with the fabric. It will have had some heat and some warmth. And then some coolth (I read a book once that kept using that word, not sure it exists and can't be bothered looking it up - it's a lazy Sunday, summer afternoon in the holiday period).
This morning I went out and took out the flower heads and threw them in the compost, the alum is supposed to be alright for plants. There were a few tiny spots of colour that could have been from the flowers rotting, I am not sure. They are so tiny that I am not going to worry about them, the tentative plan I have for the fabric requires it to be cut up and appliquéd anyway. So unwanted spots will not matter.
I rinsed out some of the smaller pieces of silk but decided to leave the larger pieces still soaking.
Some are just in jars with the dye bath.
I then decided to experiment further.
I had kept some of the flowers just in the room, letting them dry out.
They have gone much darker and are crumbly.  So I crumbled them further.
They are in a blue ice-cream container and look more purple in the photo than they really were, some were tending towards brown.
I laid out the bits between layers of silk that I had not rinsed, poured in a little more liquid, just to keep it moist, and sealed it in a plastic bag. It is out in the glasshouse, brewing.
I think the liquid is getting more red and darker, but that might be wishful thinking. I will contain myself in patience and have a look tomorrow.
In the meantime, I have rinsed and dried the smaller pieces and they have turned out a lovely grey, with slight blue and purple overtones.  I used some crinkle silk, nubby silk and some velvet.  The gauze cotton has maintained some colour too.

Oh, I decided that the dandelion fabric was just too boring.
I am thinking I will need some green fabric so put in a little copper sulphate to see what happens.  So far the dye bath has turned slightly greenish but I am not sure what the fabric is doing.  I will leave if for a couple of days and see what happens.
It still looks pretty murky.  The fabric may have to be used in appliqué, lots of little pieces hidden among others.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas inertia

I am trying to overcome the inertia that you get once Christmas is over.  Boxing Day was ok, I had a few things to do - and avoided all shopping centres.
But I had put today aside to finally do something with the frozen flowers.
So far I have soaked some silk in alum solution. I did that a couple of days ago and today I actually got some flowers out of the freezer and soaked them in lukewarm water, as recommended by India Flint.
I am using two books: Eco-Colour by India Flint and Colours from Nature by Jenny Dean.
India recommends putting the frozen flowers in a bag that can be squeezed to get the colour out, so I have used cotton gauze.  It usually takes some of the colour and I have kept those bits for machine embroideries. This time, though, the gauze has not been soaked in alum and neither have the flowers. So I used the water I had soaked the silk in, in case there is any alum left in it.
The hollyhocks have given some purple colour, almost immediately. I diligently squeezed the mass of flowers, they end up feeling really squishy and slightly disgusting. The colour was very pale, so I am leaving the fabric in with the frozen flowers and hoping that more colour will leach out. I will leave it for a few days.
I tried this previously and the plant matter started to rot and gave me some stains, so I will have to keep an eye on it, not leave it as long as I did previously. But I have also thought that it might not rot if it is under the liquid, so I have weighed it all down with a jar.  Here's hoping.
The gardener in the family has been doing daily harvesting of dandelion flowers for me. I read that you can use them for dyeing - and it stops them from seeding and causing more plants to grow in our garden, where we don't really want them.
I had initially thought that I might get yellow dye but when I read the book last night, it was under the Green section.  And when I looked at the frozen pile I realised that it is predominantly green.
So far it is looking a very murky brown-green-yellow colour, and rather pale.  I may have to overdye that fabric.  At least the alum is supposed to be ok environmentally and I can put the plant matter in the compost heap.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve

The weather was perfect today - not hot, not cold, not windy, not anything negative. I was finally inspired to go out to our new glasshouse and dig out some of the dyeing equipment. I soaked some of my silk in an alum solution.  It has boiled for an hour and is being left for a time. As it is Christmas day tomorrow, I may not get around to doing the dyeing part, I will see. The recommendation is to leave it overnight, at least. Last year I inadvertently left some of the fabric for over a week but later found out that that is a recommended practice. I don't think I will last that long this year though.
The hollyhocks are in wonderful bloom. I have been keeping some out of the freezer, letting them get all dry and crumbly. I hope they work as well as last year.
Then I decided to take some more pictures of the flowers, trying some of the settings on my camera. It takes quite good images on the automatic setting but I decided to play around with the settings today, to see if I can remember how to do certain things, and to see if I could get some special effects. Some of the photos turned out ok.

Playing around with the settings, not that successfully.
After dinner we decided that we should take the dog out - it had got too hot for her in the afternoon and we had been busy in the morning. Off we went to Yarra Bend Park. We didn't get there till almost 9.00 and the sun was about to set.
Lo and behold (very appropriate for Christmas) a huge stream of fruit bats/flying foxes were just leaving to go foraging in the night. There were thousands of them!!
I took some more photos. It was quite dark by then and I couldn't see the camera that well, so the playing around with settings wasn't fully successful. But it was a wonderful sight and a lovely night for a walk.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Random thoughts about doodling … and other things

As I have recently said, I am taking up the daily zen doodle thing again.  I have stuck to the small format so far but am feeling a smidgin of interest in trying to produce a larger image.
I have also been in the company of friends who are artists and have expressed interest in zen doodling, so I pointed them in the direction of a couple of sites and a book I had.

Then I was given a book for Christmas (yes, I have read it already, even though it is not yet Christmas).  This book is about the The Great Tapestry of Scotland.  It is very interesting, especially given my Scottish and Irish heritage.  The tapestry is based on the Bayeux Tapestry and the Prestonpans Tapestry, among other things. None of these works are, strictly speaking, tapestries as they are not woven but they are still called that historically. They are all embroideries.
As I was doing further research about the Great Tapestry of Scotland online, I got sidetracked to my local embroiderers guild and noticed they are having classes for crewel embroidery in the new year.
This got me to thinking about counted thread embroidery I have done in the past and how you make up little patterns to fill in the spaces - just like doodling.
This has to be over 20 years old - who says I keep things a long time??
The thing about the crewel and Jacobean work is that is usually has colour and that can change the process. I don't think it matters though, it is still in the same area of design technique.

THEN I wandered off to some Pinterest sites about Jacobean and crewel embroidery.  The images are very reminiscent of doodling - no need to be making up my own designs, I think they have all been invented.  From there I decided to look for some free designs, just to see how much like doodling they really are.  I came across quite a few interesting sites. Several of the sites I visited pointed me to the Gutenberg project site and the book on Jacobean embroidery.  Such an interesting read - and source of designs.

While I was doing a desultory clean-up for the Christmas period, I also came across some designs I drew up when I was doing the blackwork workshop at the Embroiderers Guild.

As I was doing counted thread work, I used graph paper to help me.  But this is a design that is very much like the doodling patterns, I have just tried to remember what I would need to do to be sewing the designs rather than simply doodling.

I was off and running then, looking around all sorts of links connected to my current train of thought. I often come across this site when I am idling around the web - it is always worth a visit.  There are some great links on this post.
This site isn't for crewel embroidery, it is sashiko patterns but they look just like doodling patterns to me.
Here is another site I found through Pinterest.
No wonder I have liked doing the doodling thing - I have been playing around with similar stuff most of my life - off and on.

AND THEN I remembered Dijanne Cevaal's free motion embroidery patterns that she has published recently. They, too, look a lot like doodling.

So, although I have been busy with visiting and preparing for Christmas, not doing any of my creative stuff, I have been busy in my mind.

And the hollyhocks are blooming profusely at the moment, the freezer is filling up with flowers and the pressure is on to get the them out and start dyeing. Someone very selfishly wants to use the freezer for food - as if it were summer.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Doodling again

I have recently started doing my daily doodles again.  In fact, I have had time to do one at night, just before I go to sleep, and one in the morning, before I even get out of bed! (And that is after my three pages of writing in my journal - you can tell it is holiday time, it takes ages to get out of bed.)
I must say, I am sleeping well after starting this ritual at night, it is very relaxing.
I am keeping them small and doable, it doesn't take too long to do one.
I have also started doing them randomly on the page, so I won't be too influenced by the previous one - I hope.
I use A4 drawing paper and can fit 12 squares quite nicely.

Then I decided to branch out and try a variation.  I got out some masking tape and traced the inside and outside of the shape, overlapping them.  I was strict with myself and only did one section each day. Some sections are not very big at all and were very quick to do.

I feeling inspired by a conversation I had tonight, talking about a pizza, which is round, cut up into triangles and stored in a square box.  That might be my inspiration for a new doodle. I'll have to see what develops. Maybe I should order a pizza and take a photo, just for inspiration.

I am feeling ambitious and want to try a new stop motion animation.  I was inspired by seeing a post giving pictorial developments of doodling as well as a video.  Why make a simple video? I ask myself.  Why not make it hard and try to take a photo of each stage and then make it into a movie? I'll have to work out how to set up the camera so that it takes the image with the same lighting, make sure the paper doesn't move and it doesn't need too much editing to make the image grow smoothly.  That will be a project for another day, when I am feeling a bit more energetic. Don't hold your breath waiting for this to appear.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Special date

I had to prepare this earlier today so I could post it at 10 past 9 this evening (I hope I remember to do it!).  I missed this morning, so it will have to be the 9.00pm time.  Then it will be 9.10 on 11/12/13!!  That has to be some sort of good thing.
So here is my not particularly interesting post:
I have cut the work off the loom and steamed it so that it is closer to a rectangle - it is still a bit wider at the bottom, not enough to worry about.

Actually, now that I see the photo, I see that the right side wasn't pinned enough and is wobbly.  And the left side isn't really as curved as it appears here.

I had lunch with some tapestry weaving friends today and we discussed this problem I have, as well as the fact that the warp was showing a bit in the tighter areas.  The consensus was that I was pulling too hard, especially on one side.  One person reported that she had been advised that this often happens in the open shed pass.
In the meantime, I have turned over the edges and made the sample tidier.

I will have to try another sample and see if I can rectify the problem. I think I will get to work on another colour sampler and try to keep it even.  My last one was ok for the the colour (in that I can see what I need to do in future) but terrible for the pulling in! I have plenty of warp left beside it, so I think I will give that a go.
I aim to do three types of graduating colour, to see what suits my various purposes best. Who knows if I will ever get the three done - but that is my aim.

However, my next project is in the quilting area, so the tapestry will have to wait a bit longer.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

That Could Have Gone Better

I have finished my landscape tapestry.  It has lots wrong with it but I decided to forge ahead and just get it done. Actually, it is not finished, it is resting on the loom, with the tension taken off.  I will cut it off tomorrow and tidy up the back and edges.

It pulls in on both sides, something I had hoped I no longer had a problem with. Not so. Both this tapestry and one I am doing as a colour sampler are pulling in. I will have to keep it a secret from the purists and steam it, hoping it will become more rectangular, rather than my usual trapezoid shape.
I thought about pulling it out but realised that I would have to go WAY BACK and didn't want to.

I also had some challenges with using the leftover wools from other tapestries (thrums).  I didn't have much blue and the sky in my original images is very blue.  But I just made it up as I went along and now have a cloudy sky. I tried to use some of the blues I had but some of them were very strong colours and just didn't look right.  So I pulled them out - after hitching off - it is very hard to pull out hitching off! Especially when you are feeling impatient.

Then I got to the end (again) and realised that I did the beginning of the tapestry wrong. I used the small tapestry technique that I learnt at RMIT but forgot exactly how to do it. I like to use this method as you don't have to have the white cotton showing.

However, when we were starting, I let the others in our group influence me with their strong conviction that you use seine twine as the double hitching rather than my tentative belief that it should be wool (or whatever you are weaving the image with). When I got to the end, I realised that I usually finish off with wool, not the cotton. This caused a dilemma as I don't usually like the cotton showing at top and bottom.
I decided to have the white showing at the top as it was at the bottom, trying to keep it symmetrical(ish). So I will just have to suck it in and put up with the white edges.

Maybe it can be one of those tapestries that you put in the compost heap and let rot, something to do with 'art'. Not sure I can bring myself to do that, even though I am not totally happy with it. Maybe it will be better after I block it - hopefully. I am still learning to do the weaving, I am not ready to start stretching myself into further areas yet.
Anyway, it has been a learning experience, mainly in terms of using my cartoons.  I have been able to use them as a basis for my work but not stick closely to them - hopefully I will be able to develop a better 'abstract' process. I am trying to develop less pictorial works and will continue to work on this idea. I think this one is relatively 'interpretative', especially compared to the original image.
The workshop was about design and I think I will have to work more on the ideas that we discussed. I need to do more designing, maybe without any actual weaving. Then I might come up with designs I like and can weave.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Plodding along

I have been working in short bursts on the landscape tapestry from our weekend workshop.  I made the mistake of looking back at the original photo rather than the collage and ended up trying to do it more realistically.  I put in the island and wasn't happy with it.  I have taken it out and done it again but it is still more like the photo than the collage.
I decided to just keep going and hope that the weaving around it would change my perception of it.

I am now up to the sky, having put in my interpretation of the collage - which just means that I didn't really do what was on the collage.

I am going to have some problems with the sky.  The photo has a clear blue sky, the collage has lots of blue with white torn edges of the paper.  Unfortunately, I don't seem to have used much blue in past tapestries.  I have lots of whites and greys, some greenish blue and a tiny bit of stronger blue.
What do do about this??  Decisions, decisions.  Will I just use what I have, as I have done so far - and that has meant a colour change as I go as I have used up the original colours - or will I get out the blue cones I have and make some colours that will fit my two images better?
As you can see, some of the blue I have is quite purplish and some is very aqua.  Not the colours in either image. I can't make up my mind today. Time to stop weaving for the day - it is dark weather anyway.  I'll try to do some tomorrow, make my decision overnight - I hope.