the dye pot – adventure part 2

In the last post I mentioned my dissatisfaction with my own inability to loosen up and really experiment when doing the drawing/book making exercise on the first afternoon. That feeling  surfaced again on the second day and really would linger for the rest of my time.

On the second morning we were all given a beautiful piece of recycled wool to prepare for dyeing. We were instructed to add to it some of the fabrics we had brought along to experiment with how they would take the different dye materials. I was still thinking about the seaweed on the beach and I decided to add some vintage fabric from my stash that had a polka dot sewn onto it. I cut it into “seaweed-y” shapes and sewed it to my wool strip. But I stuck with the one fabric choice and I was very controlled about how I placed it. I looked around the room, other people were adding random bits of random fabrics with wild abandon. They were sewing fabulous marks with many kinds of thread. It was too late to change my own work and embrace the process so at that point I had to let it ride and hope the dye pot would add some magic. I was disappointed with myself for not leaning in to the process and trying to control the final result.

undyed

my prepared wool

After lunch we headed out to gather local materials and the bundles went into their bath. I decided to just stick with my plan at this point and dyed mine with a bunch of different kinds of seaweed collected from the beach.

dye pot 1

wool bundles relaxing – ready to dye

bundles 1

All the bundles ready to go back in the pot, mine is third from the right in the center

When it was time for the first reveal I loved the colours and I really loved the way the seaweed had embossed my wool, but my added fabric didn’t take the dye well and many of my threads didn’t dye either. My stitches were too petite and didn’t read well against the dyed wool. I wasn’t disappointed with the workshop – but I was sad about my own failure to try and LEARN something instead of trying to control the outcome.

Eventually we would sew those wool strips into a tsunobukuro style bag. I was delighted to find that the finished bag was the perfect size to carry my new sketchbook! Here’s the finished bag a few weeks later after being used as a much loved container for my sketchbook. Its growing on me, and I think I will keep working into it slowly, letting it evolve. I’m hoping by keeping my sketchbook in there it will remind me to let myself let go a bit more!

Last step to finish by bag will be to add the great button I brought on the island (shown in the last image). Hopefully I get around to that over break!

In the next post I’ll show you the results of me trying oh so hard to relinquish control. Until then Happy New Year!

Experiments with mordants

So I’ve been boiling things up for a while now, and reading a lot, hi and trying out different things, but I’m not terribly methodical. Recently I read a blog post about using soy milk as a mordant on cotton fabric, so I figured I would give it a go. I mostly just dye fabrics as a by product, using them as a carrier for delicate papers like kozo, sometimes I get a good print on the fabric, other times not so much.

I decided to do a little experiment and I mordanted one batch of paper and fabrics in soy milk and one in alum. Then I bundled each with leaves from the same plants gathered at the same time, and steamed them in the same pot. I had a head of red cabbage going soft in the fridge, so I threw that in too. I didn’t use any iron or vinegar in with the bundles, as I wanted to see if I could get prints without them. I know I can get prints with them!!

So a pretty small and not terribly controlled experiment. I layered cotton, then sheets of kozo, then a sheet of watercolor paper, followed by a layer of cotton, leaves in between each layer of course. I used sumac, Japanese maple, and some random bush trimmings as I had just done some hedges in the garden. I steamed everything for a few hours.

The kozo printed pretty much the same in both bundles. The colors were a little more intense in the alum bundle and the edges of the leaves we’re more defined. On the water color paper the difference was striking. The milk mordant produced beautiful soft pastels, although I had a really hard time getting the leaves off the paper.

The alum mordant produced vivid greens and blues and much brighter pinks.

These are not great pictures but I think you can see the difference.

Results on the fabric were interesting too. On the alum fabric you can clearly see where the paper was, and it resulted in more intense prints.

But the milk mordant produced all over pastel colors, I can’t get a good picture but I can clearly see the leaf structure in pale greens against a soft pink and purple from the cabbage.

So a mixed bag, but worth repeating I think.

Okay back to the studio.

Clearing the decks

I can’t believe winter break has already been and gone. Somehow I always have more ambition than time, and this year was no different.

The first week of classes usually has the potential to run off the rails, this semester it was technology, or the lack of it, which caused the biggest hurdles. It didn’t help that my classes weren’t confirmed until less than 2 days before classes started. Luckily I am not teaching anything new, so it was just a matter of brushing things up. I am also auditing a printmaking class so I can learn Japanese style wood block printing, which will hopefully get me in the studio a bit too. By the end of the week I was starting to get my feet under me and fingers crossed all goes well from here on out!

During the week I embroidered some leaves, because my umbrella plant always drops leaves in the winter, and they are great to work on. Here they are fresh

And here they are again a few days later.

I love how ephemeral they are, the process makes me think about manicured gardens, about trying to control the natural world, possess it, and how nature resists our desire to order and control it.

I spent the weekend trying to clear the decks in the studio, I still seem to have a stack of unfinished projects lingering. Some things just needed a little work, like this stack of journals, which just needed the covers

Glad to have those finished, and they will be heading out to local galleries in the next few weeks.

These brown bag lunch journals have been knocking around partially completed for months, today I finished all the decorative sewing on the covers, now all that’s left is sewing in the signatures. Hopefully I can get these buttoned up this week.

I’ve also got a stack of mending, alterations that need my attention, and then there’s the 3 pairs of trousers I cut out but haven’t sewn yet! I really want to get all that done before the grading starts piling up. So I guess less talk, more action is needed here. Back to work.

Eco journal tutorial

Recently I taught a class to make a journal using eco-dyed and printed papers, using a hybrid sewing (French link & Coptic) and wood veneer covers.

This is a really brief tutorial on how we did it!

We actually started by binding the pages as it was only a one day workshop, but I would recommend sewing after you dye your pages.

For more information on dyeing, check out this blog post or you could do a you tube search for boiled books, that’s how I got started!

After you have dyed your pages and they have completely dried, you need the following in order to make this binding, two pieces of tape, ribbon or bias binding, some linen thread, a book binding or crewel needle, an awl, scissors, pencil, ruler, and a scrap piece of paper the same height as your pages.

1. Make a template to use when punching your pages. To make mine I measured .5″ in from each end, then .5″ from that mark (so 1″ from the end). Next I laid my tape by those second marks, and made a third mark leaving a bit of space so I don’t catch the tape when sewing. Finally I divided the remaining space so there would be 3 more sewing stations.

2. Next fold all your pages in half, then punch each one, using the template, with the awl.

3. To begin the sewing, thread the needle with the linen thread. I like to use shorter lengths and add more thread, so I always start with an “arm’s length”. Enter the first signature at the head or the tail of the book.

4. Then from the inside come out at the second sewing station

5. On the outside sew across the tape and go down the 3rd sewing station

6. On the inside skip the next three sewing stations and come up through station 7.

7. Come out through station 7, see across the second tape and back inside the book at station 8. Then come back out to the outside through the final sewing station

8. Lay the next signature on top of this sewn signature, and take the needle down into the page through the corresponding station on the second signature

9. On the inside come out through the next sewing station next to the tape. Take the needle down through the stitch over the tape to make an x

10. Go down through the sewing station the other side of the tape. Then come up from the inside at the next station. Take the needle down through the corresponding station on the FIRST signature.

11. On the inside of this signature is a long stitch, take the needle around this stitch to anchor the sewing, and exit through the same sewing station you entered.

12. Take the needle up to signature 2, go into the signature through the same sewing station you exited. Travel to the next sewing station and repeat. Do this for all 3 center stations between the tapes.

13. Sew out the next station, next to the tape, take the needle down though the stitch over the tape to make an x then sew back in next to the tape. Finally sew back out through the final station. Tie the tail of the initial sewing to the thread on the needle using a square knot

14. Lay the next signature on top of the sewn ones, take the needle into the corresponding first station on the 3rd signature. Come out at the sewing station next to the tape. This time sew down through the longest side of the x over the tape. Sewn down into the page on the third station next to the tape.

15. Come out at the next sewing station, take the needle behind the pair of stitches between signatures 1 & 2. The sew back in the same station you exited. Repeat with the three central stitches.

16. Sew out through the station next to the tape, sew through the longest leg of the x over the tape. Sew down through the page on the other side of the tape.

17. Come out through the last station, lay the 4th signature on top of the sewn ones. Make a kettle stitch and sew into the corresponding station on signature 4.

Continue sewing until all your signatures are attached.

To finish the book you will also need, 2 pieces of book board the same size as your pages ( mine are 6×6″), two pieces of decorative paper slightly larger than these boards, some scrap paper the same depth as your tape, pva glue, and two pieces of wood veneer the same size as your boards.

1. Cover both boards with decorative paper. Make sure you mark the direction of the board’s grain!

2. Press the books under weights until the glue is completely dry. Attach the book block to the board’s using the tapes

3. Next you need to fill around the tapes using scrap paper. Sand this paper to get it level and smooth. This makes a nice flat surface to attach your veneer to.

4. Attach the veneer to the board. Make sure that the direction of the grain in the veneer and the board’s match or you covers will curl! You could use a double sided adhesive like gudy for this step, or a spray contact adhesive, or pva works fine.

5. Lastly, gently sand the edges of veneer, round off the corners, then varnish or oil the covers.

Please note: usually you would have the grain of the board running parallel with the spine, but if you don’t want the grain on the wood running that way you’ll have to break the rules!

If you found the sewing instructions hard to follow you could always use a different sewing you already know, or search for a good video tutorial for the two different styles online.

I just love the wood with the dyed paper pages, a wooden board Coptic or Ethiopian binding would be lovely too. I’ve dyed lots of paper and I plan on experimenting with some other bindings this winter once the semester ends.

Until then, enjoy, and comment below if you have any other ideas!

More leafy fun!

It’s less than a week until I leave for the UK to spend time catching up with family and friends. I have a ton of work to finish before I go, more on that later this week. Today I started work on a special gift with eco-printed pages.

First the rummage in the garden

Then bundling all the leaves and papers. I use ceramic tiles to keep the bundles tight and submerged.

Then off to the dye pot. And this was the beautiful result. I used a dusty pink commercial dye in the pot to tint the edges of the pages pink.

Next up binding and custom covers for this project and so much more! Okay enough procrastinating, back to the studio!

2 festivals and a workshop

What a busy week! It started Sunday with a perfect afternoon at Chautauqua Institution, warm sun, gentle breeze off the lake and lots of vendors set up for an afternoon of local shopping. I got to visit with lots of friends and move some merchandise, a fun afternoon! 

Hot on the heels of that was the fourth of July holiday and some family time. I often have a hard time keeping track of what day it is in the summer, but a holiday in the middle of the week really messed me up!

Wednesday I headed out to a new teaching venue. The Springville Center for the Arts is housed in a beautiful old church.

I’m teaching a month long class exploring different ways of manipulating and playing with paper. We started out doing some eco-printing. Here’s my sample

I made this one using some heavy cotton paper I use for etching. After soaking the paper in a bath of water containing a little alum, I make a sandwich of leaves and paper, with a ceramic tile on the top and bottom of that leaf/paper sandwich. Then tie the bundle with some gardening twine or big rubber bands, you want the bundle snug so the leaves make contact with the paper but not really tight. Put the bundle in a large pan and cover with water. I added old coffee grounds to the water, but you can use any organic or commercial dye. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least an hour. Some people just steam their bundles, but I never have much success that way. Then unbundle and rinse in cold water. I hang mine on the washing line to dry.

Because I knew we were going to make a mess, we opted to work outside rather than in their classroom space. The workshop participants made some gorgeous papers. We used a RIT dye in denim blue instead of coffee, and I used a big turkey roaster crock pot to cook the bundles. We also discovered that clover from the garden added a bright yellow to those papers.

We also tried dyeing some paper using some other traditional dyes, tumeric made a gorgeous brilliant yellow, onion skins make a beautiful ochre and beets with vinegar in the bath gave us a delicate blush pink. 

We also experimented with dip dyeing using some commercial dyes. We really accomplished a lot in a short two hour class, and cleaned up just ahead of an incoming thunderstorm! Next week we are going to try some monoprinting techniques.

On my drive home I was eating some almonds in the car when disaster struck, I broke a tooth. So Thursday was an emergency trip to the dentist. Not fun. 

Today I spent the day at Bookfest at WNYBAC. I had a fabulous day despite the stupid tooth catching up with friends and I managed to sell enough books to cover my dental bills, win-win!

This was my last festival of the summer as I am heading back home to the UK at the end of the month.

Tomorrow I need to finish up a commission and finish my entry for a book exhibit. Monday that tooth is coming out, it broke below the gum and can’t be saved. And then I need to clear the decks of some restoration work before switching gears to finish an installation. How does summer fly by so fast?

one step too far?

It’s okay, relax, this is not a political post! Instead it is about the scroll from my last post, the one I didn’t think was quite finished. 

Friday night I decided to revisit it. I had a couple of pieces of dyed and printed paper that I didn’t use, so I thought I would try giving one of them the monigami treatment. One of the things I felt wasn’t working was how stiff and heavy the paper was. So I gently kneaded the test strip with some oil, and it softened up beautifully. Additionally the organic dye (onion skins) moved around a bit creating a mellow background tone, but the monoprint pretty much remained the same. I loved how this piece looked, so I decided to go for it and do the whole scroll.

I’m going to blame my next decision on the fact it was late on a Friday after a really busy week, but truth is I could have made this awful choice any time. I decided not to take the scroll apart. This was crazy thinking. Although the paper was quite stiff and heavy, the areas that had been folded in the dye bath were seriously compromised, add to that the size of the scroll, and disaster number one happened. As I worked the paper it tore badly in many places.

Those of you who know my work will no doubt be saying, but you love torn things you can mend, and this is true, BUT, the oiling also seemed to have obliterated the really delicate monoprinted images. It was ruined. 

Saturday I hung it out on my washing line to see if evaporating some of the oil would help. My poor neighbors never know what they might see hanging out there.

When I brought it back in later that day it still looked awful.

Yesterday I decided I would try one last thing to try and save it. I took the scroll apart, and gently ironed each piece of paper between clean sheets of absorbent paper with a very hot iron to try and pull the excess oil out. It was tedious and now my studio smells like a chip shop, but I think it might have saved the day.

As I removed the oil the printing began to re-emerge! I was afraid the all the extra texture added in the monigami process would still hide the more delicate printed images, but I think enough is still there.

So now all I have to do is repair all the tears caused by being too lazy to take the scroll apart at the beginning and then sew it all back together again. 

Lesson learned. Long thread, lazy girl.