Archive for the ‘Diary & News’ Category

More photos from my students’ exhibition

Thursday, May 16th, 2019

Deborah Barker’s Cross Box (oak wood box with fabric cross dyed with buckthorn bark)

Handmade books by Helen Gibbs

More books by Helen Gibbs

Dyed papers by Jane Ponsford

Vessels by Jane Ponsford and dyed samples by Susan D’souza

Ceramic vases with naturally-dyed collars by Katalina Caliendo

Vessels by Jane Ponsford, dyed samples by Susan D’souza and handweaving by Lottie Whyman

All photos by Katalina Caliendo

Another one-year course at Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft starts in September

Monday, May 13th, 2019

I am pleased to announce that I shall be teaching another one-year natural dyeing course at Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft. 

The course consists of 12 monthly meetings, held on Sundays, and the first session is on Sunday September 29th 2019. Each session runs from 10am to 4.30pm and it is important that students are able to attend every session, especially the first session, which sets the groundwork for the course. 

For further information and details of how to apply, go to the museum website (www.ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk) and click on Get Involved then click on Current vacancies and opportunities and scroll down until you come to the course information. If you have problems with this, contact Lucy Jenner, the Education Manager. Lucy’s email address is: lucy@ditchlingmuseumartcraft.org.uk

There are only 12 places available on the course and last time we had over 80 applications, so I hope those whose applications were unsuccessful last time will consider applying again this time. No previous experience or knowledge of natural dyeing is necessary.

Students’ Exhibition at Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

As the first one-year natural dyeing course at Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft comes to an end, the museum curators have put up an exhibition showing how the students have incorporated natural dyes in their work. 

 The exhibition gives an impression of how talented the students are and how many varied creative disciplines they represent, from weaving to book-binding.

The exhibition is part of the Ditchling Open Studios event and can be viewed every weekend in May for free. At all other times, the museum entrance fee will be charged but this gives entry to the current exhibition of Women’s Work: Pioneering Women in Craft, 1918 – 1939, which is well worth a visit. The exhibition features weavers Ethel Mairet, Elizabeth Peacock, Alice Hindson and Rita Beales; potters Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie, Dora Billington and Denise Wren; silversmith Catherine ‘Casty’ Cobb and hand-block printers Enid Marx, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher.

The following photos give a flavour of the work exhibited by the one-year natural dyeing course students.

From top left this shows work by Katalina Caliendo, Jane Ponsford and Ross Belton and from lower left work by Jane Ponsford and Lottie Whyman, with dyed samples by Susan D’souza in the foreground (Photo by Helen Gibbs)

This shows weaving by Poppy Fuller Abbott, basketry by Jackie Sweet and handmade books by Helen Gibbs (Photo by Helen Gibbs)

This photo shows weaving by Poppy Fuller Abbott and handmade books by Helen Gibbs (Photo by Ross Belton)

These naturally-dyed skeins by Mollie Barr give an indication of some of the variety of dyes and colours we explored on the course. (Photo by Helen Gibbs)

This photo shows some of the exhibits in the Wunderkammer. Details as below. (Photo by Ross Belton)

This photo shows the whole of the display in the museum’s Wunderkammer. (Photo by Jackie Sweet)

Top row: basketry by Jackie Sweet   

Second row from the top from left to right: work by Susan D’souza and Zuzana Krskova   

Third row from the top from left to right: work by Katalina Caliendo, Jane Ponsford and Ross Belton     

Fourth row from the top from left to right: work by Jane Ponsford, Lottie Whyman and Sarah Newland

In the foreground is the case showing work by Helen Gibbs and Poppy Fuller Abbott. 

 

More news from the Ditchling Museum course

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

I’m afraid I have got rather behind with posts about the one-year natural dyeing course, so here is an update of what we have been doing. Photos will follow as soon as I have some from the students. (I rarely get time to take photos myself during the sessions, so I rely on my students for images.)

We have covered a range of topics since my last post. They include:

Contact Printing using plant materials 

      

Some of the students’ contact printed scarves

Tests using different percentages of alum mordant         

Dyeing black using tannin and iron and dyeing black using weld, madder and indigo

Overdyeing in indigo     

Setting up fastness tests using samples dyed with avocado stones         

Dyeing yellow and pink with safflower   

Dyeing with sticklac (Recipe from Colours from Nature p61)

Sticklac before extracting the colour

Adding clear vinegar to pH4 to assist colour extraction 

Results from the sticklac dye bath Fabrics from top: silk, cotton, linen Yarns from left: no modifier, + acid, + alkali, + copper, + iron

Using the alkaline extraction method with madder, rhubarb root and buckthorn bark (Recipe from Colours from Nature p36

Testing the pH for the alkaline colour extraction method. 

For an excellent overview of the course, with photos, I would recommend the blog diary kept by Helen Gibbs: 
https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/naturalcolour/2018/12/15/iron-black-redipped/

If you click on the above link you can then navigate forwards and backwards to see all the posts from the beginning of the course.

All photos by Helen Gibbs

 

Re-issue of the UK edition of “Wild Colour” in hardback

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

I’m delighted to report that the UK edition of my book Wild Colour will be available in hardback from December 6th 2018. It has a new cover but the contents remain the same. Below is an extract from the publisher’s press release.

WILD COLOUR

HOW TO MAKE & USE NATURAL DYES

Jenny Dean

Mitchell Beazley | £16.99 | 6 December 2018

Wild Colour is a celebration of the wealth of natural dyes that can be obtained from plants, from the common marigold to rhubarb.

This practical and inspiring guide to creating and using natural dyes from plants offers information on current environmentally friendly dyeing techniques and more than 65 species of plants and natural dyestuffs.

This comprehensive book outlines how to:

  • Select fibres and plant parts
  • Choose the right methods for mordanting and dyeing
  • Obtain a range of gorgeous colours from every plant

Wild Colour is the all-in-one resource for fibre enthusiasts, including knitters, sewers and weavers, gardeners who are interested in new uses for traditional dye plants and eco-conscious DIYers who want authoritative information about the natural dyeing process and the plants that are essential for it.

About the Author

Jenny Dean has been working with natural dyes for four decades. She lectures on natural dyeing and has written widely on the subject. Her books include Colours from Nature and A Heritage of Colour.

For more information please contact Ellen Bashford on:

ellen.bashford@octopusbooks.co.uk or 020 3122 6701 136

 

 

Ditchling Museum Natural Dyeing Course (5)

Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

I’m afraid this is rather late as I’ve been seriously ill in hospital again and had to postpone the August session at Ditchling Museum.

This post should catch up on what we did at the last session before my illness, when we used madder, cochineal and weld. We followed the usual methods and prepared fibres with aluminium sulphate for wool and silk and aluminium acetate for cotton and linen. With madder and cochineal, we also used aluminium from Symplocos leaves as a mordant for all fibres. (See earlier posts for Symplocos mordanting details.)

WELD 100%

The colour from weld was extracted in the usual way, simmering it for about 30 minutes. When the dye liquid had been strained off and the fibres added, the temperature of the dye bath was kept just below simmering point to achieve clearer colours. We used both dried weld and fresh weld for comparison purposes.

 Photo by Zuzana Krskova

Weld dye bath

 Photo by Ross Belton

Dried weld results – From left above: linen, cotton, silk From left below: cotton & linen wool & silk, no mod, + acid, + alkali, + copper, + iron (All alum mordant)

 Photo by Ross Belton

Fresh weld results – From left: cotton & linen, wool & silk, no mod, + acid, + alkali, + copper, + iron (All alum mordant)

 Photo by Zuzana Krskova

Close up of some weld results – From left: cotton & linen, wool & silk, no mod, + acid, + alkali, + copper, + iron (All alum mordant)

COCHINEAL 30%

The colour was extracted from the cochineal using the multiple extraction method described on p59 of Colours from Nature. For this method the same whole (or ground) cochineal is simmered three times and the extracted colour is strained and added to the dye bath after each extraction. The solutions from the three extractions form the dye bath. It is a good idea to strain the final solution through a coffee filter paper to remove any loose particles which might cause blotches on the fibres but we didn’t do this as we didn’t have the necessary equipment. The fibres were added to the dye bath and simmered for 30 to 45 minutes.

 Photo by Zuzana Krskova

Cochineal dye bath

(More cochineal photos to follow)

MADDER ROOT 100%

The chopped madder root was used according to the following recipe: first wash the madder in a sieve under running water for a few seconds. Then pour boiling water over it, leave it to soak for about 30 seconds and then strain off this liquid and put it aside for a second dye bath later. Repeat this process and add the strained-off liquid to the first liquid. Then put the same madder root into a pot and simmer it for about 30 minutes to extract the dye colour. Strain off this liquid which becomes the first dye bath. Allow it to cool a little, then add the fibres and leave them to steep in the dye bath for about 45 minutes. If a deeper colour is required, the dye bath can be heated for 30 to 45 minutes but keep the temperature below simmering point. Then allow the fibres to cool in the dye bath.

The solutions from the first two soakings give a second dye bath, which can be used either cool or heated as above. However, I’m afraid we produced no samples from this second dye bath as it was discarded in error.

This method of dyeing with madder differs from some other methods but usually gives clear corals and reds, depending on the strength of the dye bath and the length of time the fibres are in it. For really deep colours, it is often necessary to use 200% madder to dry weight of fibres, especially if dyeing vegetable fibres.

 Photo by Zuzana Krskova

Madder dye bath

 Photo by Ross Belton

Madder root – Top from left: linen, silk, cotton Below from left: From left below: wool & silk, cotton & linen no mod, + acid, + alkali, + copper, + iron (All alum mordant)

 Photo by Ross Belton

Madder root – Top from left: cotton, linen, silk  Below from left: wool & silk, cotton & linen no mod, + acid, + alkali, + copper, + iron (All Symplocos mordant)

 Photo by Ross Belton

Tannin is not necessary when using aluminium acetate and this was an extra experiment to see if using tannin before applying aluminium acetate improved the colours.  Unsurprisingly, it didn’t. Top: cotton, below: linen 

Ditchling Museum Natural Dyeing Course (6) – Woad, Japanese Indigo & Saxon Blue Day

Monday, October 15th, 2018

Unfortunately I’ve been seriously ill in hospital again, so the August session at Ditchling Museum was cancelled and we used the September session to harvest and use the woad and Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) before it was too late in the season. At this session we also used Saxon Blue.

After we had used the woad and Japanese indigo leaves for blue, we simmered the same leaves to make a dye bath for tans.

WOAD

One of the students brought some woad leaves, which were chopped and then we poured boiling water over them and left them to steep for about an hour. Then the liquid was then strained off  and the leaves squeezed well to extract all the dye potential.When the liquid had cooled to 50C, soda ash was added to turn the liquid from brown to green and the liquid was whisked until the froth became blue and then whisked further until it started to turn white again. We allowed the froth to subside and then added a reducing agent, sodium hydrosulphite, to remove the oxygen. When the liquid below the surface had become greeny yellow, the vat was ready to use.

NOTE: As woad is said to prefer soft water, it is a good idea to use rain water for woad vats. However, I rarely remember this and have always found the ordinary water from my tap produces a perfectly good woad vat. I have also read that the dye solution should be cooled quickly to 50C, so some people put the container of woad solution into a second container of cold water and sometimes add ice cubes to speed up the cooling process. This is not something I tend to do and my woad vats are always fine but they might be even better if I remembered to cool them down quickly.

Straining off the woad solution after the leaves had been steeped in the boiling or very hot water

Blue froth forming as the liquid is whisked

Results from the woad vat Left to right: cotton, wool, silk noil, silk fabric, cotton fabric, linen fabric with 2 wool samples

Results from the woad leaves simmered for a tan dye bath From left: NM wool, NM silk, NM cotton, NM linen, alum wool, alum silk, alum cotton, alum linen (NM = no mordant) Note: All the cotton & linen samples are actually pink, not blue, in tone

JAPANESE INDIGO

My Japanese indigo had already started to form seed, so the blue dye potential was reduced and the results were rather disappointing. Luckily, one of the students brought some of her own Japanese indigo leaves and we tried two methods – the usual vat method and the water and vinegar method.

In the vat method the Japanese indigo leaves are torn or cut up into small pieces, covered with cool to warm water and brought to simmering point over a period of about 1 to 2 hours. (Note that this differs from the woad method in that boiling water is not poured over the leaves, but they are first covered with cool to warm water and then heated gradually.) The leaves are then left to steep in the hot water for about an hour. Then the liquid is strained off  and the leaves are squeezed well to extract all the dye potential. When the liquid has cooled to 50C, the dye vat is then made in the same way as described above for woad. 

Cutting up the Japanese indigo leaves

The cut leaves

The water and vinegar method requires at least 200% fresh leaves and this method gives blues which may be less stable or permanent that the blues from the more traditional methods of dyeing with woad/indigo. However, this method requires only water and clear 5% vinegar. The vinegar should be added at the rate of about 15mls clear vinegar per litre of water. Harvest the leaves and process them immediately. Chop or cut up the leaves as finely as possible, preferably not using a wooden chopping board, as this may absorb too much of the precious dye solution, or process them with a little water in a liquidiser. Put the chopped leaves into a container and add enough water to cover them. Then add the vinegar and knead the leaves very well for at least 5 minutes until the liquid is bright green. Strain off the liquid and set it aside. Knead the leaves again in water and vinegar as before, strain off this liquid and add it to the liquid reserved from the first kneading process. Immerse the fibres immediately in the liquid and leave them to soak for about one hour. Then rinse them in clear water and air them. Finally, add a small amount of fibres to the liquid and leave them overnight to exhaust any remaining dye potential, then rinse and air them.

NOTE: I have read that some dyers use iced water without the addition of vinegar but I have not tried this.

This shows the fibres being immersed in the water/vinegar Japanese indigo solution (Photo by Ross Belton)

SAXON BLUE

Saxon blue or sulphonated indigo is an indigo extract made by dissolving indigo powder in sulphuric acid. The process was discovered around 1740. It is called Saxon Blue because the blues it produced resembled the blues of ceramic wares based on cobalt and Saxony was the centre of that industry.

Saxon Blue is used mainly for dyeing wool and silk and produces blues with a turquoise tone. Blues from Saxon Blue may be less fast to light and washing than indigo blues made by the vat method and deep blues from Saxon Blue have higher levels of fastness than paler shades. There is some disagreement about whether an alum mordant is needed for Saxon Blue. I tend to prefer to use an alum mordant, as this seems to produce deeper, clearer blues.

Saxon Blue is simple to use. Prepare the hot water for the dye bath and then just stir in some Saxon Blue liquid. How much one needs to use depends on the depth of blue required and the amount of fibre being dyed. I usually start with one or two teaspoons and then add more if necessary. Then add the fibres, bring the dye liquid up to simmering point and simmer gently for 30 to 45 minutes. Then leave to cool before rinsing.

The Saxon Blue we used was bought from Fiery Felts (see link under Useful Websites) and made by Helen Melvin. This gives excellent blues and a little goes a long way.

This shows some results on silk: top – Saxon Blue, below left – Japanese indigo vat method, below right – Japanese indigo water & vinegar method (Photo by Ross Belton)

Ditchling Museum Anniversary Open day

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

As I’ve recently been seriously ill in hospital again, I had to postpone the last Ditchling Museum natural dyeing course session but I was sufficiently recovered to be part of the museum’s open day on September 22nd. This was to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the opening of the new museum buildings and the museum offered free entry all day, with a variety of activities, a barbecue and live music.

Unfortunately the weather was rather cold and rainy in the afternoon but the activities offered by some of my dyeing course students proved very popular, even those that took place outside. Among the activities on offer were handspinning, weaving, stitching, paper making, mark making with botanical inks and handmade brushes and the opportunity to use an indigo vat.

We set up the indigo vat using natural indigo, soda ash and sodium hydrosulphite, with a stock solution on hand to top up the vat when necessary. We also offered a chance to learn some shibori techniques and the results brought smiles of delight to all those who participated.

The museum’s dye garden was not as spectacular as it had been earlier in the Summer but it was still flourishing and we had a display of solar dye pots using plants from the dye garden.

Part of the dye garden earlier in the season with yellow cosmos, French marigolds, yarrow, St. John’s Wort and safflower, with madder in flower in the background

An interesting way to display solar dye pot results, all from dyes grown in the museum’s dye garden.  (Photo courtesy of Sue Craig)

  

Ross Belton with his botanical inks and handmade brushes and some of his indigo-dyed fabrics in the background

  

Some results of mark-making with Ross’s botanical inks

  

Sarah Matcham and weavers

Having a go at weaving under Sarah’s supervision

  

Jane Ponsford and paper makers

  

Some samples of hand-made paper

  

Lottie Whyman with a young stitcher

  

Jennifer Nightingale demonstrating handspinning

  

The indigo vat in use. Zuzana Krskova and Jackie Sweet help unwrap a shibori-dyed tote bag, as it comes out of the post-dyeing clear water dip. Below are some results from the indigo vat.

  

  

All photos by Jonny Dredge unless otherwise indicated

 

 

 

2nd Revised Edition of “Colours from Nature”

Sunday, August 5th, 2018

I have recently revised and reprinted my book “Colours from Nature”.

It has 11 extra full colour pages with many more photos and it has a coiled (spiral) binding so it will lie flat for ease of use and an acetate outer cover to protect it from splashes.

Some of the text has been changed or expanded; for example: there is now a recipe for the indigo 123 vat, Symplocos leaf mordant is covered, there is a section on the alkaline extraction method and some of the recipes in the recipe section have been changed. (For more details about the book click on “My Books” on the home page.)

I feel this revised edition of “Colours from Nature” most closely represents my current dyeing practice and the dyes and methods I use personally. It is also the book I use as a text book with my students at Ditchling Museum.

At present this revised edition of  “Colours from Nature” can be purchased from D T Crafts in the UK (www.dtcrafts.co.uk) 

It can also be purchased in the USA from Botanical Colors (www.botanicalcolors.com)

 

One-year natural Dyeing Course at Ditchling Museum (4)

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

In this session we started sampling adjective dyes, which are dyes that require the use of a mordant, usually alum.

The dyes we used included two of the dyes introduced into Europe at the beginning of the 16th century from South & Central America. They are: Logwood (Haematoxylon campechianum) & Fustic (Chlorophora tinctoria). I had originally planned to use Brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata), another dye introduced into Europe from South America at the beginning of the 16th century, but this is currently unavailable because it is becoming endangered.

So the third dye we used was Sappanwood (Caesalpinia sappan), from India, Malaysia and South-East Asia. Sappanwood is the form of brazilwood known from the 13th century as a red dye in the East, where it was called “brasil” or “bresil”, meaning “glowing like fire”. It was also known in Europe from the late Middle Ages and was imported by the land route. An indication of its importance can be seen by the fact that it gave its name to the country Brazil. When explorers arrived in that part of South America, similar trees were found growing there abundantly, so the country was named terra de brasil after the tree. It gives colours very similar to those from Caesalpinia echinata, but with a slightly pinker tone.

The mordants we used were 10% aluminium sulphate for the animal fibres and 5% aluminium acetate for the vegetable fibres. We also experimented with symplocos powder as a natural source of aluminium from symplocos leaves and we used this with logwood and sappanwood on both animal and vegetable fibres. (See my earlier post “Symplocos leaves as a source of aluminium mordant”)

Note: for improved colour fastness from logwood on animal fibres, it is advisable to use 24% alum. 

As with the substantive dyes we tested, we applied colour modifiers to the fibres after dyeing.

LOGWOOD 50% (alum mordant) Samples in the following order: Top – linen, silk, cotton Below – No modifier, acidic modifier, alkaline modifier, copper modifier, iron modifier

LOGWOOD 50% (symplocos mordant)  Samples as above for logwood with alum 

I think 50% logwood was too high a percentage for the colour variations from the modifiers to be clearly visible. We should have used no more than 30% to show the effects of the colour modifiers.

SAPPANWOOD 100% (alum mordant) Samples: top – cotton, linen, silk Below –  as for logwood above

SAPPANWOOD 100% (symplocos mordant)  Samples: top – cotton, linen, silk  Below –  as for logwood above

FUSTIC 100% (alum mordant) Samples: top – cotton, silk, linen  Below – as for logwood above 

I was a little disappointed with the fustic results. I had expected much stronger colours and I think we probably didn’t simmer the dyestuff long enough to extract all the colour potential. 

It is always difficult in workshops, when one so frequently seems to be working against the clock, to allow enough time for all the stages and processes involved in natural dyeing. When working at home, it is important to remember that each process needs time and should not be rushed, if one wants the best results. The “look” of the dye bath will often indicate whether more time is needed for colour extraction or colour application and experience is also an important factor.                                                    

At this session we also made our first indigo vat, using washing soda or wood ash water as the source of alkali and sodium hydrosulphite as the reducing agent. We also made a vat using a stock solution.

As an experiment I made a stock solution using wood ash water instead of caustic soda. (See my earlier post “Making and using an indigo stock solution”)

I mixed the indigo powder into a paste with hot water as usual, then added it to about half a litre of wood ash water, which I had first heated to about 50C. I then added sodium hydrosulphite and left the stock solution to reduce. After about an hour, it became a dull yellow-green colour and when I used it to make a vat it worked quite well.

The stock solution made using wood ash water as the source of alkali

INDIGO vat made using one tablespoon of stock solution Upper samples soaked for 2 minutes and the lower samples soaked for 5 minutes Order of fabrics: cotton, silk, linen

All photos above by Ross Belton

On the “Show & Tell” table this session was a display of the little books made by Helen Gibbs and dyed mainly with various tree barks. They are really beautiful and just wonderful to touch and open.

Photos by Helen Gibbs