Tag Archives | natural dyes

A couple of book reviews

Just before Christmas, Bloomsbury Publishing asked me if I would like to review a couple of their books.  As soon as I saw the titles, I jumped at the chance.

What the publishers say:

 The Vintage Pattern Selector by Jo Barnfield is a practical sewing book that arms the reader with all the techniques and information they need in order to mix and match clothing styles from the 20th century.

Accompanied by a CD with printable patterns for a range of dress sizes, this book is a comprehensive guide to creating contemporary outfits from vintage styles.

  book review    

The book is clearly and attractively set out with lots of pictures and diagrams.  It contains full instructions for printing the patterns, assembling them and making the dresses, with a section at the back covering the basic techniques of dressmaking.  

 book review  

It starts with a timeline of the main styles and trends for each decade between the 1920s and 1970s then goes into more detail about each decade.

 book review

I liked the way it shows the way modern fashions draw on vintage styles, giving examples from different shops.  It also suggests ways to combine particular details of different eras so they work together.

book review

I haven’t yet tried making up any of the patterns but I can envisage playing with a few of them, notably the 1920s flapper dress (pity I no longer have the shape for it!!).

The second book is quite different in style to the first.  The publisher’s introduction to The Story of Colour in Textiles by Susan Kay-Williams -

Colour and shade of dyed textiles were once as much an indicator of social class or position as the fabric itself, and for centuries the recipes used by dyers were closely guarded secrets.

The arrival of synthetic dyestuffs in the middle of the nineteenth century opened up a whole rainbow of options and within 50 years modern dyes had completely overturned the dyeing industry.

From pre-history to the current day, the story of dyed textiles in Western Europe brings together the worlds of politics, money, the church, law, taxation, international trade and exploration, fashion, serendipity and science.

The Story of Colour in Textiles is an introduction to a broad, diverse and fascinating subject of how and why people coloured textiles.

book review

Being a historian as well as a dyer, I loved reading this book.  Again, it is attractively set out with lots of gorgeous pictures, but much more factual information too.  I enjoyed reading Victoria Finlay’s book on the story of colour generally, but this book focuses specifically on colouring textiles in Europe.  It mentions other parts of the world but mostly only as they affected European dyeing.  The book starts with an introduction to the various types of fabrics that were being dyed, mostly natural ones such as wool, linen, silk and cotton.

 book review

Unlike Victoria Finlay’s book which goes through each colour in turn, the author of this book works her way through history with chapters on prehistory, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, then each century from the 15th to the present day. It was useful to read about them in their historical context, and she draws on contemporary paintings which illustrate various dyeing processes, such as Jan van Eyck’s painting of the Arnolfinis, and the Bleaching fields of Haarlem by Jan van Kessel the Elder.

book review

It is a good book to dip into or use as a reference, but also has a very readable style.  It was interesting to read about the secrecy around new discoveries and subterfuge used to obtain valuable information.  Did you know that a whole mile of coastline around Tyre and Sidon consists of ground up mollusc shells, waste from extracting purple from the shellfish?    Colour as a sign of wealth, power and intrigue….

 book review 

She also covers the use of mordants, the introduction of patents and the development of chemical dyes as well as bleaching and the removal of colour to make white. 

 book review

The book has an extensive list of footnotes at the end of each chapter and a large bibliography for further reading.  Definitely worth buying if you are interested in the development of dyeing and use of colour through the ages.

book review

Natural dyeing – the results!

Here we are … some of the fabrics I printed last year and just washed out.  I’m rinsing out about three pieces a day so even this is taking time!

I printed this one with a gocco screen.  It started out as an eraser which I carved to make a stamp, printed to make a repeating pattern then I scanned it into the computer and enlarged it and printed it out.   I then overprinted it with a screen made from a letter.  This is the washed out version – it doesn’t actually look much lighter than the original (some of them lost quite a lot of colour).  I think this is logwood.  Most of these are printed on silk.

house fabric ,

house fabric flat

This one is a screen made from a photo of a tree.  I printed and overprinted it in three colours of natural dyes.  This one did wash out quite a lot but I kind of like the subtle effect.  This is the unwashed version:

DSCN6112

And this is the washed out one.  Quite a difference, as you can see.  But I quite like it in parts.

tree fabric

This one changed the most.  It consists of two screens.  One is a gocco screen made from a stamp I carved of a bird’s foot.  I printed this one first.  Then the second screen is a blank screen with roughly torn masking tape stuck across it – it is supposed to look a bit like cracked mud. 

mud and bird print before rinsing

This is the washed out version – I like it more because you can see the bird prints more clearly.  The mud cracks are in two or three different shades of brown – this is just a detail of the whole piece.

mud and bird print fabric

I don’t think I have a ‘before’ photo of this tree, but it is clay painted using ochres from Clearwell Caves, some caves in the Forest of Dean which are also ancience iron mines.  I used soy milk as a binder.  The ochres seemed to wash out a lot less than the natural dye extracts I used.  It is painted on cotton organdie which is semi transparent so is a bit difficult to photograph.

DSCN8633

That’s all I’ve photographed at the moment – more to follow!

Yummy, luscious compost dyed fabric!

Unless you’re a gardening afficionado, the words ‘yummy’ and ‘luscious’ don’t really appear together with the word ‘compost’ but wait till you see this fabric I just rinsed!!

A couple of years ago I bought the DVD Markmaking with Nature from Kimberly Baxter Packwood.  Kimberly is extremely knowledgeable about all things related to natural dyeing, and one of them is a technique she calls compost dyeing.  I have been intrigued and wanted to try it for a while now, but didn’t get round to it till January.  Basically, it involves laying natural dye extracts and other vegetable matter on fabric and shoving it in the compost heap for a while. 

Well, it was January, so I left out the compost heap bit, but I did the rest, wrapped it up with a load of natural dye extracts and some banana skins and rolled it up, soaked it in vinegar, nuked it in the microwave to start it off, and left it for 2 months.  How about that for self discipline?!!  Anyway, yesterday the suspense got too much. I was going to leave it for a while longer given that the weather wasn’t all that warm (it has been inside, not out so it didn’t get TOO cold).  And the results were amazing!

I did two pieces, both silk.

purple compost dyed silk

This one is a sort of silk crepe.  I put a lot of logwood on this, I think, and various other things (I was extremely disorganised and just grabbed handfuls of whatever dye extracts I have). 

close up of purple compost dyed fabric

This shows some of the markings on it.

And this one is a habotai silk scarf.  I think I used a lot of madder on this one.

reddy compost dyed fabric

This was the one which had the banana skins rolled in with it.  I had to hang it over the chair to photograph it – it was incredibly hard to photograph as the light just bounced off the sheen of the silk.

red compost dyed silk scarf

Both together:

purple and red compost dyed silk

I’m so glad these turned out well, because I also tried rinsing a thin section of some of the screenprinted fabric and ochre painted fabric that I also did with natural dyes and those were disappointing.    I don’t know whether the gum was too thick or whether I just need to leave it a lot longer, but most of the colour washed out of the tiny sample that I did.  I may just leave the ochre painted one as most of my art won’t be washed anyway.  Time will tell…

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...