hedge view

January work

I have two concerns at the moment; one is getting ordered things that I have made dyed and finished, and the other is making samples for Paris in early March. I am trying madder, one of the plant dyes (from the root of the madder plant, rubia tinctorum); I buy it from Michel Garcia. this source is grown in India, and it is not the extract, but the root ground up into powder. we used it in his workshop at Big Cat Textiles last summer, with tannin and citric acid, all in a one pot process.

madder with thermometer

I was a bit nervous about dyeing wool items with this much heat – Michel brings it up to to simmer point, very slowly, and then that should be enough, and the dye bath should be a yellowish clear liquid after that point. but what is simmer point on the thermometer? dare I go up to 90C. I hedged and kept it in a lot longer at about 80 the first time. the liquid never went yellowish and clear, but seemed pinkish and slightly cloudy.

rust skirt

the first try was a skirt of wool crepe, which I was okay about sacrificing as it’s not going to be a sample, it was a first go at a skirt. it has had a bundling with one or two leaves in a holm oak dyebath, so it was already greyed down. the colour is extraordinarily rich and the leaves came through nicely, especially this little frond of bracken.

bracken under madder

the next candidate was a silk and merino jersey dress hand-stitched in silk.

madder dress

it is brighter, and more orangey, as silk really does not take madder in the same way as wool, and tends to a light coral. I didn’t cook it for so long, and had the temperature up at 85C more speedily, but the dyebath liquid still didn’t become transparent yellow. I will have to be a bit rasher with these dyebaths; anyway, the result is still very intense. this also had been bundled first with two oak leaves and a piece of bracken.

madder dress detail

these marks and leaf prints are much less definite on the silky merino after dyeing with madder, but they give it a soft painterly quality.

vat after madder added

next I fed my indigo vat with the exhausted madder dyebath. this was one of the indigo vat methods shown us by Michel. my vat absolutely lapped it up and immediately produced big blue bubbles – as the idea of giving it the madder (or henna, or fructose) is to de-oxygenate, or reduce it, seeing bubbles of oxygen come out is very good news.

a couple of days later, having warmed it up over night I woke it up with a couple of ladlefuls of builder’s lime, and it looked even more cheerful

vat ready

I had a big dyeing session, luckily the weather was quite warm for january, with a strong wind, the best conditions I could hope for, for rinsing and drying outside.

shiboris drying

eight shibori tied objects (sweaters and silk dresses).

dresses and apron

in fact I started with the cotton apron on the right. it’s one of my selection of kitchen aprons and I fancied a change from pale eau de nil to bright blue. starting with something readymade and cotton helps to get started and to lower the ph for the silk and cashmere to follow. the alkalinity was about 10 when I started. it drops as you use the vat. the two dresses next to it look ever so dark. I dipped twice this time, to improve fastness and cover, and my vat is too strong to get the really pale blues. I should do many dips in an exhausted vat for that.

wet after washing and rinsing

however, after the vinegar rinse, a wash in the machine with ph balanced liquid, and many many rinses in the bath this morning, wet the blue is less strong

dry after washing and rinsing

and dry about where I need it.

wet dress

wet detail shows how the vintage kimono silks take the indigo, with varying degrees of depth depending on what they have been printed with.

frosty bark

now to untie all my treebark shiboris, after steaming them.

dress detail little flowers

cashmere scarves

more washing and rinsing. these cashmeres went in last, after I had got the vat temperature up to forty centigrade. they are quite pale after two dips – either the temperature was not high enough, or the reduction was starting to fail.

anyway, I gave the vat another feed of exhausted madder and left it to sleep.