I made a beautiful collar for another Mother of the Bride. She lives in Maryland and it happens that she also raises Border Leicesters which have been used to create the collar below:
The brown collar was made with Wensleydale lambswool from JoAnn in Occidental, CA and then dipped in an Indigo Vat to get a blue background.
I swear I can’t ever get enough of these curls.
I had to admit, at some point I felt a little panic during the production of this dress (just a little). I tend to think about too many “what if’s” and I have to remind myself that I will be fine. I was checking my emails a few days ago, and the first email from The Mother of the Bride was on October last year. I met her in December and I agreed to design her a dress for her daughter’s wedding. Talking about a little pressure, right? I worked on it really slow and I took my time before walking to the next step. I guess I take dyeing for granted (since that’s what I generally do almost each week), because when I realized that it was the time to dye the dress, again my “what ifs” started to go around my head again. I don’t have a lot of experience with indigo. My friend Charmaine kindly spent an afternoon with me showing how she prepares her vat. So, I was on my own and I had to dye the dress with Indigo. I took my notes, and started my first indigo vat. So, one cold afternoon, I held my breath and I dipped the white dress in a stinky dark liquid hoping that the magic would do its trick for me… And it did!
The reds from the cochineal turned purple, the yellows from the Osage Orange turned green and the white wool and silk turned blue.
The making of this dress tought me a few things. One of them was feeling ok with using buttons to fasten the garment. And the other lesson I learned is being p-a-t-i-e-n-t!
The dress was modeled by my friend Gina.
I was able to order some cochineal from a farm in Oaxaca a couple of months ago, and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to use it. Well, I realized that it wasn’t going to happen if I didn’t make the time for it, so in the middle of getting ready for the Wool Festival last weekend, I was also dyeing silk fabric at the same time I was labeling and pricing wool. It got a little crazy here at home, but I just couldn’t wait any longer for the perfect moment to arrive. In my hurry, I also underestimated the dye’s ability to stain almost anything, that I bypassed washing my dye pot thoroughly that I previously used with cochineal last winter and my mordanted fabric got a pinkish color. I kind of like it, but it definitely will change the outcome of my final colors.
I also been soaking my Osage Orange in vodka. Even though I soaked it for a few months, I think I prefer this method, because it saves a lot on energy, time and the brew is ready any time I’m prepared to proceed with my dyeing.
There is my Cochineal to the left and my Osage Orange soaking to the right. This is getting exciting…
The silk gets one shade lighter after it gets dry.
I didn’t plan to have these orchids blooming at the same time…
Red has been a valued colour in so many cultures. It carries importance since it has been used to symbolize power and gave status only to those that could afford to wear it. Since ancient times it has always been some sort of a quest to find a natural source that yields such colour. Ochers, Iron Oxides and Cinnabar were some of the pigments used to get reds, but technically they are not considered dyes since they don’t chemically bond to the textile. Generally speaking, dyes comes from an organic source, like plants and insects and only a handful of them yield a deep red colour. Madder, Shellfish Purple, Lac and Kermes are some of the examples of those natural dyes used and traded throughout ancient history. In Mexico a scale insect called nocheztli (tuna’s blood) that fed from a cactus, was cultivated in order to get a red dye. Eventually the name was changed to Cochinilla and entire families and countries built businesses and fortunes around it. Their sources and recipes were seriously considered trade secrets and those who gave away valuable information were severely punished with the risk of losing their lives if those secrets were revealed.
“The finest and best dye drug in the world.” – Amy Butler
Great books to read:
Color: A Natural History of the Palette by Victoria Finlay
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield
I made this dress for a window display in Pt. Reyes. The materials and dyes used for this project had to be all locally sourced. It was a lot of fun collecting the materials to create the garment. I tried the dress and I was very surprised that wasn’t itchy at all.
I finally finished this dress/coat that I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks. Since the walnut tree behind my Post Office is about to loose its leaves for the season, I decided to take advantage of it for the last time and harvest a handful of them to print the garment. I love the back, but I’m not so trill about the front. I have to think about something else to spice it up a little. I think that I jumped way too fast and didn’t plan well enough before placing the leaves. I’m already planning another version.
And not only with botanical prints. We also focused on the use of different dyes like Madder, Indigo, Weld and Cochineal to add more depth to the already interesting looking prints that we get from the leaves. The class went really fast and the amount of information was sometimes a bit overwhelming, but it was all reinforced by putting into practice the information given in the classroom. Besides being a wonderful teacher, Irit is very generous with the information she shares with her students. I came back home tired, but eager to start playing with all the new techniques that I learned at Pacific Grove. Here are few of the pictures I took of some of the student projects made in this class.
I discovered the world of felting several years ago, through the guidance of Polly Stirling, the pioneer of Nuno Felting and I vividly remember the feelings and excitement I had when I first dove into learning a whole new language that wool and silk speaks when they get together. Polly used to come to SF to teach her workshops at the Sewing Workshop, and I was one of the lucky ones that got to sign up for a couple of them on two consecutive years. Both classes were filled with so much information about how to lay the fabric, fibers, and how to get different effects and textures.
Years have passed ever since, and my felting went into a sort of a halt… until the day that I stumbled upon the work of Vilte and Irit Dulman. When I first saw their work I was taken aback by the beauty and the complexity of their pieces. The textures and layers express an organic rawness that almost look like the pieces are taken from tree barks, waterfalls, sand dunes, etc. They are photographs of nature captured into beautiful garments. I learned that they where offering workshops. Unfortunately for me, the workshops were held in far away places… bummer. But not for too long.
Work by Vilte
Going Beyond the Surface
I heard that a new workshop was going to be held here in California. In Monterey to be more exact. I signed up almost immediately and I started gathering my materials for the workshop with lots of excitement. I drove to Monterey with my car filled with smelly raw fibers, boxes packed with all kinds of leaves that I started gathering, since who knows when, bolts of silk, fibers of all sorts, and an unending list of accoutrements… and big expectations. I should have taken a picture of my car. It looked like the car of one of those homeless guys that hung out here in town. With all due respect…
I won’t go into details about the workshop, but it was a wonderful experience. It was intense and filled with so much information that I’m still slowly processing it, but I came home with a set of new tools that I will be able to apply to my work and renew that first love that I felt for the first time I encountered felting. Irit and Vilte generously shared their knowledge, but furthermore, what they truly do is plant the seeds for more experimenting and exploration, which enhances the true value of their workshops.
I retured home tired, but happy and with several pieces, some felted, and some pieces of silk dyed with different kinds of leaves, and an immense amount of inspiration that will last me a lifetime.
Rose leaf details