Explore Find Collect Discover

Progressing with my little piece of fanciful endeavour. The weather is too hot to do much but I am enjoying this evening pastime.  Trying to contextualise this piece, I found it lends itself to ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’.  The ‘borrowing’ comes from Spirit Cloth, so thanks to Jude for her inspiration and putting me on yet another path.

It is quite difficult to find suitable, old, worn cloth, but I realise I have to collect all my textiles and yarns in one spot – I seem to be endlessly looking for where I have stashed them – and since we moved they could be anywhere!  I am using fabric dyed last year, snippets of my mother’s dressmaking, her box of embroidery threads, my threads from those I collected decades ago and even some old silk velvet from my sister’s mother in law.  The cloth (dyed in tea) with the holes was an old pillowcase into which we used to put horse riding gear when it was being machine washed.  The ‘something new’ is the print of the mallow plant growing in the new garden.

I really like the feel of the layers of cloth and the abstract forms created by the stitching on the reverse of the piece.  The space created by the circle (top left) seems to suggest landscape, or a vista.  It is the only part that has visual depth.  What to do next…

Piece

Transported from old to new dye possibilities

P1210737

It is now August, and I started this post in March…   Time passes.  It now feels like home.  Seeds of a new beginning – seed pods of Wharariki, the New Zealand mountain flax plant.

Oxford in the early morning sunlight – Mt Oxford hills seen from the town.

Sentinel-trees

At the beginning of 2014, a ‘sudden rush of blood to the head’ started a process that before you would have believed it possible landed us in another house in the same town within a month.  It does not feel like a home yet, but we are settling our nerves now, coming out of the upheaval.  People wonder why we did it, but the old place, gorgeous as it was, needed  younger, stronger custodians than we could give.  We thought it would take months to sell, but it happened almost immediately.  I really miss the plants and the beautiful views;  trying not to think too much about it.  However, I’m finding new curiosities and opportunities and living in the town will possibly force us out to the wild places that we neglected.  We really had a semi-wild place in the garden to keep us occupied.

Before we departed I managed to do a few solar dyes.  Some of the colours from last summer were still in their dye pots, so I popped in swatches of woven wool – Viburnum tinus, Privet berries, and Hypericum perforatum seed heads.  I also tried Rosemary twigs – lovely smell!

In early January I started a solar dye with flowers and another with leaves of Alchemilla mollis – the flower dye is below with a painted sample of the dye directly on the page.

Alchemilla-mollis flowers

In the dye jars, the yellow colour appeared almost immediately but I got a stronger colour from the  Alchemilla flowers.

A-mollis-flower-solar

Another solar jar was gradually receiving – over a fortnight – red hollyhock flowers that fell off the plant.  Previously I have steamed the hollyhock flower heads onto silk, and the colour was a bright pink, quite different to the result on wool.

Hollyhock-solar

 

The dried swatches as in my test book:

Feb-solar-dyes

One of the last photos I took at the old house.  Althea that I grew from seeds.  Will start again.

Althea

Snow in ‘summer’ along with high winds!   This is the view that greeted us a few days after we moved house.  Very dramatic welcome…

March-snow-wind

Our new house is just over one year old, like a doll’s house, and we have a garage full of stuff to be sorted, given away or reallocated somewhere.  There is a lovely patch of weeds down the road – some old friends and some new rather ferocious looking ones too!
Ferocious-weed

This knotweed is an old friend – and a walk in the park led me to some knotweed – Polygonum aviculare it may be – from which I have obtained a yellow.  So there are possibilities.  The knotweed below was growing by the footpath.  I have brought some of the prostrate polygonum from the old garden.

Friendly-weed

Mallow

weeds-fence

Yellow-with-plantain

Finally, a sentimental note.  A move like this presents your belongings to you in a different light.  You find things you had forgotten, and other possessions take on a new life.  I happened to look through two Stanley Gibbons stamp albums that belonged to my father.  The books are large and heavy, and lots of the stamps are missing, but not on this page, however.  Towards the back of the book, this 15-year-old listed the number of stamps he had collected:  on 10 March 1929 he had 1315.  I read this on the 10 March 2014.

pennyred

A print book

Time for this has been scarce recently, so I thought I should try to get another post in before 2014.

Some of my eco prints on paper have been made into artists books.  This one is a ten-page ‘concertina’ book.  It is a little difficult to present these books; however, here is a scan of the cover and the last page…

print-book-1

The cover image is printed onto handmade paper by Mark Lander.  The wood-block type of print (using a plastic block and a Dremel tool) was made in 2012.  The pages each have a line from the poem by Robert Frost – Gathering Leaves – and I have written these words with ink from Harakeke, the New Zealand flax plant.  The autumn leaves all come from our garden here in Oxford, and are a collection of prunus, oak, sycamore, cotinus, acer, pin oak and ash leaves – the coloured deciduous leaves all providing good elements for transfer to the paper which was dipped in alum first.  The dark brown on the pages below is provided by a piece of harakeke seed pod.

print-book-2

Steam and Solar Dyes – New Zealand Plants

In this post I collect together the New Zealand plants I have recently used in steam and solar dyeing.

Hebe species.  Steamed bundles

Hebe-plant

Hebe flowers and leaves were laid out on opposite sides of two silk bundles, with hebe twigs for the core. After steaming the leaves produced yellow and the flowers a mix of blue and a grey-pink-brown as is shown in the smaller bundle below.  Although as the silk used was already dyed a pale ‘salmon pink’, this background colour does not look very pink in the photograph…

Hebe small silk

Good colours, but not much definition of leaf or flower shape, and I still had the heat too high causing damage to the silk as you can see at the top the image above.  The photograph below shows part of the larger piece of dyed white silk.

Hebe-large-silk

Beech Leaves – Nothofagus species.  Solar dye

Nothofagus

I placed the leaves in water in a large jar.  No colour emerged, so  I decided to simmer the leaves, but unfortunately damaged them by letting the water in the pot dry out…

In 1849, when the British settlement of Canterbury started in earnest, the area named Oxford  by the early surveyors was covered by a large forest – Harewood Forest, which has been described as ‘the most magnificent stand of virgin bush in Canterbury and unique because of its variety.  It originally covered 56,000 acres [22,662.40  ha] and was the magnet which attracted the sawmilling community from which the present town grew’  (Oliver A Gillespie, Oxford, the first hundred years).  The forest  was logged for timber for the growing settlement around Christchurch and was nearly destroyed in 1898 by a fire which swept through the area, fanned by the strong winds that occur in Canterbury.  The last sawmill closed in 1912.

I will repeat the solar dye at some point, as I am lucky enough to have these trees growing in the garden.  There are still clumps of the forest remaining close by – and we find seeds from these oases arrive via the birds and grow well in the undisturbed parts of the garden.

Kapuka – Griselinia littoralis.  Solar dye

Griselinea

This tree is found in lowland and subalpine forest throughout New Zealand.  Griselinea has small flowers, which are green in the female and yellow in the male plants, and the berries are black when ripe.  For my test I used the green leaves which I cut up, and tied a knot in the alum pre-mordanted silk.  The berries are now on the trees, and ripen from March to June.

Griseliniesilksample

Wharariki, New Zealand Mountain or Coastal Flax Plant – Phormium cookianum.  

Steamed bundle and solar dye.

I think the flax plants in my garden are cultivars of P. cookianum.  The leaves have distinct colours – either green, yellow, pink and orange, or in combination, each plant being different.  The flowers are small and, characteristically for this plant, the seed pods hang downwards and are more or less twisted.  Our flax plants have not flowered yet this year so I wonder if they flower every year.  (See more details here :  <http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/plants/ethnobotany/weaving-plants/information-sheets/harakeke-and-wharariki> )

This piece of silk started life as a steamed bundle containing a fallen Magnolia bud, but very little colour came from this (here the silk is still wet).  Taking this silk I  rolled up a new bundle containing just yellow flax leaf pieces and put it on to steam with the Hebe bundles mentioned above.  The vein down the centre of the flax leaf left a good red mark on the silk.

P1170291

P-cookianum-silk

Makomako or Wineberry – Aristotelia serrata.  Steamed bundle and solar dye

 The plant is found throughout New Zealand in lowland and subalpine forest, especially in clearings.  The solar dye liquid has a sweet, wine-like smell.

Aristotelia-serrata

Incorporated into a steam bundle of mixed flowers and leaves, were some Flax, Wineberry and Griselinea leaves, and Hebe flowers.  The Wineberry leaves gave a good imprint.  This is seen in the two images below.  The purple-grey marks are from the leaves which are thin and translucent.  (The pink in the background of the second  image below is from hollyhock flowers.)

wineberrybundle

Wineberry

The berries, which are edible, are red when mature and black when ripe.  I picked black berries and solar dyed the cotton shown below.  The colour of the dye is very strong.  This entry in my workbook is shared with a eucalyptus solar dye.

Wineberry-solar

The Eucalyptus (I think it is blue dollar gum) shown above, leads nicely into my next post which I intend to be about my other solar dyes.

For information on the plants I referred to NZ Flowers and Plants in Colour by J. T. Salmon, edition published in 1986.  Some of the plant nomenclature has changed since then, but I have used the current plant names.  All plants come from the garden.