Autumn ecoprinting

I haven’t done that much ecoprinting since the workshop in May with Irit Dulman. But with the autumnal colours all around, it seems seasonally appropriate somehow. And maybe it’s due to a different proportion of leaf pigments at this time of year, or maybe my technique is improving, but I seem to be getting more consistent results now. It’s probably a bit of both! ;-)

sumac leaves

My sister Woman of the Cloth Carol came round last week with a large bag of sumac leaves (Rhus typhina), from the tree she is lucky enough to have growing in her front garden. The colours were glorious in their own right, but the leaves also contain a lot of tannin, which gives good prints.

I started by overprinting a couple of “failed” silk scarves from earlier experiments. On the first I used sumac and oak leaves, with a bit of logwood in the dyebath.

sumac scarf sumac scarf2 sumac scarf3

On the second I used eucalyptus, with a bit of cochineal.

eucalyptus scarf2eucalyptus scarf

I also printed a failed cotton scarf with sumac and maple – the prints here were more subtle.

sumac cotton scarf sumac cotton scarf2 sumac cotton scarf3

Back to silk, this was a vintage silk dress I found in a binliner of fabric scraps given to me by a friend who was clearing out her mother’s house after she died. I used three different types of maple leaf on this – they came out beautifully.

maple dress maple dress2 maple dress3 maple dress4

Finally, I made some hand felted berets and tried printing on those. Here are the results with sumac and maple.

sumac beretmaple beret

All these pieces used an iron mordant.

Lambeth Open 2015

As mentioned previously, I’m taking part in Lambeth Open again this year, which takes place this weekend (3 and 4 October).

I’m teaming up with two fellow Makerhood members.

  • Gabriela Szulman creates wonderful collages, prints, dolls, jewellery and furniture, combining painting and decoupage (you may remember the fantastic shoe decoupage workshop of hers I attended). Gabriela is very kindly hosting for the weekend in her lovely new studio, and will be doing a decoupage demonstration on Sunday afternoon.
  • Robyn Parker of Archie Mac London is leading a crusade against beige, creating kaleidoscopic, playful textiles which she makes into bright, colourful home and fashion accessories. Robyn’s Chronicles of Brixton for the recent Brixton Design Trail featured items that people would save from a fire.

I will have my latest batch of upcycled indigo shibori scarves, natch, plus some examples of my latest felt work, like the seashells and eco-printed vessels.

Two doors down, printmaker Pauline Amphlett will be displaying etchings, aquatints, lino prints and collographs featuring London trees and stylised birds.

So do come along and see the lovely varied work on display!

Gabriela Szulman Open Studio is at 6 Empress Mews, Kenbury Street, London SE5 9BT. We will be open Saturday and Sunday 3 and 4 October, 10am-6pm.

Henry’s star mantle and Gunther’s shroud

There’s been a bit of a radio silence as I’ve been on holiday followed by a week or so catching up with website work. And all of a sudden it feels like the run-up to the Christmas sales season, starting with Lambeth Open on 3-4 October, of which more later.

But first I want to tell you about a couple of amazing textile pieces I saw while on holiday. Bamberg, in Bavaria, southern Germany, is a beautiful medieval town that is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The cathedral has some splendid sculptures, including the tomb of its founder, Emperor Henry II, and his wife Empress Cunigunde, both saints. Among the scenes from their lives carved by Tilman Riemenschneider on the tomb, there is one of Cunigunde walking on red-hot ploughshares to prove her innocence.

st cunigunde

But it was in the adjoining Cathedral Museum that I made this wonderful discovery.  The star exhibit here is Henry II’s Star Mantle, which was given to him by Duke Ismahel of Bari and dates from 973-1024.

Henry II's star mantle

According to the Worshipful Company of Broiderers, “The original 11th century mantle was made of silk twill with medallions of the life of Christ and celestial bodies worked in couched gold thread, with some details in coloured silk in stem stitch.  In the 15th century the embroidered elements were cut away and remounted on the current Italian silk damask, so the original placement of the motifs is not known.”

The condition and detail are superb – you can clearly make out signs of the zodiac and other constellations among the medallions.

henry II's star mantle

In the adjoining room was another equally compelling piece of silk, known as Gunther’s shroud. This was given to or bought by Gunther von Bamberg, Bishop of Bamberg, during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1064-65, and was buried with him when he died. It was rediscovered in 1830.

Although there is some damage to the piece, the colours are exquisitely preserved, and the figures are in classic Byzantine style, reminiscent of the famous mosaics in Ravenna.

gunthertuch gunthertuch2

Clearly the best way to preserve textiles is to bury them in a cathedral for 1,000 years!

On a lighter note, here’s a photo of some lace Lederhosen I spied in a shop window – rather more delicate than the real thing. :-)

lace lederhosen

Ecoprinting with eucalyptus

My neighbour Len three doors down has a very large eucalyptus tree in his garden. I kept meaning to ask if I could go and “prune” some cuttings, but I don’t see him very often (it’s like that in London!).

But I came home one day a few months ago to find a landscape gardener’s truck parked on the road filled with various branches and cuttings, including eucalyptus! There was no-one around to ask (it was lunchtime), so I salvaged an armful of eucalyptus – and it’s been sitting on my front porch ever since.

For those of you who have never done any ecoprinting, eucalyptus is one of the easiest plants to work with. It doesn’t need a mordant, prints on pretty much anything (including plastic!), and, as a bonus, fills the house with a lovely smell while “cooking”. :-)

So last week I finally got round to using some of it for ecoprinting. I started with a cream wool scarf, which gave some very strong prints.

scarf with eucalyptus ecoprints

As they were so strong, I wondered whether the prints would still show if I overdyed with indigo. I hummed and ha-ed and took a mini straw poll on Instagram, where there was a slight majority in favour of leaving it as it was.

But I tested the indigo vat after the dyeing session with Carol and it seemed to be fairly weak. So I overdyed. :-)

eucalyptus ecoprint overdyed with indigo

I’d tested the vat on cotton, and it came out fairly light blue, but the wool scarf clearly took the colour much better, so the scarf is darker than I expected. But the prints still show through.

I also printed a couple of raw silk scarves. Because the fabric is much lighter, textured and semi-transparent, I was quite disappointed when I initially unwrapped these, as the prints didn’t seem to be as strong. However, one of the things I learnt on Irit Dulman’s workshop is that you can’t tell what the final print looks like until the fabric is dry and ironed – and indeed, the print was stronger when the scarves were dry.

I’m still considering whether to overprint these with some different leaves treated with iron, but I may resist(!), given the indigo result.

As the eucalyptus worked so well on wool, I made a couple of felt vessels and printed these.

felt vessels ecoprinted with eucalyptus felt vessels ecoprinted with eucalyptus

I don’t think I will overdye these! ;-)

Finally, in case you thought I was kidding about eucalyptus printing on plastic, here’s a picture of some of the plastic wrap I used to cover one of the scarves!

plastic ecoprinted with eucalyptus

Indigo dyeing with Carol

Last week my sister Woman of the Cloth Carol came round for a day of indigo dyeing.

indigo dyeing

I’ve not run indigo shibori workshops at my house because the thought of having several people traipsing between my kitchen (where the water supply is) and the garden (where the indigo vat is) with dripping blue bundles is a bit alarming, even though my house is not exactly up to show home standard – as you will see from the photos!

Also, indigo dyeing is slow – you need to dip several times to build up colour and make it fast, and the fabric has to oxidise well between dips. And although there are some shibori techniques that are relatively quick, stitching and binding resists are time consuming. So it’s not for people who want to produce something in a couple of hours.

shibori stitching

However, Carol is a very competent stitcher (she runs embroidery workshops), and, despite her being a decorator, I knew she wouldn’t be judgemental about the state of my house. ;-)

She turned up with a beautiful bundle of table mats and napkins, many of them with lovely crocheted or cutwork edging. Some of these we just dyed without any resists.

indigo dyeing

A couple of the larger pieces we rolled and tied with string.

indigo shibori

For the stitching techniques we used mokume (woodgrain), karamatsu (Japanese larch) and maki-age (stitch combined with binding).

We managed to dip each piece three times, but as I generally prefer to let the fabric oxidise overnight before unpicking, Carol took some of the pieces home and undid them and washed them through the next day.

indigo shibori indigo shibori

As you can see, the stitch patterns are very strong and distinct – good stitching technique Carol! :-)