Shibori on a larger scale

Most of my indigo shibori work is in the form of upcycled scarves or relatively small (fat quarter size) pieces of cotton or linen.

This is for a couple of reasons. First, the plastic bucket that I rather grandiosely refer to as my indigo vat is not very large. And second, certain shibori techniques, especially those involving stitching, are rather time consuming to do, so the price I would have to charge for larger pieces quickly rises to stratospheric levels. :-0

So although I get regular enquiries via my Etsy shop for larger pieces, I usually turn them down. However, recently I had a request for three pieces of fabric about 1.5m x 1.5m in the honeycomb pattern (below), so I thought I would have a go.

fq honeycomb1

This pattern is produced by rolling the fabric around a rope and then compressing it, so no time-consuming stitching is involved, and once it is compressed it is small enough to fit in the vat.

The challenge with a larger piece of fabric lies in trying to keep the fabric straight as you roll it, and then compressing that thickness of fabric tightly enough to get a clear pattern across the whole area of the fabric. You also have to squeeze the fabric hard when dipping it in the indigo to get the dye to penetrate the inner layers as much as possible.

I dipped them all on the same day to try to ensure consistency of colour across all three pieces. My right hand in particular was quite sore after rolling, compressing and squeezing all three. Undoing and rinsing these larger pieces was also a bit of an effort to avoid splashing blue water all over the kitchen floor!

However, the pieces came out pretty well and consistent. Here they are drying on the line.

curtain1 curtain2 curtain3

The customer used them to make three Roman blinds, and I was delighted when she sent me a photo of one of the finished products. :)

shibori blind

I’ve since had another custom order for a larger piece of fabric in this pattern, which also went well.

However, given the frequency of requests for larger pieces, I am considering the possibility of scanning some of the more time-consuming patterns to produce digital files that could be used to print larger lengths of fabric. Clearly these would not be handmade (though they would be based on original handmade patterns), and there would be obvious repeats. But it would be quicker and cheaper to produce larger pieces.

What do you think? Is the one-off handmade aspect more important to you? Or would you prefer to pay less for a digitally printed reproduction?

Ecoprinting with mordants and natural dyes

Feast or famine: I haven’t posted for a while, so today you’re getting a long photo-heavy post! All the garments featured are upcycled, bought from charity shops or auctions.

With most of the previous ecoprinting I’ve done I have not mordanted the fabric. I’ve used mostly silk and wool, which are protein fibres and tend to print OK if I bundle them with a piece of cloth soaked in iron. The vintage cream silk dress below, for example, was not mordanted in advance – I just used maple leaves and an iron “blanket”.

maple dress

So I extended this method to other silk garments that were already dyed different colours. The scarf below was a strong lime yellow, and I printed it with different geranium (cranesbill) leaves. I picked the leaves from the garden of lovely embroiderer Lucy Goffin, who makes beautiful bespoke structured garments and also runs the fantastic Marchants nursery with her husband Graham.

ecoprint geranium scarf

This is an orange silk skirt printed with maple leaves. The orange was quite dark, so the print is quite subtle.

ecoprint maple skirt orange 2 ecoprint maple skirt orange

And this was a pale pink silk blouse printed with larger maple leaves.

ecoprint maple pink blouseecoprint maple pink blouse 2

Just as experiment, I also printed an unmordanted yellow cotton T-shirt with sycamore leaves. As well as the shape of the leaves, I love the shapes produced by the long stalks – so you will see quite a few sycamores featuring below!

ecoprint yellow sycamore tshirtecoprint yellow sycamore tshirt 2

I then mordanted a batch of garments with alum, and dyed them with natural dyes before ecoprinting on top.

This is a cotton apron dyed with oak leaves and printed with sycamore leaves.

ecoprint apron

This T-shirt was dyed in the oak leaves after the apron, so it was a paler brown, before printing with maple leaves. The maple leaves were quite thick and waxy, so they seem to have acted more like resists than printing themselves. You can also see very clearly the effect of using an iron blanket, as I mistakenly forgot to include it in one part of the bundle! I may have to overprint this with something else.

ecoprint maple tshirt ecoprint maple tshirt2

Finally, it was back to silk. Here’s a silk top dyed with onion skins and printed with sycamore leaves.

ecoprint onion sycamore ecoprint onion sycamore2

Another silk top dyed with pomegranate and printed with sycamore leaves. Both the onion skins and the pomegranate gave very similar golden yellows after dyeing (sorry – forgot to take any photos), but I simmered the pomegranate bundle with the sycamore leaves for less time, so it’s brighter.

ecoprint pomegranate sycamore ecoprint pomegranate sycamore2

The cotton apron picked up more details from the leaves than the cotton T-shirts, and the silk was even better, perhaps due to the relative thickness of the fabric?So many combinations and permutations to try!


Alice Fox – Leaf Stitching

More grovelling apologies for another review after an exhibition has closed, but I only managed to see Leaf Stitching by Alice Fox at the SDC Gallery on its last day (last Saturday).

Alice Fox stitched oak leaves

I’ve followed Alice’s blog for a while (there’s a link to it in the left-hand column), fascinated by her experiments with rust dyeing and their ability to evoke a sense of place. She had some of her rust prints in the gallery, including some of her Tide Marks series and Pavement Pieces based on found objects, but the main emphasis here was on her stitched leaves.

The window featured three hangings of stitched eucalyptus leaves, which Alice says stitch well and give off a lovely smell at the same time.

Alice Fox stitched eucalyptus

The colours of the eucalyptus contrasted with the oak leaf “quilt”, where the prominent leaf veins created more texture than colour (though the subtly different shades of brown were lovely).

Alice Fox oak quilt

Star of the show was a series of leaf cubes, arranged in a colour circle – a triumph of delicate geometry.

alice fox leaf cubesalice fox leaf cubes

Alice hadn’t preserved the leaves in any way and is up front about the ephemeral nature of this work: “As stitched objects they won’t remain the same forever, although once dried out, and if stored carefully, there is no reason why they won’t stay the same for a good long time. They were not originally intended as pieces to be kept or displayed. In recording them as photographs in a publication some of their ephemeral nature is overcome”.

In this she follows in the tradition of artists like Andy Goldsworthy who create fleeting moments of beauty in nature.

I couldn’t resist buying Alice’s book Natural Processes in Textile Art – a great source of information on using natural and found objects to create art.

alice fox book

And here is the first work in progress inspired by the book. It’s an ecoprint on paper folded into a small book, which I’ve started stitching into.

ecoprint stitch book ecoprint stitch book ecoprint stitch book ecoprint stitch book




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.