Shibori in the sunshine

To celebrate the start of summer at last, yesterday I set up a two-gallon indigo vat in the garden, watched by a curious frog in the pond.

I followed Cally‘s recipe for a strong vat, as I wanted to experiment with dyeing cotton gauze for making nuno felt. Because the weave is far too open to stitch it on its own, I tacked a piece of gauze to a piece of poplin and used a hexagonal stencil I bought from Cally to mark where the stitching should go. Then I stitched through both pieces, pulled up and dipped three times.


The pattern was much stronger on the poplin than on the gauze (which was very difficult to photograph), but I think the dark colour will work well against white felt.

I also tried my hand, not very successfully, at a mokune moon:

Finally, I tried a variation of mokune, or stitching in rows – but much more regularly rather than using stitches of random length – topped with a circle. The pattern reminds me a bit of a stained glass window in a church.


Summer school report

The full summer school ran for five days, but I could only attend three, as I had to get back to London to pack up my Morley exhibition on Friday morning. So it was pretty intensive, and I ended up stitching frantically at my godmother’s house in the evenings as well!

The first day we made up the vat in the greenhouse and then returned to the studio, where we were introduced to the infamous Cally knot, which is very quick to do and a great way to avoid your thread slipping through the fabric when you pull up! We worked on binding, using mung beans and bits of tubing, and stitching. Cally’s stencils came in very handy here. As I’ve previously stitched circles, I had a go at the chain pattern.

We didn’t actually start dipping until the second day. Cally leaves pieces to oxidise much longer between dips than I have been used to – ideally until they dry out completely, or at least for several hours, turning them regularly. However, in a workshop this is clearly not possible, so we usually left them for 15-30 minutes, or overnight. Then after several dips, she leaves the work to dry completely before washing out. Then it dries again before you untie or unbind. Of course, it can be frustrating when you just want to see the final results, but she says that this process makes the indigo more fast and gives a better depth and evenness of colour.

On the second day we moved onto itajime and I also wrapped a stitched piece I’d done on an arashi pole. So it wasn’t until the third day that we started actually seeing the results of our labours. It was a real shame I had to leave early, as I felt I was just getting into my stride – but I certainly left buzzing with ideas for combining different techniques and fabrics!

It also meant that my godmother never got to see any of the finished pieces, as I returned to London directly after the course on Thursday! So Maria – this post is specially for you. 🙂

This is my attempt at a stitched chain pattern – not a patch on the beautiful version that Cally had on display (see last post).

I also made a piece by stitching straight lines, pulling up, then wrapping it around an arashi pole:

On the third day I experimented with pleating the fabric before wrapping it on the arashi pole. The results from this were probably my favourites, and this is something I want to explore further at home, possibly in combination with stitching. However, I will need a deeper vat!

As the day went on, the washing line gradually filled with more and more interesting pieces – here are some lovely stitched pieces by Isabelle (centre) and Marilyn (right), and a clamped piece by Jennifer (left) that she described as “a kitchen floor”!

And a great piece by Marilyn (below) combining itajime and stitch on silk muslin:

Marilyn makes wedding dresses for her day job and brought with her a whole box of silk offcuts. Some of these were in different colours, and it was very interesting to see how the indigo dyed these. By using different resists, such as plastic, and dipping into the different strength vats, she achieved some interesting effects. You can see a piece of fuschia silk that she dyed using binding and stitch in the photo below:

I also have to mention the food, which was plentiful and tasty, especially the afternoon cakes. And of course, it was served on a shibori tablecloth – even the plates fit the colour scheme!

Finally – my godmother’s front garden. It’s not blue and white, but it does contain some beautiful forms and colour combinations!

Shibori dragonfly and ombre

I haven’t had much time recently to concentrate on being creative. I’ve found from experience that if I try to rush through something in a couple of hours, it inevitably goes wrong and I end up wasting time and materials, so I might as well have done something else. Also – understandably – when ESP is on holiday he wants to go out and do things rather than sit and watch me making felt! 😉

So over Easter we visited a couple of exhibitions – David Hockney at the Royal Academy (absolutely brilliant) and the Hajj exhibition at the British Museum, which contained some impressive embroidered textiles.

This morning I finally found some time to tackle some of the lessons from the online shibori course – stitching a dragonfly and trying some ombre dyeing (graded colour).

Both these pieces were dyed with indigo on linen, dipped several times.

I also tried some ombre dyeing on a cheap scarf I bought in a charity shop for 99p. I don’t even know what it’s made of, but it has a very open weave. I folded it several times, and dipped it in a couple of different dilutions of indigo.