Pickled Silk

•February 3, 2014 • Leave a Comment

This post is inspired by one of my favorite fiber artists, India Flint. Her unique approaches to dyeing with anything found in nature is very inspiring, and her fabrics are breathtaking.

If you are located in the Boston area and want to see her work in person, visit Gilda’s Boutique in Newton, MA. India’s work is showcased there.

One of her methods brings together ecoprint bundling with food preservation techniques. Stuff, Steep and Store collects virtual jars from around the world, containing plant material bundled in fabric, soaking in dye solutions.

So, here it is: my version of ‘stuff, steep, and store’.

The first jar contains avocado pits and skins as well as onion skins wrapped in a square silk scarf. The dye liquid is a delicious blueberry reduction.


The second jar contains carrot peels, flower petals, orange peels, and spinach wrapped and tied into an oblong silk scarf.


Now only to be patient!

Hickory Nuts Dye – Part 2

•August 14, 2013 • 1 Comment

Dyeing with plant material is always such an adventure, especially when finding a new intriguing fruit or flower. I found these the other day on a walk in the woods and finally classified them as hickory nuts.

I chopped them up and put them in a pot of water to soak for 3 days


This is what the exhausted hickories and the dye liquor looked like after the soak


I had a pillow cover dyed with turmeric that I meant to stamp with antique fabric stamps dipped in discharge paste, but I thought it might look striking over dyed with hickory. The second piece is a square scarf that had been shibori tied with various techniques.


After I boiled up the dye and let it simmer for an hour, I added the two pieces, let it simmer for another hour, and then soak overnight. On the right, you can see what they looked like coming out of the dye bath


Now came the tedious part of untying and removing rubber bands and pebbles. A good rinse with mild organic detergent and a trip to the ironing board, and this was the result:



I love the way the came out. A very warm, golden, cinnamon brown. And I think it complements the turmeric yellow very well.

Hickory Nuts Dye – Part 1

•August 10, 2013 • 1 Comment

We are getting close to that part of the year where berries and tree fruit are getting ripe (am watching my highly coveted elderberry bush very closely!). On my latest walk, I found these:

Had no clue what they were. After extensive googling, I decided they are hickory nuts. Please correct me if I’m wrong!

They look close enough to walnuts that I thought it would be worth a try to extract dye from the hulls.


Keep posted, I will show you the results in a week or two!

FRIDAY FACETS – Do You Meditate?

•June 28, 2013 • 1 Comment

This is the question a friend asked me out of the blue.

‘Do you meditate?’

Left me speechless for a minute because I had to think about what exactly she meant by ‘meditation’.

I do not have an altar set up with candles and a statue symbolic of a faith. I do not sit cross legged in a darkened quiet room. I do not listen to guided meditation. I do not chant mantras or use prayer beads.

This is what most people might imagine when they think about the word ‘meditation’.

But doesn’t it really mean to focus your mind, shut out all the chatter, let go of all the business and thought racing, and silence your mind for a while?

This I do. In two ways.

One is to go for walks with my dog, preferably in the woods where we rarely meet other people. The scents of green and standing water and wet soil and hot sun on leaves and the surprising sweetness of a hidden flower. The sounds of birds and rustling leaves and my foot steps and the soft jingle of my dog’s tags. Brings my mind to rest and my eyes open to detect things I wouldn’t with all that monkey chatter in my head.


The second one is when I sit down with a spool of thread and a handful of pebbles and tie them into a piece of silk.  When I stitch a pattern that changes from the original idea as I go because I see it differently now. When I chop up a head of red cabbage, put it in a big bowl with water to let it soak, and watch as almost immediately the color is being released and starts creating swirls and the color of the water changes from soft to dark pink. When I see how fabric in a dye bath deepens in color and takes on surprising shades sometimes. When I untie a shibori piece and the pattern slowly unfolds. When I sprinkle salt or drop alcohol onto wet silk paint and watch how the dye seems to be startled away and creates unpredictable markings and color flows. 


These things are mesmerizing. All other thoughts disappear, and I only see colors and flow and feel the materials in my hands and the joy of creating something beautiful.

So my answer to my friend was: ‘Yes, I meditate.’

Does your art give you a similar feeling of relaxation and peace?


More Friday Facets here

FRIDAY FACETS – Appealing Peel or Not?

•June 21, 2013 • 1 Comment

I experimented with banana peels this week. There were a few more than overripe bananas left over, and I thought they might give a nice tone and pattern. I spread out the silk, laid out the bananas (cut in half), wrapped it up tightly, and put it in a zip lock bag for quick-composting.

banana peels wrapped in silk

The bag was left on the window sill for about 3 weeks.

The result was not quite as imagined. The silk took on a very subtle champagne tone with a few gold colored spots. The pattern is almost invisible.


I kind of like the feel of it, how airy and subtle it is, but I think I will overdye it with turmeric.

What do you think?

More Friday Facets here!

FRIDAY FACETS – Bark it up 2

•June 1, 2013 • 1 Comment

A while back, I shared my first adventure with bark dyeing.

Preparing this particular dye is very tedious. The bark should preferably be free of any critters and soil, and has to be broken up into small pieces. Then it needs to soak in stagnant water for a few weeks, with a few stirs every once in a while and topping off the water as needed.

Then the mixture has to be brought to a boil and simmered for a few hours. I added a fairly large amount of iron mordant.

Kimberly Baxter Packwood, who is the inspiration for my dyeing experiments and whose tutorials I consult frequently, mentioned that iron mordant will result in a blue dye color. You can see her work on her website or facebook page.

The smell of simmering maple bark that has been sitting in stagnant water for weeks is not a pleasant one, let me tell you! Imagine wool socks worn for a week straight in ski boots, a rotten egg, and your teenage son’s gym equipment boiled together. There you have the smell!

After simmering, the mixture is strained through a sieve to catch even the smallest solid parts.

I started with a pillow case and a tie, one shibori tied, the other one clamped, and let them soak overnight.

The resulting color was not the expected blue, but a nice silvery grey. Very elegant. Probably did not use enough iron mordant. I will try again!


For the second batch, the dye bath was already exhausted, so the resulting color this time was a pale beige, similar to my first experiment where I did not soak the bark long enough to extract all the dye.

I want to try oak bark next to see if it yields a different color.

To see what other artists created this week, visit Friday Facets here!

FRIDAY FACETS – Venerated Pieces

•May 17, 2013 • 5 Comments

Please tell me I am not the only one who hoards saves special pieces of fabric, beads, findings, etc. for ‘the perfect project’.

I have two things in particular that I cannot bring myself to use.

One is a length of silk. It is spiderweb like in texture, a radiant blue. A true witness to the outstanding craftsmanship of Lyonnaise silk weavers, a city famous for her silk production. I bought it a few years ago, together with many other wonderful pieces, in a small silk weaver shop hidden in one of the tiny street of Croix Rousse.

I take it out every once in a while and imagine what I could do with it. An organic pattern drawn with silver gutta would look wonderful. As would fine embroidery with metallic thread. Or embellishment with tiny gemstone beads, peridot maybe, or citrine. Just an elaborate border as not to take away from the beauty of the silk.

Then I touch its unique texture and look how the sun intensifies the color and I cannot make up my mind. I don’t want to ruin its beauty. It is so delicate and So back into the box it goes until the next time.

The second coveted piece is a set of intricate silver beads with inlays of coral and turquoise. My friend brought them for me from a trip to Thailand.

I don’t know how many times I have arranged and rearranged them on my jewelers’ tray. Combined them with other beads. Took those off again because they didn’t seem to do them justice. Temporarily strung them on silver wire. Decided which pair to use for earrings. Changed my mind yet again and experimented with a new necklace design. Held different Karen Hill Tribe toggle clasps against it to see which one would be perfect.

Each one of those beads is so unique and wonderful, it is difficult to commit to one design only.

So they also go back into their box. Until the next time I think I have the perfect design for them.

Anybody else having similar problems?


More Friday Facets here!


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