Tool Tips For Natural Dyeing

Lately, I’ve moved a few underused appliances out of the kitchen and into the studio. And I’m kicking myself for waiting this long.

Dehydrating willow leaves to grind.

The dehydrator won’t be missed in the kitchen. I just never got in the habit of using it there. But in the studio, it didn’t take long to decide it’s invaluable. I’ve been using it to dry willow leaves, which I then use an old coffee grinder to turn into a coarse powder. And that’s just the start. Continue reading Tool Tips For Natural Dyeing

Sievers Natural Dye Retreat

If there’s something even better than having a burner for everyone and a floor where spills don’t matter, it’s a big patch of dye materials right out the back door and great companions while harvesting, brewing and learning.

Students in Sievers 2015 Natural Dye Retreat with willow harvest.

Students in the Natural Dye Retreat at Sievers started their week by cutting material from the willow patch on campus. It’s beautiful material for dyeing as well as for basketmaking. I’ll write more about the specifics of willow dyeing soon (I haven’t forgotten, Frances!). But for now, here’s a picture of a wool-silk yarn dyed with willow leaves (salix alba vitellina) and modifiers from a demo I did while the fresh-leaf Japanese indigo pot was heating.

Yarn naturally dyed with willow leaves, and a modifier sample set.
From left: Dyed with leaves of Salix Alba Vitellina, baking soda modifier (no heat), copper liquor modifier (heated), willow/iron liquor modifier with COT (brief low heat), white pine bark alkaline extract modifier (no heat)

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On Invasives And Plant Dyes

At what point are invaders considered naturalized? That’s been a central topic in a class I’m taking this fall on the ethnobotany of Central Wisconsin. A recurring theme has been how one person’s weed is another’s food or medicinal plant — or natural dye.

Buckthorn -- invasive weed and natural dye plant.

It wasn’t on the syllabus, but buckthorn came into the discussion early in the class. We’ve all tried and failed to stop the spread of this European invader. Buckthorn leafs out early and holds its leaves late, often shading native plants. And it produces a huge amount of fruit, making it easy for birds that eat the fruit to disperse the seed where they poop, making more buckthorn. It has spread so widely now in our area that it seems likely here to stay. Which led to the question, “What will people think of it in 400 years?”

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At Last, Nalbinding

It’s taken almost 20 years, but I think I finally have a handle on one species of the looping genus known as nalbinding (or nalebinding, or naalbinding…).

My WIP in nalbinding class

Last weekend I traveled to Iowa to Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American Museum, for a 3-day class in their Folk Art School with Kate Martinson, an Emeritus Professor of Art at Luther College in Decorah.

The first time someone showed me how to do a nalbinding stitch would have been about 1996. By that time, I had been looping for a while and was pretty comfortable with the basic structure and concepts. But it’s one thing to see someone stitch in nalbinding and another (at least as an adult) to translate watching into doing. Especially with nalbinding, where you work into both the back and the front of the piece

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Natural Dye Play: pH And Heat

Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing with some natural dye process variations. On Saturday, I took some of my experiments to show at a demo at our local farmers market. I love doing demos at the market, and thought this would be a perfect time to celebrate the color potential of what you can grow or gather in this area.

Natural dye demo at the farmers market.

For the demo, I took some of solar dyed yarns. After last year’s fermented dye experiments, I was a bit reluctant to venture back into the realm of reek. But I thought it was worth taking a chance to see if the addition of alum to a jar of solar extraction would give results worth the potential stink.

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First Vat of Homegrown Indigo

On Saturday, I set aside nagging doubts and made my first fresh-leaf indigo vat with leaves from plants grown in northern Wisconsin. And it worked!

Yarn dyed with fresh indigo grown in northern Wisconsin by Donna Kallner.

Usually, I don’t stress that much about experiments that might fail. But with a limited supply of fresh leaves, I was more than a little afraid a mistake could cost me a whole growing season.

Japanese indigo container-grown in northern Wisconsin.

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Another Bag, Another Story

My family has a code phrase for things that are a big deal: If you don’t fully understand why but you hear the helpful phrase, “It’s a $7 ham,” you know it’s something to celebrate. This week, two new looping treasures have come into my life. One is a gift that adds another another layer to the tale of two bags I wrote about last time. The other, an out-of-print book, is a $7 ham (cue the confetti).

Akha bag gifted to me by Tressa Sularz.

This nettle fiber Akha bag arrived in the mail this week, an unexpected and cherished gift from my friend Tressa Sularz.

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Thoughts On A Summer’s Day

Today, I gave myself permission to ignore my to-do list (prep for Sievers workshop next week) until afternoon. By then, I should have a huge accumulation of laundry washed and hung to dry. In between trips to the clothesline, I need to download a huge accumulation of stuff from my head. Some are things I wish I had taken better pictures of, or better notes, or any pictures or notes, because I think you would find them inspirational. Others may be of no interest to anyone but me. But it’s hard to be tidy during a mental house-cleaning, so here’s goes.

Willow laundry basket by Joanna Schanz.

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