5 Reasons To Press Leaves

The piles that accumulated on horizontal surfaces during my teaching-travel season yielded some good stuff. Case in point: an index card with notes for a blog post I meant to write probably in August or September. Better late than never, right?

5 Reasons To Press Leaves Now (or then, or later, or someday)

  1. scan or photograph to print on inkjet fabric, make inkjet heat transfers or use in digital fabric design (i.e. Spoonflower). (FYI, at the bottom of the post is a video tutorial I did a while back that shows how I used Gimp to create a fabric design.)
  2. use as resists for disperse dye transfer prints (great for polyester sheer layers in fabric assemblages)
  3. print with or use as a resist for screening Inkodye on natural fiber fabrics.
  4. use as a resist for heliographic printing with Setacolor or Dye-na-Flow transparent fabric paints.
  5. use in natural dye ecoprint bundles

I also found a note that says, “Short vid tut on tech.” Can’t recall what technique I intended to document for posterity. Any requests?

Fall Fabric Video Tutorial from Donna Kallner on Vimeo.

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Extreme Sampling With Illinois Prairie Weavers

In my view, sampling workshops are right up there with dark chocolate and salty snacks: I love them! As a student, I appreciate the opportunity to try things I might not wrangle together on my own. As a teacher, watching ideas start to flow when students discover new techniques is so much fun I forget all about dark chocolate and salty snacks.

This week, I got to play the Illinois Prairie Weavers. First, the whole group heard my spiel on sharing stories through textiles (a.k.a. my Complete Fabrication lecture).

They’d already done a bang-up job of telling their stories during their show-and-tell before the lecture. That’s the line-up of people ready to share their beautiful work with the group.

And this is show-and-tell work spread out for a closer look after the program.

My lovely host wore a formerly white handwoven silk vest she had overdyed with pink acid dye. When I left her house, that vest was soaking in the sink ready to go into the indigo vat for its next incarnation. She’s planning to keep adding surface design alterations each month to wear to guild meetings. I’m hoping to see pictures of the vests evolution.

As usual, I was too busy to take a single picture once I started teaching the dry techniques part of the workshop that afternoon. But here’s what the kit looked like before I packed up and left home. In a whirlwind of sampling, the group got an introduction to the possibilities of some pigment-dye products and disperse dyes (with a side of inkjet heat transfers and inkjet fabrics).

The wet workshop was held the next day in my host’s garage, where running water was just a few steps away (a luxury compared to my own studio). As usual, the day was almost over before I thought to reach for my camera. By that time we had set up a vat of pre-reduced indigo, steamed acid dye samples, dipped a lot of samples in blue dye, and discovered one leaky glove!

While Inkodye samples were developing I did get a few shots. This may be my favorite student photo ever: Four classes of dyes, 38 samples over two days — and they’re still smiling!

When I left, the students were planning the extreme sampling show-and-tell they’ll do at their next guild meeting, and how they might use techniques they had learned. That put a smile on my face that stayed there through the drive home and the unpacking.

Now I’m off to build a thread-winding jig inspired by two my host has made, neither of which I took pictures of. Really, why is it so hard to remember to take three seconds to take a snapshot?

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Surface Design Smackdown: Paint vs. Dye

Call it “telephone tag” for the digital age: My friend Anne sent me a question about Dye-na-Flow. We’ve been back and forth with short Facebook messages exchanges, but haven’t connected yet to talk about her question. She’s far from alone in her puzzlement, so I guess it’s time for a Surface Design Smackdown: Paint vs. Dye.

Anne wrote that she had sampled Dye-na-Flow on silk scarves “following all the directions.” While she could see many possibilities for the product, she didn’t like that it “leaves my fabric somewhat stiff, especially silk. Is this the nature of the beast, or is there something I could do to remedy the situation?”

She’s not imagining this. Despite its name, Dye-na-flow is a fabric paint. Click to keep reading.

Like other paints, Dye-na-Flow sits on the surface instead of bonding on a molecular level as a dye would. That affects the hand of the fabric. It also affects the reflective quality of some fabrics, particularly silks.

Silk is the fabric of choice for many projects because of the way it reflects light. You can get plenty of “shiny” synthetics, but silk owns the territory around “luminous.” When you want to preserve the softness and luster of silk, you may want to choose acid dye instead of paint. You can read about my acid redux dyeing adventures here.

Silk and wool love dye, and acid dyes make coloring silk almost as easy as spilling red wine on a white silk blouse. You can find complete acid dye instructions here, here and here. Don’t let the steaming throw you. You can boil water. You can follow directions. You can do this.

But don’t throw out your Dye-na-flow! This is my go-to product for many projects, including silk.

You can use it for heliographic printing and inkjet transparency transfers.

Dye-na-Flow makes it unbelievably easy to make a “crackle” style fabric. This is a technique I use a lot in classes. All you do is mix paints (from primaries, white and black or pewter) to get the color you want, slosh the paint onto barely-damp fabric, and leave it crumpled up to dry.

Gravity pulls the water in the paint down, leaving higher concentrations of pigment on the high points.

When the fabric is dry, heat set it with a dry iron on the hottest setting the fabric will accept to fix the paint. Then wash the fabric in mild soap, and maybe rinse it with some hair conditioner.

Dye-na-Flow is brilliant for a lot of other applications, including giving embroidery floss and other threads a quick color boost. And it works on a lot of different fabric types, not just protein fibers.

I like products that are really versatile, and products that are really simple. Dye-na-Flow is both. Acid dyes are not as versatile, but you don’t have to keep the whole color collection on hand: Mix what you need from the primary colors, and revel in the undiminished luster of your hand-dyed silk fabric, yarn, ribbon and thread.

I root for both of them. How about you?

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Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

It was a great week on Washington Island with my Local Color students! It was a special treat to have Carolyn Foss of Sievers photograph the class working in the studio and posting our progress through the week — Day 1, Day 2, and Days 3 and 4. We concentrated on photographing the island, altering images, eating out, and making fiber art.

We found a special treat this year on our first shoot. The Ridges at Jackson Harbor was carpeted with bladderwort.

I’d never before seen these small, spurred yellow flowers, which turns out to be carnivorous.

I used an image I shot at The Ridges that day for a demo piece.

The image was printed without alteration on inkjet silk. I used pastel dye sticks to abstract the figure, add definition to some of the line elements, and darken the verge. Then I cropped the fabric.

My demo piece used dyed fabric from the pile I took for students to use, but after the first day or so most of my students were painting their own background and accent fabrics. I got a couple rows of stitching done to secure layers so I could demonstrate a rough version of reverse applique, which reveals the inkjet silk and a small inkjet heat transfer cropped to show the bladderwort close up.

My students did a great job of sampling — better than I did. If I’d had time to sample, I’d have added a bit more clear extender to the blue Inkodye I used to print the sumac leaf. The color is darker than I intended, so I may use a lighter color thread for the stitching to shift it.

As usual, I get wrapped up in teaching and forget to take photos of what goes on in the studio. It’s nice to see Carolyn’s posts and pictures. For the rest, you’ll have to use your imagination.

The frozen Siberian iris blossoms I took didn’t do much for the simmered silk bundles. I think in my haste to get the pot going I used more water than needed for the amount of fabric. And I suspect they would print better on something heavier than the 5mm habotai we used. I’m not ready to give up on them yet, but it will be next summer before I have blossoms and can try again. I’ll have to be patient.

We didn’t have to be patient with our plastic bag bundles. After sitting on the deck for four hot, sunny days, we opened them on Thursday afternoon. The copper-wrapped bundles could have gone longer, but what was wrapped with steel wire was just right.

The weather was also perfect for heliographic printing with Setacolor and Dye-na-Flow. Everyone sampled the technique, and several students printed elements for pieces they’ll complete on their own. I can’t wait to see their finished pieces!

I’ll chip away at my own UFOs this week, but also have other dyeing to do. So much plant material is ready to use now or dry for later. Summer is short. UFOs will keep.

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Willow Bark Harvest

Last week while my head was still spinning from the Midwest Weavers Conference, Bill reminded me that I needed to harvest willow bark. Willow is easy to peel when the time is right, and my window of opportunity was closing.

In June 2012, I’m teaching at a brand new willow conference in Decorah, Iowa organized by my friends Jo Campbell-Amsler and Lee Zieke Lee. I have material aplenty on hand for Quixote Coiling, but needed a good supply of willow bark for this class:

Willow Spirit Constructed Vessels
For thousands of years, basketmakers have made vessels by folding, cutting and stitching sheets of bark. In this 2-day class, we replace that bark with a fabric laminate made of contemporary art cloth colored and patterned with willow. You’ll learn a variety of ways to use willow to dye and print fabric. You’ll sample new ways to conceive, model and build hand-stitched sculptural forms, and create two vessels that incorporate willow in the surface design.

So on Wednesday, Bill helped me peel for a little over an hour. The bark slipped off the wood like a pat of butter off a hot ear of sweet corn.

I spent the rest of the afternoon getting the peeled bark ready for drying and, later, storage and easy resoaking.

It’s been drying under the eaves on the porch. Today I’ll move it into my studio to finish drying.

I’ll post details about the Decorah willow conference soon. In the meantime, here’s a short video I took of Bill while we were harvesting.

You’ll see that he uses the wood in his rustic furniture, and I save the leaves for dyeing. Willow is an amazing renewable resource.

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Getting Rid Of The Blues

You know what happens after a stretch of days that are overcast with maybe drizzle or snow flurries: Everyone seems to get the blues. We’d almost prefer the drama and adrenaline of a full-on winter storm to those gray patches where the sun doesn’t shine.

Some people exercise like mad to combat a dismal mood.  Others hole up. Some fly off to distant, sunny lands to shack up with relatives. I’ve decided the best way for me to get rid of the blues is to discharge them with Thiox.

This is a before picture of a top I made in January during my Wardrobe Reboot. I used fabric from my stash given to me by a friend who was whittling her stash in preparation for a move. The fabric was lovely, but if I had been paying for it I wouldn’t have picked that color.

The finished top was 100% workable. But that solid bright/dark blue seemed a bit overpowering on me. I had a bit of fabric left over, so I did a quick sample to see how it would discharge. The sample looked good, so I popped the top into a discharge bath.

It’s definitely more “me” now. And as Bill says, when (not if) I spill stuff on me it won’t be quite so obvious. That alone is enough to cure a case of the blues.

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Pantyhose Portfolio

In addition to Drill Press Doodles And Trivet Tricks, on a recent fabric printing day I pulled out my Pantyhose Portfolio. These are a few very old slapdash screens I made from pantyhose and embroidery hoops.

Pantyhose Print used with thickened MX dye

To make the screen, I stretched old pantyhose into a wooden embroidery hoop smeared with glue to keep the fabric taut. When that dried, I drew a design on the fabric with plain old white glue. When that dried, I used duct tape to mask outside the print area.

I stopped making these because they’re awkward to store. But in cleaning recently, I found a bag of old pantyhose my mother gave me for a different project. Now I’m wondering if there’s a way to stretch them temporarily while painting the glue resist, then cut them flat for printing and storage. I thought about doing that with the pantyhose on my body, then peeling them off. If you see me wearing pantyhose, you should assume I’m testing that method.

Any other ideas?

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Drill Press Doodles & Trivet Tricks

Last week I added a couple of new elements to my surface design toolbox. These wooden “stamps” worked pretty well for printing thickened dye on fabric.

The one on the left is from a challenge I gave myself to doodle without using a writing instrument, paper or fabric. Instead, I used Bill’s drill press to “doodle” on a scrap of wood. The large holes were made with Forstner bits, the smaller ones with regular spiral drill bits. After drilling the holes, I softened the edges of the board with a wood rasp.

Here’s some fabric I printed with the Drill Press Doodle stamp.

Drill Press Doodle stamp used with thickened MX dye

I was pretty slapdash about the way I painted thickened dye onto the stamp (using a foam brush). The sodium alginate thickener built up in the large holes on the stamp, but I like the dimension it adds.

The other stamp is one of the rejects from Christmas 2009, when Bill was in charge of making most of our holiday gifts. I think that’s the year the kids all got PVC marshmallow shooters. The adults got wooden trivets with kerfs running one way on one side and the opposite direction on the flip side. I got the one that had some tear-out, supposedly for the kitchen but now it lives in the studio.

Here’s some fabric, previously clamp-resist dyed in the indigo vat, that I printed with the trivet stamp and thickened Procion MX dye.

Trivet stamp used with thickened MX dye

You can see where the tear-out was on the stamp and the thickened dye goobered. Again, as a stamp, I like it better for its imperfection.

For some reason, I forgot to photograph this fabric where I stamped some of the trivet blocks twice, with the lines rotate 90 degrees. I’m sure you get the idea. I tried to make a case for sorting that fabric out and photographing it again and telling you about it in more detail. But even I can see that for what it is: stalling.

So it’s back to work for me. I have a lecture coming up and am working with a new application to create the digital presentation slides. It’s a different kind of challenge, and I’m having fun with it. But compared to making sawdust with the drill press or slapping dye on fabric, it’s… well, I’m stalling.

Do you have a favorite stall to share? Or a technique for overcoming the urge to stall? Please, please, share it in the comments. I love reading your comments, even when I’m not stalling.

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Crossing That Bridge

When last we met, I showed results from my effort to use up some Procion H dyes, including one process that didn’t work out as I hoped but produced a fabric I liked anyway. This week’s goal was to use that fabric to get back into the studio groove in the new year. My challenge was to work quickly and not get too invested in the piece — just get it done and build some momentum.

Auditioning fabrics

To me, the piece had the feel of moving water seen through foliage. I had used dye on my gloved fingertips to dot some “rocks” in the stream, but they lacked contrast. So I found some silk and appliqued on more distinctive rocks. Another scrap of silk became a fallen log. Having hopped across a lot of real rocks and crept along my share of mossy logs, silk, with its sheen and slipperiness, seemed the perfect choice.

My intention wasn’t to create a literal representation of a particular scene, but to find a story within the piece that I could reflect on while stitching. A lighter area gave me the impression of shallow water, and that gave me the story: When you come upon some obstruction to forward progress, there’s usually not only some way to get beyond it but several ways. Hop across from spot to spot. Creep across on that slippery log. Or look a little farther upstream and see if there’s a place to wade in.

Hop Creep Wade detail by Donna Kallner

In the finished piece, I used multi-layered top and bottom borders to frame the scene — sort of like looking down at a stream through the guard rail on a bridge.

Hop Creep Wade by Donna Kallner

The bridges other people build sure come in handy sometime. But they don’t always lead quite where we want to go. In the new year, I’m resolved to remember there are other ways to get across. We might get wet, but it will be an adventure.

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Mood Indigo

My treat this week was time to set up an indigo dye vat. While I was looking for something else on Sunday, I found some “instant” indigo I picked up a while back but hadn’t tried it yet. I had fabric I wanted to dye for holiday gifts, and it didn’t take long for me to decide that everyone would like blue. Hear that, everyone?

Indigo dye vat from recycled water jug

Of course, if I bought the sodium hydrosulfite I needed when I bought the indigo, I couldn’t find it. So I called Dharma for advice. They are lovely people, and always so helpful. The woman I spoke with suggested a substitute I might be able to find locally — Rit Color Remover.

She also told me that the Rit product is already mixed with soda ash — really good to know, so I didn’t add more. I did some advanced (for me) algebra to convert the proportions for a 5 gallon container to a 3 gallon container (that’s the 12,000 ml on the jug), and guessed on the quantity of Color Remover. Four packages of the stuff did the job, and I might have gotten away with less.

I mixed up the vat on Monday afternoon, and let it rest overnight. Monday night I scoured fabric and did some simple twisted and tied resists and one simple clamped resist.  Tuesday I was ready to dye.

Dyeing went really fast. At one point Bill came out to see how this works. I stuck a handful of pink crochet roses into the vat for about five seconds. When they came out, he got to see them go from green to blue in a matter of seconds.

Since I don’t have running water in my studio, I haul stuff to the house for rinsing and washing. I managed not to drip dye on the hardwood floor while heading to the laundry tub in the basement. Whew.

After a whole lot of rinsing, washing and ironing, here are the results.

In addition to a whole bunch of fabric, I also overdyed some crochet UFOs, quilt blocks and cotton yarn given to me last summer by a friend of my sister-in-law.

Today I found one more thing I meant to dye. Last summer, I had a bit of walnut dye left in the bottom of a mason jar after a solar dye experiment. I shoved a pre-made canvas tote bag into the jar (no scouring, no presoaking — just wadded and shoved). I think I remembered to take it out a couple days later, but it might have been sooner or later. Anyway, I hung it up to dry and haven’t done a thing to it since. Here’s what it looked like after the walnut dye but before overdying with indigo.

I’ll post a photo of the bag after the indigo overdye next time.

One last picture for today: My husband just made me a new rolling design “wall.” It’s like Christmas came early.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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