Hardy Eucalyptus for printing in cooler climates

 Thanks to the discovery of the Eucalyptus eco-print by India Flint, many textile enthusiasts around the world have fallen in love with the wonderful prints achieved from the leaves of these trees. It seems however, that many believe we can’t grow the varieties useful for contact printing and dyeing in colder climates. It is also a widely held view that those that will cope with our winters will become a menace, quickly growing to enormous heights while stripping nutrients from the soil. 

My groups of dyers really enjoy contact printing and dyeing with native plants and trees. However, there is something magical about the colour and fastness of eucalyptus on wool that makes it so special and so many buy leaves from florists to achieve the wonderful burnt orange prints and long to have a free and ready supply.

Claire, one of the group,  brought an article about Kangaroot Trees  for us to look at (October 2015’s, The Garden). We got quite excited at the possibility of growing a eucalyptus or two as dye plants. However, we first needed to find out which would give us good contact prints as well as cope with various growing conditions, survive our winters and not outgrow our gardens. After reading the article and looking at the website, we realised, this Worcestershire nursery, stocks more than 50 species of hardy Eucalyptus. The owner, Hilary Collins, very kindly agreed to send us samples of six varieties. We chose the following based on their varied leaf shapes,  small to medium growing size (can be container grown) and hardiness.

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At our next meeting we bundled samples of each between pieces of silk and wool, sprayed with a little vinegar and water and then steamed the bundles for an hour.  Five of the six were juvenile leaves except the leaves of the E. pulverulenta, Baby blue which were adult.

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The results of all the samples were excellent. All varieties produced good colour, though the unusual small leaved species E. crenulata  produced greenish leaf prints with red stems, a lovely delicate combination. According to the catalogue this variety is hardy to -10, is tolerant of poor drainage and also has beautiful perfumed flowers.

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E. parvula or Small leaved Gum has nicely shaped pointed leaves, good colour, can be coppiced, is hardy to -20 and can cope with alkaline soils. This was a real favourite and one on my short list. This variety seems to be the most robust and adaptable of all the varieties we sampled.

E cinerea

E. cinerea or commonly know as Silver dollar has rounded leaves, a real favourite with florists, gives good colour and is hardy to -8 to -13. My sister keeps me supplied with foliage from her tree in London. It is a good variety though not as hardy as some.

E nicholii

E. nicholii or Narrow leaved Black Peppermint has lovely feathery foliage and is hardy to -15. It produced good prints contrasting well with the more rounded varieties. I think this varietyis probably my favourite.

E perirana

E. perriniana or Spinning Gum is hardy to -15, gave good colour and interesting prints. The only restriction would be the leaves form around the stem and so would be more difficult to use individually.

We were really happy with our results and are thinking about varieties which would be most suitable for our different gardens. I already have at least two on my wish list, though, with a move on the horizon I may have to wait a little longer!

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If in doubt, re-do, add blue or both

Where did I read “if it isn’t beautiful it isn’t finished”? How many of us have piles if failed experiments or pieces that just don’t make the grade? Well this weekend some of us had a go at solving this little problem and it seems to me that bravery is what is required and perhaps a touch of blue!

We gathered for the last of the six monthly workshops this weekend and despite the rain there were some wonderful results. Claire bought a pile of eco printing experiments which she felt disappointed with or the colours just weren’t right.  They were re- bundled with more leaves for a second steaming and then a dip or two in the indigo bath. What resulted were beautiful pieces of silk and wool.

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Sue brought a eucalyptus wool shawl dyed on a previous month and folded and shibori tied the bundle before getting the indigo treatment. Again the teal colour and string marks added a new dimension to the already lovely piece.

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Lyn brought some of her handwoven cotton and linen pieces and some itajime and indigo brought contrast and depth.

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An old damask table cloth cut and hemmed became beautiful shibori table runners came out of the vat.

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Katie and Mary Ann experimented with iron, leaves, shibori and indigo also produced some exciting pieces and others took away wet bundles to be revealed in a later post.

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Everything is Turning Blue

 I spent the night watching the country turn blue and the day watching my garden turn various shades of the same colour.

The first indigo workshop of the year and blue seemed the general colour of our mood and the work. Wonderful combinations of leaves, mud, shibori and indigo made for a happy ending. Even the rain didn’t dent the creativity

leaaves and mud shadow play

leaaves and mud shadow play

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Eucalyptus and indigo

Eucalyptus and indigo

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Shibori stained glass window

Shibori stained glass window

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leaf prints and window itajime on silk

leaf prints and window itajime on silk

Winter Landscapes

I am gearing up for new works that will explore the world of trees.

Recent experiments on papers, with winter leaves, bound and simmered have yielded tones that reflect the winter landscape.

IMG_9308There is so little colour left in the windfalls

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yet they have given me, some lovely, ghostly leaf prints.

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Mark making with different potions are giving me ideas for bigger works

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though how to brew a larger landscape?

Eucalyptus Brews

I’ve been busy playing with eucalyptus gifts from my family. E. cinerea from my sister, which produces wonderful red prints and E. globulus, from Kate, from a felled tree in Hampstead.

E globulus has large leathery green sickle shaped leaves which gave colours from buttery yellow to pale orange and browns.

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The leaves were wrapped and bound in the cloth and around copper and steel tubes and then boiled in various brews. The copper brought out the golden tones and the iron in the steel gave muted greys and blacks. I even wrapped and bound bone beads and put them in the brews with interesting results.

The wonderful thing about eucalyptus on wool is that is substantive without the mordants normally necessary for natural dyes. I need to see how the beads keep their colour.

New Year and New Ventures

The holidays and family gatherings have come to an end leaving me, like many others, feeling tired, overindulged and yearning for Spring. The weather has been windy and wet and days are still far to short. New work is on my mind, though distractions and lack of a studio have hampered progress so far

Last summer a couple of students on one of my workshops told me about a monthly course  they had been going to in Herefordshire. Run by quilter, Ineke Berlin participants work on projects using her facilities and drawing on her expertise.  It seemed like an interesting idea which I then put to others. I had an amazing response and so the initial one day turned into two.We will gather, initially around my kitchen table and then will meet in my tented studio in the garden to learn new techniques, share ideas, and work on our projects.

During the first days last weekend we walked and gathered thoughts and leaves, took photographs. Back around the table we sat and wrote in our journals then stitched, marked paper and bundled leaves which we then steamed and simmered in our witches brew (a cauldron of simmered onion skins, left over tea and leaves) while we exchanged our stories, useful tips and drank tea. Though the trees are bare and shoots of Spring are only just appearing we managed to make some interesting paperwork.

 

It has been a great way to kick start the year.  Next month we will be looking at rust printing and fabric bundling.

Lucknow and The Lanes

The last week of our trip was spent in Lucknow with the hospitable and generous Tandon family whom Denny has been working with for over 40 years. The family have a long history in the textile trade as merchants of the traditional Lucknow chikan. This is fine white on white embroidery which Denny Andrews has always sold in the form of beautiful kurtas and night dresses. Ramesh, who took Denny in, all those years ago, when she had heat stroke, became an invaluable friend and fountain of knowledge on Indian textiles. He  took her all over India to seek out traditional textile production and they brought the fabrics back to Lucknow to be made into clothes. Raja, his son, now leads the quest for fabrics and the production and export process.

As decisions are made and tailors cut samples in the living room, Ramesh’s wife, Preeti and Raja’s wife, Pinky look after us all and cook wonderful meals.

A visit to the Lanes is always an essential part of our visit. A series of narrow medieval streets are crammed full of life and cubby holes containing purveyors of everything from ribbon to silver, perfume to eyes of the Gods tempt you in. It is untouched by tourism and a slice of Indian life at it’s most vibrant.

I have been curious about India’s diverse and ancient culture and religions for a while and love the shrines found in nearly every shop and home. The Tandons, whose family shrine can be seen at the top of this post, kindly sent me home with a Ganesh which has been dressed with some decorations from the Lanes as a fond reminder of their hospitality and India.

Ganesh

Searching for Natural Indigo in India

The next day and a visit to Dastka Andhra, a project supporting and promoting hand weaving in Andhra Pradesh. We bought some samples of natural dyed fabrics and I purchased some handwoven kora (natural coloured) dupattas (shawls) for workshops next year. They will be good for both the mud resist and shibori.

Dastka samples

Dastka samples

Though hand weaving is their priority they are promoting the use of natural dyes including indigo.  Most of the indigo you come across in India is synthetic though presented as natural. Dastkar’s indigo fabrics are yarn dyed in fermented vats by a master dyer who is 90 and still working. Unfortunately, though he has taught over 300 people, there is no one to take over from him which is very sad.

I was lucky enough to  purchase some of his natural indigo to bring home. A tip I was told to test the quality of your indigo cakes. If you drop it in water they should float.  I can’t wait to experiment with different fermentation vats using this, next year

indigo cakes

Then on to Chennai and monsoon rains where between downpours I managed to buy some hand spun and woven silk before traveling down the coast to Auroville to visit  The Colours of Nature.

The founder of The Colours of Nature, Jesus Ciriza Larraona, went to Kashmir many years ago to produce silk carpets. Disappointed by the polluting dyeing methods he witnessed, he started to collect information from all over India on traditional dyeing techniques.

Eager to put his knowledge into practice he started a Research & Development Unit in Auroville, an international township dedicated to human unity, located in the south of India. The Colours of Nature is one of only few remaining natural dyeing units in the world, who are entirely focused on an environmental friendly, vegetable dyeing process. Their research in natural dyes is ongoing. Their specialisation is developing natural indigo fermentation and his dream is to develop his indigo fermentation on an industrial scale.

As well a his commitment to natural indigo fermentation Jesus has been experimenting with  other natural dyes for twenty years and claims to have a quick and fast alum mordanting process which he is keeping secret for the moment.

 

 

Searching for Cloth in India

I’ve just returned from another Indian journey searching for cloth for Denny Andrews and myself in India. A trip filled with the new and old and surprises on the way Arriving in Delhi after a night flight we spent a couple of days in the hurly burley, travelling around in tuck tucks through streets filled with noise, smells and crowds.

Firstly visiting the regional Government shops including the newly reopened Khadi emporium which is a must for all visitors. It sells everything from handycrafts, clothes, soap, food stuffs and all at fixed prices.   This means you are assured a fair price and no haggling for those who are averse to this. I was on the look out for khadi silk, khadi being the hand spun and hand woven textiles and a legacy of Gandhi. There were coloured Dupion silks and the raw Matka silk though none of the lighter weights I was looking for. Then on to the highly recommended Craft Museum where there are constantly changing exhibits as well as a very interesting permanent display,shop, a very good restaurant. We were able to see a tribal art exhibition and for those who have a vision of the intricate and ornate and familiar Indian crafts would be amazed by the vast and varied tribal imagery from the paintings from Andhra Pradesh which resemble Australian aboriginal paintings in their dotted painting style to the dung grounds with rice paste images from Maheshwar.

Then a 23 hour train journey to Hyderabad.

Revisiting Siripuram the ikat village in Andra Pradesh where Denny Andrews has been buying ikat for many years. Wonderful hospitality and fabrics in a beautiful and traditional village. I have visited this village several times and seen various changes. From the pit hand looms to more power looms and an apparent  reduction in weaving. Bedspreads are still the main production here and dress fabric which Denny has always loved for her dresses and kaftans is deminishing. The weavers are getting older as their children move away and seek out work in the cities

Then on to a village which weaves silk ikat. We arrive at twilight and are seduced by the glowing colours. IMG_8502

Beautiful blues with Japanese indigo

I’ve spent a weekend immersed in Japanese indigo dyeing. Picking and stripping leaves, fresh dyeing silk wool, hemp silk in a cold bath and then using the used pulp and dye bath to make a more conventional vat for wool. I’ve updated the page on growing and dyeing with Japanese indigo with new instructions and pictures so please have a look.

So many colours from sky blue wool, turquoise silk, jade green and a soft muted blue on wool gauze. I have also bundled some leaves in silk and hemp silk and waiting for the indigo to be released. I had such a lovely result last year and I hoping for a repeat performance.

This is such a great dye plant and for those of you who I gave a plant this year. Hold back from harvesting. Let your plant flower which should be very soon and set seed and you too should have a good harvest from more plants next year.

I plan to run a weekend indigo workshop next year around the middle of August in time for the first harvest. The plan is to harvest my indigo and make different baths using fresh indigo and  perhaps, some different fermentation vats. Let me know if you are interested

More Blues

I’m busy getting ready for the first of the two three day mud resist workshop this weekend and so I’ve had to put my work on hold for a few days. Cotton is being scoured, menus planned, blocks oiled,  dabu ingredients are ready for mixing.

I’m looking forward to this weekend as there will be a couple of familiar faces from previous workshops as well as a few new ones. Though there is a good number for the August bank holiday The September course on the 6th, 7th and 8th still has spaces left, and so please get in touch if you are tempted.

Dan has been busy experimenting with bread recipes, as well as making some new printing blocks which look really promising. We are so lucky to live between Coleshill Organics where we buy the fruit and vegetables we don’t grow and Factory Furniture who very kindly give me offcuts of wood for blocks.

 

Singing the Blues

We are actually having a summer it seems.

The weather was kind again this weekend. The sun shone down on us all, while we folded, tied, clamped, wrapped and stitched fabrics for the indigo vat.

Dan played music, made focaccia and kept us supplied with lemon verbena, tea, coffee and cool home made elderflower. Loved the Richard Hawley and Ry Coode and Taj Mahal

 Fresh stock solution to sharpen last weekends vat. I  find better results when the vat is kept just on the tipping point and a dark green rather than clear yellow green colour which doesn’t seem to build such a deep colour.

Here are some of the pieces of blue that were made by the group.

Inspired, I got down to some blues of my own working over the top of some less than successful samples

You never tire of the blue alchemy.

Even my spattered toenails got the blue treatment thanks to my friend Billyblue nails

Next I will be dyeing with fresh Japanese indigo leaves

Mud Glorious Mud

It’s been a while, and much has been happening in the Stable Yard. I had a most enjoyable time last weekend with lots of indigo, dabu mud resist and five lovely women who ventured from as far away as Cornwall and Monmouthshire.

I love the way that everybody had access to the same blocks, though made very different pieces. Sadly, many of them went away unwashed. Thank you for your enthusiasm and here’s hoping for some pictures of the finished pieces to share.

I think I will let the pictures speak for themselvesdabuMaking dabu

mud printing studioPrinting with blocks

Janet's resist dryingMud resist drying

mud resist and indigo lineFirst dips in indigo

Busy

Busy, busy, busy!

Dan's focacciasDan’s focaccia for lunch

double dabuSecond print and more indigo

drying Indian styleDrying Indian style

Jennie's tableclothJennie’s deep indigo tablecloth

indigo iron and mudBefore washing

indigo and ironIndigo, Iron and a bit of imagination.

Saturday it will be a day of shibori and indigo. Really looking forward to it.

Bundles and Books

 

I’ve just spent a warm, sunny weekend, in good company, teaching and experimenting with various papers, plants and potions.

The first day of the workshop involved folding stitching and bundling various papers and fabrics with vegetation from the kitchen and garden. The bundles were then simmered  and most left to steep overnight. Other papers were prepared for the following day.

The results were some colourful pages and some lovely strong prints from leaves and flowers. We all made discoveries and gained inspiration for future work.

On the second day papers were steamed and more prints revealed. Dan kept us supplied with lots of refreshments and provided a feast of home made focacia breads to go with our lunch of soup, hummus, harissa and salad.

After lunch paper pages and pockets were stitched together to make books.

 

 

At the end of a lovely weekend, everybody went away with their individual books and pieces of silk and cotton.  I think a good weekend was had by all.