Friday, May 17, 2013

What's a little rust?

Did you know that you don't have to use chemical dyes to change or alter the color of fabric and paper? I've been reading a book by India Flint, Eco Colour. She has done years of research in the area of dyes from the plant world and also from bugs. My interest in indigo dyeing brought her to my attention. I now have a nice stash of indigo dyed fabrics... There is something about the dyeing process that has captured my interest and to do it naturally, to me, is especially favorable.

For a long time I have been curious about the eco-dying process using rusted objects. So, this week I went ahead with trying this unique dyeing process which results in a nice rusty orange color.

First I needed to find some rusted items. This is where the story really begins. I asked my husband (last year) to be on the lookout for some rusted things around the house. Nothing turned up--at least nothing that registered as being rusty and that I could use. The search continued up until spring of this year. He was replacing some of our deck boards and upon removing the rusted screws and depositing them in a small bag, I happened to notice that they were a pile of "rusted" screws. Happy dance here!

So, I put those aside and continued my search. Next items to be found were out in the garden in the raised beds. We use u-shaped metal stakes to hold down the drip system hoses. Another aha moment when these stakes were being removed and I noted more rust...  woohoo! I now had enough rusted objects to experiment with.  I used some steel wool as it came out of the package, as I'd heard that you can get interesting results.

I have been reading about the process finding that is involved the use of plain white vinegar, water, plastic sheeting, salt and more water  and finally mild soap. The vinegar, water and sheeting gets the process started. I let them all process the same amount of time, which was about 19 hours. The water and salt is used to soak the dyed fabric following the processing; neutralizing the rusting action. Then the fabric is washed in a mild soap solution to remove extraneous rust and whatnot from the fabric.

I chose about five different fabric--Kona cotton, Osnaburg (indigo dyed), linen (indigo dyed), fine muslin. I also tried some inexpensive water color paper.

Steel wool and rusted screws on fine muslin

Closer look at steel wool and rusted screws on fine muslin

Steel wool and rusted screws on water color paper
The key word here is experimentation. Someone asked if my results could be precise and predictable. My answer was that each time I experiment like this, I also document the materials and objects I use so I can refer to them at a later date. I found that the rust on the water color paper most interesting, although the orange on the indigo produced some great color. (I'm not sure about the "archivability" of the rust on the paper--more study needed here) Next, I will try again on a better grade water color paper with fewer rusted objects, less time processing and maybe by then I will have more rusted objects. I would love to try wrapping fabric around something large.  Hmmmm...  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Testing, testing, 123...

This is just a test to see if my new "follow my posts" signup link is working. Hope it does. And since it is February, what better than to share something red...

Sketchbook work from my Level 2 course at Gail Harker's Center for Creative Arts

Thursday, January 31, 2013


“And so you say your bead book is finished…”  Yes, indeed, my bead book is finished; and much to my satisfaction.  It is the culmination of two years of work and study encompassed in the Level 2 Design and Experimental Stitch course at the Gail Harker Center for the Creative Arts.
The bead book itself is comprised of pages of beading techniques we learned as a part of the studies included in this Level 2 course. They were to be our samples. We used our own hand-dyes fabrics to stitch the bead samples on. We then proceeded with beading the edges of the pages and designing a front cover to complete the assignment. I stitched the bound edge of each page with a Knotted Buttonhole stitch. Then used the Raised Chain Band stitch to bind it together (fourth picture).  Holding this book now is a wonderfully tactile experience. It is my little gem... and along with its completion (and the satisfaction), comes the realization that this course of study is changing my life.

The Level 2 Design and Experimental Stitch course has helped me realize my ability and potential as an artist. Gail’s unique talents and unwavering patience augment her ability to systematically teach using her extensive knowledge and background.

The course sessions included design and color, paint, print and dyeing of fabric, portfolio of stitched samples, integration of design and embroidery, historical research and study, techniques and special effects in fabric manipulation, fabric book binding, sketchbook work and documentation, and the list goes on. It has been two, very enjoyable years of studying deeply, working with other like-minded women and realizing my passion is being fulfilled. [doing little happy dance here] 
I just returned from my next course of study which is the Level 3 Art and Design and look forward to each session with great anticipation. It will consume my next two years in a very good way.
Here are some photos my bead book:
 My bead book.

  Tabbed edges.

  On end.

 The binding.

 Puddle of beads.

 Open position.

“Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” 
                                                                                                                                                    --Rumi, Essential Rumi