Bronzed aussies

At that  shibori natural dyeing workshop, we also threw some squares of silk into a eucalyptus crenulata (silver gum) dye bath. This particular eucalypt is noteworthy for the browns it gives – its seems that most eucalypts gives shades of yellow and green. I really didn’t expect to see such beautiful bronzes.*


The different mordants give different tones. From left to right: alum, ferrous sulphate (iron), and a mix of ferrous sulphate with alum. Since the mordants are completely absorbed by the fibre the remains of the dye bath can simply be poured over the garden. Now there’s a way to get around Stage 3a water restrictions.

I’m beginning to think about dyeing lengths of muslin to use as furoshiki (wrapping cloths) for Christmas presents. Use eucalyptus leaves, some tie-dyeing with the kids and voila, no crappy wrapping paper to deal with.

*Edited to add: we probably ought not to have been supplied with wild-gathered silver gum leaves. After a little investigating, this site tells me they’re listed as endangered.


Those indigo blues

I wandered out into the countryside – the neck of the woods where I grew up – for a dyeing workshop. While it wasn’t quite the ‘natural’ experience the innercitygardener and I thought it would be, we did get a good go at indigo dyeing and shibori. Plus it was a day out, a week day no less, and we were on the lam.

It’s been years and years since I’ve done such full on dyeing. In many ways it’s like cooking, putting together a recipe and then closely watching the colour develop through the dyeing process. And then, when you think it couldn’t get any more fun, shibori comes along. Shibori is a form of Japanese resist dyeing made through folding, stitching, clamping and other manipulations of fabric. At it’s utterly basic, you can think of it as tie-dyeing. But at it’s most intricate, it is absolutely stunning.

We tried arashi shibori, where fabric is wrapped around a pole on the diagonal, lashed to the pipe and pushed to the end of the pipe to pleat it.


Itajime shibori involves folding and clamping fabric. For my scarf length sample, I started off with triangular folds and then to fan folding. I tried to go for a twist-and-pleat effect at the end but really had no idea what I was doing. What you can see here is the pretty bit.


The resist was created using clothing pegs around two sides of the triangle.


Kanako shibori was next, with tied off fabric and object wound into the fabric. I’d like to learn to do this properly because I think it would achieve some stunning effects. It’s this technique that can create the small squares and circles you might see in some kimonos. I tried to pleat fold as I gathered the silk to see if I could get squares.


Nui shibori is stitched and gathered to make tight folds. It’s usually a simple running stitch that’s used and when the stitch line is repeated it creates a beautiful ripple effect. This is particularly coarse since it was calico and I didn’t scrunch up all of the fabric as much as it needed. Some of the stitching is still in there so I’m not sure how much of a resist it was.


I haven’t given my samples their final wash yet, since the longer they oxidise the deeper the shade of indigo. These samples also show the importance of making sure your fabric is massaged while it’s in the dye bath. Indigo won’t penetrate the fabric evenly unless it’s swirled, massaged or otherwise cajoled.

I’ll post pictures of the arashi shibori scarf once I’ve done the final rinses. The first one is warm soapy water and then it must be left to dry completely. To set the pleats, I’ll need to do a final rinse of boiling water and vinegar and again let it dry completely. The soapy water will wash out the excess dye while the water and vinegar will reduce the alkalinity of the fabric. The temperature of the water is what will set the pleats. I hope.

The bird thing

I mentioned before there was a bird thing happening. Having had the first bird thing rejected as insufficiently pink, I had another go.


After close consultation with the client, I was allowed to use pale blue on the birds and shades of pink for the flowers. My suggestion of different shades of green for the leaves was accepted without demur (which surprised me).



The cloth doesn’t quite fit the hoop because I don’t use one when I’m sewing. I just find it fiddly what with all that turning around of the design and what not. Now that it’s hemmed it’s not quite wide enough but the client doesn’t seem to mind.

You can find the pattern at Badbird’s blog, here. Also check out loobylu, where some Starry Serenade pieces are on show. Yes, that is an entirely self-centred plug!

A shawl kick

Encouraged by peasoup’s adventures in this regard, I’ve made a little shawl recently and started on another. The first is inspired derived from a copy of peasoup’s shawl here and here:


Let’s think of it as homage, shall we, especially since the green is suse’s own hand dyed hobbit green.

This next is a beautiful merino lace from Peru, kettle-dyed, and luscious to work with.


The variegation works well with the brioche stitch (knit 1, knit 1 below, then knit the next row) because one stitch is slipped up every other row. It means that different shades can really pop out depending on foreground and background colours. It’s working really well as a solid stitch for a shawl because it’s a garter stitch pattern (very little thinking) while being very light and airy.


Now all I have to do is find the other two skeins and try to forget how I was a very naughty knitter and left a skein out to be nibbled at by insects.

Birdie num num

Not that I’m a fan of The Party with Peter Sellers, but I do seem to have a bird thing going lately. This bird was intended for the lass’ wall but it became clear that it wasn’t in her authorised colour scheme.

Colourful bird

Bird detail

It seems I’ll have to keep it for myself.

Father’s Day a.k.a Bump out

In the ten years I’ve had kids I’ve never reliably remembered when Father’s Day falls. I don’t remember Mother’s Day either, so at least I’m not biased. In the month prior, the kids will come home with a card or present made at school and urgently whisper the secret in my ear. The fact they usually tell me this when their dad isn’t home doesn’t obviate the need for either urgency or whispering.

Loud ads that keep telling me about a date in September don’t help either. I don’t know anything about dates; I just know that the week after next the lad has a music soiree or that the next weekend we’re going to my mob’s place for dinner.

It falls into place ten days beforehand when the Bloke reminds me he’s doing Johnno’s show next week. Aha! Johnno is a friend of a friend and directs a high school production. The mutual friend and others do audio, lighting, special effects etc. It requires ‘bumping in’ (bringing all the technical stuff in) and ‘bump out’ means taking it all down and out. Johnno’s show is always the first full week of September.

So the last Sunday of Johnno’s show will be bump out, which means it’s Father’s Day!

In case you’re interested, it was pancakes with maple syrup.

Pretty in purple


This is the purple one, finished a little more quickly because I’m getting back into the swing of hand sewing. I find it immensely soothing. I’ve finished a little bird and used that one to try out some different stitches and play around with colour. I’ll hang that one up next to the lass’ bird prints from Geninne. Let’s just say that I’m going for ‘primitive simplicity’ while Geninne is clearly an artist!

I’ve an idea about transforming line drawings from out of copyright children’s books into embroideries – pre-1960. I have a thing for the dashing heroines of the children’s annuals of the 1940s and 50s.Perhaps machine sewing, with handsewn or painted embellishments? Something to mull over.