Monday, May 21, 2018

The Dyepot That Never Ends

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing with a pot of cutch dye. Cutch is extracted from the heartwood of a leguminous tree Acacia catechu which is grown in India on plantations and is a very useful dyestuff. It contains tannin so is good on cellulose fibres like cotton and linen but also is fine on protein fibres including wool and silk. It doesn’t even need a mordant which makes it very easy to use and has quite good light- and wash-fastness. I’m very fond of the many shades of tans and browns it can produce alone or with modifiers such as soda ash and iron. Since it isn’t something I can grow in my garden and must instead be purchased, at least it’s a reasonably priced dye as these things go. My source is of course Maiwa Supply on Granville Island in Vancouver.

So in a previous post I showed you the first piece of fabric I dyed in this pot, the 4 yards of linen. After that I split just over 1.5 yards off that piece (including the part that had gotten stained) and soaked it in an alkaline soda ash solution for 20 minutes. It took on a more reddish cast but the stains are still evident.

You can see the difference in colour between the alkaline-treated linen (right) and the original fabric. Then I decided to throw in the leftover khadi check cloth and actually heat the bath for the first time.

Now that changed the pot’s colour entirely! If I’m correct there was quite a lot of iron mordant still in the khadi and possibly whatever else was used for the black dye affected the cutch. The result was a more grayed brown. And it looked like plenty of dye was left in there so I threw in a small skein of crochet cotton for later use in boro stitching and a very elderly tablecloth that was stained and had holes in it. The needlelace areas are still in pretty good shape though:

I’ll probably cut this up and use it in another project. Then, because I really liked the purplish brown, I scrounged up 1.5 metres of linen/rayon blend fabric and threw that in after the tablecloth came out. Just to recap (besides the first 4 yards of linen which didn’t get heat) each of these were in the pot individually, heated to barely a simmer over an hour or so, left in the pot to cool at least overnight and hung without rinsing to oxidise for another day or two. Only after all that did they get rinsed and dried again. Let me tell you, that rigged-up clothesline got a lot of use!

So here’s the final tally all washed and pressed and prettied up:

They are in order of dyeing from right to left. The total weight of dye to fibre was 250g of powdered cutch to a grand total of nearly 1600g of fabrics. They all are so pretty it’s going to be hard to cut them up! There’s still colour in it but now I am going to go Dump The Pot. Quick before I’m tempted to go hunt the stash some more. I’m done.

Guess the dyepot did finally have an end, eh?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The State of the Garden

Hello! Hope those who celebrate Mother’s Day had a lovely one. I did! We were invited to my son’s for brunch along with the rest of the immediate family. Five moms in total in attendance! (And 4 generations.) It was great to catch up since we hadn’t seen everyone in person since Easter. I finally managed to capture photos of my three Grandbeasties, though they were of course action shots. These guys don’t hold still for long.

The biggest grandbeastie, aka The Wildling, who made us all delicious crepes for brunch:

She’ll be 14 in a couple of months and she’s already taller than me. Also a very accomplished artist and never without her sketch book. Then there’s her younger brother, aka Stargazer (though these days he might be called GameGazer instead):

He’s 11 and just starting to hit a growth spurt. Good thing since he’s the youngest in his 6th-grade year due to a December 29th birthday and he could use a little catching up. He’s been taking hapkido martial arts though so not so easy to pick on.

And lastly their cousin, the Littlest Grandbeastie, who is the hardest to capture since she’s always in motion:

She a whole 7 now and definitely the social butterfly. An extrovert in our family of mostly introverts, she has two cats for brothers and she thinks she is one of them!

I miss having babies to cuddle but it’s fun to watch another generation grow and learn and develop into interesting human beings.

In other news, the weather has been super glorious - warm to downright hot! The garden has been springing up like crazy and watering has become an everyday project. Although it’s not too bad yet in that we don’t have to spend hours watering every inch every day. That will come later this summer, I’m sure! Meanwhile, I’m getting this much greens every couple of days:

And the bed looks like this:

Yes, the Welsh poppies and other pathway plants are definitely getting a little...pushy. They’re rather pretty though so I try to keep them out of the actual growing area. If they get too annoying, they go bye-bye. The veggie garden and the dye garden are all planted now. There’s still a few bedding plants left for the front garden but not much space to put them in. And I still need to weed it first. However, I’ve been having some issues with dogs walking on my dye garden. Grrr... What is with people who are supposed to keep their critters on a leash and out of trouble? You can see how vulnerable this strip of garden is as it’s situated on the city property along the side of our yard:

Yup, totally don’t mind people walking there even though there’s no sidewalk. But even when I put some small fencing up (taking it from the front garden where we also have a dog problem) there’s still big doggie footprints all over. One indigo plant was even pulled out (again) this morning! Have some courtesy, please, dog people. At least let the little seedlings grow up enough to be a barrier themselves. Sheesh. Or give me your address so I can come over and stomp on your garden. OK, rant over. We also get lots of compliments on our garden. Probably not from the same people who walk their dogs.

Off to do some ironing and more sewing up in the, Atelier. Before it gets too hot and I need to bring out the fan. The fan is not good where pattern pieces are being used. Just sayin’.

Friday, May 11, 2018


Finished another one of those garments I cut out recently. This one is made from the leftover yardage from a dress I haven’t actually sewn yet. I considered this one the practice piece. Good thing too because it was somewhat more difficult to sew than I had thought it would be. You might remember the handwoven and hand-dyed fabric that I bought last year from Maiwa Handprints when I attended the Association of Northwest Weavers Guilds conference in Victoria. Yes, the irony of travelling to another city a ferry-ride away and purchasing supplies from a company that I can actually walk to from my house is not lost on me. However...

It was definitely worth finding this lovely gem. The fabric is wool, silk and organic cotton khadi and dyed in natural dyes from a company in India called Women Weave. Here’s the scoop on them from Maiwa’s website. It’s super light, almost semi-sheer, and woven in an uneven check pattern which made it rather a challenge to cut. I quickly gave up on perfect pattern matching. I did want to include the two selvedges in this tunic too because they were so interesting: one red and one blue on the otherwise black and white fabric. I also included scraps of a black and red checked wool that I found in deepest stash. No memory of where it came from originally. But it ended up to be the perfect complement.

I decided to make a self-drafted tunic top I had made several times before:

This was the first time I’ve made it out of a woven fabric but it seems to work just fine. It’s wearable either on its own or layered as I’m wearing it here. The original pattern is similar to Marcy Tilton’s V8582 (OOP). I included the drape on both sides to use as much of the selvedges as possible. I cut the pockets and the neck and armhole bindings out of the wool scraps. I didn’t have much of it so used this tutorial on how to create nearly 30” of 2” wide bias out of a small square of fabric. It worked really well and even though there were lots of seams in the bias they didn’t show much at all.

I had some difficulty with the fabric stretching badly on the bias. I ended up using strips of tissue paper under the presser foot while I stay-stitched the neckline and armholes. This helped somewhat while applying the bindings but I was just a little too careful to stretch the bias so that it wouldn’t gape. Instead it puckers slightly. Sigh. Just the opposite of the dress I’m wearing underneath, huh?

I finished the seams with faux French seams in order to enclose all the raw edges. This was actually less bulky than serging. Finally I reinforced the top corners of the pockets with iron-on interfacing patches on the back and then tiny square shell buttons in the corners. I embellished the left one with the tag from the fabric length:

Notice how I used the selvedge of the wool fabric on the pocket tops as well. Now that I’ve sewn projects from the leftovers, I still have to make the original dress that I planned using both the check and the cotton jersey. Coming up next! But I’m glad I made these two garments first so I know how to handle the fabrics and their quirks.

Meanwhile, today I didn’t do much of anything. I knit a swatch. I started a new knitting project. I read a lot. I lazed about on our new hammock:

Thom recently finished building the stand out of 2 X 4’s and heavy duty bolts. We didn’t have convenient structures to stretch the hammock between and the stand means we can move it around if we want to - although it weighs a tonne! Right now it’s here where I can gaze out upon my growing veggie garden:

In case you can’t tell, the weather was just lovely today.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Dyeing & Undyeing

Back so soon? Yup. I’m trying to be a better blogger. Today I have some dyeing for you. First up, I had 3 metres of silk noil in a bright purple that was, shall we say, seriously uneven and stinky. Somebody gave it to me because if it were up to me that chemical reek would have made me pause. But for free? Bring it. And did I mention that it’s silk?

So the first thing I did was wash and dry it. Then I did it again. And again. Still smelled but less. However of course the colour was still blotchy and weird. So I decided to try discharging it. On a nice day last week I cooked it outside in thiourea dioxide and soda ash. The colour started to shift and there were orange patches here and there. But it never lightened evenly all over and when I lifted it out of the discharge bath it oxidised back darker again. Which led me to believe it was probably a synthetic vat dye.

It was a lot lighter now though so I was going with that. In order to even it out I then overdyed it in Lanaset (Telana) black @ 4% weight of fibre.

It’s still not quite true black but a nice fairly even colour. For once I managed to snip some wee samples as I worked so you can see the progression:

The swatches are a little darker in real life but the near-black is pretty close. And miracle of miracles - it now barely smells at all! It will become something to wear very soon.

My other dye project was 4 yards of prepared-for-dyeing linen muslin. I wanted to dye it in natural dyes and, since I recently bought some more cutch from Maiwa, decided that was what I was going with. I tried a couple of new-to-me technques with this pot. The first was from Maiwa when they suggested that a darker colour could be obtained by soaking the cutch (50% WOF) in a mild alkaline solution (1 tsp sodium hydroxide aka lye to 4 litres water) for an hour before neutralising and adding more water to the bath. Then I tried a second technique (and I’m sorry I forget where I read this recently) to just soak the cloth (no mordant) in the vat for a couple of days without heating it on the stove. I did give it some solar heat with the pot in the sunshine but left the linen in for nearly 3 days before I removed it. I squeezed it out and hung it up to dry without rinsing and then left it for another couple of days before washing in a little neutral detergent (Synthrapol) and drying it. The results were still fairly light. It’s difficult to photograph with my iPad but:

A little darker than this - warm tan on the linen fabric. A friend also added some alum-mordanted handkerchiefs to the bath and they came out slightly lighter and more yellowish. As I was removing the washed fabric from the dryer though I noticed that there were some red blotches on the end of the yardage:

Uh-oh. Luckily it’s only on a small section at the end and I should still have enough to make at least one or two garments. But what happened? After some Sherlock Holmes-type sleuthing it turned out that I had dripped some soda ash water on the floor and it was still wet. The fabric had trailed through it as it came out of the washer and went into the dryer. Now I want to cut off a piece big enough for a top and treat the whole thing! Or try some shibori or something. However, my sensible side wants to leave well enough alone.

I had heard that an alkaline modifier would shift cutch to redder tones but not to this almost bright red. Was it the application of heat afterward that made it so effective? I haven’t rinsed it again to see if the colour stays put. Our tap water is pH 6.2 which is slightly acidic. A fabric that is so pH sensitive though makes me nervous. If I slop something on my top will it make a permanent stain? Hmmm..

Monday, May 07, 2018

Damselfly’s Delights Is A Bratty Teenager Now

Yes, again it’s been quite awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been slaving in my garden since the weather has been warm and sunny. Trying to get all my wee plants in and everything settled for the summer. I even missed my blogiversary yesterday - Happy Number 13! Whew. This is post #1798. That’s a lotta blogging babble, huh?

It’s not like I haven’t been chatting with you - in my head! Sorry you can’t read it there though. I’m planning to do better now that the major work is done on the garden. I need the break for sure. My sewing machine is calling me again. Which reminds me, I never showed you my last make:

This is yet another version of the Hey June Lane Raglan T-shirt which is a big TNT for me. The fabric is a not-quite-black (called Raven on the label) 100% cotton jersey. It’s got minimal cross-wise stretch and virtually no lengthwise stretch but this dress is just loose enough that I can get away with that. The neck binding (cut cross-wise) still is a little floppy. I was afraid to pull it too tight in case I got puckers but erred a little too much in the opposite direction. I was too lazy to pick it out though so it is what it is and quite wearable anyhow. I added pockets, a single layer inseam and topstitched. Gotta have pocketses! The sleeves are elbow length because this was a limited leftover fabric. It’s already proven itself to be a great layering piece. One of the workhorse garments that get made mostly because I have something left over from another project. I’ll have more about the original use for this cotton jersey as soon as I get it sewn.

Another project that I just completed is the Folded & Rusty pullover sweater.

In real life the main yarn’s variegations are not quite so evident. Lots more subtle than the screen shows. I had several issues with this knit but just let’s say I’m glad to be done! Most of them were my own fault though, not the pattern’s. Veera Välimäki definitely knows what’s she’s about. I only had 3 skeins of the Cloudborn fingering twist that I dyed in low-water immersion acid dyes. There was no getting more when I ran out so I ended up adding a skein of Regia sock yarn in Kaffe Fassett colours to the cuffs and yoke. Later I saw a great idea where someone had striped those areas in order to stretch the yarn farther. Oh well, this looks fine. I like the blues and rusts together even though it seems a bit of an odd colour combination. Totally me.

I did a couple of modifications on this pattern including making the body 1” longer, the sleeves 1” shorter (though they’re still nearly full length on me) and starting wider at the hem and decreasing but not increasing again for the bust. I also did a couple more decrease rounds at the neckline and then ribbed to match the hem and cuffs. The pattern just goes ahead and binds off for a loose unconstructed look but that would have made the neckline much too wide for me. I’m happier with the way this (finally!) turned out. Now of course it’s too hot to wear it. Hah.

Not to worry. I just planted my squash and cucumbers. The weather should make a change for the worse very soon now.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Yes, I Made A Garment In Quilting Cotton. So There.

Well hello! The weather has been quite lovely for the last few days and I’ve either been out or in the studio feeling as if I should be out. Quickly, enjoy it thoroughly before Glorious Spring escapes!

Oh yes, in the studio - or, as I’ve begun to refer to it, “The Atelier” (snort!) - I’ve been working hard and finished the first of that nearly-endless pile of sewing. Behold, the Batik Alder Shirtdress:

You will note that this wasn’t even in the photo list I posted at the end of March but the pattern was one of those that I pasted together and did the fitting changes on so somehow it jumped to the head of the queue. I apologise for the lack of clarity in the modeled photos. I wanted to git ‘er done! And of course the light was fading and I was tired and blah-blah-blah. I kind of love my baggy Clown Pants underneath though! Heh. The detail pic shows the fabric better and the small piece of black sateen (left after underlining my Marcy Skirt) that I used for the inner yoke and the armhole binding. I got a bit creative with my label too. You might have noticed that I’m rather fond of batik fabrics and this one is a little less stiff than some of the quilting cottons out there so I thought it was quite suitable for a shirt. I got it a couple of years ago at the sewing show in Puyallup and just hadn’t found out what it wanted to be until this pattern. Dark grey, brown and dusky blue go perfectly with a lot of my wardrobe colours.

The pattern, Grainline’s Alder Shirtdress, is the first one I’ve used from this company. Interestingly, I had to widen the shoulders quite a lot for coverage. I usually have to narrow them instead. Along with raising the underarms, I had to figure out how to alter the pattern to slope the shoulders. (I discussed this in a previous post.) Both are usual adjustments but for once I didn’t have to lower the bust dart. Go figure. I probably could have used a small FBA though because there’s not quite enough room to wear a T-shirt underneath even though I graded out from a 14 to an 18 (the largest size) on the bodice. Conversely there’s a little too much fabric in the upper chest area, likely thanks to increasing age and non-ideal posture. Not quite sure how to fix that but I think the dress still fits pretty well in this version. I will likely make another if this one gets worn enough. In a very different fabric and not right away however.

Moving on to cutting out some more fabric! The pile doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller somehow. Even though I controlled myself quite carefully when I went to Dressew the other day and mostly followed my list. I was after a zipper and a lot more thread plus an alternative fabric to coordinate with my Maiwa checked khadi cloth. The original choice was a rather lightweight and stretchy black knit but I thought it was too likely to stretch out of shape as the top section of the planned dress (V8975) when combined with the weight of the khadi skirt. The handspun and handwoven fabric is actually fairly light but the skirt folds and pockets are the usual Marcy-esque voluminous. So instead I found a 100% cotton (no spandex) jersey that’s heavier and has very little vertical stretch and only a modest amount of horizontal stretch. It’s also not quite black but a really dark almost-black charcoal grey labeled “Raven” on the bolt. I think it will work much better for my vision. We’ll see when we get there.

However, speaking of light and stretchy, the one thing I really was unable to resist at Dressew was the last 2.5m of a bolt of rayon/spandex jersey in a fabulous never-seen shade of slightly marled medium moss green. I could not leave any of it behind! It happily goes with a tonne of things in my wardrobe. T-shirts will ensue.

So I had better quit typing here and go warm up the rotary cutter, huh?

Friday, April 13, 2018

Back & Forth: From The Garden To The Studio

Hello! Another rainy day. I’d use it to play in the studio but we’re taking his mom to lunch. At least lunch is in the garden store! I need to pick up more seedling soil. I used all I had up on these babies:

There’s more under the lights because it’s too cold to put them out. And I haven’t even started the squash and cukes yet.

However, in between the rain I managed to get my peas finally in and yesterday I dug a couple of beds and got the potatoes in:

Four more beds to go and we’re not even talking about the dye garden yet. So late this year and it’s not even because we were away for a month in February/March. It’s cold and just keeps raining too much. Oh well. Stuff will grow and I’ll forget that there ever was a late start.

Meanwhile, I finished my Catch & Release cardi, pattern by Melissa Schaschwary.

The yarn is Cloudborn Fibres wool fingering twist, colour Iron Heather and the knit is very loose and drapy on 5.5mm needles. Like a shawl with sleeves. I love this sweater so much that I’ve barely taken it off since I finished it! This one is going to get lots of wear.

Still mucking about with my patterns. I’m at an impasse with a raglan sleeve top drafted for wovens. I’m not sure how to size down the sleeves to fit me. May have to make a muslin before I can figure it out. Ugh. However if I can get this to fit I’ll have a raglan TNT that I can hack into different styles. Stay tuned.

I’ll leave you with this photo of my rhubarb:

Slow spring or not, it’s almost big enough to start picking! Rhubarb sauce for ice cream. Yum. Or my oatmeal porridge. Also yum.