Blue sky, that is. Nice to see in winter, I’ll tell you! One does get a little tired of the perennial grey around here. Of course, along with the blue sky comes frost. I think my mizuna is done for and I didn’t pick a bunch of it the other day when I had the chance. Le sigh. Oh well, I still have a bit of lettuce in the fridge and hopefully the tah tsai is going to survive for a few days longer. It’s pretty cold-hardy. Whatever happens, I consider 2009 to be a very successful garden year. Must have been because I managed to keep on top of things – well, most of the time anyhow.
Our monthly Spectrum Study Group met yesterday and had a lovely time as usual. Even though I didn’t really do anything but knit, chat, drink tea and eat. They’ve collectively decided (when I wasn’t able to attend) to carry on a colour study, each choosing a colour and playing with it in their journals and then hopefully into something more tangible. I haven’t started playing yet, but I think I’ll choose blue since that seems to be the colour I’ve been messing about with lately. Woad dyeing and all. Interestingly, although blue is the most popular colour in western society, it’s not really my favourite colour. My one and only pair of jeans is dark grey (black and white really but it blends optically), not blue. I do have a few blue items, most notably my indigo-dyed (by me) hemp jacket that I made a number of years ago and still wear quite often. But I can’t say I would choose blue first out of a pack of colours. I normally gravitate towards the orange/red section of the spectrum, preferably deep and muted or toned or muddied up some. I do loves me my tertiaries!
So that leaves me with a challenge that it seems I’ve already started to meet in spite of my best efforts to avoid playing along. My last 3 knit/crochet projects were blue and even the legwarmers contain blue as one of the colours in the yarn. I also have a selection of fabrics and fibres and even more yarn that have all recently come in contact with my woad experiments. More blues. My buddies in Spectrum commented yesterday that they never normally see me in blue and there I was wearing one of my cotton scarves that I dyed in the Maiwa woad workshop.
Several other Members had chosen red, one chose teal green and one chose yellow. Sandra said that she needed a bright sunny colour to chase away the winter blahs! We all know what she means for sure. Now she is seeing how many yellows there are in our environment. Focusing on one thing makes you see it everywhere! It’s an interesting exercise, don’t you think? Guess I’ll have to get out the old art journal and the paints and glue stick and such and have at it.
Speaking of colours, last time I was at Maiwa Supply I picked up a copy of Jenny Dean’s most recent little book called “Colours From Nature: A Dyer’s Handbook”. Jenny intends this to be a replacement for her 1996 out of print book “Natural Dyeing Without Chemicals” which I’ve never been able to find. Unlike her two other books which I do own, this one has no gorgeous photos of dyed fibres and dye plants. However it’s chock full of procedures, recipes and other helpful information in an easy-to-use format and includes information not in her other books. This is THE modern natural dye book to have! It was rather pricey at C$29.95 but it’s going to become my dyer’s bible, I can tell. Perhaps I should scan the pages, print them out and put them in page protectors to keep a copy in the dye studio. Yeah, I know that’s probably a big copyright no-no, but I’m betting if I asked her, Jenny would approve. I’m sure she means this book to be used – not sitting on a shelf. But I’d sure hate to spill something on it rendering this expensive book unreadable! Plus her books tend to go out of print, rendering them rather irreplaceable. I do like the way this woman works. Her considerations and procedures very much follow my own, though she is much more experienced than I am with natural dyes. I spent a very long time with synthetic dyes instead and am only recently leaning over to the more sustainable side.
Besides Jenny’s, a couple of other of my other favourite natural dye blogs also include a whole lot of really useful information. First is Leena Riihelä from Finland. Her blog is written in both English and Finnish. She grows her own Finn sheep and has a small business, Riihivilla, producing natural and botanically dyed yarns and knitting kits. Her specialty is mushroom dyeing and she gets wonderful colours from them. Then there’s Helen and her friend Enys of Growing Colour who garden with dye plants and use them to dye fibres in Wales, UK. Helen teaches workshops in felting and uses her dyes to make thickened and stabilised inks for her paintings. Then there’s the blog from Renaissance Dyeing situated in France which also has a lot of great information for natural dyers. And there’s Teresinha Roberts’ Wild Colours website. She doesn’t have a blog but she has put up what amounts to an entire natural dye handbook! One more really great dye resource comes from Bjo Trimble of Griffin Dyeworks: her comprehensive Understanding Mordants and Modifiers. This will help you translate all those weird chemical names, whether scientific, colloquial or historical.
Such fun taking roots and leaves and bark and bugs and using them to colour things! It’s very exciting and you never quite know what results you’re going to get. More like alchemy and less like science.