Notions-Drye Goods Studio Diary

Thanks for checking in. I am a fiber artist and designer. My currant emphasis is on eco printing and other wildcraft with a touch of up-cycling thrown in. You can also catch up with my wanderings on my Facebook page Drye Goods Studio.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Winter Reading

"Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers" Charles William Elliot

This is what I am reading now. How Plants Work is a layman's guide to botany; I discovered some amazing things about where the colors from plants originate. The other one, Lab Girl, I would highly recommend, along with E.O. Wilson's Letters to a Young Scientist to high school age women considering a career in the sciences. Some of the notions you have been told about those fields of study aren't true; don't bypass an amazing way to spend your life, we work most of it after all, because of some preconceived notions.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Messing Around with Berry Inks

I am going to do this again when I get fresh berries, but I thought this was interesting. A year ago I made some ink out of Oregon Grape-which is not actually a grape for those that don't live in this part of the world. It looks kind of like holly but with dusty blue berries.

This a picture of the ink experiments from last year. Very pink!
Here they are a year later. They were hiding in a desk drawer, so no UV, but quite a bit of change. You can't see it that well in the image, but the quality of paper may have had something to do with it as well. The higher quality papers changed less.
This year I decided to work with 3 different berries. Elderberry at the top, Oregon Grape on the right, and huckleberries on bottom. 
The frozen berries were crushed in a bowl and strained to release the juice and get rid of all the little bits.
I have some really big stamp pads so I loaded the ink into those. My drawing skills leave a lot to be desired.
Oregon Grape, elderberry, and huckleberry. 
I mixed up the ink using a teaspoon of vinegar and a dash of salt as a preservative (last year I used alcohol) and I have to say it was good thing I decided to work on this when I did. The elderberry was busy turning into elderberry champagne. Fizzy and everything. It made the studio smell delicious, but another day and it might have exploded! There was also a touch of mold on the Huckleberry. This was after only a few days. Last year's batch with the alcohol lasted for months. I also wonder if the salt and vinegar are why the first two turned so brown, or if it was just because the berries were old. The huckleberries had been prepped as you would for food; no sugar, but they were well washed and had a lot of extra water. The other two I threw in the freezer last fall "as is" when I ran out of time to do anything with them. Freezing does help destroy the cellar walls and thus you get more juice, but I think overnight or just a couple of days would be better. While huckleberries are known to make a permanent fabric dye (also permanent on your pants, shirt and fingernails while you are picking them) they are not a cultivated berry, sometimes fighting bears is involved in collecting the fruit. I would just rather make pancakes with them instead!

Monday, January 8, 2018


"I am not trying to heal people. My job is to teach this guy a D chord, and a G chord, and a C chord, and then get him playing some tunes. If I focused on the larger purpose as opposed to the nuts and bolts, then I'd lose everything."

Henry Robinett, musician and guitar teacher for the California prison system. Sun magazine October 2017

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

More Eco Printing with Poinsettias

After the post on December 22nd I decided I didn't really need to do any more experiments on fabric until I have a better idea of how long the color from poinsettias will last. So, rather than waste the plant, I decided to do some prints on paper. Since people keep looking to me for instruction on paper I thought this would be a good way to show you what I do with paper, but there are several ways to do it. Remember to click on the pictures of the finished paper to see the differences in color and detail of each mordant.

I use small pans I got at the dollar store (approximately 9"x 13" and about three inches deep) to soak the paper in. It should soak about 30 minutes. You can soak it in a mordant solution one day, let it dry and re-wet it on another day and eco print, but it is perfectly ok to just soak it and eco print on it in the same day. No wait time is really necessary. I use 140lb watercolor paper, but any heavy duty paper will work. Remember, this is not archival, you are taking a perfectly good piece of acid free paper and adding all kinds of things that will cause its eventual demise.

The pan on the left is water with a quarter cup of vinegar in it. The paper has been pretreated with steel wool. The center pan is water with about a half cup of copper liquor and plain paper. The third pan is water with about a tablespoon of alum in it.  The boards are what we will use for a press and you need string or rubber bands to hold the whole thing together.
Since your hands will be in and out of the mordant and, as we discussed the other day, poinsettias are kind of gnarly wear gloves both to build the blocks and open them up. Start by laying down a board with one piece of paper on it. Place the leaves (I used both the green leaves off the plant and the red "petals") with the veined side of the leaf against the paper. This is especially important if you are using paper treated with rust as unlike fabric, the rust is pretty much on only one side of the paper. Use paper with one mordant at a time, meaning work you way through one pan at a time in each set of boards. The eco print police won't come and arrest you for mixing different mordants in a block, but in the beginning you want to learn what the results are with each individual mordant. After that if you want to see what mixing the various mordanted papers is like-go for it. This is a very wet process and you will get different results when the different mordants drizzle through the layers of paper and affect each other.

You can see the green leaf peeking out below.
When you get done with the papers in one pan, put the the other board on top and rubber band the block. I did use colored rubber bands on the block with copper liquor paper in it just to make sure I could tell it apart from the one treated with alum. The colors from either can be so bright that sometimes it is hard to tell them apart after the fact. If you are wondering about the names on the boards, I thought eco printing on paper to 20 elementary school students and it was the only way I could get each kid's block back to them after they all went in the steam pot. If you take a class from me you can either be "Kate A" for the day or write you own name on the block. I use one inch boards as they don't warp as fast in all the steam, but after a while they will. I have used cardboard, but needless to say that is a one shot deal. The bigger boards do take up more room in the pot however.
Into the steam pot they go! In this case a tamale pan. It is built for this as the strainer the tamales would normally set on is low enough in the pot that the blocks fit right in and still be able to get the lid on tight. It also holds just about 30 minutes worth of water, but set a timer so you don't let it boil dry. Remember, pans for dyeing should be dedicated to that only, no use for food after this. While the point of natural dyeing is to be safer, there are just somethings in this world we should not ingest.
Remember that wet paper is pretty delicate. I discovered a bamboo skewer is a great way to nudge one sheet of paper off the next one down and pick up stubborn leaves. Less damaging than your fingernail.
Here they all are laid out to dry. The top row is the copper mordant, the middle the rust, and the bottom the alum.
Up close with the copper. The green leaves tended to be beige and the red had all kinds of color coming out of them.
Up close with the rust. Note that the prints are more diffuse and that in several places the rust turned black where interacted with the plant material. The bottom two show the difference between the top of the leaf and the underside, the underside of the leaf being the darker more solid one on the left. Again, the green leaves tended towards beiges and browns.
Up close with the alum. All the leaves tended to put out some sort of green or yellow, but a lot of the red ones put out purple splotches. Very zingy.
After the paper dries out it will be somewhat warped. I have had pretty good luck ironing it out when it is really "bubbly" but I also use it as is most of the time. If you can't think of anything to do with it for awhile, you can set it under a heavy book. It can be used for journaling and scrapbooks, but remember it is not archival so it is best if it is not placed in a scrapbook where it will press up against photographs, especially vintage ones.

The poor thing looks like somebody went after it with a weedwacker!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Merry Christmas!

I don't know about you, but I am ready to leave 2017 in the rearview and click the do-over button on January 1st. Normally I am more inclined to refresh my life in the fall and I am not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. I have some frustrating issues with my health and some other troubles that while they will pass, stole my energy and inspiration. I am at my happiest when answering the question "What if?" by creating something. So, I decided to take the advice of two great artists. Chuck Close said "Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work." Pablo Picasso said "Inspiration exists, but it must find us working." In other words, get off your butt whether you feel like it or not.

This time the spark came while standing in line at the grocery store. There were huge displays of poinsettias, and people are always asking me if they eco print, so why not give it a try? If nothing else it would be five bucks worth of entertainment.

Giving me a house plant is always dicy, I tend to enjoy them for a bit and then-off with their heads!

As you are aware, they have a reputation for being poisonous. The truth is they are more irritating than poisonous. The example given on various plant sites was that a fifty pound child would need to eat 500 leaves in one sitting to die. Cheery thought. Anyway, this would explain why a cat we used to have ate them on a regular basis and seemed just fine. The puzzling thing is they are reported to be absolutely vile to the taste buds. The reason is they contain (here are your big science words for the day) diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin like detergents, both bitter and mildly poisonous. The red color comes from red pigments called anthocyanins also found in red cabbage, blueberries, and raspberries. You can use poinsettia leaves to demonstrate ph just as you can with red cabbage. Since the white sap of the poinsettia can irritate the skin it is probably best to stick with red cabbage with young children, but high schoolers might get a kick out of beheading mom's house plant.

Wearing gloves to protect my hands as a precaution.

I used one scrap of silk crepe that had been treated with alum and one with steel wool which would also have been exposed to vinegar and salt as part of that process. I used both leaf colors and laid them face up and face down to see if one side printed better than the other.

I steamed the rolls for an hour and took them out for a rest, about four days.

I love peeking in the steamer to see what is happening, but I try to remember that they may not look the same at the end of the process.

The first one is the alum treated sample.  The red in the roll above changed to purple over the four days. Love the purple, the yellow is rather alarming. I may rip it in half and do a black bean dye over it to see if I can tone that down.

The leaves did make a more distinct print out the veined, or underside of the leaf, as most do.

The second sample is the silk that had been exposed to steel wool, salt and vinegar. These colors are much more appealing to my sensibilities.

I guess in all of this I was hoping for a pink or red, and if I played around with other mordants, I might just get it. Of course the next question is, "Is it permanent?". As much reading up as I have done, I can't answer that. Since it is the same pigment as red cabbage the answer might be that it needs another rinse in something else, and a possible color change, to make the resulting color last. The plan is to let the samples hang next to the studio window and expose them to our moderate (almost non-existent) winter sun and watch for changes. The best way to do that is to rip each sample in half and keep one in the closet while the other hangs out. I may use the rest of the plant in samples with other mordants or techniques and see what happens.

It looks pretty good even if its backside did get removed! Kind of like putting the bad side of the Christmas tree against the wall.

Merry Christmas and I hope 2018 turns out to be a year of wonder and inspiration for you!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." Melody Beattie

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Time Change

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."
Martin Luther King

Luminaria with eco printed shades