Notions-Drye Goods Studio Diary

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

Demons and (Possible) Evil Doers

No, this isn't about politics. Since I have noticed Instagram posts going by about plant collection I thought I would talk about plants that look like other plants and for those out collecting to confuse them will come to no good end.

Let's talk about Virginia Creeper and our buddy Poison Ivy. Both are listed in The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms. A book, by the way, if read from cover to cover might inspire some to never leave the house again! It includes plants like tomato, potato, onions, garlic, and most of the peppers, not to mention things like tobacco and marijuana. They do point out that if one only consumes what is the generally accept edible part of the plant and only in normal food quantities there should be no problem. In other words, if you were thinking about using tomato or potato leaves on a salad-DON'T-they are poisonous nightshades! They have nothing good to say about tobacco or marijuana at all,  which to some might seem kind of judgemental, but I digress. So, it is important to do some study from reliable sources to know what you should never touch in any way and what is ok to do and under what circumstances.

Starting with poison ivy, the reason it is so poisonous is that it contains a combination of urushiols in every single part of it from root to tip. These chemicals, also found in poison oak and poison sumac (not to be confused with Staghorn or Bald Sumac which are trees), are a severe allergen to most all humans. The severity of the reaction is like a lot of allergies, it can be severe at one time in life, fade away and can come roaring back later on. Even the dried leaves or stems clinging to burning firewood can cause those that inhale it to go into anaphylaxis and touching the dried foliage in leaf litter can lead to a nasty blistering rash.  It is even possible to spread the urushiols around in the washing machine, giving your blistering rash to everybody else in the house! So, needless to say, this would not be a plant one would want to dye or eco print with-EVER!!!

Here is an ideal shot of poison ivy up close. The problem with pictures like this is that "ideal" is not how nature grows. The amount of rain, sunlight or soil conditions can make plants in the same area look very different from one another. There is also a western version (pictured here) and an eastern one. When green, I think they look like wilted philodendron vines and it can be really hard to see the "leaves of three" that you are supposed to let be, so it is important to become familiar with what plants look like throughout the year. 

This is Virginia Creeper, also a native plant. As you can see the leaf shape is very different from poison ivy. It has five leaflets and in this case, it is much lighter in color. Once again, this varies from plant to plant quite a bit. This well watered marauder is trying to take over the corner of my yard, with less water it would be more the same color as the poison ivy pictured above, it may have lost leaflets throughout the year, so might appear to have "leaves of three" as the old saying goes.
So, if you spend a lot of time on social media pages about botanical printing or searching for such things on Pinterest, you may have noticed that people talk about using Virginia Creeper. But wait, it's listed as a poisonous plant-right? Well, yes. There is an apparently verified death of child from eating the berries (just because birds eat berries doesn't mean we should) and in the process of trying to figure out what the chemical compounds are in the berries (apparently they still don't know), they have managed to send some lab animals to their great reward. So if you wear gloves, wash your hands and keep it out of your mouth it puts it on par with many other dye plants, a lot of which can be somewhat gnarly. My personal experience with it is that with pre applied rust to silk it can make a really nice print, but getting the uncooperative little leaf to lay flat is a rather frustrating experience. I have never tried to make a dye with it. While I have come across some lovely shots of simmering pots full of color, the sites that I go to for solid info say it isn't a very substantive dye and from what I can see you have to use some of the more wicked mordants to get anything at all. Since I put a limit on what mordants I use, Virginia Creeper dye will probably never be in my future. 

This is a stand of poison ivy growing over by the Spokane River. 

This mass of uninvited Virginia Creeper is in my yard. I waited a few days for it to get to the really maroon shade so you could see just how easy it would to be confuse the two at a distance. Oh! And did I mention they twine around each other out in the wild? They like the same growing conditions and so if you are going to experiment with Virginia Creeper make sure there isn't something else lurking in there with it.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Banishing Ghosts

Normally, I like the look of eco prints all mixed together. It reminds me of the way nature really is. The fabric reflects flowers floating in a mixture of foliage in the garden or individual leaves that pop out from the visual mass of the tree. Sometimes however, the pattern of the individual leaf becomes the most important thing. In this case I am working on lampshades and other lighting ideas and so a clear background becomes important so that the light shines through the individual leaf print. In order for the leaves in one layer to not "ghost" through to another layer a barrier must be used. This leads to a fairly controversial topic-barriers. The controversy stems from the fact that the name most people use for this process is "eco printing"; meaning ecologically sustainable or sound. So, there seems to be something inherently wrong about using plastic sheeting, a petroleum product. The problem lies in the manufacture of the plastic itself and then there is the whole notion of steaming or boiling it.  It will put off fumes that you may or may not be able to smell, possibly creating a danger to yourself. Also, there is probably no way to get the petroleum molecules off whatever your finished product is, thus making it possible, in theory, to have the petroleum seep into your skin from the finished wearable. I don't want to get into the middle of the fruckus, but I do wonder if some of my nasal issues are from making those hair flowers using melted polyester-so I chose to avoid use of plastics whenever possible from here on out.

Hollyhock, Filbert, and Coreopsis, along with plenty of "ghosts".
So, what could be used instead? Since I already did a post about using layers of fabric in between the folds, I thought I would work with some aluminum foil. Trouble is, I get so into things when I am doing them I forget to take pictures. Earlier this week I decided to just set up some "stunt" fabric to show the steps clearly rather than a hodge podge of unrelated pictures. First off, imagine the fabric in the pictures is wet. It is silk dupioni with rusted steel wool as mordant.

Lay out plant material, remember that most leaves print out the under or veined side of the leaf.

Cover with foil. At first I thought cheap dollar store foil would be fine, but decided that heavy duty could be reused or refolded and was easier to work with without tearing it.

Fold over one layer of fabric, in this case I am working in thirds as I want the pattern straight down the middle of the fabric. Ponder what you want as your final effect and fold/layer accordingly. In this case I will just fold over the right side and proceed to the next picture.



Put on the last layer of foil. If you don't, you will have the ghosts of the leaves down the the last layer of the fabric in the bundle. Roll around a stick and tie it up for the steamer pot.
Ready to go!
As I said this was stunt fabric. The following is one of the actual examples I made, and then didn't take enough process shots for it to make any sense. This is silk noil with steel wool as the mordant, using black walnut leaves and marigold petals on both pieces. Raw silk is thick enough that you don't get as much ghosting anyway, but there is a definite difference in the background color and density. 

With no barrier layers

With a foil barrier. The background is clearer and the color of the walnut leaves more intense.
One important thing to remember is that aluminum foil will act as a mordant carrier blanket. It isn't terribly noticeable but you do get different colors than you would without. I am playing around with the whole carrier blanket thing and will post more about that later. The foil is mostly reusable if you get the wet plant material off right away and it can be refolded with the clean side out for reuse. Foil is kind of expensive but it is more effective than multiple layers of fabric. The interesting thing about using multiple layers of fabric is you get that fabric to use for something else.
Decisions, decisions.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Just Be

"Clarice scrawled, 'A question from when I was a little girl that I can answer only now: are rocks made, or are they born? Answer: rocks are."
Benjamin Moser, Why this World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector 


Spokane lies in the path of an ancient flood plain. Most rocks in the river are ovid gray stones, worn smooth by centuries of water tumbling them around and about. I love it when I come across rocks that are different from all the rest. Pushed here by the forces of ice and water they tell tales of faraway places.

Green and black, hiding in a place where fairies must live.

A loaf of bread! It looks like you should be able to slice into it. So much so that I had to poke at it to make sure it was a rock.

Swirls and eddies, a liquid as a solid.

Friday, October 5, 2018

So, is it Noxious, Poisonous, or Simply Obnoxious?

Since I am waiting for some samples using barriers to be done, I thought it might be a good time (or as good a time as any) to start a series of short articles about poisonous plants. What is too poisonous to use? What defines poisonous or noxious? This comes up because of some rather odd conversations I have had recently and a plant list I pulled off the internet (it was pretty confusing, even to a plant geek like me).

So, let's figure out what we are talking about first. When you search the word noxious for a dictionary definition here is what you get:

"Noxious: harmful, poisonous, or very unpleasant."

The definition of the phrase "noxious weed" is a bit different and I think it is important to know the difference; not only for the purposes of what is ok to eco print with, but more importantly, what not to plant in your garden. It is estimated that half of any list for any given area are plants that started out as intentional plantings. I found this definition on the Skamania County Washington Weed Board site and it seemed to be the most succinct:

"'Noxious weed' is the traditional legal term for an invasive, non-native plant that threatens agricultural crops, local ecosystems, or fish and wildlife habitat. The term includes all nonnative grasses, flowering plants, shrubs and trees. It also includes aquatic plants that invade wetlands, lakes, rivers and shorelines. Noxious weeds cause damage that has considerable environmental and economic costs."   

Note that it does not say that all noxious weeds are poisonous, although some are, if not to humans, then to livestock and possibly wild animals. By the same token, many native, naturally occurring plants are poisonous, so they are unlikely to make it on to a noxious weed list. For your own safety it is important to know what they look like and where you are most likely to come across them. Poison ivy comes to mind, it is poisonous to almost everyone and the rash you get is truly obnoxious; but unless a given environment is really out of balance, it rarely appears on a noxious weed list. You will be happy to know that this is one we sent other places, in the 1800's it actually got drug back to Europe as a garden plant where it escaped into the environment.


Invasive thistles qualify as noxious in every sense of the word; they are harmful and unpleasant as well as being invasive. But, believe it or not, most true thistles are edible at least when young. You have to wonder how hungry somebody had to be in order to try it out.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Looking Up

"The sky is always there for me, while my life has been going through many, many changes. When I look up at the sky, it gives me a nice feeling, like looking at an old friend."
Yoko Ono






Monday, September 17, 2018

Corvallis, Oregon

I am sorry to announce I will not be attending the Corvallis Oregon show due to my husband's health. I was so looking forward to it and I wish the show organizers and participating artists a wonderful weekend.