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.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Waiting for Spring

"The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel."
Piet Mondrian 1872-1944

Working with some very old pressed leaves passed along to me by a friend. They still work!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Leave it to Beaver

While out walking a few weeks ago I discovered the beavers had been busy harvesting the cottonwoods along the river. They left many little chips and pieces around, so being the hoarder that I am, I picked up a sack's worth and brought them home. I thought I had read somewhere that the inner bark layer was used for medicine and dye. After further research I did find it listed as a medicine, but not a dye. This has never stopped me before. After the soaking I opened the jar and it had this tannin smell, so I figured it should be good for something.

Beavers in action

I put the chips in a jug of rainwater and let them set for several days

Note the color change in the water

I put the liquid in a pan and put in various pieces of fabric. This is not entirely scientific, as I put in two pieces of silk, one pretreated with alum and one with steel wool along with two pieces of cotton that had no pretreatment. After this I treated one piece of cotton with alum and one with copper liquor. As you can see, not much to write home about. I decided to eco print on the samples to see what would come of that. The backgrounds on all of these are darker than they appear here, I am still fumbling around with the new phone camera. While I have no idea how much tannin may actually be in cottonwood bark, it did smell that way and I do think the prints on the cotton are darker and more detailed than they would have been otherwise. On the silk there wasn't that much difference one way or the other. We will see what happens down the road when I get around to rinsing them out.

Cotton with alum. Maples and dry hollyhock

Cotton with copper mordant. Maples, eucalyptus.

Silk with alum. Various maples
Silk with steel wool. Maples and dry hollyhock.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


"One gets into a state of creativity by conscious work."
Henri Matisse 1869-1954

Hope, 2018 collage: paper, felt

Monday, March 19, 2018


"I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it."
Alice Walker

Cabbage rolls, alas, they will not stay purple. They will however, end up a lovely shade of cornflower blue, one of my favorites!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Spring, Finally

"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding."
John O'Donohue

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Tea Anyone?

Last winter I messed around with hibiscus tea, but didn't take enough notes to remember what I did or didn't do. So this time around I decided to take more pictures and notes. I laid out four scarves with various dry leaves and sprinkled the dry hibiscus tea around them. All scarves were treated with some sort of rust first.

As you can see, the leaf prints are pretty diffuse, but look at that pink!
This is just being washed in a cold water bath with a bit of shampoo.

As expected, most of the pink turned blue after various post treatments. Click on the picture to enlarge in order to really see the differences. Alas, no pink, or almost none, but an interesting selection of blues and lavenders. I personally like the one that was washed with no post treatment the best. When we get closer to summer, I may try this again with a scarf pretreated with alum instead of rust.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Since you may be wondering about the picture of beige fabric in the last post, here is what that is about. I love finding something to do with a plant or plant material that is really prolific, bordering on being a nuisance. For instance, knapweed is one of my favs-it is everywhere and is as beloved by gardeners as much as starlings are loved by birdwatchers (not). So, piles and piles of horse chestnuts are only too tempting. I have done posts in the past about them and made laundry soap out of the nuts themselves. Since they and their hulls are sort of gnarly; meaning they have a lot of tannins and saponins etc., this time I wondered if there was any possibility of using them as a mordant or co-mordant. I also was trying to figure out if it is worth saving them from year to year or to simply go out and get what one needs for the season and let the squirrels have the rest, being one of the few animals that actually eats them. I had old and new hulls to work with. For the eco printing part I used dried and pressed Red Maple leaves (acer rubrum) as those things will print on darn near anything under almost any conditions. 

First I put the hulls to soak for about 3 weeks or so. I thought it was interesting that the old ones sank and the new ones floated and were still this way at the end of the soaking period. I poured each jar in its own pot and simmered for about an hour, no boiling. I strained off the liquid and returned it to the individual pots. Then I added one small piece of plain silk crepe and one piece with an alum pre-mordant to each pot and simmered for an hour, again, no boiling. I let it set overnight to intensify the color.

The top two are from the pot with old chestnut hulls, the bottom two with the new ones. The darker fabrics are crepe with alum pre-mordant and the lighter fabrics are no mordant. 
This is the silk crepe with no mordant and new hulls, but a wee bit of contamination from some stray steel wool-that is what the black squiggles are. Cameras drive me to distraction-the pink is not nearly this bright in real life.

This is the fabric with new hulls and alum premorndant.
This is with old hulls and alum as the mordant.

This is from old hulls on plain silk. I decided to see what would happen if I gave it a dip in an iron pot with water and vinegar-and that is how I ended up with the not too exciting beige fabric pictured the other day. Sometimes if you give vague prints a dip in iron water of some sort they get over being shy and show up-but not in this case. At any rate, I learned what to do or not do the next time around.
I guess I concluded that it is better to use the new hulls rather than the old and that as a mordant by themselves, the hulls alone are not grusome enough to really be a mordant. However, I did like the alum pre-mordant and then eco printing on top of that. The result is a lot more zingy in real life than the photo and would be a way to get some green in the winter. I am going to let them hang out for a bit and then give them a wash later on to check on the longevity of the color. As mentioned above the nuts themselves are known for making soap. Supposedly if you do it with totally neutral water it actually acts as a "blueing" like our grannies used to make yellowed sheets appear white. I could never get that to work, but it does clean up fabric pretty well.  Due to the saponin content though it is probably no safer than regular laundry soap and is not to be used as soap on skin. As to the name of the post, in Britain and Ireland there is a traditional children's game using the nuts (called conkers); to my understanding the nut is threaded on string and each child swings theirs around to try to break the other's. In terms of safety it sounds like it is somewhere between lawn darts and dodgeball, being closer to dodgeball end of the spectrum.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Expectations, desires etc. etc. etc.

"Expectation is the mother of all frustration." Antonio Banderas

Beige fabric. Hmmm....not what was supposed to happen. #learningcurve

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Sticks and Stones

"Arrange whatever pieces come your way." Virginia Woolf

Pondering how to work all this into lamps and lights that plug in vs. batteries.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Winter Colors

The other day on Facebook a friend and I were lamenting the dreary winter we are having. It isn't cold, which is a good thing, but that means no snow and thus the world around here could be described as gray. With splashes of mud.

This morning on Instagram a teacher had her students go out and find small natural items that were "a color". Then they brought them back to the classroom and paired them up with small squares of matching colored paper. It just goes to show it is how you look at something. The array of color all spread out on the table was pretty amazing.

So, I had to take a short walk today to show bursitis who's boss and decided to look for winter colors. Here is what I found.

Yellow Cottonwood leaf

Mahogany Cottonwood leaf with little green moss and grass

White Snowberries

Merlot colored  Oregon Grape

Lime green lichen

Multi colored stones with brown pine needles

Sage green lichen. I think this is one that makes dye, but I have other things to do than scrape the quarter size blobs off the asphalt. That would be a project for the wet side of Washington, where the blobs are the size of dinner plates!

Red rose hips. Sorry it's blurry, these were the last two left on this giant bush and of course they were waaayyy at the top. This was as good as it was going to get without me falling in the river!

Golden lichen and a wide variety of green ones, this tree was practically its own ecosystem.

Blue sky and teal water, green trees and yellow grasses

Monday, January 22, 2018


"For a seed to achieve its greatest expression it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn't understand growth, it would look like complete destruction." Cynthia Occelli 

Busy days, even for winter.

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!