The next step on my Alchemist’s Apron is to create some pockets. Of course, ones I tried to plan out and carefully dye were disasters. This one I sewed from a third shirt that I dyed for “extra” pieces of cloth to work with in constructing the apron. I had sewn on a small strip of reddish silk someone had given me. Some of the silk I used for this purpose, frayed to the point of not being useable but this one had an interesting look to it. I saw a tree almost immediately when I ironed this pocket. I used thread dyed with turmeric for the leaves and some brown from the dye pot to stitch the tree trunk, roots and branches. The brown did not create enough contrast so I did use some darker commercial brown as well. The fabric had a circle design so I employed a circle for a sun in the sky. The colors are more of my autumn palette, however, Arizona also has a lot of browns and golds so I will use this on my apron.
Eco-printing was developed by the amazing India Flint, an Australian artist, farmer, and designer. Sounds simple – apply plants to cloth, bind tightly and heat with water or steam. It is, however, anything but simple! I have tried for several summers to achieve something beautiful and have had mixed results. Having the advantage of hearing and seeing India teach through her online class (The School of Nomad Arts) has helped me tremendously. I am finally getting some amazing prints. These are all on cotton muslin – much more difficult to achieve prints and colors on cellulose fabrics vs protein fabrics such as silk and wool. I am excited and happy to achieve these results – and all on my little camp stove! Of course, part of the battle is finding leaves and plants that work well for this process. These are pecan and grape leaves – courtesy of the amazing property we are staying at right now in the Verde Valley of Arizona. Alas, we are moving on this week so, although I have plenty of printed cloth to work with for now, I will be experimenting further as we travel and hope to find some other plants to create amazing fabrics in the future.
Learn more about India Flint here:
Experimenting with natural dyes has fascinated me for a long time. I work on this fascination in bits and pieces. There is so much to try and learn that it is a bit overwhelming. Since we did have this bit of time in Arizona to stay put for a few weeks, I decided to break out my (very small) dye pot and my camp stove and see what could be done with these limited tools. Spring is just beginning here in Arizona so there are is not a lot of plant stuff for the asking. There is, however, the common food stuffs we use all the time that have been used for dyes throughout time. I decided to work with avocado, onions, tea and turmeric. Although I did find a few purple carrots so I eagerly tried those too! but, sadly, did not have enough to do a dye pot. (Keeping my eyes out for purple carrots in my travels!) My avocado dyed fabric (to the right above) is more of a dusty rose probably due to the naturally high iron content in the water where we are currently staying.
These threads (white DMC embroidery floss) were dyed with (from left) purple carrot, turmeric, yellow onion skins and avocado. The variations in color happened from using mordants after the initial dyeing process. The mordants used were also easily found ingredients for a home/RV traveller: baking soda, wood ash, cream of tartar and iron water. I have to say my favorites were the ones with cream of tartar – just brightened the color a bit. This is the first time I have taken the time to test colors with after mordants to really see for myself what happens – the best way to learn!
Traveling for the past few months kept me wondering where to go next with my artwork. Along came India Flint announcing her new endeavor to teach an online class and the title of her new adventure is the School of Nomad Arts — well that certainly describes me – both before and after this RV adventure began. I figured I would not be able to take a class from her anytime soon as traveling to Australia is not in my current travel plans. India Flint is well know around the “whirld” (her spelling) for being the creator of botanical eco dyeing — using heat and pressure to print leaves and plant material onto fabric. She makes absolutely wonderful creations.
Her first online class is The Alchemist’s Apron – I have always loved her ecodying, printing and construction so I was thrilled to be part of this class. Luckily, we had scheduled a few weeks with a relative of my husband’s who offered us their house while they travelled. We wondered what it would be like to settle down for a few weeks, but the timing could not have been better for me! Out came the camp stove, some second hand store finds, and I started cutting, ripping, stitching and dyeing. Could not be more happy to have had these days of getting back to doing what I absolutely love.
To check out more about India Flint’s work and the School of Nomad Arts: www.IndiaFlint.com