Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A new project

I know, I must be mad starting something new... but I am thinking ahead because I will need a project to show with my textiles group and I am trying not to be too last minute this year!  Our theme is 'Collections' and it seemed to me to be the perfect opportunity to try something I have been thinking about for a while.

I have been dying cloth for my embroidery with tea for a long time but I first became interested in dying cloth with other natural materials when I was making my vegetable paper.  I noticed that the brighter vegetables stained the pressing cloths, and some colour remained even after washing.  And sometimes when I re-used the washed cloths the vegetable colour in the cloth would affect the colour of the new vegetable paper, so the veg dyed the cloth which in turn dyed the veg...  A little while later I discovered India Flint and was completely awestruck by her work, if you don't know of her do go and check it out.

So I am going to do a series of experiments, bundling cloth with natural materials and other things that I collect (the shoreline turns up some interesting bits of rusty metal at times...).  Cooking it, leaving it, maybe even burying it, I'm not expecting spectacular results, I'm just interested to see what happens.  The bundles will be a personal record of my year.  And since the best thing I can do with my bundles is be patient and leave them alone I hope the project will fit in with the madness that is my life at the moment!

I've started with a few leaves picked up in my local park, wrapped in some well worn upcycled cotton sheeting, some butter muslin and a piece of my wedding dress silk (what do you mean it's not normal to cut up your wedding dress?!)

They simmered away for a couple of hours in some (rather murky) rainwater in an old aluminium pan which I'm sure must have come from my grandmother, if not even from her mother. And now I shall leave them for a while. I wonder how long I can manage before I can't resist opening at least one little bundle?

And, I had some lovely roses for my birthday last week.

It would be a shame to let all those leaves go to waste... I'm not sure if the petals will do anything, but no harm in trying!


  1. Fascinating stuff Helen. It will be interesting to see what your samples look like but I'm not sure I'd have the patience to wait that long although I keep promising myself to have a go at dying - especially with all the autumn berries around. I read somewhere (it may have been India's book) that the metal of the pan itself will have some effect on the result achieved, so different for aluminium and copper for instance.
    Off to find some elder berries now :-)

  2. Helen, your talents are amazing. I love the excitement you obviously have when you're doing the various things. I'll have to come and see some of these wonderful things! Katie


Helen Smith, artist and maker in glass, print and stitch.


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