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Growing Color: My First Dye Garden

Freshly planted marigolds

With the gardening season coming to a close, I want to take some time to look back on my first attempt at growing my own natural dyes. We have limited space and my thumb is not very green, so when I began thinking about planting a dye garden I knew I needed to keep it simple. I selected a couple dye plants based on the colors that I was hoping to achieve and how hardy they were.  I decided to start with marigolds, dyer’s coreopsis, and hopi black dye sunflowers. I purchased my marigolds at the nursery already started and I bought the dyer’s coreopsis and hopi black dye sunflower seeds from bedheadfiber.com.

Throughout the summer, with the help of my husband and kids, I was able to keep these flowers alive. We also grew some vegetables and the kids love picking fresh carrots and watching the plants grow and develop over the course of the season.

Every other evening we would pop the dyer’s coreopsis flower heads off the plant and strip the petals into a bowl. By the next day there would be a whole new crop of bright, yellow flowers to pick. The petals were left to dry out overnight and now I have a large jar of color just waiting to be used all winter. I also collected seeds from some of the flowers with hopes that next summer they will develop.

I collected the marigolds as they died and let them dry out as well. Next year I would love to make a marigold garland. This seems like a beautiful way to collect and let the flowers dry out. I would also like to try another variety of marigolds, but I’m undecided about which one yet.

As for the hopi black dye sunflowers, they were a bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure if they were going to produce any flowers. Sure enough they grew and grew and flowers began to emerge. They did not get as tall as I have seen and the heads were only about the size of both of my fist, but they were beautiful. Once the heads died, I cut them off the stalk and let them dry out a bit. Then I harvested the seeds into a bowl to let them further dry out. I haven’t done any experimenting with them yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what colors can be achieved.

Once again, growing a garden has taught me to be more patient; to be mindful and intentional in the hopes of getting something that will serve me well in the future. I am very much looking forward to using all the color that we collected this summer throughout the winter. Next summer, I have hopes to add a couple more dye plants to our garden. I would love to try pin cushions, goldenrod, and indigo. I’m sure come April, when I’m ready to see green again, I will have a long list that I will need to edit back in order to fit it all in.

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Out and About

Happy Friday! It’s been a whirlwind of a week with little sleep. I have been doing a lots of knitting (see above walk with kiddos…having knitting will travel, right?) and planning for future dye projects, but don’t have much to share at the moment. Teething baby has left me with lots of nursing time and I have been reading and researching during much of that time. I’ve been coming across and collecting articles and links related to sustainability and the fashion industry. So I thought I would compile a list regularly for you to peruse at your leisure. I don’t want to limit this collection to sustainability and fashion, but also include natural dyeing, small business development, mindfulness, etc. If you find anything around the web that might be of interest please hit me up at emily@goldfinch.limited.

  • Fabric made from wood – This sounds very interesting; especially the potential of a closed loop system. I wonder how it would take natural dyes?
  • Fast fashion = modern-day slavery – It’s so easy to look over and not think about and I know there are many layers and facets, but it’s something that needs to start being talked about more.
  • A sustainable vision for fast-fashion? – This article really breaks down the emergence of fast fashion and it’s environmental and social impacts. It discusses ways some of the fast fashion companies are attempting to reduce and improve these impacts.
  • Way to go Columbia – ReThreads: Clothing Recycling Program
  • EF Renew – A take-back program that uses damaged and unwanted Eileen Fisher and turns them into new garments.
  • More ways to avocado pits – This makes me wonder if you could still use them to dye with after making broth and/or if you will have pink soup.

Enjoy and I hope everyone has a good weekend!

 

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Experiments with Painting Fabric

Lately I’ve been intrigued by the idea of painting with natural dyes. My hope and vision is to use natural color to create unique painted fabric using upcycled cloth. I’ve tried working with iron water as color modifier to paint patterns on naturally dyed fabric, but I have not been very successful. The patterns and colors tend to bleed together too much when washed.

After some initial research in Natural Color by Sasha Duerr, I decided to go ahead and give it a try. Promagrenate skin dye was up first. I simmered the skins on and off for a day. After straining the liquid from the pulp, I reduced the liquid dye by simmering it again for about an hour. Then I added guar gum to thicken up the paint. I also wanted to change up the color so I added iron to half of the paint.

My pomegranate paint was much more orangey, coral color then I thought it would be. I was expecting it to be much more yellow. Once I started painting, I was pleasantly surprised by how the paint turned bright yellow on the fabric. The fabric was mordanted in aluminum acetate. Watching the color change as a reaction to the mordanted fabric gave me a first hand look at how the mordant effects the dye.

Once washed, the iron paint bleed slightly into the original yellow paint, but the integrity of the design stayed. I also splattered lemon juice on some the fabric. The lemon juice acted as bleach on the natural dye so I was left with an interesting effect on the fabric.

To continue with my experiments, I made paint with avocado pits and tea bags. I used the same technique to make the paint as I did with the pomegranate paint. The avocado dye turned out a very pale coral, pink. In the past I have gotten much deeper pinks from avocado pits so I was surprised by the lack of depth to this dye.

Once washed, the color was altered by the iron. I was pleased by the outcome because it darkened the avocado paint.

As I continue to explore this type of textile art, I have been thinking about other effects the dye could have on the fabric. I wonder if different watercolor techniques that work on paper would work on fabric? What about color mixing? Or combining different dying techniques like shibori and painting? Using different color modifiers besides iron? The possibilities do seem endless as there are lots of questions and ways to play with natural color.

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Shop Update

I’m slowly, but surely getting around to updating my shop with new things that I have been working on over the last couple of months. It’s taken me longer then I had wanted it to, but sometimes that’s how things go. I’ve been working on a couple different things, including upcycled wool diaper cover/soakers and hand knit baby bonnets, along with hand dyed pot holders.

Check it out www.goldfinchlimited.etsy.com

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Finished Quilt

Over the weekend, I finished up a naturally dyed and hand stitched baby quilt. Some projects seem to drag at the end and you just want to finish the piece, but it’s hard to get there. I have had a few of those projects lately, so it was a pleasure to work on something that I was not only excited to see completed, but that I really wanted to do the work to get there.


I don’t feel the photos that I have taken thus far do the quilt justice. I want to take it around to everyone and show them so they can see it with their own eyes. I guess you could say that I’m just little proud of my work. Granted, it is not perfect by any means and I wish some of the mistakes were not there, but proud none the less because my two hands made it and it will bring comfort and joy to someone.


Next up, I have plans for a whole cloth quilt, using the fabric that I dyed with black beans and some thrifted wool. I’m currently working on a few sketches to plan out how I would like to do the hand stitching. I’m also considering adding a simple crocheted edge instead of the typical bias binding. These projects are ever evolving and it’s always fun to see where they end up.

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Monday Mornings

We had a beautiful Sunday, filled with knitting, napping, BBQing, fishing, bike riding, and lots and lots of family time. I woke up this morning ready to work on all my current works-in-progress. Trying to decide where to start can always be a little bit of a challenge for me when I’m really enjoying working on each of them.


I am currently working on a few prototypes for hand dyed baby knits and hand dyed/stitched quilts. I’m very excited about the direction these projects are going, but one can only work so fast. I only have two hands. The slow and meditative work allows for love and intention to be worked into each item. It makes me think about my children and how they will use a particular piece. I also think about how other people will care for the pieces that I make and how they will contribute to their family; keeping a little ones head and back warm or creating a comfy nest in the grass on a warm quilt.

I hoping to have a few new pieces done shortly to add to my shop. I’m also looking into other outlets to share my work besides my Etsy shop. We’ll see where that takes me. I’ll keep everyone updated. Enjoy your Monday!!

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Custom Hand Dyed Sundresses 

I was recently asked by a friend to hand dye a few sundresses for her girls. I dyed the empire waist dresses with dried marigolds that my brother-in-law grew in his garden last summer. The golden yellow is so bright and cheery!  The tiered dresses were dyed with avocado pits, creating warm spring pink. I used Shibori resist techniques to create the overall all pattern on each dress. I am really pleased with the results and I hope the girls love them as much as I do!

If you are interested in custom hand dyed dresses for your little ones, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to make more and the possibilities are endless!  

   
   

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Beginnings of Slow Fashion

A few years ago when I started sewing for myself, the motivation was based on the enjoyment of the making process and the speed at which I could have a completed project. I was a knitter and at the time very slow, but I knew the joy of wearing something that you have made for yourself with your own two hands. With sewing, I could create something much quicker, almost instant gratification. It was a magical discovery!

At the time, I knew nothing of the slow fashion movement. I did know that I didn’t like to shop because I was not happy with the ever changing styles and lack of good fit. I hated spending a lot of money on something I could tell was going to fall apart after a couple of wears and I couldn’t afford the really good stuff.

Once I began to sew and knit in much more earnest, I began to follow along with the conversation of slow fashion. I began to understand why I had such a dislike for fast fashion. There was a reason the clothing would fall apart so fast and why it seemed like I could never keep up with the latest and greatest. I began to see that I wanted to know more about where my clothing came from and that I wanted to hold on to what I already had longer.  Thrifting and mending took on a whole new meaning, not just that I couldn’t spend the money on new clothes, but that I wanted things to last and to give a  new home to items that had a lot of life left in them.

I started looking at my crafting practices and the materials that I was using.  I was really thinking about how I would use a garment once it was made and how does fit into my lifestyle. What was I most comfortable in and how I do I like to wear clothes? When I really started to think about this and pay attention to what I already had, it helped to reduce the desire to just cast on the next cute sweater or cut out a cute top. The question was will I wear this regularly? Do I have something similar? Would my time be better spent thrifting or fixing something to fit that hole in my wardrobe?

All of this also began to form other desires for my making. I wanted to participate in the slow fashion movement beyond just for myself. Could I take my skills and create things others could wear and love too? This is something that I have been contemplating over the last few months.

Recently, I was able to finish up two pieces that are the beginning of this undertaking. A simple tunic dress made from linen that I dyed myself. This tunic dress is flattering for a variety of body styles and can be worn on a variety of occasions.

The second piece is a cotton scarf/wrap that is a perfect transition piece for the spring. I dyed the cotton and used Shibori resist techniques to create  the pattern on the fabric. This piece also has a variety of uses, from scarf to wrap to swaddle blanket and nursing cover, etc. Creating things that have multiple uses means that our resources go further.


You can check out both of these items in my shop. Custom orders are always welcome, just let me know.

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Contemplating Process: A Zero Waste Shirt

In my last post, I talked about surface design and the struggles I was running into. What I had neglected to do during my weeks worth of work was take more process pictures, so I don’t have pictures from every step of the following process…lesson learned. I was concentrating on the end product and I was not thinking about the process as much as I should have been.

Through the process of making, we are learning so many things. What would make the project work better next time? Would I do any of this again or is there a better/different way? Is this the direction I want the project to go or do I have a new idea/inspiration? The list could go on and on about what you learn from the process.

During this particular dyeing session, I was trying to create some Itajime Shibori with some tea towels dyed in a red onion skin bath. After seeing some pictures in books, I assumed that I knew what I was doing. I mean, how hard can it be?!?! Well, I learned the hard way that I should have done some more research on the actual techniques of Shibori resist dyeing. My biggest problem was that I had not folded the fabric correctly (in a accordion fashion) so the dye did not take to the fabric the way that I wanted it to. I also had some tea towels that I had just put in the dye pot to get overall color and the result was very uneven.

In the end, I was not happy with the red onion skin dye color which resulted in a muddy brown. They just looked like dirty cotton tea towels. I’m sure if the intended use was not a towel or if the color had been even, it would have been ok.  I was having a really hard time with the thought of drying my hands on a towel that looked like mud had been wiped all over them. I decided to put the tea towels in an iron bath to see how that would modify the color. As a result, the towels turned out to be an olive green.

I was still not entirely happy with the towels and I couldn’t pin point why. I stared at them for a few days hoping some kind of inspiration would hit me. I was doing some research on zero waste sewing patterns for another project, when I came across this post from A Verb for Keeping Warm by Cal Patch and this post from Sew Obsessed. I began to wonder if I could do something like this with my tea towels and some stash fabric. The design process began all over again. Measuring, cutting, ironing, piecing, and hoping that something would come of this.

The end product is not perfect by any means, but I learned a lot during all the steps of the project. I take away many more ideas for future projects, during which I’m sure I will make more mistakes and learn more.  It’s a cycle and I’m learning to embrace all parts of it, as you get so much from each step.






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Surface Design: Trial and Error

While reading of a variety of natural dyeing books, I have come across an aspect to the process that adds another level of beauty to the project. Surface design is the art of making  patterns on the fabric or yarn. A concentrate of natural dye or a modifier can be painted on the fabric. Shibori techniques can be used to create a variety of patterns. Resist dyeing, dip dyeing, layering the colors, knots in the fabric are also different ways to explore surface design.

I have been experimenting with many of these techniques to see what I can create. It has definitely been a lesson in trial and error.  Going into the process, I thought that the hardest part would be coming up with an idea of how I wanted the fabric to look after I applied the surface design. So far, I have been very wrong. The ideas are in my head, but getting them to translate to the fabric has been very difficult. Definitely trial and error. Learning from mistakes and trying again.

If you are interested in learning more about natural dyeing and surface dyeing techniques, The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar is an excellent resource to begin with.