Monday, March 19, 2012

Soaking and Sowing

Another incredibly gorgeous early spring day (last day of winter, technically)! I worked outside doing "prep" work for the real work (and fun!) that will follow later.

I had been researching sources of tannin for pretreating cotton fabric for natural dyeing. I learned from a fellow natural dyer on the Yahoo Natural Dyes group, that oak bark and oak leaves are a source, in addition to oak galls, which is what the books recommend. This is good news to me, since the leaves and bark are readily available, here, where I live. I filled two 5 gallon buckets half filled with oak leaves in one and oak bark in the other. Filled with water, covered and will let sit for a week or so before straining and adding cotton cloth.

I spent most of the afternoon sowing seeds in trays. Bob just finished building a large cold frame over one of the raised garden beds. It is like a mini greenhouse! I sowed Asian eggplants, basils, tomatoes, woad, calendula, okra, hollyhocks, nicotiana, tithonia and several more seeds. The okra and hollyhocks will be a source of fiber for papermaking as well as a source of formation aid. The woad, calendula and hollyhock flowers are being grown for dye. The nicotiana is for the hummingbirds and the tithonia for the monarch butterflies. Lastly, the eggplants, basils and tomatoes are for dinner!

I should add that the okra, calendula and nicotiana are old seeds (at least six years old), so very well may not be viable.  It is an experiment, just like everything I do. The way to learn is by trying out an idea, often thinking "what if", making observations and taking note.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2012 Papermaking Season Has Begun

It was a beautiful, sunny day today and I was off from work, so spent some time outside straightening up my papermaking studio and setting some fibers to ret.  Mulberry, willow, kozo and gampi bast fibers were each put in a five gallon bucket with approximately six ounces of wood ash and four gallons of water. I put tightly fitting lids on them and placed them in the sun. I plan to give them a stir or tumble once a week for a month. Hopefully April will be warm and sunny so that I can cook these fibers and then beat them. Then the real fun begins!

Mulberry bast with bark

willow bast with bark


The mulberry and willow basts were gathered here on our property.  I bought the beautifully clean gampi from Keith Gum of IFUGAO Papercraft. The kozo is from Magnolia Paper.

 I am also reading up on preparing fibers for natural dyeing.  My plan is to dye the cotton sheets first this year, then cut and beat them. This should be easier than trying to mordant, rinse, dye and rinse pulp like I did last summer. From what I read, I believe I need to treat the fabric with tannin (need to find a natural source of that), then mordant twice with alum. Fibers/fabrics can be premordanted and kept indefinitely, ready and available when the dye materials present themselves! I am also planning to use this dyed cotton fabric for weaving and small sewn projects.
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