Working outside (and inside)

Indigo dyed linen
Indigo dyed linen

July 15th — and I’ve finally set up a way to stretch my work in our little old gazebo. (Both sides of my basement are full of stretched work at the moment, so this is a helpful way to work on more pieces simultaneously.) This evening I’m soy sizing some small pieces (zig-zagged together making a long piece).

Sailboat cleats screwed into the wood secure the harite (stretchers), but that’s my brush hanging there.

the cleat, the brush (jizomebake)
cleat with jizomebake brush

Many moons ago I painted these vintage linen napkins with Earthhues natural dye extracts (logwood and madder) thickened with gum tragacanth. I was aiming for some background visual texture. The results were disappointing, so I tucked them away. Then, earlier this summer using some of my small stencils, I pasted-then-dipped them a few times in indigo. Now I like them. The under layer of dye peeks through in certain places.

water, grass, egret, indigo dyed vintage linen
water, grass, egret, indigo dyed vintage linen

Pinks and blues

Last week the Crab Apple blossoms burst open all around our neighborhood, including the front yard. They come in shades of white to pink to fuschia. It’s the most beautiful time of spring. This year, everything seems to be blooming simultaneously — tulips,  crab apples, lilacs. Even the peony buds are starting to emerge!

crab apple blossoms
shore blossoms

Meanwhile, in the basement, I tried an experiment with some 12 oz. cotton duck (canvas) that I had on hand. I pre-washed it, sized it with soy, pasted it with my minnow pattern, and dyed it with indigo pigment using the large “jizomebake,” or ground-dyeing-brush, which I normally use just for the soybean milk sizing. Here you see the pigment mixed with soybean milk, the brush in water, and the mortar and pestle that holds my indigo pigment. When I need indigo, I add a bit of water to the dish, measure out a little of the liquid and mix it with the soybean milk in a different bowl for dyeing. That way none of the pigment is wasted. It just dries in the bowl.

pigment mixed with soymilk, pigment in mortar and pestle, jizomebake brush

I mixed a dark indigo – applying 3 coats to ensure even coverage. I plan to sew this into a cover for a rolling cart that I will bring to art fairs this summer. I’ll be participating in Art at St. Kate’s on July 11th, and Loring Park Art Festival on August 7 and 8.

minnow pattern with rice paste (yellow areas) and indigo pigment

Soy (Soil) Pearls

To quote Lewis Carroll from Alice in Wonderland, “Begin in the beginning.”

I’m ready to begin the katazome dyeing process. The stencil is ready and my fabric is washed. Soy milk is used both as a sizing for fabric and as a binder for the natural pigments. As a sizing it gives the fabric body and makes it easier to handle while pasting — a more paper-like surface. The pigments require a binder just like any other pigment (or paint), to adhere to the surface of the fabric (unlike dyes, which penetrate the fiber itself).

The first step then, before pasting and painting, is to make soy milk. It is easier than you might think. Here are some before and after pictures.  The beans swell quite a bit during their overnight soak in water, but peering through the water magnifies them even more.


Below, the soybeans have been blended with water and strained through a damp muslin scrap.


A second whirl in the blender with more water, a second straining, and voila, the completed soybean milk. I throw the mashed soybeans into the compost bin.