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Posts from the ‘Dyeing’ Category

Imagining Textiles – The Art of Dyeing

Bucket with dyed warp in itFor many weavers dyeing yarn requires a big leap of faith. Starting out without copious dye recipe books and sample cards to refer to most of us just jump off the edge then gradually acquire knowledge for more precise decisions in colour. But it can be easy, fun and very successful from day one.

Dyeing is an imagining of a textile for a weaver because dyeing the warp and weft is only the first part of a journey.  The weave, colour juxtaposition and mixing on the loom can potentially change what you start with.

In my recent Easy Ikat and Warp Painting workshop I encouraged the three participants to ‘jump’ off because you just have to attack dyeing to see where you go and gain the confidence I think. At least that’s what I do.

painting skeins of yarnPainting a warp is just so special. It’s exciting to weave with because the colour changes all the time –  so no boredom, and it always looks great on the loom. It also looks pretty good just in the bucket waiting to set the colour and wash out.

Each of the participants had strong colour confidence and all did very different work with a wide range of cellulose and silk fibre. There was handspun bamboo, hemp cord, silks, ramie and linen. Sometimes the yarn had a light base colour changing the subtlety of the colours. We painted warps and skeins for weft and warping. See Barb here working her magic!

The warp ikat was interesting too. Mostly I use an immersion method with this but I think painting the warp with the ikat resists in place is rather more interesting for some types of weaving.

Painting warp ikats

We covered a few methods of failsafe dyeing like creating different strengths of the same colour. There are no white dyes in textile dyeing so dilution becomes the white.

Stepping across the colour wheel is also another easy method to success. For example, purple to yellow, mixing proportionately as you step to the opposite colour.

We finished up with my extra speedy way of creating a dye sample reference.  This is the start of knowing your colours more intimately and what you can do with them.

Blues painted on skein

I demonstrated the painting method with expensive gloves on. This was a big fail and I had to walk around with deep blue hands for the duration of the weekend. Don’t do that!  Susie was sensible and used a painterly method with a brush and our better, cheaper gloves which worked. Sponge brushes work well too and I think I paint the warp differently with a brush in hand too.

I loved the workshop and a very warm thank you to the wonderful dyer/weavers who came to share their colourways. Gail, Barb and Susie – thank you!

Thailand, Laos and the Textile Track – Dye

natural dyes

Natural Dye materials used in the workshop


Natural dyeing in Laos is still very common. Although yarns are purchased from the markets with synthetic dyes, there is a still a demand for natural dyeing. The access to the natural environment, the dyer’s knowledge and the array of colours available with multiple overdyes is the most interesting I’ve seen so readily.

indigo dyeing

Green hands Indigo people


We were fortunate to have a hands on natural dye workshop with dyers from Ban Phieng Ngam in the Luang Namtha area.The workshop was fantastic. The available dyes were fresh Indigo which produces a green, Teak leaves for a rich beige, Annato seeds for orange and Sappan wood for a pink range. We were provided with silk scarves to dye and most of us, much to the bewilderment of the Lao teachers, wanted to create that ‘special’ look with a shibori tie in them. I did a very fancy (boring) plain line! Which, after dyeing, really did detract from the silk scarf after all. Other members of the group did interesting patterns but I wonder why most of us wanted to tie up for resist effects and couldn’t handle a straight dye job enriched with merely the colours of the earth? Read more

Ramping up my dye book

dyed skeinsDyeing is so relaxing and cathartic. It’s so easy and produces the most amazing colours normally not available anywhere. When the Online guild were running a Precision dye workshop with Margaret Coe this month I jumped at the impetus to update and re-work my dye book and learn even more about my dyes and their possibilities.

I’ve been using Drimerene K dyes for a long time and I’ve gotten to know the quirks of the dyes…their  weaknesses and strengths.As fibre reactives for cellulose fibres they are fantastic. Although Procion dyes seem to be popping up everywhere I don’t use them very often because I need to reserve the dye solutions for future use. Procion are only effective when in fresh stock solutions. This may suit many people but is a disadvantage to me.

Dye bookThe Precision dye workshop is based on exploring the primary palettes in a dye set to produce  a range of secondary and tertiary colours. We’ll also mix Tri-chromatics. It’s a paint mixing exercise! My previous dye books focus on how different strengths of dye produce different shades. I also used small amounts of black for toning which can soften colours without becoming dim and murky. It’s a great resource and I recommend the possible hassle in compiling it.

I guess too, because of this previous experience, which I remember in a very hot December with my children only just avoiding pots of dye everywhere, I was able to have a lovely controlled, organised and small dye run this time. Read more

Weft Kasuri

I love ikat (Indonesia) or kasuri (Japan) or the process of winding and dyeing areas of the warp and or weft to create patterns. One of the best and most approachable books on the topic I’ve encountered is Japanese Ikat Weaving: The Techniques of Kasuri I’m not sure how easy it is to obtain now but it’s worth getting a copy if you are interested in an overview with instructions on how it is done. As I’m hoping to study Kasuri in Japan later this year I thought I’d review it all again.

Kasuri can get very complicated and it is nothing short of remarkable how some patterns are produced (see Double Ikats from Tenganan in Bali). A large amount of exactness and accuracy is required for good patterning and often very simple looms which depend entirely on the skill of the weaver/dyer are used. But it can be used in a looser way to add another dye/colour feature to any cloth. It is very rewarding to do. Read more

Still being a back to front girl

I’m happy to say that the colours are appearing again and my Toika loom is warped, threaded and tied up ready for an 8 shaft woven shibori affair. The warp is 13 metres long and I wonder if that will be too long for me on this loom at the moment but it is done.

I experimented with warping from front to back like the Saori looms prefer instead of my old traditional back to front technique. However I’ve found some issues which don’t work for me as well on the bigger loom. Some of these are just a change of habit, and although the warp beamed nicely with the reed and heddles already threaded I’ll remain a back to front girl for the Toika.

This newest batch of weaves has been mirrored by my Weaver to Weaver mails, the second which brought me a lovely colourful reminder of why I love colour from Jo at Knit One Weave One  in Cornwall, UK. Read more

Dye dye

Dye dye. Love the colours, love the yarn. Dyeing and painting yarn brings such happiness into a home and studio.

Yarn, being a soft, quiet and malleable media sometimes needs to push itself into the forefront with colour. I’m inspired by lots of colour like this although I’ve tried to change to muted softs or dark limited ranges. But this has always led to frustration and dissatisfaction… it almost hurts.  I’ve also tried to work through colour theory books of which Color: A Workshop Approach is the very best I’ve worked with. This book is a real ‘hands on’ applied colour workshop. I must have learnt from it but I still go back to my own intuitive dye mixing style with minimal planning. When hunting for inspiration I regularly go to Colourlovers and Spoonflower, but ideas for print fabrics and graphics are only a spring board for weavers because of the way we mix and organise colour and texture. For me, colour is more about managing proportions and my emotional responses rather than a formula method. You know you can test your acuity to colour with surprising, if not, depressing results. I thought I had my favourite colour purple pretty sorted, but the result proved that this was the colour with my poorest actuity result. Apparently,  I couldn’t tell one shade of purple from another. Love really is b l i n d.

The warps shown here are destined for some designer Saori pre-wound warps,  Taiten shibori on the Saori loom and a woven shibori base for my Toika loom using 8 – 12 shafts for more pattern design complexity.

PS: The word colour divides, and expands, the english speaking world. Search ‘colour‘ or ‘color’.

Warp painting Australian landscapes

Painting a warp is much more than a mere ‘underpainting” or scaffolding for a cloth. As it becomes entwined in the weave, it forms the ground  and emotion of the textile. It’s an opportunity to express a connection or meaning such as the dyes used in this image.

Teaching a private warp painting workshop last week allowed me to peek into and work with another artist’s ideas. Rosemary is totally inspired by aerial photo images of Lake Eyre in South Australia and it’s catching. After showing me photographic images and paintings of the area we proceeded to choose colourings for the painted warp. Although we only came up with a relatively quick summation, the rich tones of reds, oranges and greyed greens were beautiful. A grey dye mix was added to the colours to emulate the greyed soft tones of our Australian landscape. Read more

Subtly ablaze

I just toned down my ‘Summer ablaze reds‘ weave with overdye.

The original silk weave (see first photo) with the handpainted warp was really beautiful but I wanted a more cohesively toned cloth. My first option is always to overdye. With overdyeing it’s important to know how another colour will affect the existing colours in the cloth …in other words, just barge in and have a go.  I just went with another lighter but richer red to meld the colours (see the overdyed cloth in the second photo). Read more