Friday, August 9, 2013

Ecodyeing: Paper and Yarn

July was a very busy month for me in terms of art. Basically, I've been making things faster than I could possibly blog about them! In an effort to catch up, I'm writing a bunch of blog posts this week about my recent projects.
As part of my job at the Morgan Conservatory I have the opportunity to meet many wonderful artists, specifically in the areas of paper, print, and book arts. One of the artists that came through recently was Velma Bolyard. She spent the weekend in Cleveland teaching a workshop on ecodyeing, and I was around to take pictures and watch the process. The workshop students layered plant material, paper, and occasionally pieces of metal, tied them up with string into bundles.  The prepared bundles get boiled in a large pot of water for several hours. The best part of the process is unwrapping the bundles and rinsing off the plant material to reveal the patterns and colors left behind by the plants.
I was around that weekend observing the process, and Velma encouraged me to make a couple bundles of my own. I used scraps of the cotton paper I usually use for book pages. The paper tore in a few places, but the results were still thrilling! I ended up using the dyed paper as part of an abstract art book.
While cleaning up after the workshop, there was still a large bag of Staghorn Sumac leftover. I took a gallon Ziploc full, and used it to dye yarn the next day.
I've dyed yarn before, but this was secondly the best end result. Mostly because the Sumac has natural tannins that act as a mordant for the yarn.
The fuzzy red bunches from the Sumac created a lovely brown dye bath (and actually smelled really nice while cooking.) I dyed one skein of white wool yarn, and a chunk of wool roving for spinning. The process took the whole day, but it was definitely worth it.

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