Monday, September 29, 2008

Pyracantha - Fire thorn

From my bus window I started noticing this shrub with bunches of bright orange berries. I didn't know what it was, but asked my plant expert at work. I had not read anything about the dyeing possibilities, but thought with those bright berries something had to happen. I went on a stealth gathering mission, collecting only the berries. Simmering them for and hour, letting it sit overnight and then straining and squeezing all the juice out. The color reminded me of a amber, dark beer color; not as strong a color as I thought. The alum samples came out a light orange color, maybe like cream of tomato soup with a little too much cream; the tin with alum made a nice golden tan color; the cooper with alum made an excellent light red-brown; and the iron again made nice neutral tan-grays.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I cut off the branches from my barberry bush, trying to take parts that seemed to have a lot of color and the tiny berries. I chopped them all up into small pieces and simmered for an hour and let it sit overnight. After straining, the juice seemed to be fairly red, so again I hoped for red. The first samples with alum produced an light tan-orange color. Adding the tin turned the samples to olive green, then tan-green with copper and a very nice warm gray-browns with the iron and pre alum + iron.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Carrot tops

Using the tops from carrots for dye -- who knew? It's fun to see the plant parts used for dye, it generally isn't what you're growing the plant for, you don't use the "food" part, it's the leftover parts -- tops, stems and leaves that get simmered in the pot. The carrot tops produced an nice range of four distinct colors, yellow to dark green, a little to brassy. I liked the dark green (carrot tops with iron) the best, with some dark blues, browns and grays, it would be a nice addition to the pallet.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Here is a beautiful, colorful flower that you know is going to come blasting out of the box. These bright yellow pom pom flowers did not disappoint. I used a lot of fresh blossoms along with a few way past their prime, I'm not sure how much difference the fresh vs. dead makes to the final color. The pre alumed fibers produced a lovely rich golden tan. Adding some tin produced orange and yellow-gold, wonderfully bright and rich colors.

Adding the copper and the iron mordants produced brown-dark tans and dark greens, both a little acid for my tastes, but very use-able with the others in the "family."

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oregon Grape

OK I'll admit it, I want reds, blues, and purples. I had huge expectations when I gathered and started cooking up my oregon grape berries. They stained my hands when I picked them, they were dark blue, the juice was really red...

The top photo is the Oregon Grape plant, middle photo = berry samples, bottom = leaves

In went the yarn samples, a very dark red stained the yarn, it was really dark, almost brown, but it was a red. Then I tried the tin, and again a really dark blue - midnight. Disappointed, I really wanted a lively purple, but not to be. The copper and the iron produced really rich browns. Like before, not what I was hoping for, but pretty, especially within the group, it's really a wonderful way to get a lovely range of color by using the one plant, but altering it with different chemicals, they always go together enhancing one another.

The grape leaves did not produce anything unusual, I got the the tans and greens. With copper and iron the greens were very nice, soft and dusty, they would go wonderfully with the oregon grape berry colors.


This is a weed I really love. It has been described as some kind of Jurassic park plant. It starts its year as a spire shooting up -- sort of asparagus, but will bamboo type rings. It soon blossoms with fringe which gives it the horsetail name. I've always been intrigued with this plant, even trying to get it's rhizomes to grow in containers. The plant is very invasive; if it is growing in your yard, you hate it and can't get rid of it, but if you're like me, you try to grow it in pots, enjoying it's positives, with out the negatives.

The dye from this plant was little disappointing at the beginning of the dye protocol, but when adding the copper and iron mordants, the yarn turned into this beautiful soft gray greens and warm grays. The photos do not do this or many of the other photos justice. Most of these colors are just to subtle and close in value to come across on the computer.

I have color corrected the best I can in Photoshop, but I found when I corrected for the blue in every photo, trying to keep the yellow/green I got most of the time, the lovely gray and neutral colors were lost to some extent.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Red Onion

Again there was the collection of dry onion skins, boiled on the stove for about an hour and left to sit until the next morning.

The colors were in the same family as the yellow onion skins, but all a bit darker. Again, a fairly distinct color was garnered from the different minerals added. Tin brightened, whereas copper added the more red tones an iron the green.

So far the onion skins, both red and yellow, were the most successful plant dyes, based on the range of colors gathered from one plant -- if only I loved the fall colors as much as reds and purples.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yellow Onion

I'm not sure when we started collecting the dry onion skins, but we saved the outside part every time we cooked with onions. It was a fair amount for sample dyeing, but I still found myself raiding the onion bin at the local food store for extra dry pieces that had been cast aside.

I separated the yellow onion skins from the red/purple ones wondering if it would make a difference and as it turned out it did, not dramatically different, but the yellow onions were much brighter than the red onions. These were definitely vibrant colors; beautiful colors if you like the fall golds, oranges and browns, a range one could weave many a tapestry or functional item. The tin mordant brought out the brightest colors; this was the first dye batch which really brought out the difference between the prealumed wools and non prealumed wools, every variation was a distinct color.

The colors shown from right to left are: no mordant, prealum, prealum + tin, tin only, prealum + copper, copper only, prealum + iron, iron only.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Butterfly Bush

The photo showing the six steps of dyeing, the original plant stuff, simering in a pot,the "juice", straining, the first sample, the end result.

This shrub tends to grow along side of the road, although many people grow them in their yards to attract butterflies. I gathered up a bunch of limbs, later separating the flowers from the leaves and simmered them in separate pots.

I guess I was dreaming thinking I would maybe get lavender from those pretty flowers. As soon as those flowers started simmering a very deep mustard yellow juice appeared. Both the flowers (middle photo) and the leaves (bottom photo) leaves photos

I was kind of surprised at how similar the colors were for both the flowers and the leaves/stems with the real differences being with the prealum group on the right and the iron mordant wools on the left.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


It's fun to think you can make colors out of weeds -- stuff everybody wants to get rid of -- and it's free! Even though it was fall, I went out and collected as many flowers as I could. Making dyes from plants was not as convenient as getting colors out of a jar, but still very intriguing.

I was expecting yellows and greens and that's exactly what I got. I was surprised at how nice and soft the colors were and the nice range of color, the four steps of yellow and green would make a really nice table runner or yarns for a tapestry...

The colors shown from right to left are: no mordant, prealum, prealum + tin, tin only, prealum + copper, copper only, prealum + iron, iron only.

The prealumed yarn doesn't seem to make for much of a difference except those colors are a bit more intense.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Purple Cabbage

Boiling up a bunch of purple cabbage is not the most fragrant way to spend time, but I was eager to see if I would get something red or purple.

What I started to do for all of my tests was to put four wool yarn samples that I had pretreated with alum into the "juice" along with a sample of yarn without any mordant. After simmering for about a half hour I took all the samples out, poured a smaller amount into a pot and added tin to the "juice" and added one sample of prealumed wool and one sample with nothing to create two different samples. I then went through the same procedure with the copper and the iron.

My first sample with the alum produced basically no color, a surprise considering the purple juice that was in the pot. Next I added tin which made a really pretty light slate blue, I was hopeful to get something, purple but only got a really light tan green with copper and barely a green gray with the iron. Again a bit disappointed, but again some nice color when looked at on their own.

The photo is not doing justice to the beautiful color obtained.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I had prepared a bunch of yarn for samples, made butterflies, loosely tied in several places to keep them from getting too tangled with the others. I took some of them and use the pre-mordant method, reading that alum enhanced many colors, I simmered the samples on the stove with about a 1/2 teaspoon of alum the night before. These can be dried and used at a later time, but I kept them in the water to use the next day. I also got the rest of the samples soaking in water with a spot of dish soap, so they would be ready to accept the dye evenly.

The night before I also simmered for almost and hour geranium flowers and geranium leaves in separate pots and let them sit over night, hoping to draw out as much color as possible. I had great hopes of getting red dye from the flowers, since the bath was so red and whenever it landed on paper, there was a red stain.

The next morning it was the geranium leaves that were tested first. I didn't expect much except maybe some green color and there wasn't much to get excited about except the sample with the alum and time did produce a very nice soft yellow.

Then it was on to the geranium flowers, would I get red? Well, no; at first I was really disappointed trying all the mordants and only getting light orangy tans, a very faded orange, a medium tan and a nice warm gray. But when you look at them all together the colors were nice together, soft and natural. I think that if I would have been using a plant fiber like cotton or raffia instead of an animal fiber like wool I may have seen the red I was hoping for.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

New project

Before the real class starts I have some projects of my own to get done.

I like to garden and love to work with color, so why not combine the two and try some plant dyes? Last spring I checked out a bunch of books from the library and foundn out what plants might give me some success. I bought some extra geraniums and marigolds, planted red cabbage and carrots just for the dye possibilites.

I later ordered mordants (alum, tin, iron and copper) online, bought some stainless steel pots at the thrift store and waited for the busy summer weekends to wind down.

The photo is my dyeing set up outside on the driveway, I call it "the lab"

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I got my confirmation that I was accepted into the Certificate Program in Fiber Arts at the end of July. You're not really accepted because you were "good enough" more of a first-come-first-served-space-available basis, but it still felt good to be able to begin something new.

Soon after the acceptance e-mail came a letter with my UW student ID number and my access code so I could sign up for my NetID and have access to my MyUW account. I apparently can view my schedule and get information about resources and activities.

Now I just need to find the building we'll be meeting in so I know where to go when class actually starts. Being sort of a worrier, I'll need to visit this place and get the "lay of the land" so I know what to do and where to go when the time comes.

I guess it's time to sit back and relax and get ready for the fun to start.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My resume submitted for the U of W Fibers Program

December 1979, One person show, Austin Community College, Austin, Minnesota
August 1979, Merit Award, Minnesota State Fair Fine Art Exhibition, St. Paul, Minnesota
May 1979, One person BFA show, "Dyed Fiber," St. Cloud State University, St, Cloud, Minnesota
April 1979, "Made in Minnesota," Competitive Exhibit for Minnesota Artists, Rochester, Minnesota
December 1977, Fourth Award, "Midwest Craft Competition," Rochester Minnesota

Graphic Designer, The Seattle Public Library, 2004 - present
Graphic Designer, City of Seattle, 1985 to 2004
Print Production Manger, Allen Nelson & Co., 1981 - 1983
Print Production Artist, Daisy Publishing Co., 1980 - 1981

BFA in Art with honors in 1979 from St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota.

The image shown I call "Morning Sky" it's not finished, but I submitted it anyway.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My art statement for my U of W Fibers Ext. class

When I found the information about the Fiber Program and attended the information session, I thought this was exactly the kind of guidance I was missing and needed. I need help in finding focus, exploring the creative process and the motivation to continue. Plus the nuts and bolts of becoming more professional – writing the artist statement, grant writing and other “professional practices” that was mentioned at the information session.

I graduated with a BFA in Fibers from St. Cloud State University (Minnesota) in 1980. I soon moved to Seattle and was finally able to purchase my own loom and tried to continue working on my art. Without the community of artists around me to share ideas and no real vision on how I should proceed, my creativity settled into my job, my home, and basic living.

I know how to make a pleasant arrangement of things and objects on a page or in space ­– I’ve been doing that for almost 30 years as a graphic designer. That was sort of what I was trying to do with my weaving - mixed in with doing the color gradation work, - I love the way color flows from one to the next - but they were just spots of color on a “page;” no meaning, no story. I liked parts of them, how the color plays and reacts in some places, but as a whole they just don’t hold your interest for very long.

In the past year I’ve been trying to get in touch with what I’d like to create; to find my voice. I’ve done some tentative weaving projects to explore new paths, joined the weavers guild in an attempt to find people to share with and be inspired by, and started a book of sketches of ideas and thoughts. I feel like I’m ready to begin the study of the process of my creativity and how I can make it flourish.

The image "Brown to Gold" is the second image I subitted with my application.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What happened?

No waiting, no excuses, get the application completed.I got my materials together; photos of some work, a written statement and a resume. Putting the packet together was kind of a retro reality check; I had forgotten that I had art accepted into a couple of shows back in college -- state-wide and regional. What happened? How did I let it all get away from me?

"Three sunsets" is one of the images of my work submitted with my application.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fiber Program

It was at a Guild meeting that I found out about a fiber progran at the University of Washington. One of the members was in a student show on display in Pioneer Square. I checked out the show, liked some of the work, and went online to find out more about the program.

There it was on the first page, “This program is designed to meet the needs of those currently engaged in some form of fiber art, who would like to deepen the expressive or conceptual aspects of their work.” It sounded perfect. A structure to learn and participate in: to get me on track. I don't know where the time will come from to get the most out of it, but somehow I'll just make it work.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

They were artists

I started carrying my sketch/idea book with me everywhere. Lunches started to be time just for me; time to think, see and sketch. I also thought that I needed to find some more like-minded people to surround myself with. I kept thinking back to that community of weaver I had back in college. It was energizing to have other creative people around me.

The easiest thing to do was join the Seattle Weavers Guild. I thought to my self that this may not be the best group for me -- what if all they do is weave patterns? I started going to the meetings; the programs, even if they didn't directly relate to what I was doing, always gave me something to consider for my own work. The talent, variety, and depth of knowledge of the people I met was amazing, yes, many of them wove patterns, but they used wonderful colors, their technique was flawless, and they used fibers so thin, that if I used the same, I would surely go mad. They were artists.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Wishing and Wanting

I want my art to be a prominent part of my life.

After graduating from college with a BFA in fibers (over 25 years ago). I moved to Seattle, got a job as a graphic artist, and saved my money to get my own loom. I continued to do some weaving, but gradually other aspects of life took over (you all know the excuses) and my loom became this very large and heavy piece of furniture which got moved from place to place.

Thinking about and wanting to weave, wasn’t weaving. If I wanted to think of myself as an artist, I actually had to produce something. (Well, duh!) The time was never going to be enough, the space to work in was never going to be perfect. Slowly moving forward, if that was all it could be, was better than not at all.