Bye bye

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My experience in Nashville was amazing. I learned so much and met so many special people. I have already begun doing my own experiments. Right now I am actually boiling some sumac berries in my kitchen to see how different it is from the Nashville sumac berries. Thank you Ali and Sarah, their sis Kate and of course every person I met during my adventures. 

 

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Ali and Sarah did the nicest thing… after critical mass bike ride, on the pedestrian bridge they brought ice cream to share for my going away, so nice! It was delicious and people made interesting ice cream mixtures like Erk.

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The last day

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Before leaving, Ali showed me the process of refreshing a very large vat of indigo. Also, we tested out the bullet steamer which I setup for them to use. The process would be much more efficient than the process of steaming their fabrics with an iron because they would be able to wrap a number of things up and do them at the same time.

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Basically you wrap the fabric (in a drop cloth) around some kind of pipe with a hole drilled in an inch from the top. I like to use a hollow pole like pvc pipe so that you can wrap the fabric with string inside and around so it does not slide off.

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We bought 8-10 inch duct and I cut a wire for hanging the pole. The wire goes through that hole and hangs on cuts on the sides of the duct. The fabric should not touch the sides of the duct or be touching the water. We got a connector for the duct and put it on the bottom so that there is a rim. This rim will be easy to set on a pot that should have about an inch or two of water in it. You can use a hot plate or whatever will work to heat the water. I have heard of people using an electric kettle. Last step is to cover the duct with a towel for collecting moisture and then a lid on top. Steaming takes about an hour.  

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Visiting Dale

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My last week in Nashville, Ali took me on a field trip to Knoxville where Dale Liles, wife of the author and natural dye expert Jim Liles, resides. This was a special treat because Jim’s studies and experiments are an important source for the work that Ali and Sarah have been doing and Dale was very open in showing us samples of things Jim worked on and recipes that will help us.

The Art & Craft of Natural Dying

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These fabrics are old pockets, the embellishments on them are called chintzes. These were Jim’s passion, he experimented a lot with using different mordants becoming incorporated into the dye pigment vs. putting mordant on the fabric.

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Dale is showing us a mug based on Jim’s chintzes. He worked a bit making old traditional costumes for Colonial Williamsburg.

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Here are more color experiments of Jim’s.

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This is a special cotton that Dale is growing. She spins fibers into yarn and teaches classes.

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Ali and Dale

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Dale and I

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Finishing projects

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After a lot of experimenting with the shop’s new serger, I finished up the t-shirt I was working on before so that I would be able to screen print on it.

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This is the feather pattern I was planning on printing.

 

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For this print I wanted to experiment with how detailed I would be able to make a resist which is why I chose to use a emulsion screen. The resist worked for the indigo, because you only have to immerse the fabric in the dye for a short time, whereas other dyes like logwood or madder you would have to leave it in longer and the oil resist print may come off.

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Here is the back part of the design, the detailed part would be printed on top of the resist.

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This is a red oxide on top of the resist.

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The other sewing project I worked on was from the yardage I had printed previously. I wanted to make a simple pattern.

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Freedom quilting bee workshop: Day 3

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The third day consisted of making the woad vat from the woad plant we gathered the day before and also finishing up any other extra colors or experiments we wanted to work on.

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Here we are chopping up the woad.

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After chopping up the fresh leaves you pour boiling water on them and let them sit covered for 45 min. After that you strain out the leaves and wait for the pot of woad water to cool. Then you add washing soda and whisk it until the froth at the top turns light blue.

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The water should start red-brown and after whisking it should be a green-brown with the light blue foam. The last step is to add thiox after the foam settles and then 45 min. after it should be ready to use.

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The first round was quite light.

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The longer you kept it in, the better the color was. You can see its similar process to the indigo vat, where the color is more yellow before it is exposed to the air.

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A lot of the greener color from the woad came out when washed.

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This was the color we got from the sumac berries. We are very excited about this color because we were not expecting it to be so coral red.

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We experimented with the sumac because it has a lot of tannin in it and would react well in this bin of iron. To get the iron we soaked rusty nails in a glass container with vinegar. The sumac dyed fabric when immersed into this mixture got very dark and it turned purply.

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Besides the woad and the sumac we finished doing experiments with some shibori.

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We also finished the day by cutting the swatches and making booklets for everyone to take home along with larger pieces for the freedom quilters to make a quilt out of.

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Later that day there was a meet and greet reception in the halls of the Frist art museum in downtown Nashville. The freedom quilters showed their work and talked about their experience with the workshop. ASK Apparel also had an informational stand to answer questions.

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Freedom quilting bee workshop: Day 2

On day 2 of the workshop we went out to Bells Bend to gather dye plants and to show the Freedom Quilting Bee the dye farm.

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Sarah gathered some sumac for us to try using as a dye. It has a lot of tannin in it which is acidic and may work well to use almost as a mordant.

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Sarah began explaining the farm process and showed everyone the sunflowers and the indigo.

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Here is some indigo, it needs so much watering.

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This is a row or so of woad which is another dye plant that makes an indigo color. The difference is you need to process more of it to get color, the japanese indigo has more pigment in it, therefore you would need less of the plant than woad.

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We are gathering it to extract a dye for the next day.

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On the left is a woad leaf and on the right is dock (which we will try to get a brown color from). I just wanted to point out the difference in the leaf pattern (woad is sharper and pointier lines) and also show the woad blue coming out from the parts of the leaf that are dry. 

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Hollyhock is also growing a bit at the farm. The flowers do not flower until the second year. They can make pinks, purples, or browns depending on the color of the flower.

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This is weld which makes a yellow.

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The marigolds are growing too.

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The Natural Resources Conservation Service came by the land while we were there.

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After we got back to the shop we hung the fabrics we dyed the other day. This dye is madder root.

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This is cochineal (the bug dye).

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This is black walnut.

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Another thing we worked on was gathering all the sumac berries and then boiling them to extract the dye.

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Also, we needed to chop up the dock that was collected.

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From the Hopi Dye Sunflower bath that we started the day before, we dried the leftover sunflower seeds because they can be planted and grown.

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This cochineal was dipped in indigo to make this purple color.

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At the end of the day we did shibori patterns and dipped our wrapped fabrics in indigo.

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Freedom quilting bee workshop: Day 1

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The first thing we did was learn about everyone and their experience or reason for interest in natural dyes. We met Rennie, Fannie, Shunda, Otis and Xavier.

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Sarah showed how and why we scour fabric.

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Also, we described the mordanting process.

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Everyone began to immerse their scoured and mordanted fabric into separate bins of water to soak the fabric.

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The first dye we worked on setting up was cochineal (pink) which is actually tiny bugs that live on cactuses.

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Otis is breaking the black walnuts

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Here is Fannie dipping fabric into madder (red) so it can soak for a long time.

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We must boil some of the dyestuff like the marigolds and the cochineal bugs before we put fabric in.

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While we are waiting to extract color from the dyes on the stove, Ali is demonstrating how to refresh a Thiox indigo vat.

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While we wait for the indigo mixture to change color into a yellow, we dip some more fabric to dye. 

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When the thiox mixture for the indigo changes color we can mix it in with the batch to refresh it.

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We begin to dip fabric in both the Thiox and the fermented vat of indigo.

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Fannie is checking on the cochineal.

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After that we take out the first marigold yellow fabric. Then we do more indigo dyeing.

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Close to the end of the day we discussed all of the colors and the steps it took to make the ones we did that day.

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This is the stepdown marigold. We took half the batch of the first marigold and this stepdown marigold and would overdye them with indigo to make green.

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The first marigold dip in indigo was brighter than the other.

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At the end of day they showed us a couple of quilts and their different patterns.

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