This has been the most stimulating week I have had in ages. As long-time readers of this blog will know, I
am was not an enthusiast about dyeing although I do partake from time to time. It is certainly a good long while since I did any natural dyeing, but I have been giving it a lot of thought and felt that the time was right to try it. And it just so happens that Michel Garcia was returning to Scotland to do a one week masterclass at Big Cat Textiles in Newburgh, where he is something of a regular on the schedule.
And if I am going to explore natural dyeing, I might as well go straight to the master, right? I am particularly interested in the way Michel investigates historical practices and establishes contemporary alternatives which are ecologically sustainable and non-polluting, such as plant-based mordants and processes which involve no mordanting at all.
I can’t possibly do justice to this course in a blog post, and even my pictures are pretty poor, but here is a taste of what we got up to (captions appear on mouseover). Success in results is entirely due to Michel and my excellent classmates!
We got through a lot of lemons… Our first dyebaths were made with green tea and lemons, and were used for dyeing protein fibres. The results were stunning.
Then came a two-step process with symplocos leaves as our source of aluminium, followed by making indigo extract, dyeing with indigo and then dyeing with safflower. That amazing pink was worth the dozen rinses with our hands in cold water! (And it is definitely a help to work in groups of three, so your hands can thaw for two rinses)
We moved onto cotton, and made no-waste mordants to fix the colours. We had to speed up some processes to get our samples dry within the time constraints of the workshop. Alas my photos of the steamer made out of a towel rail, saucepan, funnel and stove pipe are too blurry to post.
Other processes not shown here: making cotton waterproof, using indigo, cutch, steam and the back of a spoon; testing plants for different types of tannin; the ‘Scottish vat’ made with malt syrup instead of fructose.
By the final day we were all quite dazed and stupid with tiredness. But even though I didn’t take everything in, I have a mass of samples and notes to keep me right. And I have the indigo vat! It came home with me, buckled into the boot of the car.