Autumn in the Kaleyard

Kale is another word for cabbage. I learned recently that Scottish “Kailyard” literature displeased the artspeakers of the late Victorian era who found it sentimental and cottagey, not nearly edgey enough, too sweat-blood-and-tears free, so to speak. James Barrie, author of 'Peter Pan and Wendy' was a kaleyardist author, and thus much sneered at by the critics of ' kaleyard' (or 'kailyard') lit, a genre so- named for the ordinary country-Scot of tradition who had kept a cabbage patch ( or 'kaleyard') beside his wee house to feed his family way before the potato came north…You may even have noticed 'cole' (AKA kale or cabbage) depicted in medieval MSS. showing images of jolly, contented peasants tending seasonal crops.

In growing the absurdly handsome 'Lacinato' black kale (AKA 'Dinosaur' kale) this year, I had the most innocent of intentions, just looking for some kitchen dyes and a little summer salad. I had no idea this plant would turn out to be the decorative star of the front yard, a neighbourhood conversation starter like no other and an art-political statement besides. Here it is, flanked on the left by the lovely native great blue lobelia, or Lobelia syphilitica.

Dino kale leaves (backed by natives coreopsis on the right and black-eyed susans on the left, out of focus.)

 

Kale colour and texture are foils to a chartreuse barberry, saved from severe garden editing as a Native Plant Gardening Don't, only because it was too prickly to pull out that day – but which turned out to be a Garden Designer Do (Does Glamour magazine still run pics of their fashion Do's and Don'ts? ). The sedum 'Autumn Joy' is still summer green in this photo:

And here is the much-expanded kale beside the fall rust-pink of Sedum spectabilis:

 

Pollinators love the fall-blooming Michaelmas daisy:

 

Pot-grown indigo beside the kale: this will overwinter indoors, like Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria).

 

Calendulas love the cooler fall weather: and burnt orange beside kale green is eyepopping.

 

These humble, cottagey little kaleyard sparrows love their bath at ground level:

 

This is the sparrows' Birds' Eye view of the fall colours in my kaleyard. The lobelia has gone to seed. The rue (back left) is divinely thick and blue-green, lighter in tone than kale, with a lacey texture for contrast, harmony and repetition.

 

Looking up, the sparrows can see the black elder, native Sambucus nigra, in full fruit:

 

And under the bird feeder, some new garden sculptures by Shlomo, in my favourite orange and blue combo:

 

Fall means foraged wild apples for apple butter:

 

And for art this late summer and early fall, eco prints a-plenty, using mostly the native plants from my garden.

Coreopsis with Aronia melanocarpa berries and Prunus cistena leaves:

 

Prunus cistena, Aronia melanocarpa, sumac.

 

Japanese maple and grevillia (exotics!)

 

Varia:

 

Almost all native plant prints. The reds are coreopsis and bloodroot; the blues are various blue berries, e.g., aronia, elder and dogwood.

 

Iron enhanced prints from Cotinus obovatus, Baptisia tinctoria and Sanguinaria canadensis.

 

Ditto, as above; blues from red cabbage and aronia berries.

 

Plus an embroidered Artist Book or two: this one is about daisies ( o how kaleyard a topic!) and incorporates embroidered imagery along with vintage textiles (o how kaleyard an art!)

Spidey below was not the only weaver in the kaleyard:
 

 

This year, Kaleyard visitors were invited to weave fibers and plants on the garden loom (hinged like a gate to the shed and painted as near to Yves Klein blue as we could manage with Home Depot paint).

 

And finally, we began to hang up some of the art we have had stashed since we moved here a year ago: blue and orange, my faves:

 

Next time, more about Artist Books and native plants for eco printing; plus some long overdue updates to my other pages here, notably the tutorials page, the eco dye references and the plants.

I also have a set of thrifted chairs that need new seat covers and a new paint job. TBD!

 

Regards from your Kaleyardist blogger

 

Wendy

 

 

Advertisements

Dye colours from the late July garden

Finally I have taken a break from the reno's of house and garden and turned my heart back to my dye pot. A squirrel convinced me. A well-fed little pest heaved himself onto my new, young sumac just as that precious plant had reached the top of the fence…and snapped the head off the sumac…I just had to use that sumac in the dye pot.

(Husband has now been equipped with an humungous $10 water pistol that shoots sprays of water forty feet…yet, in wildlife-friendly native plant gardens why curse when wild natives show up?)

So here also was the chance to check out the dye pigment potential of some of the other plants in my garden, plus one or two from the local wilds.

Let me begin with Hypericum perforatum, Saint John's Wort, foraged (rescued!) from nearby wild acreage dedicated to a future Big Box shopping centre that has been a long time coming…TG…

Fo my research, I have read all the reference books I own and have come away dissatisfied. Lacunae abound. Hypericum perforatum is not native to North America, though it has cousins here. It is considered a noxious, invasive weed in some quarters; even respected dyers like Rita Buchanan would rather not bother to dye with it because it is too troublesome to pick the needed quantity of flowers. (Note that other dyers may use all parts of the plant) Still, I find that hypericum offers interesting challenges.

The plant is reputed to give red, green and yellow colours, but a very particular order of extracting the pigments has been counselled by some of the Deities of Dye, chief among whom (IMHO) on the subject of hypericum performatum is Jenny Dean. ( See my Reference page for details) Most of the other Dye Deities kind of vaguely wave their sceptres over the hypericum and mutter something about it possibly giving red if you really want that..then fudge off to the next dye plant on their list whose dye properties they actually can present with authority. Or they avoid the trouble and simply quote another Dye Diva, equally vague on this plant as a dye source.

Hypericum perforatum.

The black dots along the edge of the petals actually print! If you hold the leaves up to the light, you can see wee perforations. Glands on the inflorescence hold the red dye.

 

The “smoosh test” ( i.e., squishing an interesting new plant part with my fingers is my first line of investigation always) yielded this maroon colour from the flower head crushed onto paper towel:

 

Steeping the whole plant in rubbing alcohol was my next step.

Absolutely none of the dye authors, not even Dean or Cardon ( see refs page) managed to explain to my satisfaction how to move from dye-infused red rubbing alcohol (e.g., above) to red-dyed fibre…Many authors mention the alcohol extraction method but none provides useful details for the next step after steeping. Flint provides teasing images of the colours one might obtain with various mordants on protein and cellulose fibres, but no explanations of how obtained.

One guesses that topping the alcohol up with water might make a dye bath, so TBD, once my two jars have steeped a day or so. But I am puzzled. Why bother with the alcohol extraction when water baths seem to extract the red pigment quite easily (cf. Dean et al)? Or perhaps just smoosh the colour out for a contact print? Another TBD. Plus the authors on my Reference list offering differing counsel about which plant part to use to obtain which colour, not to mention differences in other information about processes, such as best season to gather the plant, process time, mordant, etc. I figure, as usual, that one's own experiments are the way forward, after having made genuine efforts to uncover “Best Practices”.

Hypericum (whole plant, roots included) in isopropyl alcohol:

 

Thus my research with Hypericum perforatum continues.

 

July eco prints with native plants

Now to a couple of familiar native plants that give up pigments for contact dyeing, namely sumac (Rhus typhina) and coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, 'Zagreb' and 'Route 66' varieties. 'Route 66' is new to me. I am not pedantic about sticking to the purely native species like C. lanceolata or C. verticillata. Hybrids are OK with me, well-behaved relatives, such as Cotinus coggygria. This plant is from 'Away', as one might say, but is the worthy cousin of Cotinus obovatus, a North American native that was here in my new garden, to my delight, along with the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), well-known as a dye source among First Nations peoples.

'Flower Pounding' or 'Hapazome' to make contact prints

To check out some of the pigment potential in plants for contact print /dye material, I made a few prints by pounding the plant material with a hammer in order to transfer the colour and form to watercolour paper and silk. I also thought this method might be useful in revealing info about the hypericum red colour. I found that alum mordanted substrates gave best results, and that one can modify the colours obtained by pounding if one uses the customary post-dye assistants such as iron, copper, ammonia, etc.

Some plants I tried 'pounding':

 

Red geranium (pelargonium) with yellow-orange coreopsis v. With blue borage , top right. On water colour paper, no alum:

 

As above, but with alum. That coreopsis red sings!

 

'Route 66' (a bi coloured coreopsis, red and yellow) with red Japanese maple and red geranium , with alum:

 

Coreopsis verticillata 'Route 66':

 

Hypericum perforatum, with alum, post-modified with ammonia: You get the hypericum red this way, too!

 

Pansy, Japanese maple, hypericum with alum and post-modifier, ammonia (to bring out the greens) The maple lost its blue and purple – compare with the previous images:

 

And now the three Squirrel Bundles (no, I did not…) Three dupioni silk panels were layered with sumac, Japanese maple, Cotinus obovatus and coreopsis plus a tad of sliced bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). I used mostly the busy and abundant Coreopsis verticillata 'Route 66' because my 'Zagreb' is quite weedy this year – dunno why. Since all three texiles were bundled with the same collection of plants, I expected the colour results to be the same in each. I achieved variety by using post dye-bath modifiers.

(Aside: The bloodroot and the coreopsis gave reds that look the same to me. Vibrant! )

And FYI for vintage fibre fans: the three bundles of dupioni silk were tied up with thrifted wool yarn that originated in the Rosamond Woollen Mill in Almonte, near Ottawa. When the mill closed, it became the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum (I have shown my work there in the past). The textiles were bundled with plants over copper pipe and steamed about an hour.

 

 

Two cones of vintage wool yarn from the Rosamond Woollen Mill, Almonte, Ontario:

 

The silk panels below, post-dye pot, are alum-mordanted dupioni, each treated with a different post-dye modifier to shift their colours.

L to R: post- modified with copper acetate; with iron; with ammonia.

 

The Bloodroot deserves its name:

 

Detail, ammonia:

 

Detail, iron:

 

Detail: Copper acetate

 

 

In future posts: dyeing with weld (Reseda luteola) and indigo (Indigofera tinctoria). The plants below in the pot were started from seed in May 2014.

The weld can be transplanted to the garden and stay over the winter but the indigo will have to be potted up and brought inside. A hitch-hiking, self-seeding columbine joins them for now…

 

Seeds saved from my last batch of Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) grew into these lush babies! Soon it will be time to process the leaves for blue. TBD! (They like heat and water)

 

For the next dye – pot, I will not wait for the squirrel…

Wendy

 

Eco printed socks: Sweat as mordant?

One pair of Husband's 100% wool cross-country ski socks, forty years olds…yes, forty. (I am not the only one with a Stash…)

One day in the winter with only left-over dried eucalyptus to print with:

Wool socks bundled over debarked wood and simmered in left-over dye bath (dried coreopsis, tagetes and euc leaves) for a couple of hours:

The results with Eucalyptus globulus: One side of the bundle:

Other side:

Note the heel area and the colour obtained there:

Red on the upper sock where it came in contact with the heel in the rolled bundle:

 

 

So now, will Husband wear these? The answer is YES, he will. They look like the skin of some exotic animal!

But will I let him? If NO, only because I have other ideas than feet-covers for the fate these lovelies

Black Walnut markings

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) dye report.

First up is the info about the best walnuts for dye or ink. They are the green ones as they fall from the trees (here in Ottawa, that means October). This Fall, my three-year old grandson, Dylan, was my foraging companion. We took a nice collecting walk in a nearby walnut grove and gathered both green and black decomposing nuts.

We collected them “eco” style: picking them from under the trees, and not too many, for the critters need their winter supply. It was charmingly “eco” to get down as close to the ground as a three-year old, to examine and discuss every plant, every bug, every lichen-bearing stick; to take over an hour to collect one bag of walnuts, to choose more black squishy ones than hard green ones because the black ones squirted out icky sludgey goo on Nana…

By January, all the walnuts were black and frozen in our unheated storage. No more green ones that give the most colour. Well. We work with what is at hand, thus respecting another principle of an “eco” approach to natural dyeing. Four walnuts fit in my electric dye pot, a small ceramic slow cooker of one litre capacity. To get the most colour out of the black nuts, I thought I should make several dye extractions. In the end, four extractions were possible before the walnuts became sludge …or Nana's Squirting Goo…

For the first extraction, the walnuts were covered with water and simmered at 180 degrees for several hours, at least six, or until the liquid had reduced to about a cup. (One paper bundle and one small silk bundle were dyed in the first extraction)

The walnuts and liquid were then strained in cheesecloth, the dye saved, the four walnuts returned to the crock pot, covered with water, slow simmered for six more hours, then strained as above. The procedure was repeated once more, to make three times, I.O.W., until the walnuts disintegrated. The three litres of water reduced to just over three cups of black-brown dye. These three cups of dye were combined and strained once more. Then they were returned to the dye pot to cook down yet again until reduced to one cup of rich, thickish liquor, like balsamic vinegar:

So three litres of water, four squishy black Black walnuts and four reductions over a total of 24 hours in an electric crockpot..hmmm…I wonder how “eco” that is? At least the squirrels got the sludge.

So what to do with walnut dye?

The cheesecloth used for straining the walnut stew became…a rose by any other name:

Some watercolour paper first stamped with Oshiwa wood blocks and green acrylic paint:

…then washed over with the walnut reduction ( sort of a la Jamie Oliver):

 

…to this end: a typical antiquing look. The dye settled around thicker paint and created a drop-shadow effect, reversing the original white ground to green.

 

Some marks with walnut dye made with a paint brush, the dye painted on, dribbled on, splattered on, dripped on watercolour paper. The darkest marks come from a heavier application or a painting over of previous brush strokes:

 

 

Series below:

Marks made on wool in a 2011 walnut dye bath. Vintage wool panels were immersion dyed, bundled with Baby Blue eucalyptus, iron bits, acorns, corn cob, florist fern:

The euc printed acid yellow mostly but also patches of lime green and orange. Of course the deep browns are walnut dye.

Iron bits printed and so did the green florist fern:

I adore the walnut stripes:

A tad of orange from the euc and a clear green print from the fern. How well protein fibres print!

More stripeys in shades of walnut:

And a print from the dried Indian corn cob over which I had bundled this wool fragment:

Hope to make myself a garment from these panels of walnut and eucalyptus prints!

Last pic of walnut markings:

The brown dye seeped along the edges of the small accordion book above, and washed in over the Chokecherry leaves prints.

So far, I can use the straight dye liquid quite successfully as an ink, paint or liquid dye application.

But not yet sure about the right recipe for an ink thickened with gum tragacanth or gum arabic.

Wondering what would work for use with writing pens.

And what preservative might I need? Should I add alum?

Next post: Some local colour…

 

 

 

 

 

Winterlude leaf colours

To wrap up this “Winterlude” project for January, here are a few more images of the recent eco printed papers together with some of the plants, pre- print, to compare the colours.

(BTW, these prints are on Saint Armand “Canal” brand, 140 lb., made in Montreal. Will post an image of the pad when I buy the next one. It is machine made from linen, cotton and denim rags. Their other papers are called hand made)

First, the Serviceberry.

A little accordion book was interleaved with Serviceberry (amelanchier canadensis) winter leaves of these sorts of colours:

Leaves laid near the eco print versions:

The eco printed book entitled “New World Scroll 2:Serviceberry”

The back of “New World Scroll 2: Serviceberry”

The back was printed with larger leaves.

Second, the dried tagetes blossoms. The calices print green or yellowy green and the petals print shades of grey. Not their summer orange!

Third, the fall-red Japanese Maple (acer palmatum). Greens, teals and blues of various shades are the eco printed colours. These eco prints were made in the fall.

Last note:

The walnut ink. Below is the third pot of water in which those four walnuts were cooked! Each one litre (four cups/32 oz) water was bolied down to about one cup. I think all the walnuttiness colour been squeezed out of those four fruits! I am collecting the boiled-down liquid in a jar, and when the last litre is reduced, I will tip the “walnut reduction” back into the crockpot and boil that down once more to one cup. Then I can tinker with the rest of the recipe!

I cooked the walnuts down until they were mushy. After each “reduction” the liquid was strained, the walnut mush was returned to the pot and covered with water two more times to make a litre. Some folks chop the walnuts up first but I did not bother.

Looking forward to the outcome!

 

Midwinter Eco-printed Scrolls

 

In just a few days, the darkest days will be over and light will stay with us longer! This post, I had been hoping to share some pics of illuminated MSS on loan from the Bodleian to the Jewish Museum in NY…unfortunately, I seem to have lost them somewhere in cyberspace.( I learned from “The Art of the Saint John's Bible” by Susan Sink that the term “illuminated” refers to the gold used for illustrations in the manuscripts. ) So instead, I offer some images of my dye garden in midsummer and midwinter as illumination to your imagination!

Midsummer past:

Midwinter present:

The harvest of that garden keeps me close to summer all year. Besides the dye flowers you see in the summer garden ( coreopsis, tagetes, amaranthus, baptisia australis, borage, basil, viola ticolor) nearby are Red Maple (acer rubrum), Sugar Maple (acer saccharum), Silver Maple (acer saccharinum) Chokecherry (prunus virginiana) and from the kitchen, tea (camellia sinensis).

In the fall I eco-printed watercolour papers with tree leaves as content for another series of botanical scrolls (suite to my textile scrolls exhibited in July), artist books entitled “New World Scroll” . Some images:

Rust and leaf eco prints provide form and content of the New World Scroll. as does the book's accordion structure. The first books were in scroll form, flat or pleated or slatted (depending on its culture of origin). I am using paper to recall ancient form and marking it with plant dyes as a contemporary take on ancient practice, and also as a comment on disappearing traditional natural dyeing knowledge and skills, a loss now connected with disappearing plant diversity and ecological imbalance.

I have handwritten the names of the plants in Latin and English as is proper to a botanical document but in pleated scroll style. I have to say I was hesitating to use my own hand ….dreamed of perfect type from an elegant letterpress…but concept and earthiness won out. Hands on, the powerful presence of a maker in the lettering.

The plants recorded on the scroll are both native and immigrant, a witness to the ideal of a global sharing of knowledge and skill for the benefit of all. A blog, kind of.

Each double spread is inserted inside a fold in the accordion spine and presents four different prints. There are twenty-four eco- printed pages, two eco-printed end papers and a set of eco- printed and embroidered linen covers.

Some closer looks:

The embroidered and printed covers refer to traditional skills and knowledge that have faded away but which are being recovered gradually in textile circles – women's work, mainly…and with new appreciation for the artistry in the ancient practices.

Chokecherry and Red Maple pages in the scroll

Chokecherry pages

Simple pamphlet stitch spine

Opening the scroll

Next time:

More book arts!

And more NYC because that is where I will be spending Christmas. I wish you all the blessings of this holy season

Wendy

 

Eco Print and Natural Dye Sampler Book – done!

The medium is the message!

My sampler book illustrates and describes aspects of my processes for eco dyeing and printing on fabric and paper. Dye printed fabrics and papers make up both form and content of the book.

Now my sampler “pocket” book has its covers, endpapers, “flags”, text, inserts and closure.

Covers are made with dye and paste printed 140 lb watercolour paper (madder, cochineal and logwood)

Back Cover

Front Cover

End papers: Logwood paste paper, embossed with a wood block:

“Flags” made from fragments of eco printed and dyed silk samples, inserted into the inner accordion spine by sewing with waxed linen thread:

An array of eco dyed silk flags printed with madder, logwood and cochineal:

The signatures sewn to the spine are intended for images of the dyes and for text and images about them. There are enough pages for me to keep adding info as it appears useful for my records. I transferred inkjet printed images from a transparency to silk organza using Purell! Then cut out the silk organza images and fused them to the book pages. R to L: Cochineal insect, chemical structure of logwood, logwood plant. (…partially successful with the Purell transfer- will keep working on that technique! … No close-ups, ha ha)
The pocket inserts below are constructed from a large sheet of eco print leftover paper fragments, glued on to a thinner paper background and cut to size, 2″ x 4″ approx. The back of each printed insert records my handwritten info about the print:
The sampler closes with a machined-cord tasseled tie attached to each cover. I used the same red waxed linen thread as for the bindings. For the ties, I punched a hole in each cover with a screw punch ( from Lee Valley Tools. Martha Stewart makes a decent one, too )

 

Last looks at my newest toy!

Inside the book showing paste paper pockets, sewn signatures, eco dyed/printed silk flags and paper inserts:

And the outside of the book, showing covers, ties and madder-printed accordion spine:

Next posts: Stash Busting!

1. Back to the textile stash! I am recovering a chair with my collection of needlepoint canvases from the sallyann.

2. And a new Artist Book about my stash of rust printed papers, linens and cottons

A bientot!