September Goodbyes

Not goodbye to my blog this September but certainly goodbye to the studio and garden at 20W. The Blue Heron came to say farewell:


Spent all of August and September so far sorting, packing, recycling, chucking out:



Of course, I saved a stack or two of this summer's printed textiles for blog pics. July was basically my last month working in the studio, racing to finish eco printing wools for an article in the British “Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers” (; making sure to use up all the iris leaves in my garden to make paper and the frozen irisvblooms to print book pages and cloth; finally, printing up silk that had been soaking for weeks in alum water.

First, the wool ( a recap of last blog post):


Wools eco printed with iron, maples, sumac, coreopsis and prunus cistena. Now for the silks:



Prunus cistena and coreopsis, above.



Rose, marigold, iron, sumac, prunus c.:



Coreopsis verticillata, rhus typhina, “Purple Passion” apple slices:



Rugosa rose, prunus cistena, iron, sumac:



Tagetes, iron, prunus:



Rhus typhina, Coreopsis v., Rosa rugosa:



Tagetes, Prunus cistena, Eucalyptus globulus:



As above, with “Purple Passion” apple slices.



The Story Table.

Witness to the spinning and weaving of many life-tales ( and plenty of unravelling, too) this (five-dollar) school library table was rescued and gifted to us 40 years ago…Oh, it has seen and heard many a story…For the new house, it will get a face lift but it will always remain our communion table:


Here we all are, as we are on Labour Day 2013, saying goodbye after a final meal as a family in our home of 35 years and celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary.

Clockwise from the tallest: Shlomo, Shannon, Sarah, Scott, Hannah, Matthew and Wendy. Seated ( L to R) : Nemo the Lab, Dylan, Noah, Layla.


Next up? Making art in Umbria, Italy!

Off to spend the month of October experimenting with the dye properties of plants in Umbria along with bookbinding traditions there as well as papermaking…Will be posting from Mount Subasio near Assisi.




Coreopsis eco prints in review

The stunning reds in eco prints of Coreopsis verticillata are available most of the growing season in Zone 4 USDA where my garden is located; and even in winter, dried C. verticillata plants give vestiges of colour. We have 119 frost free days in Ottawa, from late May to sometime in September. The C. lanceolata and C. tinctoria are not reliably hardy in my garden – I think there are some cold zones that go below Zone 4 averages. Thus, C. verticillata is my reliable source of colour.

First, a reminder of a solar dye extraction: the coreopsis in alum and water (left) and plain water (right), just a few moments after being submerged in the jars of water. (The coreopsis have been in jars fo two weeks now and the colours of both are deepening. But that coreopsis story will be for another post! ) What is remarkable about the alum jar is that the coreopsis had been used already in an eco print on paper, yet it continued to give colour of this intensity – with alum acetate as mordant. The “plain water” jar contains fresh leaves which had not been processed.

Here are the somewhat frost- tender coreopsis:

And here is the hardier C. verticillata: I think the variety is “Zagreb”, since it is on the short side, i.e., about 18″

Late last summer, I made eco prints on paper with C. verticillata and plants that give contrasting colours. I love the “orange/blue” opposition and all versions of it, as here, with Purple Sandcherry (Prunus cistena) that gives a teal blue-green in the late summer:

Notice that the stalks and leaves (“Threadleaf” coreopsis) print browny-orange as well as red; and a kind of khaki, below:


When winter came alone, I had no more coreopsis left in my garden! But a neighbour who cuts down all her foliage in fall gave me her clippings of a much taller C. verticillata, “Golden Showers”, I am guessing, since it was well over two feet tall. I dried this coreopsis: the little flowers retained colour, as the image shows:

In January 2013, I made eco prints of them with dried tagetes. The coreopsis blooms gave orange patches and the stalks and leaves, dried, gave brown marks, like random straight stitchea(The tagetes gave greens and yellows, too)


I kept the bundle of dried plants in a large vase:

Spring 2013. Coreopsis, along with many other plants printed on water colour paper:

coreopsis is on the lower right of the pile of printed papers:

On the upper corners of the tulip prints:

Strong contrasts with the teals and golds of “Royalty” crabapple prints:

A few stalks of Coreopsis verticillata in an arrangement with maple seeds, spent tulip petals, dandelion and sprays of Red Currant. You can see why the plant is named “Threadleaf Coreopsis” in English. The Greek meaning is “tick” plant because the seeds look like those nasty bugs – hence another common name, “Tickseed”

Again, to repeat the pages of a ” Blizzard” book a la Hedi Kyle, printed with three kinds of coreopsis: verticillata, lanceolata and tinctoria: I will leave you to guess which is which and try for yourself the joys of working with this plant!



FInally, the linen printed with sumac and C. verticillata.

Modified with an iron dip:

No iron dip:

Next up:

In praise of dandelions! Their first wave has passed, but more will be coming we know!

Last weekend I attended a Dandelion Festival in Kemptville, Ontario. Learned how to make root beer with dandelions! Ate dandelion pesto on chicken with dandelion cupcake for dessert. Report coming.



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!


Winterlude Eco Dye Prints on Paper

Outside, the snow is falling for the first weekend of Ottawa's Winterlude Festival. After some tropical days in the last weeks at plus nine, the Rideau Canal (World Heritage site) has finally opened for skating. From my window, I saw the first skater head over there…I was running for my camera to capture the textile interest not the skates: that conic Hudson Bay blanket coat! I still have a coat like that, FYI. Plus I have requested in my will to be buried in a Hudson Bay blanket…textile freak to the end, paying tribute to my adopted country besides saying a snide farewell to my favourite store, now that Target has bought it…

Meantime, winter finds me dyeing, ha ha.

This Winterlude, instead of skating, I got out my stash of fallen leaves saved from fall foraging walks in the local arboretum, all nicely frozen in the garage. My favourites are acer palmatum (Japanese Maple), acer saccharum (Sugar Maple, another Canadian icon), cotinus coggygria(Smokebush), alnus (Alder) and amelanchier canadensis ( my beloved Serviceberry). Only two are natives; in the arboretum, one finds leaves from trees that originate in many parts of the world. Besides these, I shlepped out from the big deep freezer, AKA garage, a nice pile of walnuts from a Black Walnut stand nearby: To dye, to print, perchance to steam – to paraphrase Shakespeare…

For a change, I had in mind to print the leaves on alum mordanted paper by immersion dye bath method rather than steaming the bundles under bricks as I usually do. I always use heavy weights to get good contact between plant and substrate when steaming. I place the bundles above the water on a rack supported by wee glass jars. So the plant-substrate contact in the immersion dye bath was the challenge today.

I had two dye baths:

1. The walnut dye bath:

Four frozen walnuts fit in the wee crock pot I was using, a brand-new $10 crockpot, purchased Friday last at a big sale at an affiliate store of the above Hudson Bay company, going out of biz …(Are there cosmic connections here – Target and walnut dye? )

I filled the pot to cover the walnuts and left them cooking, to come to 180 degrees. Then in went two bundles, one bundle with leaves on 140lb water colour paper and one with leaves on crepe de chine.. ( “Crepe de Chine” means China Silk – are we back to Target again? ) The silk bundle will be the subject of another post. FYI, the white on the walnuts is frost, not mould – though mould would likely print, also.

(After dyeing the paper bundle and the silk bundle, I cooked the dye down to one quarter its original volume of one litre/four cups water minus the displaced liquid…maybe one cup…Am going to try to make walnut ink.)


2. This dye bath below was left from the previous steamed bundles of paper, printed with coreopsis and tagetes. Lots of colour from the steamed bundles had entered water. (See previous post) I removed the jars and the rack for this project. About three inches of watery dye bath remained and to that I added some bits of iron. I processed a linen and a paper bundle; the linen floated, as you can see, because it was wrapped over a wood branch, while the paper bundle sank with the binder clips!

Next, the leaves I used in the bundles: from noon, around the clock:

Sweet Gum, Alder, Cotinus, Japanese Maple, Sugar Maple, Serviceberry, one Gingko and one Red Maple.


Paper next:

Sheets of “Montreal” watercolour paper, 140 lbs., soaked in water and alum acetate for several days (one day is really enough but no harm if longer) in a plastic plant tray, one quarter teaspoon alum powder to one cup (250 mls/8 oz) water. It is a rather soft paper and tears easily. But it takes impressions of a leaf beautifully so you not only get a coloured print but an impression, too. I suspect the paper might not have a lot of clay and binders in it, either. But that is research for another day.

After soaking the paper, I carefully tore it lengthwise and folded the strips into accordions of four and eight pages. I tucked the leaves in between the folds and inserted some iron bits in some folds to provoke darker prints from the leaf tannins. Then I encased the stacks of folded paper in various makeshift covers using plastic cut from ice cream containers, heavy cardboard cut to size or BBQ foil, clamping these over the paper sheets with small binder clips to get good contact between plant and paper and to avoid impressions in the papers from the binder clips.

Pics of the encasements: I tried foil, plastic and cardboard. I found the plastic and the cardboard were better than the foil at creating good contact and hence, clearer prints.

Aluminum foil, BBQ weight with binder clips on a four- fold accordion. This one went in the Coreopsis-Tagetes bath. Another four- fold went in the walnut bath. About two hours at a simmer, i.e, 180 degrees.

This is it, fresh from the dye bath with a bit of iron:
With the leaves after processing in the dye bath, before drying:
After drying:
This one below is an eight fold accordion, encased in cut bits of plastic, clamped with binder clips and it went in the walnut bath ( It fit in the little pot along with a silk bundle.)

This is how the papers above looked before being clamped:

After processing:

This four page accordion below was processed in the Coreopsis-Tagetes dye bath:

And here are three four-page accordions.

Top: Winter leaves in coreopsis-tagetes dye

Centre: Fresh leaves (florist ferns from a supermarket bouquet, no pic)

Bottom: Winter leaves in walnut with iron.

More Winterlude prints next time!


Winter Prints for Artist Book Pages

I am enjoying creating more artist books.

I joined the Canadian Bookbinders’ and Book Artists’ Guild last August 2013 and am building up the technical side of bookmaking there, plus, as is my obsession, I am building a library about bookbinding. Blog posts coming on that topic of book collections!

Making artist books will be a strong focus of my work from now on. Many reasons for that, but a pragmatic one is high on the list: we are selling our house and downsizing. My basement studio has to be reduced in size two thirds, oy…So lots of books and fabrics have to GO…

Paper takes up way less space than huge stacks of cloth, of course. My fibre art textile stash with all its variety of texture and colour from my paint, print and stitch wants to marry into the book family…

For the art content of my books, always related to nature, I am working on both textiles and paper, experimenting with various textures and weights of fibre, and with different kinds of binding and stitching. Artist books have to give fullness and feeling to hand, eye, mind and spirit.

I especially like to combine textile with paper, as you see in this wee Pleasure Book (4″ x 4″) designed to show off the beauty of rust and tannin prints as well as plant dyes extracted from leaves on linen and paper substrates. Its title is “New World Scroll” because it has the form of an ancient scroll, concertina- style, is printed with plants from the New World (my special interest) and is a botanical record at the same time.


The maple-printed and embroidered linen covers for the book are a “first” in their own right. The leaf prints serendipitously appeared on some rusty-metal bundled linen being composted outside on my deck some years ago when I was first learning to rust print. The maple tree overhead dropped some leaves onto the vinegared bundle. The tannins in the leaves did their printing work in that chemical environment on a hot summer day. Lo and behold, my first “eco prints” (a la India Flint, later so named) appeared! Not that well defined or colour-intense because no pressure or even heat had been applied to force contact between the cloth and the leaf – but a print nevertheless.

Here now is a look at the inside pages of the book, treated with 5% acid white vinegar to coax colour from leaves and rusty metal during steaming. Cassandra Tondro (see blogroll) shares her free tutorial on a method for leaf pigment extraction which has been my basic guide and which can be adapted in various ways according to printing goals.


For this latest collection of pages for artist books and scrolls ( following on from my 2012 work on scrolls)I used some of my dried plants gathered in the late fall from my garden: coreopsis verticillata, tagetes marigold and catalpa pods (from my neighbour). The colours of the fresh plants may have faded but their fragrance while steaming brings a summer garden into a January kitchen.

The set up for dyeing the paper (“Montreal” paper, made there by Saint Amand, I believe, though that ref. is still TBD ) : A nice lasagna of a paper stack with bits of rusty iron and dried plants as follows:


Coreopsis verticillata, seed heads and stems:


Tagetes marigold, petals and calices:


I made six bundles with coreopsis, tagetes and rusty iron, with catalpa pods for tannins. The paper was soaked in alum acetate for several days. I just time to make the bundles after a 24 hour soak, so this longer period was not a necessary condition. Here are the prints on the papers after mordanting and steaming, followed by cooling for some hours:


The greens and green-yellows are from the calices of the tagetes which have found a reliable source of green fresh or dried, at any season. The dark greys and browns are are from the tagetes petals, a significant loss of orange colour compared to fresh blooms , but still interesting.


The above papers show prints of the tannin brown of the catalpa pods along with coreopsis (finely etched brown marks) and the tagetes colours.


Dried coreopsis stalks broken into fine shreds to print stitch-like marks; patches of bloom colour.


Detail of the tagetes bloom print – bright greens from the calix, sophisticated charcoal greys and even bottle greens from the petals.

No summer shades of orange here!

These papers are ready for assembling into artist books and scrolls, to be embroidered, sewn, and bound.

These and others are destined to be displayed as samples at my demo etc for the International Printmakers Festival in the UK in March.

That was a lot of pleasure on a January day!

Thank you for sharing your interests with me in a spirit of respect and collegiality. I value your messages as sign of a community.