Sunday, April 4, 2010

experimentation x 2

Two amazing women and their books have brought me on a joyful creative journey lately. I already gushed over India Flint, and her inspiring book Eco Colour, but have now followed lightly in her footsteps by experimenting with dyeing my linen fabrics using nothing but plants and natural materials. So far I am thrilled, mainly because many of the hues I have achieved are ones that I have unsuccessfully tried to produce for a long time using synthetic dyes. It is very hard to get pale shades of color from procion mx dyes. The soft greens here, created from boiling carrot tops in an iron pot are just perfect.

So is the grayish lavender color from the black bean water left over from our latest chili batch, and the rusty warm tones achieved from seeped onion skins, and the pale acid yellow made from chamomile tea bags...

I even tried India's famous eco printing technique, where you bundle your plants in tight fabric layers and put them in a steam bath to coax out the colors. I used geranium leaves, and although the result is nowhere near perfect, the impressions and imprints are intriguing.

I also recently purchased Natalie Chanin's book Alabama Studio Style. Her beautiful designs, technical skills, and innovative business methods, have inspired me for years. I love the new soft stencils she use, and decided to try the diluted ink spray bottle method included in her book. Well the result was quite disastrous – the ink bled everywhere, soaking through the felt stencil, making big blobs and splattering the fabric beyond the stencil. But once dried, I realized there was something appealing about this distressed mess. I added flower clusters, printed using rhododendron leaves, that echoes the blotches, but prettier. For some reason I just love the result. Next I will layer it, and add stitching, still using the same shapes.

The most wonderful side effect of these experiments, is that they taught me to cherish imperfection. I am by nature a perfectionist, wanting everything to be uniform, smooth, unblemished, aligned, and beautiful. These natural dyes come out mottled, uneven, and the stenciling is obviously quite ugly on its own. But somehow I have come to terms with how it all happens. The beauty is in the process, not necessarily in the end result.

I will take some time off for travels this week, but will return soon, with new reports, impressions, and imagery.

I just have to make an addendum to this post. Yesterday afternoon I found out from dear Claire at Shakerag, that I got a spot in India Flint's class this summer, after months on the waiting list. And guess who is the guest lecturer the week I am there – Ms. Natalie Chanin. I am so lucky!


  1. Beautiful, beautiful colors! And do they somehow last? Bean water??! (I always notice the color of the water but certainly didn't know it could be used!) And, yes, I too like the looseness of the resulting surface designs.

  2. it is funny just few days ago I have done some experimentations with onions peels and curcuma ... your colors are beautiful

  3. Beautiful! I've had the same experience trying to get interesting pale shades in my linen...this book is going on my list!
    Can't wait to see what amazing things come out of this fabric.

  4. These are gorgeous. The flower technique is really lovely, so subtle and soft but with such detail. Really beautiful.

  5. Lotta this is wonderful. I love the techniques you are using - feels so authentic and close to our roots.
    The pale colours from the natural dyes are fantastic and I especially love the pale grey/lavender colour.

    I so agree with you on the imperfection - it adds a wonderful charm and authenticity to all works of art.
    I too am a reformed perfectionist and am learning to accept the twist of fate in my work.

    Darling I also just visited your Facebook and saw your sad news. I revert to Swedish..
    Jag tanker pa dig Lotta och hoppas att detta inte ar allt for tungt. Jag vet ju att du hade detta framfor dig och att det maste ha varit hemskt att se den grymma dagen narma sig.

    Jatte stora kramar till dig min van. Jag finns har och forstar hur ont detta gor.

    Charlotta xx

  6. Oh I love this! Such beautiful subtle colours! Love the leaf prints too of course.

  7. gorgeous results with this project~!

  8. the colors are so amazing!!! love them :)

  9. Beautiful dyeing results and I like the combination of loose and crisp prints too. Thank you for introducing me to Natalie Chanin's work. Now I'm really envious of the class and lecture - very lucky indeed! :)

  10. Beautiful dyeing work! It's exciting to see more and more people playing with plant-based dyes. The workshop you are attending sounds wonderful!

  11. Parabéns pelo seu trabalho!!!
    É lindo!!!
    Quero muito aprender a técnica.


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