Monday, February 28, 2011

Stitched Shibori with Silk Hemp Blend

What I really love about stitched shibori is that you can use very simple motifs to make very striking textiles. The compression of the stitches create the movement and poetry of the cloth. It's best to keep your designs simple so that they complement the natural visual textures that define stitched shibori.

Yesterday, I stitched a small piece of silk hemp fabric. I drew basic leaf outlines on folded sections of the cloth. I changed the direction of the leaves, just to add some interest. Here is the fabric after I had stitched it and when I was just starting to pull up the stitches.

The key to good stitched shibori is pulling the stitches really really tight. Make sure you have a good strong knot on one end and then pull.....hard. Make sure you wear gloves, or you might shred the skin on your hands! 

 I dyed this piece in a black dyebath. Here's the result. I think the white and grey on black is a particularly effective combination, especially when working with graphic shapes.

I am really enjoying working with this hemp silk blend. It is easy to stitch and takes dye beautifully. One word of advice: be careful when removing the stitching thread. 

Normally, with sturdy hemp linen or cotton, I pull the threads loose, with no damage to my cloth. I discovered on a previous piece of silk hemp that you can't do that with this fabric. It will tear and you'll end up with some holes in your fabric. So, use a magnifying light and carefully snip the threads with a seam ripper. There's nothing worse than spending a lot of time stitching and have your work ruined by some hasty snipping.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Beautiful, yet Sustainable

I continue my quest to find fabrics that are organic and/or sustainable that I can use to create batik, shibori and other hand dyed treasures.

My newest fabric is a 100 percent hemp linen. You'll also see it referred to as "summer cloth". This fabric has a threadcount of 54 by 54 and weighs about 4.5 oz every square yard. It has the feel and look of a medium weight flax linen.

My only gripe with hemp so far is that is it not easy to tear.  I am too lazy to cut lengths by hand with scissors or rotary cutter. The high threadcount cotton I use is a breeze to tear into lengths. This saves a lot of time. With hemp, you really need to put some muscle behind your tear, and you will have some threads that pucker.  Hemp frays easily, so washing by hand or by machine on gentle cycle is a good idea. I washed this piece before I dyed it.  I wrapped it around a pole, bound it, and dyed it in an orange dyebath. It came out a soft butternut orange.

In the picture above, you can even see where water droplets were trapped below the fabric. Really neat!

One thing I do like about linen -- flax and hemp -- is that when used in pole wrapped shibori, you don't see as big a difference in color from the layer closest to the pole and the layer furthest from the pole. Normally, with high threadcount cotton, you'll see a big difference in the value of hues.  I suspect this is because it is a denser cloth, and the dye has a harder time penetrating and bonding through the multiple layers. Hemp linen, being a lower threadcount, allows the dye the penetrate the layers more readily. For this piece, I accordion folded the fabric into four folds before binding it.

Hemp linen is about four times the cost of the conventionally-raised cotton I normally use. But sometimes you have to pay more to do the right thing.  It's priced pretty comparably to flax linen.  I did use some unscented softener on it after washing it out -- the fibers do get rather roughed up from the salt and soda ash in the dyebath.

here's the link to this hemp fabric in my store:

Hemp Linen Shibori in Butternut

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Disposing of Soy Wax after Batik

I often use soy wax for my batiks. I keep reading in various books and online that soywax can be washed away in your washing machine or down your drain. That really makes me nervous. I live in a house built in 1939 and I've had my share of plumbing issues, with all the expense plumbing repairs entail.  I would not recommend washing your soy wax down the drain.  Would you pour liquid shortening down your pipes?  Probably not. 

Here's what I do.  After my dyebath is complete, I rinse the waxed fabric well in several sink fulls of cold water. Don't use warm or hot water at this stage. The cold water will remove soda ash and salt, without reactivating your dyebath, which you don't want to do.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Don't be stingy with the water. The more easily you can move the fabric around, the easier it will be to remove all the wax. Hold your waxed fabric with a pair of tongs and plunge it into the water. The soy wax will melt immediately. The boiling water has two purposes: it removes the soy wax and it removes any reactive dye that has not chemically bonded with your fabric. Push the fabric to the bottom of the pot and let it soak for about an hour. As the water cools, some of the soy wax will become solid again and form a crust on top of your pot. Push aside any solidified soy wax and remove your fabric. Rinse the fabric well with warm water, then either wash by hand or throw in the machine with a gentle detergent. Synthrapol is not necessary, because the boiling water will remove any excess dye without the use of a surfactant. After washing, your fabric will be wax free and colorfast. Don't pour the contents of your stockpot down the drain.

In the winter, I put my pot, still filled with water and wax, outside. Wait until the soy wax forms a solid crust on the top of the pot. You can break off chunks of wax with your gloved hands and throw them in your regular trash.

There will still be a lot of small granules of soy wax remaining in your pot. 

To get rid of the small bits of wax, take an old piece of stocking and stretch it over a container. Pour your remaining liquid into the stocking.

The stocking will capture even the smallest pieces of soy wax.  Put the solids in your trash. You'll probably have to do this a number of times to clear out your stockpot. The remaining liquid with some dye in it can be safely disposed of down the drain.

This may seem rather time consuming, but I figure it's better to expend a little time now to save time and lots of dollars in the future if my pipes become clogged with soy wax!

Happy batiking.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dyeing with Sustainable Fabrics, continued

I received some lovely hemp silk fabric this week and have started experimenting with it. This fabric is 60% hemp; 40% silk. Grown without pesticides or herbicides and minimally processed. Semi-bleached with peroxide. No formaldehyde treatment applied. A really interesting fiber that is soft and has a very interesting weave, almost reminds of a shantung weave. It appears that the weft yarn is hemp and the warp yarn is silk.

I started by prewashing it to test for shrinkage. I split a half yard down the middle and washed a piece measuring 29" by 18". After washing, the width was still 29" and it shrank by only about a quarter inch in width. It does fray very easily, so I recommend a gentle cycle machine wash.

I want to try a range of different techniques with this new fabric, to see how it will work with batik, clamped shibori, stitched shibori, and pole bound shibori. Yesterday, I used a tesuji shibori method and dyed it in a black dyebath. This time I did get a wonderful dark, pure black, with lots of grey and white patterning. The patterning is just as nice and crisp as the patterning I achieve with broadcloth cotton. I was worried that the soda ash might ruin the hand of the silk in the blend, but there is very little difference between the dyed and undyed fabric's drape and softness. I did neutralize the fabric in a vinegar bath after the first cold water rinse, just in case. I don't use fabric softener, but I imagine a touch of softener might be useful.

Grey Black Silk Hemp Available for Purchase

A lovely piece I think.  Stay tuned for more experiments soon......