Friday, March 25, 2011

Making Hemp Organic Cotton Exploration Bundles

Over the last few weeks, I've been working on creating bundles of hemp fabrics. Not very many folks are familiar with hemp. It is a very versatile bast fiber, and most importantly to me, it does not require the same level of pesticides, herbicides, and finishing chemicals as conventionally raised cotton. I've been experimenting with different fabrics made from 100% hemp and blends of hemp woven with cotton and silk.  I'm creating bundles of hemp fat eighths, themed by color, that will showcase a range of fiber techniques. Each bundle will have a sampling of low water immersion, pole wrapped shibori, stitched shibori, and Jackson shibori. Jackson shibori is shibori of my own invention, using traditional techniques as a starting point, but with innovative techniques I've developed through trial and error.

I've found that I actually prefer the hemp fabrics for stitched shibori. The fabric is very easy to needle, much easier than needling high threadcount cotton. The stitched shibori patterns are even crisper on hemp than on cotton. That surprised me.

I thought that a lower threadcount fabric like hemp would not work as well for stitched shibori, but I was very pleasantly surprised!  Here are examples of a 100% hemp linen I just finished dyeing yesterday:


I've also been using a silk hemp blend, that works beautifully whether pole wrapped or stitched. It has the drape and weight of a heavier weight silk. Here's a terracotta orange piece, stitched using ori nui stitching.

It also works well with pole wrapped techniques:

and low water immersion, as in this vibrant blue piece.

I'm also going to include some organic cotton gauze in the bundles. This has become one of my absolute favorites. This fabric is certified organic cotton, milled in the U.S. It has a light airy feel and a soft hand. Here it is shown in three hues, chartreuse green, dark red, and navy blue.
 Finally, I've been using a hemp cotton blend, similar to a light weight linen. You'll see it referred to as "summer cloth" on some websites. It is very sheer, light weight, and very easy to needle, because of its looser weave. It is woven from 45% certified organic cotton and 55% hemp.

I've found it works very well for both pole wrapped and stitching techniques. Here, I've stitched leaf and triangle shapes using ori nui stitching prior to dyeing it in a dark terracotta.

I'm planning to list these bundles very soon in my ArtFire store. Each bundle will have 8 fat eighths, for a total of one yard of hemp/cotton fabrics. I'll attempt to include a variety of methods, with at least one stitched shibori piece in each bundle. Each bundle will feature hues of either red, blue, green or orange. Eventually, I'll make some black and grey bundle too.

Thanks for reading, and happy dyeing (and or stitching!).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

More Fabric Experiments

I'm working my way through the hemp fabrics I've bought and testing them using the many techniques I use in my studio. One of the fabrics I've purchased is a 100 percent hemp "summercloth", comparable to a medium weight flax linen. Earlier, I wrapped and bound it arashi style, and was happy with the results. So, the next process I wanted to test out was stitched shibori.

I folded the piece of fabric in half and drew on pattern lines with a soft pencil. Then I stitched lines in small running stitch. I wet the fabric and gathered the stitches tightly before dyeing it in a lichen green dyebath. I chose a dark depth of shade -- 6%. I really like darker values for shibori because they provide the best contrast with the stitched patterns.

Here it is.  What do you think?  I am quite happy with it. The stitching is very prominent. The lines almost look like rows of teeth, don't they?  I like the mottled patterning between the white teeth also. I suspect the heavier weight and looser threadcount of this fabric is what makes this stitched shibori so successful.  When I compare it to some of my cotton broadcloth shibori, this hemp shibori has bolder, stronger lines.

If you'd like to see and feel the texture of this hemp linen, send me an email to I'll send you a washed, undyed swatch. Thanks for reading and happy dyeing.