Next time around, I decided to not use the blender, but go back to the more time-honored cutting up method. I used an old "mezzaluna" from my husband's Italian grandfather and the leaves were cut into fine pieces in a few minutes. This made sieving it out much easier. I found a source of cheap silk scarves for dyeing online and used those and a cotton t-shirt for dyeing this time. Silk and wool take dyes better than cotton. The photo of the scarves doesn't do the colors justice - they are really lovely. I did a bit of resist techniques such as tying knots at intervals on a few also. When the plants grow up again , I'll be harvesting more in September and will be prepared with more silk scarves and more Japanese resist patterning techniques to try!
It has been quite awhile since my last posting! It is now summer and I have returned to an interest in fibers ( as well as continuing painting in the studio). I have been wanting to grow and dye with Japanese indigo, a plant that grows easily here (a non-invasive knotweed) for several years and finally did it this summer. With the help of friends with more garden space, I planted four seedlings (in early June) that came from a farm in the midwest. By the end of July, they were ready to harvest and I clipped two trash bags full of leaves to use for dyeing (see first photo). I then blended them up with a little water and let them soak for 1/2 an hour with a few tablespoons of vinegar and some additional water, and oxygenated the mixture using a whisk. The color the blender turned was a very hopeful expectation of what might happen to my textiles! Next came the hard part - trying to sieve the fine pulp out to make a clear dyeing liquid. Even with a fine cheesecloth, not all the particles came out. I then immersed two different pieces of pre-soaked material, one rayon and one linen and cotton, into the dye baths and let them soak for one hour (see last photo). The material was then rung and hung out to dry. The further contact with oxygen in the air completes the dyeing action and the material turned beautiful shades of turquoise. This was my first experimentation and deeper colors can be achieved with more repeated soaking and airings and a more concentrated dye (more plant material in the water). See my next posting for the dyeing with the second bag of leaves!
As a resident of the Hudson Valley for most of my adult life, I have observed this land through many seasons and changes. From the Catskill Mountains and its deep woods, to the agricultural open spaces of the river valleys, this area is rich in diverse landscapes. Through my work I hope to not only record and capture the experience of these places, but also raise awareness of the importance of their conservation.