I was reminded in the Jekka’s Herb Farm newsletter this week that my gardening heroine, Gertrude Jekyll, once said gardening teaches you “patience, watchfulness, ...industry and thrift...and above all..entire trust.” I certainly charged off to the Boos’ Attic dye workshop last Saturday full of trust in our teacher Clare, determined to be as industrious as possible and achieve as much as I could with thrifty use of the dye colours, but allowing excitement totally to override the patience and watchfulness bit! I couldn’t wait to get started, especially as I’d been allowed to bring along some silk to try dyeing after we’d finished with the initial dyeing of yarns.
I’d been visited by a little serendipity with silk at the last workshop. A few twists of the silk and a few dobs of colour produced the most amazing effects with the colours running into each other and tumbling over the white space. This time my excitement had been wound up (pardon the expression) by reading articles on different types of Shibori dyeing. The library had a copy of Elfriede Moller’s book, which amongst other techniques shows how to iron, block and tie fabrics for Shibori dyeing. I’d also seen an article in Ashford’s magazine The Wheel (issue 21), about Arashi Shibori, delivering texture as well as effect. Only trouble was I didn’t have a drain pipe of the right size, nor some of the other kit suggested, so it took a little thinking outside the box to come up with alternatives.
I wound a couple of silk ties around big stones and wrapped them with crochet cotton; silk scarves were ironed like Origami shapes in different triangles and pleats, then rolled and scrunched up with the cotton. And the small silk hankies got tied up and strung up every which-way to see what happened. As to adding the colour, I did a mixture of random dabbing here and there, squirting some through the ends of the silk rolls towards the middle, and even a little over-dyeing. Happily the Spirit of Serendipity was with me again, and the first round of results are here to see.
One of the kind ladies on the workshop said one of the resulting scarves reminded her of “cathedral windows”. I was fascinated on that one by the feathering effect caused by the pleating, rolling and wrapping with the crochet cotton. Another one reminded me of a child’s kaleidoscope, with the coloured glass changing as it falls about into new patterns. The other two, in pinks, purples and browns, look as if I’ve been printing with autumn leaves, though in truth it’s just down to patterns of scrunching and tying. To make the colour penetrate more evenly maybe I need to deploy some of Gertrude’s ‘patient watchfulness’ and be a bit more thoughtful about where I pleat and tie in relation to what I want to achieve.
Yet whilst I’d love to know more about Shibori techniques, part of me just wants to enjoy the randomness of simply ‘having a go’. That’s what I love about fibre-related crafts. They allow every one of us to express ourselves, liberate our spirits, and learn new things, whether by luck or by teaching, but in both cases without feeling desperately harnessed to “the right way” of doing things. Here’s wishing you a liberating week of expanding your creative horizons and challenging your own perception of the status quo.