November 14, 2014

Serendipitous Soaking

Earlier this week, I started my morning by putting black beans to soak. Then went outside in my pajamas to collect willow withies from one of several large piles of branches in the back yard. Intended as material for star shaped ornaments (like this one), I put the brittle withies to soak in the bathtub. (Those are water-filled glass jars acting as weights to keep the withies submerged. It sorta worked.)
At some point later, it occurred to me that I could save the water from soaking the beans and try it as a fabric dye. One of my classmates from Slow Fashion Style did so with brilliant results. And then it struck like a lightening bolt that another classmate suggested using tannin as a mordant (pre-dye treatment) for linen. Well, heck, willow bark contains tannin. Why not try using the tub water as a mordant? And, so, serendipitously, with an unintended dye and unintended mordant, dye experiment #2 is underway.

The same linen pieces from dye experiment #1 are currently soaking in the dye pot after simmering for a bit last night. I used the same Shibori techniques as last time, but switched them around. The pieces folded triangularly last time are now folded squarely and vice versa. The anticipation of unfolding the fabric to reveal the results (if any) is like the anticipation I felt as a kid on Christmas Eve.

This fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants dyeing process is a lot of fun. I usually approach new projects like an engineer, calculate and figure every aspect before beginning. But with the dyeing, I'm not measuring anything and I'm not taking notes. It's quite freeing. If I do pursue it further, I will inevitably become systematic about it. For now, though, I'm having too much fun playing around to bother.


  1. I can't wait to see how this experiment #2 turns out, Laurie. What fun! I'm a bit like an engineer with new projects too (and a thorough researcher with important decisions) - It does feel freeing to throw all that out for a moment and just play around. I must remember to do it more often. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of the 2nd dye bath for #1 too. Plus the willow stars - I'm very fond of them.

    1. Playing, practice, whatever we choose to call it, I have to constantly remind myself that it's the process that matters. Maybe, just maybe, if I repeat it often enough, I'll remember to give myself the time and space to play around - which can lead to new, unexpected discoveries and certainly provides the practice necessary to learn new skills. Right, self? Practice. Play. Repeat.