It's To Dye For

Another book has arrived. This time it is India Flint's latest, Second Skin. So beautiful and soulful is this book. I will treasure it.

Doug also looked through the book and found it very moving. India's approach to life resonated with him the way poetry does. It was very nice to see.

I admire India for walking her true spirit, for so generously sharing her abundant knowledge, and for "showing up" every day and doing the actual work instead of only dreaming about it, as I so often do.

If you Google "India Flint" and then click on Images, here is the gorgeous screen you will see (just the first of page after page of beautiful  images).

How many years has it been that I've thought about dyeing with plants? Since I was a teenager, in the 1960s, as is evidenced by this little book which I have carried with me, from place to place, but never actually used.

One of my big "issues" is that I think about doing things and somewhere in my head is the notion that I have forever to do whatever the thing is .... so I never actually try doing it. I fear I may become one of those people who lie on their deathbed, filled with regrets over lost opportunities and roads not taken. I guess I'm not the only one - that's why Bucket Lists have become so popular, and all those books about the 100 places you must see, the 100 foods you must eat, the 100 books you must read before you die.

Many years ago I spotted this wonderful tile and scooped it up. It speaks directly to me and I try to remember to heed its advice. I keep it on the wall in my studio, where it reminds me that there's no time like the present. My little tile says: Time to take dreams off back burner, try it!

It reminds me, also, of these lovely words:  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift; that's why we call it the present. I'm afraid I cant properly credit the author; it has been attributed to so many different people, I have no idea which one is correct.

After browsing through India's new book, I decided it was time to get off the pot, so to speak (more about that in a bit), and try an experiment in natural dyes. I sailed right past my usual stumbling block, which is to worry that I don't have the right materials and supplies. My other stumbling block has always been mordants. As soon as I see the word, I feel like its going to be too difficult for me to figure out.

But how can it be too difficult? When I read India's words it seems to me that I am making too much of a mental fuss and I should just go with the flow (haha - this is actually a bit of a pun, which you'll realize in the next sentence). So, I decided to try the most readily available mordant I knew about, which was my very own urine. I crumpled up a lovely piece of cloth which came from Jude, put it in a jar and, quite literally getting off the pot, I peed into the jar instead. No kidding. Then I screwed on the jar lid and let it sit for a while. I kind of figured Jude is into nature and she wouldn't take offense at my very organic addition to that lovely cloth she used to wrap up the little quilt I purchased from her. Plus, I got the idea from India, so that's a definite blessing. 

After I had let the cloth soak for a while, I removed it from the jar. Let me tell you something: You do not want to be around to experience the aroma of urine which has been allowed to age in a tightly closed container. I think I'll be branching out to other kinds of mordants in the future. 

I thoroughly rinsed both the jar and the cloth and lay the cloth on my work surface. Then I scattered lots of different flower heads on it, bundled it up, tied string around it and put it back in the jar, this time with some hot tea, sugar, and freshly ground nutmeg, cinnamon and peppercorns. I know patience is required, but this being my first attempt, after about 24 hours I wanted to see if anything had happened.  So, I undid the bundle and this is what I found:

It's pretty in a subtle sort of way. I definitely want to do more. I can tell this has the potential to become an addiction -- and a way better one than my internet addiction!

Clearly, I have a lot to learn! Here are things I will do differently next time: 
  • Grind the natural materials into the cloth a bit, with a pestle.
  • Allow the cloth to sit in the dye for more than a day (maybe).
  • Do some serious reading in India's books as well as in my little book from long ago and online.
  • Buy a variety of mordants and some natural dye materials, too (although, ideally, I would do all my dyeing from windfall materials).
  • Keep records. It is so easy to ignore that part, but so useful to have sample textiles with notations of process and materials. I will have to discipline myself to do this, but It will be worth it - think of how wonderful the resulting sample book will be.
That's it for now. I may even get in bed at a decent hour tonight. The last two nights I've stayed up until 5am and then gotten back up by 10am, so I'm about due for a good night's sleep.

 Yesterday is History,
'tis so far away --
yesterday is Poetry,
'tis Philosophy --

Yesterday is Mystery --
Where it is today --
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away

- Emily Dickinson