I started experimenting with extracting colour, primarily yellows and oranges, from Dahlias towards the end of their flowering season. With the first frost this locally sourced fresh raw material ended.
An alternative colour-way using dried natural dyestuffs was developed. An individual dyestuff rarely yielded the precise pinks of the Tibetan monks robes so I used two or more dye-baths to obtain better colour matching.
I experimented with natural dyestuffs that generally give reds/pinks/purples such as Madder Root, Brazilwood and Logwood, ‘modifying’ each dyebath to get what I wanted. By adjusting the acidity/alkalinity of the water, the maximum heat applied to extract the dye and other factors, I turned warm reds into cool reds, blue-purples to red-purples and these red-purples into cerise pink by grating chalk into a Brazilwood dyebath.
Colour was blended across the width of the warp, alternating one of cerise pink with smaller amounts of the other pink/purple tones. Both this warp and the yellow/orange warp was just 2m long; sufficient to weave just two of these unique rugs.
Loving the ceremonial head-wear of the Tibetan monks, I just had to incorporate a little of the Dahlia dyed yellow and orange into this pink/purple design.
JOY is the title of this new work, created specifically for Get Fresh 2019; an exhibition organised by The Devon Guild of Craftsmen showcasing the work of emerging craft practitioners.
Working with the wool from rare breed and commercially farmed British sheep, I have used dyes made from Dahlia’s and other plants and woven these joyful unique pieces by hand.
The colour reference for this work came from images in a book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama; The Art of Living.
Colour was extracted from fresh Dahlia flowers and used to dye hand-spun wool from the White-faced Dartmoor sheep. As well as yellow, orange and red flowers, I experimented with white, purple and almost black petals, most yielding yellows and oranges with a surprising bright green from a cerise pink flower.
With a single flower only dyeing 10g of wool, I designed a warp of 320 threads to accommodate the the vast number of small skeins each in a unique tone of yellow or orange. Two Meditation rugs 20″x 28″ were woven by hand on my vintage wooden 4-shaft counterbalance floor loom, from this warp.
As red Dahlias did not yield a red dye, madder root and brazilwood were used to dye the Welsh Cross bred and Dorset wools used in the weft patterning.
The patterning was inspired by patterns in The Art of Living and the 6-bar patterns from the I-Ching Hexograms; 6 solid horizontal bars representing Earth Energy.
Yoga meditation rug, British Wool and natural dyes
The journey of the exhibits at this year’s Society of Designer Craftsmen show started in autumn last year when British Wool obtained two cones of yarn, spun by Gardiners Yarns of Huddersfield from British Herdwick in the natural grey tones of their fleece, for me to weave with at Decorex 2017 on their stand with CountryLife magazine.
The ‘demonstration’ warp remained on the loom for several months until I decided to use it up by experimenting further to see what designs I could create from using just the two Herdwick greys. The contrast was a little too subtle so I added Shetland wool in Charcoal, Quarry and Pearl to enhance the difference tones of the two Herdwick wools. The design elements play with the visual trick of appearing to change direction from a horizontal stripe to a vertical stripe.
Tempted to add colour, the reverse side of all the cushions have a subtle addition of a little colour.. turquoise, pheasant, claret, navy..
I decided this cloth would be perfect for my show pieces as it illustrates how my woven designs are frequently driven by the character of the raw materials. The wool ‘tells’ me what it wants to become…
These cushions are not destined for a lounge sofa, but a rural working kitchen and taken outside onto a garden bench or stone step.
For the first time the one-off pieces I have created to exhibit at the show will be available to buy, therefore they are constructed to a high standard with down/feather pads.
After a fully booked class on the first Weaving Day workshop I ran for Prema Arts Centre in Uley, Nr Stroud in Gloucestershire, they have invited me back to run a weekly evening class over 4 weeks. For further information and to book, please contact them directly.
Using the specified wool yarns, I developed a design suited to a light soft furnishing application. The wool was supplied in very dark brown, creamy white and a ‘marl’ (being the brown and white twisted together). I wanted to use these natural fleece colours in the main but chose to add a little colour by dyeing the white and the marl yarns with cochineal and indigo natural dyes. These were used sparingly in both warp and weft.
The design had a border of a zig-zag pattern, this would be a feature around the edges of a cushion.
In recent months I have been kept busy with requests to teach weave workshops using this simple loom.
The wonderful things about this form of weaving are:
The equipment is very ‘low tech’ and inexpensive if you want to buy your own.
It is very portable so you can weave anywhere, inside or outside, standing or sitting.
I can have absolute beginners weaving within a very short space of time, both children and adults.
You can weave cloth in a ‘conventional’ form or weave an ‘art piece’ incorporating all manner of materials.
I have taught 2 groups of 14, A Level Textiles students at Cirencester College in a morning; a knowledgeable group of 11 from the Gloucestershire Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers and one-to-one with students in my studio.
I now teach on a regular basis at The Bothy at Vanessa Arbuthnott in Cirencester, Prema Arts in Uley and Cotswold AONB Rural Skills in Northleach (where my next day workshop is on Friday 28 April 2017). Check their respective websites for dates, availability and booking. If you send me an email and I will add you to my mailing list and I’ll let you know new course dates.