Woven in Friendship project

When I was first approached about participating, and agreed, it was on the misunderstanding that it would involve weaving one handwoven square to contribute towards a larger project. Nah!

quilt4The actual project was an excellent idea to use up a donated stash of cottons and honour the memory of a former Guild member. Each participant would weave 20 (or was it 21?) squares in overshot, one for themself, one for everyone else and one for the Guild. Each would choose their own pattern in 4-shaft overshot and their own colours. You could either accept squares woven in other people’s colours, or wind off the weft for everyone to weave in your colour. The squares would then be exchanged at a meeting a few months down the track and each participant would sew their squares into a quilt. That’s what I hadn’t been aware of to start with. A quilt? Sew? Squares and straight lines? Too late to back out now…

I didn’t get the weaving started until three weeks before the due date, and even then had quilt1a long fight with the warp: three stands of very fine cotton that was as much fun as brushing the tangled hair of a squirming four-year-old. I’d never woven overshot either, but was no stranger to weaving with two shuttles, and at the rate of at least one square per evening, they were all finished in time. I chose the particular draft as it reminded me of nasturtium leaves, although as with most patterns, stare at it long enough and you start to see other things: keys, crosses, diamonds…

quilt5Squares  separated and exchanged, it was time to start sewing. Or thinking about it, buying batting, then more thinking… That process alone, together with buying fabric, thread and a walking foot for the sewing machine took another three months, then submitting for a group exhibition. I had asked that a sign be put next to mine declaring that I was a first-timer and had done woodwork and metalwork at school instead of sewing… and I wasn’t joking. At least it was displayed back-to-the-wall so that the bits of dodgy sewing (when the machine starts making noises and the fabric doesn’t move forward) weren’t visible. The edges are actually straight, contrary to how it was hanging at the time. Honest. First attempt, what can I say…

A positive experience? Well, yes in that it took me out of my comfort zone, I got to know other weavers, and tried overshot for the first time and realised it could be used for colourful effects rather than simply making a pattern and limited shafts go further. Also there was the book that involved a workshop on making the covers; I couldn’t attend the second session on binding, but as there was a similar workshop last year, the work that went into it was appreciated.

 

Advertisements

Valonia oak

Quercus ithaburensis subsp. macrolepis, Mount Tabor oak/Valonia oak, chêne du mont Thabor/chêne velani/ chêne de Grèce, Walloneneiche, roble Valonia

Not suprisingly – considering its distribution and no doubt history – there is no evident Gaelic name for this species, although the kid in me wants to name it dair ghráinneogHedgehog oak.

I first came across the Valonia oak, or rather its cups, in the Musoak2eum of Ethnobotany in Adelaide’s Botanic Gardens. The samples stated that they were used for making ink… you can imagine the rest.

It seems that this species (with a host of botanical names) was once a valuable commodity for tanning, ink production, and also as a foodstuff, but is now threatened despite it’s wide geographical distribution. So how did it get down here? With the tanners stripping wattles/acacias bare in Australia in the 19th century, British firms started importing Valonia cups from Turkey, and there are efforts to save some of the original plantations. See this interesting article by Catherine Yiğit on the species, its use and history in its homeland.valonia I managed to locate a few live trees locally and permission was kindly granted to collect any cups and acorns that had fallen from the tree. There were plenty to collect this year, in contrast to the local English oaks. The latter seem to have been in low production and to have disappeared from the streets and reserves as if by magic. This was probably due to a very hot and dry summer; the Valonia oaks are drought tolerant.

Back to the dyestuff… Apparently the unripe acorns are also used for tanning and ink, but the fresh material was being gathered by someone else for propagation, and I was going to respect the conditions of collection. There were enough fallen caps to keep me going for a while anyway. One experiment involved soaking the cups in cold water, adding bicarb and then heating a few days later before dyeing the yarn; the second experiment was more accidental. Some caps were left soaking, then forgotten for a few weeks. You can imagine there was a nice layer of mould on top. I didn’t bother heating this “mixture”, as I felt the natural decomposition would have released anything worthwhile. Both experiments produced a liquor that was, well, very dark. Ink. For the first I added yarn both mordanted and un-mordanted, and then followed with the usual range of modifiers. There wasn’t much of a difference in the results, so for the second I stuck to mordanted, non-mordanted, no modifier and iron.

The mordant (right) has brought out a slightly richer tone on the non-modified samples, but on the others there is barely a difference- if any (the sample at the back, right was in full sun, but otherwise looks the same as the sample on its left). I was expecting a much deeper colour from the modified samples considering the darkness of the liquor, but the shade is interesting nonetheless and all results comparable to earlier experiments with walnut leaves.

oak

Avocado pits (again)

extraction de couleur facilitée par la fermentation décomposition, Farbextraktion durch Fermentiern Zersetzung, extracción de color ayudada por la fermentación decomposition, eastóscadh datha le cabhair ó choipeadh dhíscaoileadh

After finding a bag of sliced avocado pits in the freezer (and sneaking them out before I could get reminded how long they’d been in there), I decided to go for fermentation. I read somewhere that the potentially damaging (to the fibre) effect of adding an alkaline substance to aid in colour extraction would be negated by allowing the liquor with plant material left in to ferment. Hmm… wouldn’t the addition of bicarb or anything similar prevent fermentation?

I tried anyway and was right in that the mixture did not ferment. However, leaving it for some time – how long? dunno – allowed the sliced pits to partially disintegrate. The liquor was noticeably richer (redder) in colour and the plant material was dense enough to be strained out of the liquid before dyeing. The mould that had formed on top separated easily, too.

avocadosThe results were not sufficiently different from dyeing without pre-treatment to warrant such a lengthy procedure, although I may well try fermenting without adding bicarb in future.

The two cotton samples did show some variation in tone between mordanted (alum acetate) and non-mordanted, not in depth of colour.