Thursday, 17 November 2011

Indigo Water Dragon Scarves

Two summers ago Kurihara san showed up several times at the old shop and asked if I was interested in making indigo dyed stockings with him. It wasn't that appealing and I was trying to be Japanese and just give him unenthusiastic answers and hope he would take them as a no. He persisted. He is 80 and retired but still has the huge tube knitting machines. He told me that he worked all his life on dying and knits and hunting down big orders. Now he wanted to do something enjoyable and different and not think about the bottom line. So he hunted me down and now we have been experimenting and playing with the possibilities this past year.

I was interested in doing some indigo knits. I often buy 45rpm indigo knit (a Japanese Maker) t-shirts and sweaters and cardigans. They are great but really pricey. I would have to learn to sew knits and design knits and learn knit thread weight. It seemed like too much but curiosity had me and I started dying threads and Kurihara san would knit them up for me on the 1950's American t-shirt knitter. I purchased a 50s four thread lock serger and started cutting and sewing. This is a lot of fun but with other more pressing commitments the piles of indigo dyed yardage started piling up. The shirts I was making were not really sellable. It will take a few years to learn to sew that well. The indigo faded slightly on the creases and in desperation I came up with the idea of water dragon scarves to reduce the piles of knit and prove my enthusiasm to Kurihara san. 2012 is the year of the dragon. (I was born in the year of the dragon so I should be having a good year in 2012) The dragon years are divided into wood dragons, metal dragons, fire dragons and water dragons. There are only two water dragon years in a century.


Water has a calming effect on the Dragon's fearless temperament. Water allows the Dragon to re-direct its enthusiasm, and makes him more perceptive of others. These Dragons are better equipped to take a step back to re-evaluate a situation because they understand the art of patience and do not desire the spotlight like other Dragons. Therefore, they make smart decisions and are able to see eye-to-eye with other people. However, their actions can go wrong if they do not research or if they do not finish one project before starting another.

(The last line makes me shiver...with so many projects on the go right now.)

The scarves are almost all silk and they look funky on anyone. I sew five or six diffent knits together and then dragon back down the edges with the lock-serger and braid/tie them up and stick the tail through the mouth. Selling well!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Harlequin Glorybower Dyer Season Again

In early November the local mountains and cliffs supply Harlequin Glorybower berries that dye a Korean pine-ash glaze porcelain color with an aluminum mordant. With some watered-down gardenia pod dye-bath you can under-dye to get some fresh greens. A too vivid yellow gets you a truly obnoxious Exorcist barf fluorescent green.

The berries are best when they are dark blue and almost black but still juicy. Use a blender to pulverize them and then bring them to an almost boil. Stop before it bubbles to get a fresh color. It is tempting to use more mordant when dying with unstable berry dyes. The thread can get sticky with mordant when using this dye so go easy on it.

I wrote about Kusagi dying on my MONDAY, 12 OCTOBER, 2009 post if you would like to read it.

Indigo Stalks Dye Sublime Grey on Silk.

After growing and dying with indigo for 19 years, you just about do everything possible with the stuff. But boiling the stems after stripping off the indigo pigment laden leaves and using that as a dye bath never happened.

A few weeks back, the mid afternoon shadows were already clammy and blackish and the coming cooler weather's pale fingers were just a few wool hairs away, almost brushing our shoulders as we stripped almost spiritless leaves off the indigo stalks.

Due to a few cool weeks in July only two harvests were possible. The pigment content was good and the plants healthy. Experimenting with fertilizer, two rows of plants with none. Two rows with a reasonable amount and two rows of complete overkill. Sadly, the fertilizer overkill rows were by far the strongest. The indigo field usually gets some locally produced dairy cow manure. It was too soon after the Fukushima nuclear accident to make any rational decision about the safety of manure and there was some old high-nitrogen chemical mulberry fertilizer gathering dust in the barn. (Raising silkworms in the early spring the mulberry is healthy enough with out it.)

The reddish stems in the stainless dye pot were as forlorn as we felt preparing them. And the resulting grey, brought to mind an overcast Canadian West Coast November walk at sundown near the water.. Gorgeous...and sublime.