Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Slow Dyeing in Kansas City

That is not slowly dying in Kansas City; that would be something altogether different.

During my week at the Educators Art Lab at Kansas City Art Institute my focus was fiber and the theme was Slow Cloth. Taught by the awesome Kim Eichler-Messmer, this particular class emphasized  natural dye techniques and the Japanese art of Shibori.
Shibori is Japanese for resist dyeing, so what we consider tie dying is Shibori, but the Japanese have a way of making everything more elegant and beautiful. Shibori is not splotchy colored blobs; it is more carefully considered than that. What follow are examples of different Shibori techniques.
This is what I always thought of when I heard the word Shibori, but it is only one type. Fabric is folded and attached to a pole with tape. Thread or twine is wrapped somewhat widely around the fabric and pole then fabric is scrunched down, forcing some fabric to pooch out over the string. Once all fabric is wrapped and scrunched, it is moistened and then dipped in dye. (Look: here are my notes, not very readable, but the pictures help.)

It really goes pretty fast once you know what you are doing.

Fabric is folded and stitched in a running stitch that is knotted at one end. Designs can be deliberate or random, sections of fabric can pinched and sewn. When stitching is finished, you grab the end tail of your thread and pull it tight, which bunches up the fabric, then it is made wet and dipped in the dye.
I tried to make a bird shape with this technique with some success, but not much.

Mokume which means wood grain is a variation this. In this instance threads are sewn in paired rows so that they can be pulled together for a wavy line effect.

Machine stitching

I am not sure what the Japanese term is for this.  Fabric is accordion folded and then stitched on a sewing machine. The trick is that the bobbin thread is cheap and flimsy so that after the stitched fabric is dyed, the sewn packet is ripped open. I played around with ideas of reflection when I "drew" them. I really enjoyed playing around with this process and if I possessed a sewing machine, would do lots more.

If you don't like sewing, this is the Shibori technique for you. Fabric is folded accordion style, either in squares or triangles, then matching wooden blocks are placed on either side of the fabric bundle and clamped into place. The fabric is then dipped in the dye, although it can be partially dipped in one dye, then rinsed and then dipped in a different dye bath. You could also clamp and dye in one color, then let it dry and then refold and clamp another set of shapes in place and dip in a different dye bath to build up pattern. 

This one was folded, clamped and dipped in ferrous sulfate then dried and refolded and re-clamped with a different shape and then dipped in Indigo. 

It was a great experience, and the only side effect is that your hands turn blue.

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