Monday, April 9, 2012

Dinner to Dye For

 Two weeks ago, on a beautiful spring Sunday, along with some charming ladies from Chelsea, I attended the spring edition of a Dinner to Dye For, a workshop hosted by Here Today Here Tomorrow, a London-based a collaborative and experimental shop/studio showcasing sustainable fashion and accessories. Dinner to Dye For is a project of the Permacouture Institute, a San Fransisco and London-based educational organisation for regenerative design in fashion and Textiles.  The workshop was hosted by the lovely Katelyn Toth-Fejel, Emma Rigby and Anna-Maria Hesse.

The workshop took place in the gardens of Hackney City Farm, a bucolic oasis in east London.  Dinner to Dye For is part dye workshop, part celebratory meal, both based on seasonal foraged plants.  The dyes used were dock (sorrel) root, nettle and onions skins, and rhubarb leaves, used as a mordant.  We made shibori bundles of strips of silk and wool using shaped wooden blocks.  It was truly lovely to share an afternoon of good company and getting one's hands dirty.

The part of the day I enjoyed most was the meal, which was delicious and fresh: rosehip fizz cocktails, stinging nettle and sussex slipcote cheese crostini with sorrel butter, beet with red onions, mint and horseradish cream, nettle spaetzle with chickpea fritters, and for desert lemon pots with poached rhubarb - a spring feast!

All the food was amazing, and made me think back to childhood suppers at my grandparents farm, where we often ate foraged foods - spring salads of dandelion leaves, fiddleheads and sorrel.  Stinging nettle grows in abundance at their farm, and as children, we definitely had painful brushes with it, but I do not recall eating it.  I will now!  The rosehip fizz cocktail, in particular was a revelation which I cannot quite describe, but suffice to say, I will be attempting to recreate it for myself.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Stitching and Drawing

My natural dye research is deeply based in the extraordinary power of plants.  In my research I have noted there is a clear link between plants historically used medicinally and those cultivated and gathered for dyes. Many plants that can be used for dyes can also be used as herbs, flavourings and natural treatments. Inspired by the beauty of these plants, I decided to use them as the imagery for my print and stitch based work for my MA project.  Some of the sources I am consulting are the online archives of various university collections of botanical herbaria - collections of preserved plant specimens, and the several excellent books of Roger Phillips and Martin Rix.

I've used these photographic sources as the basis for both embroidered and drawn imagery that will be later translated into prints and stitched embellishment for my final collection of garments I plan on creating for my MA exhibition. I like to stitch freehand, using a variety of mostly knitting yarns in different fibres, textures and weights, stitching first white on white, and afterward dyeing them.  Cellulose (cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo) and protein (wool, silk, milk) fibres take the colour from the dyes differently, creating a lovely monochrome palette.

As well as drawings of from plants, I have been making drawings based on my embroideries for development into screenprint imagery. I feel the drawing take on a looser quality this way.  

BELOW: scattered seeds embroidery of french knots, chain and cross stitches on 100% hemp, then dyed with madder, accompanied by the drawing based on the stitching.   

ABOVE: Queen Anne's Lace seedhead embroidery with wool on linen, and floating seeds embroidery with silk and linen on wool dyed in goldenrod, with accompanying drawings.  

BELOW: Leaves and asters embroidery with various yarns on cotton gauze, dyed in marigold with iron.

BELOW: drawings of weld, goldenrod and foxglove with india ink on vellum, ready to be exposed to screen, and underneath, the resulting print with iron paste on linen.  Next step, sample printing in colour!