Sunday, 29 November 2009

Kitchen color

Making natural dyes from rainforest resources is not as easy as one might first imagine, or as the media would have you believe, because there just aren't brilliant, jewel-like colors shining from every corner of the jungle! Yes, they exist, but their occurrence is infrequent, and when they happen, they're often hard to find/see/access. Finding what makes a good dye, and how to liberate it and then fix it, is perhaps even more of a challenge. A challenge which I have recently taken up and you can follow these experiments HERE.

Right now, however, my best success seems to be coming from the kitchen, not the forest!

Onion skins on various cotton based fibers, a soft golden glow.

Red cabbage on a plum/admiral blue shot silk taffetta (below). The resulting color (on top) is so rich and autumnal, and the image doesn't do it justice. What happened was that the blue thread turned green, and the plum thread just got a little browner. I love this! It's such a small silk scrap that I will probably use it to make an Indie-Pendant.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Blue, Blue Electric Blue...

Thanks Angela Braun for bringing the following to my attention.

"Blue pigments of the past have often been expensive (ultramarine blue was made from the gemstone lapis lazuli, ground up), poisonous (cobalt blue is a possible carcinogen and Prussian blue, another well-known pigment, can leach cyanide) or apt to fade (many of the organic ones fall apart when exposed to acid or heat).

So it was a pleasant surprise to chemists at Oregon State University when they created a new, durable and brilliantly blue pigment by accident...."

Click here to read the full article from The New York Times

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

My Butterfly

"... Thou didst not know, who tottered, wandering on high,
That fate had made thee for the pleasure of the wind,
With those great careless wings,
Nor yet did I

Extract from "My Butterfly" -- Robert Frost

Monday, 23 November 2009


I am working in the dining room - which is rapidly being taken over as my work shop - making a new purse pattern from newsprint. The buttery yellow flowers of one of my Stanhopea cirrhata orchids (Orchidaceae), locally known as "torrito", or "little bull", smiles on us today, filling the room with it's heady, rather mentholated fragrance, (Nilo says "It smells like Halls", and he's right!) look at this... yellow!... combined with the green and blue of what I am working on. Of course! Yellow, another first order or "Primary" color,mixed with blue to make green. Thus, it's a natural bridge for the eye, between to the blue and green. And there it is, in the flowers of the orchid... in the newsprint... and look who just arrived by way of confirmation, the butterfly Spiroeta stelenes biplagiata (Nymphalinae). And so, it all falls neatly into place... joyful and miraculous... and moving in the right direction. It's not about "anticipating" miracles, it's about recognizing them when they occur!

Saturday, 21 November 2009


Here it is... this is what's emerging from out of Megan's package. I thought that it was cacoon-like (although I think it's usually moths, that spin cacoons). This is something quite new from me.

I was drawn immediately to the 100% flax linens that Megan has sent. I love the roughness of these textiles as well as the colors that she's chosen. One is a fresh spring green, and the other is verging on what I would call bamboo green. I have started working with the latter. It's a hand-emroidered native butterfly motif. The species is Baeotus baeotus (Nymphalinae) and this is the male and it ocurrs here on the Osa Peninsula. I have always loved the form and the colors of this particular species. I'm working this piece as an applique on denim from an upcycled denim skirt. Originally a dark blue denim, I discharge dyed it, and then gave it a good scrubbing. It's lovely to work on, as it's now very soft. I'm enjoying the softness of the base colors here, verging on pastel, which is rather an unusual choice for me. I'm very excited about this new direction. The rural/nature element fits perfectly where I'm coming from and with more recent trains of thought. I'm not entirely sure what this butterfly will turn into next... a purse for the 2010 design collection? Maybe! I'm also not sure how complete the embroidery will be, because I'm rather liking at this stage the unfinishedness of it. I"m thinking about how it's unlikely for one to see all of the detail of a butterflies wings in an instant. Usually only a fragment. The camera helps with that of course.

On Dying

What kind of dying?... Both! This past week was tough. Monday the 9th of November was the 8th anniversary of my Mother's death. Friday 13th of November, a dear friend died after battling against Leukemia for the past three years. Tuesday the 17th of November my maternal grandmother died back in the UK at the ripe old age of 89. Deeply sad time, but also filled with some very wonderful memories. And the great cycle continues, already bringing about positive transformations. A quiet, slow turning.

With this I have decided to take my interest in natural fiber dying more seriously. During the past few weeks, Nilo - my soon to be 7 year old son - and I have dabbled abit at this. But now I'm going to make an effort to document, share AND use the results. I like more and more the subtleties of natural dyes, and with a 2 acre garden out front and a 6 acre rainforest out back, I think I really should have some interesting things to try and to tell of. This afternoon, we gathered from the garden. Flowers and berries. Since we are only planning to dye small amounts of cloth and fibers at any given time, we don't need to gather *that* much. Nilo helped to mash it all with the wooden pestle that we bought a few months ago on a trip to Boquete in Panama. I love these experiments in color. One never can tell just what will happen! Today's little bonus surprise... flowers (from the genus Stachytarpheta, probably S. frantzii) that we have growing in the garden here start out yielding a glowing purple tone, but then add a drop of boiling water and this immediately turns a wild aquamarine-blue. This fits well with my blue-green theme. I can't wait to see how the cloth turns out!

Blue and Green

It's a beautiful Summer's morning here in the Tropics. The sunlight still low, yet intense, embracing and transforming. Dark to light. It's worth getting out and exploring one's surroundings early in the morning, the day lays waiting with gifts renewed! I've decided to explore light and the combined effects of blue and green, which seems to me to epitomise the flow of creative energy, and to define our planet. Blue, a first order or "primary" color, color of the heavens and of life-giving water, usually restful and passive. Green, a second order or "secondary" color, also usually restful and passive, and the most dominant color in the plant kingdom.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1.

I think he forget to put the "L" in "Wor[l]d"?

(Top L-R, Mora tintoria, vine (undeter.sp., leaves of Papaya, Center L-R, Carludovica druedii, Los Charcos de Osa entrance sign, Melastomataceae leaves against blue plastic tarpulin, Below L-R, Cecropia peltata, insect herbivory on leaves of Heliconia wagneriana, fern (undeter.sp.)

Friday, 20 November 2009

Something new.

Yesterday, Megan's package arrived. White, puffy, cacoon-like, and packed with samples of natural and 'eco-fiber' fabrics, bought in San Francisco. I've put everything else I was doing - and thinking of doing - away. Something's stirring. Something new. Change!
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