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Bubble Texture

Bubble Texture

My best-laid plans have gone awry, so I am going to show you a short piece I did back in 2012. Texture seems to be a popular topic so this should fit right in. Although this is an older post if you want to comment or ask about it you can.

People seem to be interested in how to make bubbles in felt. I know there is more than one way but this is how I did it. This is the storey of my bubble hat. I had made a renaissance hat form Chad Alice Hagen’s hat book. I t was to show a group of ladies that were taking a hat class with me. It is a big hat made on a resist that is shaped like a big droopy mushroom. When you finish it you make wrinkles in it and clothespin them till it dries. The problem is it looks great if you push it all forward and take a picture but from the back, it doesn’t look very good. I am sorry I don’t have a picture of it at that point.

What I did was use a shibori dying technique. I used felt balls but marbles or crumple tinfoil will work the same. I started in the middle. You pull the felt around the ball and tie it off as tight as you can. Move out from there repeating the wrap and tie. When it was all done I dropped it in a simmering dye bath. I let it boil for about an hour. When using this as a dye technique it is usually done on a non-felting fabric so you open it up later and flatten it out you have a die pattern. When you do it to felt at a boil it felts more and the bubble shapes stay in. Making bubbles takes a lot of felt. The hat would fit my dog now. If you put your hands in like a puppet it makes s great Muppet monster.

Shibori Shrug Jacket

Shibori Shrug Jacket

Heres another throw back post. I thought if I do not remember doing this maybe you won’t either. I hope you like it.

After seeing Ruth’s jacket it reminded me I had made a small one for one of my daughter’s dolls years ago. I thought I should give it another try but life size this time. I thought about doing it seamless but decided that it would make something that is a simple design into something complicated. Although I am not a great sewer I was sure sewing 2 straight seems on my machine should not be beyond me.

There are quite a few pictures so I have put them in a gallery for ease of viewing. If I could figure out how to post pictures side by side or in groups I would but that is beyond my skill level.

First I made a large piece of nuno felt. I used silk gauze and merino wool. After it was finished I put it in a red dye bath. It came out quite nice. It’s hard to tell from the picture because my camera did not like the red at all. The one you see was the best of a bad lot.

The next thing to do was the shibori. I finger pleated the middle of the piece starting at one short end. I very carefully held it flat and tight while I tied it. The first tie is the hardest one. After that you just pleat it up tying every couple of inches. You don’t want to be too neat about it. If the pleats are to perfect you get straight lines. You want your pleats to be tight so some of the material will resist the dye in the second bath. This type of shibori is supposed to make a bark like pattern. I put the tied up piece in a purple dye bath hopping for a nice red purple to appear on my cloth. It came out black. After it was dry the gauze side had more of a purple look but still very dark.

I sewed up my jacket. I made the material far too wide so the jacket ends up long. The short sides overlapped a lot when folded up. I had to have long “lapels” to make it work. It is not a mistake it’s a design feature, just ask me :O) It is still to long for me. I think it may look good one someone who is tall and thin. Two things I am not.

All in all not a bad try. I’ve made another piece of nuno felt to try again, I made it narrower this time. Now I have to find the time to sew it up.

Tenth International Shibori Symposium

Tenth International Shibori Symposium

This is a guest post by Kim of Flextiles. She recently attended the Tenth International Shibori Symposium and I thought you all might to get a glimpse of what she did and saw there. There will be a second post in February. Thanks Kim!

Last November, I attended the 10th International Shibori Symposium (hereafter referred to as 10iss) in Oaxaca, Mexico. The symposium is organised by the World Shibori Network every few years, and this was the first one I had attended. With six days of workshops, presentations, receptions and exhibitions it was a pretty full-on experience, but great to be in the company of so many other hardcore textile enthusiasts!  

In this post I am going to describe some of the 10iss workshops that I and my Ever Supportive Partner (ESP) attended. ESP has no experience at all of working with textiles or shibori  but was keen to join in anyway. If the alternative was letting him loose in the local mezcal bars for six days, I thought it best to encourage him. 😉

Shibori is a Japanese resist dyeing technique, like tie dye. As well as binding, you can use stitching, wrapping, and folding and clamping to prevent dye from reaching parts of the cloth to create a pattern.

Shibori workshop with Ana Lisa Hedstrom

I’ve long admired the work of Ana Lisa Hedstrom, and I signed up for her workshop mainly because she was covering katano shibori, but I came away with many more ideas and inspiration.


Katano shibori, named after Motohiko Katano, is a process of stitching through several layers of fabric and not pulling the thread up afterwards. Instead, the lines of stitching channel the dye, producing softer marks that look as if they are airbrushed. There is a more detailed explanation of the technique in Shibori: The Inventive Art of Japanese Shaped Resist Dyeing by Yoshiko Wada, along with some stunning examples. The World Shibori Network sells some sets of Katano postcards. Ana Lisa brought some lovely samples with her.

Here’s the piece of katano I did in the workshop, on silk noil dyed with cochineal and then overdyed with indigo:


All the dyes used in the workshop were natural – the indigo vat was made using limestone and local fruit, so smelled lovely! However, because we had limited time, we were unable to leave the fabric in the dyepots for very long, so some of the colours are paler than we would have wished.


One of the other techniques we explored was machine stitch shibori. As with katano shibori, you stitch through several layers of fabric at the same time before dyeing. Ana Lisa had brought plenty of samples that inspired us, especially where more than one colour was used.

This was one of my attempts on a wool and silk scarf, dyed with cochineal and then indigo.


We also used the sewing machine to stitch pleats in different directions before dyeing – this is the result of mine after unpicking.


Since coming home I have dug out my ancient sewing machine and will be working on developing some of these techniques!

Itajime workshop with Elsa Chartin

Next door to our workshop with Ana Lisa, ESP was experiencing itajime shibori with Elsa Chartin. Itajime or sekka shibori is where the fabric is folded and then clamped between resists, producing geometric designs. I thought this would be a relatively easy introduction to shibori for him, especially as he is not good at stitching or tying knots! ☺

In this workshop they used chemical vat dyes, which, like indigo, require reduction and then exposure to oxygen for the colour to develop. After experimenting with different folding and different shaped resists they moved on to dyeing with more than one colour (moving the resists in between) and also discharging colour from dark fabrics, again using resists. They also overdyed on commercially printed fabric.

ESP enjoyed this very much – the results are quick and can be done on relatively large pieces of fabric. Of course he now considers himself an expert  and in an even better position to criticise my work! 😉

Cochineal dyeing with Michel Garcia

The official title of this workshop with Michel Garcia at 10iss was “Cochineal dyeing in four ways”. It was rather an understatement, as we ended up with 19 different colour swatches from cochineal!

Mexico was an appropriate place to do this workshop, given that cochineal is the most popular dye used there. The cochineal beetle, Dactylopius coccus, lives on Opuntia cactus species. The red colour comes from the carminic acid that makes up around 20% of its body. To make the dye, the dried beetles are ground up in a pestle and mortar and then added to the dye bath.


Michel used three different fabrics – wool, silk and cotton – along with different combinations of mordants and astringents to produce 19 different shades from cochineal, ranging from pink and orange to purple and dark brown. It was an extraordinary demonstration of the variations in colour you can get from one dye.

The different colour variations were achieved by varying the mordant (the ones he used included alum, symplocos, aluminium tartrate, aluminium acetate and ferrous acetate) and sources of tannin (such as pomegranate rind, persimmon and gallnut). For some swatches he used an all-in-one bath; others he premordanted before dyeing in a separate cochineal bath.

The final colour also depended on the type of fabric. Here are pictures of swatches of wool and silk dyed with cochineal.

This is a cotton strip mordanted with various combinations of aluminium acetate and ferrous sulphate, dyed with cochineal and pomegranate rind.


And this cotton strip uses the same mordants as above but is dyed with cochineal and gallnut extract.


Finally, Michel demonstrated his artistic side, using different combinations of mordants to paint an image onto cloth that didn’t appear until it was submerged in the dye pot.kw23

Safflower dyeing with Kazuki Yamakazi

Safflower is an interesting dye because it contains both red and yellow dyes so, depending on the fabric and pH, it produces different colours.

There’s a section on safflower dyeing in Jenny Dean’s book Wild Color, which explains the methodology. ESP and I tried this out last year, using a pack of dried safflower we bought in Malaysia, but it wasn’t very successful. So ESP was dispatched to this workshop to find out how it should be done!

First the safflower petals are soaked overnight, squeezed, strained and removed. This dye turns alum-mordanted fabric yellow (better on silk than on cotton).

The petals are washed to remove the yellow and soaked in an alkaline solution for two hours to extract the red dye. After straining and before adding the fabric, citric acid is added to neutralize the dye bath. Distinctive small bubbles form at this stage. If too much acid is added the red dye will start to precipitate out – sometimes this is done deliberately to extract the dye to use in cosmetics.

Silk added to this dye turns orange, while cotton turns red or dark pink.

The difference in colour is because the red dye also contains a second yellow dye, which is absorbed by silk but not cotton. You can see in the photo below that the silk (top row) is more orange than the red cotton below.


To get pink silk, you need to use cotton as a “dye bank” to absorb just the red dye and then extract it. At around pH4 the dye is locked into the cotton. If you then put the cotton into a bath of pH6-7 the dye is released from the cotton. Squeeze out the cotton and remove it from the dye bath before adding more citric acid. Then add the silk – you get bright pink!

Japanese dyers might repeat the entire process six times to get intense colours into the dye bank.

The process doesn’t work well with wool, despite the fact that it is a protein fibre like silk. This is because wool needs to be heated to more than 30C to open the scales, but the pigment begins to break down at 30C, so you just get a pale pink.



2016 Third Quarter Challenge

2016 Third Quarter Challenge

Well, it may be hard to beat the first two quarter challenges.  But it will also be possible to combine those two processes to help create this one.  Adding dimension to our projects.  This is something I’ve been working on since I began learning to create texture in flat pieces.

I became totally intrigued with this in the first challenge I participated in which was mixed media using clay, curing clay, felt, fabric, metal and paint.

More about it here:

I was hooked.  The challenge became to create dimension in felt alone.

Its what I like to call it having the picture jump off the page.  Being able to touch and interact with the story.  And there are many ways to do it.  Using resists, carving, fiber sculpting and forming, cracked mud:

2014-10-29 11.4720151007_161152

SDO 4 spikes flower sdo 5 anemones







Marilyn's Carvings
Marilyn’s Carvings
Marilyn's Tiles
Marilyn’s Tiles
Stewart Stephenson - Marilyn
Stewart Stephenson – Marilyn










Building up with needle felting:20151014_152228

Needle felting and wet felting:


20151020_135607 20151024_160640


Adding dimension thru layering and fabric manipulation:



2014-04-30 12.00.28


Combining techniques:

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It doesn’t mean having to make a 3D object, but you can also add dimension to one.

closeup front

A  recent example for the resist challenge came from Ann.  Plenty of dimension here.

ann vessel

Or Teri Berry’s flame hat with foil. Teri I can’t imagine how you’ll top your recent work, but I hope you’ll try.

teri flame hat with foil

Of course, there are many more examples we’ve seen here on the Studio and the forum. While many of you do this routinely, please challenge yourself to take it to the next level!  And if it’s the first time, take baby steps.  I look forward to seeing how you create dimension.

Indigo and Shibori by Kim Winter

Indigo and Shibori by Kim Winter

Today’s post is by Kim Winter of Flextiles. Kim lives in London, UK and has been blogging about her textile experiments since 2011 after taking creative and experimental textiles at Morley College. I follow Kim’s blog and have found it very interesting so I asked her to write an article for us.

Type “tie dye” into Google and a mosaic of fluorescent spirals and sunbursts leaps out of the screen.

tie dye - Google Search

But try “shibori”, and the results are more subtle, largely (but not entirely) blue and white.

shibori - Google Search

Yet both are similar techniques – folding, binding, twisting or compressing the cloth so that parts of it are not exposed when it is dyed, resulting in very distinctive patterns.


The Japanese, as with so many craft forms, have developed the techniques even further, wrapping the fabric around poles before binding, using special devices for looping the thread around the cloth, or pulling up rows of stitching very tightly to resist the dye. And the dye often linked with shibori is indigo, which explains the dominance of blue and white designs.

“Like old men’s pee”

I was introduced to shibori and indigo dyeing at my local adult education college in London when I signed up for evening classes in textiles a few years ago. It was a great course, providing an introduction to different techniques over three terms, including wet felting, hand and machine embroidery, and soft basketry.

In the summer term our tutor heaved a large black plastic vat into the room, removed the lid, and I got my first glimpse of an oily, shimmering surface with flecks of froth. It didn’t appeal to everyone – one student described it as “smelling like old men’s pee”. But after a couple of dips, I was hooked.

I’m not going to go into the detailed chemistry here, but a well-maintained indigo vat is not blue – it’s greenish-yellow. Indigo turns blue only when it is exposed to oxygen, so when you remove a piece of fabric from the vat, it changes colour from green to blue before your eyes. It’s quite magical – and very addictive!

It also has the advantage that you don’t need a mordant, so it’s relatively quick compared with some other forms of dyeing. However, to build up colour fastness it’s best to dip several times and leave the fabric to oxidise well between dips.

Shibori obsession

I started off with conventional shibori techniques:

• stitching (nui shibori)


shibori cushion 001

• binding (kumo shibori)

shibori samples 003

• pole wrapping (arashi shibori)

shibori samples 013

• clamping with a resist (itajime shibori)


And pretty soon I became obsessed – the experiments in a Kilner jar by the kitchen sink graduated to an increasing number of blue-stained buckets and bowls cluttering up the garden and kitchen, provoking gripes from (otherwise) Ever Supportive Partner!


oct2013 scarves4

Then I started experimenting with shibori in other processes.

• Shibori and screenprinting – stitching the fabric before screenprinting over it, then opening the stitching.




• Shibori and felting – binding or wrapping the felt or nuno felt before shrinking in a washing machine or steaming it.




• Shibori on paper – taping the paper to a pipe, wrapping string around the paper, dipping, then adding more string and dipping again.


• Shibori in a heat press – stitching a pattern in synthetic fabric, then putting it with a sheet of disperse dye paper in the heat press.


I also signed up for shibori indigo courses with specialists – an online course with Shibori Girl and a summer school in Norfolk with Jane Callender – where I learnt an incredible amount.

But, as with most textile techniques, there is still so much to learn and experiment with – one day I hope to grow indigo from seed, and produce a naturally fermented indigo vat (not easy in a cold London house). And ultimately I would like to spend some time in Japan, learning more about the whole culture and tradition that surrounds this entrancing dye.

Sustainable scarves

In the meantime, I’ve taken to upcycling scarves from charity shops and vintage sales using shibori and indigo dyeing. This has several advantages:

• It’s more interesting for me, as each scarf is different (colour, size, fabric, pattern) – so I don’t get bored.

• It’s obviously more sustainable – around 500,000 tonnes of clothes get sent to landfill every year in the UK alone, yet many of them are perfectly wearable.

• Because the cost of my raw materials is lower, the price buyers pay is lower too – whether the scarf is made of silk or cashmere. What’s not to like? 🙂


Some of these scarves are available from my Etsy shop; others I sell at various markets around London.

I’ve also started experimenting with natural dyes such as onion skins, coffee and tea.


But I think that indigo will always be my first love. It can be a bit temperamental to work with – the alkalinity has to be quite high, and you mustn’t slosh it around too much in the vat or the dye will oxidise and you have to recharge it too frequently.

Yet every time I unstitch, unclamp or unbind a new piece is like the first time – the sense of wonder at the range of blues I can get from a single vat, the colours changing and developing in front of me.

I even like the smell! 😉

fq-spiral-angleKim Winters

You can find Kim at her blog Flextiles or at her Etsy shop. Thanks for sharing with us Kim!

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