Are You Ready To Dye Some Fabric or Yarn? Basic Materials You’ll Need For Indigo Dyeing

You’ve made the decision to dye fabric. If you’re blessed like I am to live in a place where you can dye year round, then let’s get started. I’m back in my home studio after teaching in Calgary, Canada and New Orleans. Unless you have a garage or shed, you will need to dye outside. My dye studio is under my carport. In my previous home studio dyeing was split between a small back porch and the back of my pickup truck. I dyed on the porch and took the bundles apart on my truck’s tailgate. Resist the urge to dye in your kitchen. Food preparation and natural dyeing have a lot in common but they can’t be done in the same space.

Equipment You’ll Need:

  • Two stainless steel pots. One for wetting out and one for indigo dyeing.
  • Two electric hot plates and a surface to place them on.
  • A large stainless steel spoon for stirring and a large wooden paint stick.
  • Outdoor clothesline and/or clothes drying rack.
  • Measuring cups.
  • Twine
  • Scissors
  • Heavy mil plastic to cover surface when opening bundles
  • Dust mask
  • Rubber gloves

Indigo

I use plant based indigo. I order a finely ground indigo powder from Maiwa in Canada. It’s sold in the size listed below:

Maiwa also has PDF recipe and instructional sheets.  The first document is an instructional guide for indigo and woad.  The second document explains how to make an organic indigo vat.  Both documents have recipes that you can use to make your vat.  I’ve used all of the recipes, and recommend you select the one of your choice.

Dye Auxiliaries

For all my dye supplies, I order from Pro Chemical & Dye

Are You Ready To Dye Some Fabric or Yarn?

After teaching indigo dyeing in Calgary and indigo and black walnut in New Orleans, I’m back in my home studio. My recent travels have endeared many new contacts to my heart as lifelong friends and natural dye converts. As promised, I will Blog my process step by step so anyone interested can follow along. We will begin with indigo dyeing but I love colors other than blue. I’m in love with madder, my favorite dye is marigold, the warm earth brown of black walnut sooths me and I enjoy color from Black-Eyed Susans, yarrow and logwood.

Step #1: Obtain Your Fabric or Yarn::All About Fibers

The most common question I’m asked is “can I dye synthetic polyester fabric with natural dyes?” The answer is NO. The second most common question is “what kind of fabrics can I use to dye with natural dyes?”

fiber

Fibers Than You Can Dye With Natural Dyes

  • Seed fibers: Cotton, coir, kapok and milkweed.
  • Bast fibers: Flax (linen), ramie, hemp, jute, kenaf, bamboo,
  • Leaf fibers: Pina fibers from the leaves of the pineapple plant, Sisal from the Agave plant, and Abaca from the banana tree family. As well as sedges, rushes, reeds and grasses used in making baskets.
  • Animal fibers: Silk, wool, alpaca, camel, angora, cashmere and mohair.
  • Man-Made fiber: Rayon made from wood pulp.

If purchasing fabric to dye from a national chain store, read the label on the end of the bolt. If no label is present, DON’T rely on accurate information from a store salesperson. You can ask for a swatch, go outside the store and burn the swatch. If it melts, it’s polyester or a high content polyester blend. If it burns, it’s a good chance it will accept natural dyes. I have tried dyeing natural fibers with a polyester blend. Depending on the weave of the fabric, you may or may not like the final outcome.

How to Scour Cellulose Fabric

Poo’miikapi Textiles Workshop | Indigenous Plant Dyeing | Othapiaaki Fashion Week 2018 | Treaty 7 Land, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

scour01Scouring fabric means to wash it in hot soapy water to remove excess starch or sizing and natural grease. This is the first step in preparing fabric for natural dyeing. The information provided below is only for cellulose or plant based fibers. Cellulose fibers include: cotton, linen, ramie, hemp, viscose rayon, bamboo, jute, paper, wood and basket reed, as well as combination blends. It helps achieve even color and dye penetration into fibers of fabric. Fabric sold as “read for dyeing” or PFD (prepared for dyeing) will generally not need scouring. NOTE: Wear kitchen gloves when hand washing scoured fabric because soda ash will cause skin on your hands to peel.

scour04Recipe to Scour Fabric:

  1. Machine wash in hot water using ONE of the following:
    • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda 3/4 Cup
    • Soda Ash 1/4 Cup
    • Pool & Spa pH Increaser 1/4 Cup
  2. Dissolve washing soda, soda ash or Pool Increaser in a cup of hot water before adding to washing machine because it has a tendency not to dissolve well and will turn into hard lumps in the bottom of your machine.
  3. After washing fabric, dry in hot dryer prior to dividing yardage into smaller units.  Don’t add fabric softener or dryer sheets because they prevent dye from binding to the fabric.
  4. For sheer and delicate cottons, scour by hand in a stainless steel pot on a burner for at least one hour. Add 1-Tablespoon of Washing Soda and 1-Teaspoons of Blue Dawn per gallon of water. Add enough water so that fabrics aren’t crowded and have room to freely float. Stir often so fabric doesn’t get scorched on the bottom of the pot. Think of this process as being the same as making pudding.

 

High In The Sky | Calgary, Alberta

img_2936My first impression of Treaty 7 Land is a light headed, dizzy feeling of being on the heaven side of the clouds. The radiating energy from being in the center of Turtle’s back keeps me from floating on air. And, it’s winter … and it’s snowing! Snow is purifying and cleansing. I’m thankful to have a break from Eastern NC weather. I feel like I’ve stepped into a picturesque winter wonderland.

Freedom! Calgary feels like freedom. From the ordered friendly procedures of Customs, Canada is more welcoming than the USA. The oppression of mean-spirited, sharp tongue misinformation is dividing America based in fear, anger and resentment. Me, myself and I just wants to dye fabric, stitch and Pow Wow! Praying I can keep myself safe and trying not to get dead!

Today My Life Changes Forever

I’m on my way to the greatest adventure of my life! It’s taken me a long time to get to this moment, but I didn’t do it alone. Many friends, teachers, mentors and even enemies have helped me. My art journey started with me watching Bob Ross on PBS on Saturday mornings. While in high school, I took a live workshop with him in Raleigh. Today’s cover image is my last oil painting created as I watched the horror during the two weeks after 9/11.

I’m thankful for Penland School of Crafts, the Art Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Art & Design at East Carolina University, and my beginning at North Carolina State University School of Design. I’m even thankful for my unhappy high school years at C.H. Darden High School.

At times the journey has been heart breaking, lonely, painful and seemed impossible and improbable. I know the difficulties and hardships aren’t over, but my heart is bursting with joy and excitement as the adventure of my life in Textiles is revealing itself.

Every experience in my life, along with my dying mother’s prayers, brings me to Otahpiaaki Fashion Week in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Fashion never made sense to me until I participated in Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto and met Sage Paul Cardinal. Now it’s the passion that drives my creative energies in dyeing cloth, sewing, quilting, embroidery and freeform crochet. I’m humbled by my journey and writing my first official workbook complete with an ISBN.

This journey started with a kiss on June 10, 2018 by the man who was the first boy to kiss me when I was five years old. We were childhood friends, who drifted apart after high school graduation to live separate, unconnected lives. I was born cripple and wore casts on my feet and legs for most of my early childhood. He encouraged me when I felt like giving up, included me even though I couldn’t walk and run and helped me move around with tender kindness. Thank you, William Ashley Davis.

A special thanks Mount Royal University and the Blackfoot Confederacy for inviting and financially supporting my participation in Otahpiaaki Fashion Week 2018. Nya:Weh Patti Derbyshire for coordinating my journey and Jeannie Smith-Davis, Pooksinawaakii (Little Chief Woman) from the Piikani/ Aakainawa (Kainai) Nation for inviting me.

Many friends, teachers and mentors have supported and encouraged me to do the impossible. Thank you Christine Zollar, Martin DeWitt, Angela Edwards-Jones, Pura Fe, Patricia Brayboy, David Sutton, Jayne Bomberg, Sage Paul Cardinal, Jaki Shelton Green, Rachel Clark, Teresa Speight, Mary Kowalski, Novita Hill, Catherine Hargrove, Sage Paul Cardinal, Shawn Grey, Gillian Kyle, Allison Lowry, Sarah Dennis, Amy Desjarlais, Chana Smith, Carolyn Reyes, Sylvia Bond Sutton, Minnie Branch, Gillian Gussack, Diane Templeton O’Malley, Felicia Farmer Winstead Charles Chamberlin, Richard Spiller, Marvin Saltzman, Dr. Carol Mavor, Xavier Toubes, Cary Esser, Angelina Pozo, Eva Kwong, MaPo Kinnord, Jim Starrett, Cynthia Bringle, Edwina Bringle, Gay Smith and especially Vann Durham for sharing The Blues. Your support is a treasured blessing.

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Still I Rise: The Blues On Cloth

When my mother and father were married, her Aunt Clara, gave her a white Damask tablecloth. My grandmother’s husband wouldn’t allow my parents to be married in Wilson because he considered my father to be “an undesirable” because he was Seminole from a reservation in Florida, and my mother, his step-daughter, to be a “heathen.” He later recounted his rationale to me while cussing me out for being born and living in his house. Ironic because my mother paid the rent and all the household bills. His money went to support his other woman and her children. Aunt Clara and her husband, Uncle Wibur, sponsored my parents wedding in Atlantic City, New Jersey and were the only family in attendance, as her mother was forbidden to attend.

Momma prized her tablecloth and as the kind, generous person that she was used it on special family occasions, church functions, sorority events and end of year school ceremonies. In later years, Momma, catered weddings and many a bride had her tablecloth on the table showcasing their wedding cake. Years of use had taken its toll on the tablecloth, which had punch stains and beige age marks along the folds. However, the weave of the fabric wasn’t compromised, so I took a chance and immersed it into an indigo vat using the “Little Canoe” resist binding design. Voilá! Look at it now!

tablecloth01Hanging on two clotheslines provided this unique visual point of view.
tablecloth02Close-Up of Center of Tablecloth

While watching the transformation of the indigo oxidization process, I was reminded of Maya Angelou’s poem, “And Still I Rise.” With all of the trials and tribulations of five generations of women in my family that I have knowledge about, this poem sums us up. When expanded outside my family it tells of the survival of indigenous women everywhere, especially those of us from cultures where we’ve been raped, beaten, enslaved, kidnapped, mentally and physically abused and can shout, “Still Here!”

Using plants, flowers, barks, nuts and insects to color fibers teaches us many lessons about life. The processes of making color on cloth can help heal our brokenness through creative hands experiences. As I witnessed the transformation of Momma’s white stained and yellowed tablecloth oxidize from green to blue and from light to dark with multiple dipping, I felt the pain, anger and resentment attached to it die away. The beauty from love, sharing and generosity is now seen in all its glory. It all comes back to creativity and actively participating in the process of making something from nothing. I’m humbled and thankful for the life lessons earned from practicing art making. “To God Be The Glory!”

Flying the Coup to Freedom in Canada

A Personal Celebration of Indigenous Eastern N.C. Cultural Heritage ~ From the Last Toisnot Tuscarora Gatekeeper

Yesterday, while braiding my hair, Felicia Farmer asked me how I felt about my upcoming trips to Calgary, Canada and New Orleans. I told her I was fearful because I’m alone and, as a woman, I don’t want to be lost or stolen. But my prayer for the last fifteen months has been to have preserving, steadfast faith and unshakable hope. Be careful what you pray for because you will be tested to see if you are sincere. So as someone who isn’t fearless, I step out on faith to sojourn to the land of The Blackfoot Nation. This continues my Life Event of “Flying the Coup to Freedom in Canada.”

It’s a lot of fear swirling around in American society today. We all feel fearful of the unknown. But, for faith, fear will overcome us. But, for love, fear will turn to hate. But, for desperation, fear will steal your joy. But, for anger, fear will harden your heart. But, for selfishness, fear will destroy your soul. Everyday, each of us has a choice on what we want to make today. Do I want to make unity, harmony and celebrate peace inside and out or do I want to make mayhem, discord and celebrate how unfair life can be. It’s my life, my choice! My choice is for peace inside myself because it takes so much less effort to maintain, leaving energy for me to be creative. I’m learning not to judge other people for their life choices, because until I’ve walked a mile in their moccasins I’m clueless of their circumstances.

banner02Creativity through design thinking demonstrates that there are no shortcuts, fast fixes, quick solutions. The process of transformation is hard and lonely. It causes you to dig deep within yourself to become your best self. The process of creating transformation on cloth using natural plant dyes helps me. My momma said, “If you can witness transformation on cloth with indigo dyeing, it’s easier to believe that you can walk it out in your life.”

So, I travel “Up North to Freedom” with one song, Mahalia Jackson singing, “If I Can Help Some Body.” And I share my one authentic dance, “Algonquin Eastern Woodlands Blanket Dance,” given to me by Kathy Crippin at the Machapunga Tuscarora Pow Wow in Moratoc Park overlooking the Roanoke River. I’m humbled and abundantly blessed by this opportunity. I’m standing on generations of prayers, especially my dying mother’s specific prayer for me to share plant dyeing and stitching.

Otahpiaaki 2018 Workshop Preview

Starting a YouTube Channel to document my dyeing and stitching adventures for upcoming teaching gigs.  My first video is upload. Please check it out.  Like and positive comments appreciated.

Link to Poo’miikapi Textiles Workshop at Otahpiaaki 2018.

Poo’miikapi Textiles Tutorial 02: Naatowápo’takiis Show Quilt Pattern

Song: Ulali, “Mother,” Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women CD, World Music, 1995.

The Otahpiaaki Fashion Week Community Quilt

You Will Need Six Yards Scoured Cotton Fabric:

  • Divide 2 yards into four half-yard pieces and a one-yard piece.
  • Divide each of the half-yard pieces in half to make eight 18”x22” units. These will become our quilt squares
  • Bind into four pairs of circle designs. Used found objects to embed into cloth to make circle. I used both the ring and flat disk from canning jar lids, and Spider Woman design.
  • Bind the 1-yard of fabric with wide pleats in Little Canoe. Will be cut into strips.
  • Bind the 1-yard of fabric in a narrow width pleats in Little Canoe. Will be cut into strips.
  • Twist and bind the remaining 2-yards of fabric. Will be used for freeform improvisational cutting.
IMG_2611 IMG_2612
Our goal is to make hand made matching circular designs. The two were made with embedded Mason jar lids.
IMG_2613 IMG_2614
These were made with embedded Mason jar lids and cotton sinew.
IMG_2615 IMG_2616
This is Ksisówáwakaasaakii (Spider Woman) Design created with tobacco twine.

 

Poo’miikapi Textiles Tutorial 01: Naatowápo’takiis Quilt Pattern As A Quilted Blanket Shawl

Poo’miikapi Textiles
Naatowápo’takiis Quilt Pattern
Sacred Circles Community Healing Project
Using Hand Dyed Cloth Made Sacred With Otahpiaaki Indigo

Song: Ulali, “Mother,” Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women CD, World Music, 1995.

My version is to make a quilted blanket shawl using the same design concept as the community quilt.  Follow Blog to make your own.

I will be using  Five Yards Scoured Fabric:

  • Divide 1 1/2-yards into three half-yards pieces.
  • Tear half-yard pieces in half to make six 18”x22” units.
  • Bind into three pairs of circle designs. Use found objects to embed into cloth to make circle. I used both the ring and flat disk from canning jar lids, and Spider Woman design.
  • Bind the 1-yard piece of fabric in a wide width Little Canoe.
  • Bind the 1/2 yard of fabric in a narrow width Little Canoe
  • Twist and bind the remaining 2-yards of fabric.  This will become the blanket shawl back cloth.
little_canoe

Narrow & Wide Fan Folds for “Little Canoe” Resist Pattern Design
bundles02

Bound Bundles. I used green Kona Cottons to over dye in indigo for my quilt. You can divide yardage to accommodate print fabrics or unbleached cotton muslin.