Cross-Dyeing and Shibori Workshop with Catharine Ellis

IMG_1804Sometimes I take visiting artist workshops at the Weavers Guild just because I like to meet talented weavers and it’s good to stretch my weaving experiences—even if the class is about a technique I don’t normally weave.  With Catharine Ellis’s Cross-Dyeing workshop, that was a good plan!   I hosted Catharine and had a wonderful time getting to know her.  I loved making woven shibori, in which shibori pulling threads are woven into a white fabric that is dyed afterwards. I am definitely making my own organic indigo dye pit this summer.
We warped our looms with a mixture of white or natural-colored wool and cotton (or some combination of protein and cellulose fibers). Mine was warped with wool and cotton, every other thread, at 24epi. After a piece was dyed, I came to understand how the fibers took the dye differently.  So for example, I wove a very simple piece in broad wool and cotton weft stripes.  Then I applied a resist paste in simple Xs. Here the resist paste is drying.
Here’s what happened in the indigo dye pot. The wool took the dye more strongly than the cotton; those stripes are darker.  The Xs remained white.
IMG_5109 2
Can one ever get enough indigo?  Here are more student samples on the line after the dye pot.
Here’s what happens when Catherine Ellis’s cross-dyeing technique is applied.  The piece was dipped in a lac dye pot. That dye barely dyes cotton, but wool likes it. (I preferred the indigo-only stage, but this was a class for learning!) On the wool stripes, outside the Xs, the overdying made them a strong, deep brown-red.  The cotton weft stripes, which did not accept the dye, remained bluish (the wool warps did accept dye). On the Xs, which did not have indigo on it, the wool stripes accepted more of the dye, becoming a darker pinky-brown.
This sample is very instructive, but I have a ways to go before I can use these concepts to make an intentional, beautiful piece. I came to understand the processes of overdying and resisting and how to account for the reaction of the dye to various fibers.  But I certainly didn’t make a sample anywhere as cool as these that Catherine Ellis made. These were my favorites.
Part of our sampling included woven shibori, where you weave in strings that are pulled tightly before the piece hits the dye pot.  See pull strings on the white piece here.
Here the piece is pulled.
Here the piece is dyed (on the left). This experiments taught me to NOT weave in the pull strings at too fine a set. The resulting pattern is wimpy and tiny.  It’s much better to pull strings over more warp threads, to get a bolder pattern (look at the bottom of the right-hand piece, below the circle.)
Here is my wimpy-shibori piece overdyed with henna.  Learning, learning.
I love circles, so here is a circle experiment in woven shibori.  I was inspired by Sue Fairchild, who made a shibori woven circle be folding her undid piece in two, and sewing a half-circle with arcs of hand-stitching.  Look how pretty it turned out!
I decided to try making a circle, but by weaving in the shibori pull strings at the loom.  I started by making a circle on the warp by tracing a bowl, and then I wove in the pull-strings to that circumference.
Here you see the circle and the beginning of my pulling the strings in the whole piece. After I wove it, I worried that because I wove them in the plain weave shed at 24 epi, and that the lines are fairly close together, that no dye would soak in that area at all, and it would be boring and just almost-white.
Here the piece is pulled and dyed, ready for the surprise of unwrapping.
The circle was prettier than I expected, with a nice texture. Still, it was not as pretty as Sue’s hand stitched shibori circle.
These are only a couple of my several samples.


Leave a Reply