I have dicovered just how difficult a month away working can be without a base! It has been very hard to keep up with everything we needed to do with nothing other than a van and the generosity of friends! I have really missed writing here and keeping things up to date!
The time, to be fair, has flown by - mainly because we have had so many events to attend. Two that really stood out were spent at the Cartwright Hall Museum and Art Gallery in Bradford.
As part of the 2012 fund raising initiative they had an exhibition titled "Precious Cargoes" which inspired much interest in "Turkey Red" the special technique for dyeing a madder red onto cotton cloth. Within the exhibition were several sample books showing off the colour in various patterns and some beautiful finished articles.
Our first day there was to run a workshop. Taking Turkey Red as a theme we decided to try an experiment with some cotton cloth. I mordanted 1 piece with aluminium acetate and another piece (of the same cloth) had the complete preparation including sheep pooh, oiling, drying, alum, tannin, etc, leaving the madder dyebath for the students to carry out. (A 1 day workshop really doesn't allow for the 6 weeks preparation time!)
The cloth goes into "room temperature" dye for half an hour and has to be continuously moved in the liquid for the whole time - we got a volounteer to start us off, amazing how the colour is obvious right from the start even "cold"! The temperature was then raised, but no higher than 70 degrees - both pieces of cloth went in together, but the colour difference was obvious straight away!
This photo shows the cloth after it has been dried - what really stands out to me is not just the difference in the colour , but how even the "Turkey Red" looks in comparison to the other. You really would not believe these 2 pieces of cloth have been dyed in the same bath!
(I should point out that there is 1 process missing on this cloth - the brightening - we didn't have the time or facilities to do that at the workshop, so I really need to do that at home when I get chance)
Continuing with the theme of "Precious Cargoes" we also used logwood, indigo and fustic, so an interesting range of colours was obtained overall - the madder was used for other yarns after the cotton came out too! We even managed a modification or two!
The second day was a drop in "Fun Day" for all the family with children young and old coming in and playing with natural dyes (We normally say from toddler to 80 everyone is welcome to play!) They all got to take home a picture they had painted with extract dyes, we had a microwave with us to help set them but the key thing was to see the dyes in use and enjoy yourself!
Hopefully a new generation will be inspired to go into the dye house when they grow up!
(Please excuse my not giving a full breakdown of the Turkey Red process I used, I am currently doing research on the subject and ultimately hope to publish my results as an article)
My thanks to Janet Simmonds from Bradford Museums and Galleries and Joan Russell Photography for allowing me to use their photographs.