Tinker Maker

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A tale of two indigos and five of my crackle glazed stoneware beads on hammered silver.

I’ve have Woad and Australian Indigo in my garden, they’re both so unassuming. Woad could easily be mistaken for a lawn weed and the spindly indigo is completely camouflaged growing in the bush, unless it is in flower you’d never know it was there. Secret harborers of the mysterious blue.

And I used both of them to dye the silk cord for this piece. The darker blue is the australian indigo and the lighter is woad.

Each bead is approx. 1.5cm diameter and they hang at a drop of approx. 4ocm.

In the shop now.

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Six of my glazed stoneware beads threaded on hammered copper and handmade silk cord dyed with Marigolds from my garden.

This piece has a drop of approx. 40cm. The round beads are approx. 2cm diameter and the long bead is approx. 4.5cm long.

In the shop now.

 

 

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Two of my carved stoneware beads finished in an irregular matte glaze threaded on hammered copper and handmade silk cord dyed with Hollyhocks from my garden modified with iron.

This piece has a drop of approx 40cm. The smaller bead is 2.5cm long and the larger 4cm long.

In the shop now.

 

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Corona Australis is a horse shoe shaped constellation in the southern hemisphere, also known as the Southern Crown. Taking my inspiration from these stars in the wintry night sky I designed this piece using sparkly pyrites, gold labradorite and freshwater pearls. Wrapped with silk thread on hammered silver wire and hung on handmade silk cord dyed with coreopsis flowers from my garden.

Dyeing the silk first and then plying it by hand results in a beautiful blending of the natural pigments on the fibre, each twist is a different colour. It has definitely been worth the extra effort to make it myself that way rather than dye pre-made cord, I love watching the light playing on the coloured silk when it spins as I work it with my hands.
The stones and pearls are repurposed and I only have a small amount so this will be a very limited edition design. I think I have enough for maybe two or three more.

This piece has a drop of approx 40cm and sits at about bust level but can be shortened by knotting the silk. Will be sent by registered post.

In the shop now.

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So of course, as soon as I announce that I’m going to open my little online shop again all hell breaks loose in this house. Anaïs decided it would be the perfect time to sprout a new tooth and stop sleeping, both children came down with one of those delightful viruses that produces hacking coughs and rivers of snot, and then the internet broke. Four days of a mexican standoff with our ISP insisting it was not a problem with the line (it was variously “the modem”, “the socket” or the fact that I’m “a blond female and not capable of understanding how it all works”) and therefore not their problem resulted in me getting out the wire strippers, a pair of pliers and fixing the corroded line (which was/is actually their problem) myself.

Anyway while all this was happening I decided it would be a good idea to make a few more things to go in the shop, but there has been some hiccups with getting necessary bits back from the kiln which has taken ages and some things needed to be refired. So rather than have everything together in one go, (which honestly might not ever happen given my poor track record of late), I’ve decided to just start releasing things one by one. Every piece is unique, so it’s a little bit more special that way don’t you think?

I am so excited to be once again making things with purpose and sharing them here. I hope you like what you see, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

First up is appropriately a design to celebrate Winter Solstice and the wintry, sparkly night sky. Two of my favourite things.

x

Myf.

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Fresh versus spent leaves

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[Congratulations to Nicky G, your present is in the post! Thank you everyone so much for entering, the shop will be opening very, very soon. Stay tuned.]

So. The last year I have been busy, mostly with children, work, life and other distractions. But I have been doing lots of dyeing and working on small manageable pieces until I have more time for larger works (will I ever have more time?) After a LONG hiatus, I’m planning a little shop update in a couple of weeks with special limited edition goodies. As a sneak peek I’m giving away this little beauty. Handmade silk cord dyed with marigolds from my garden, hammered copper and my crackle glazed stoneware beads. To be in the running:

If you are on instagram – follow me or like this photo and repost tagging me @xmyfx and use #tinkergiveaway (if you have a private account let me know by commenting below or on instagram, open to overseas folk too!)

If you are on facebook – share this post, like and tag my (oh so lonely) Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tinkermakerhandmade

OR

Simply comment on this post below (make sure you include your email address so I can contact you).

(You can also do all three for multiple entries).

Entries close 7th June.

Your odds of winning are currently very good, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you!

x

Myf

 

P.S. I haven’t forgotten about that sugar vat tutorial, next on the to-do list!

 

 

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Photo by Belinda Evans

I met Belinda Evans when she invited me to run a couple of natural dye workshops for the City of Port Phillip as part of their World Environment Day festival. But I’ve also long been an admirer of her multi-displinary works as the master (mistress?) of Alchemy.

It was an absolute pleasure to have Belinda over over for a wander around my garden late last year as it was just waking up from Winter. Bel thank you so much for your generous words and beautiful photos on The Planthunter. It is incredibly humbling to be there amongst so many other highly esteemed and talented gardening folk.

 

 

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The lovely Felicia of The Craft Sessions very kindly asked me to participate in her I Made This series.
You can read the story of my baby friendly pinafore over here as well as the contributions of many other inspiring makers.
I love reading Felicia’s carefully considered thoughts on making (and other topics), well worth a visit and I can’t wait to attend The Craft Sessions retreat this year!

 

 

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Hey look at me! I’m writing a post and I finished doing something for myself! The baby is asleep (I had a girl, her name is Anaïs). Hurrah!

I receive quite a few emails about using our Australian native indigo Indigofera Australis for dyeing. Up until now I’ve been referring inquiries to Robyn Heywood’s great tutorial on the Turkey Red Journal using yarn. I recommend checking it out, especially as Robyn shows the other colours that can be obtained from this pretty Australian native (I’ll do another tutorial on that at some point!). The images are small however, there are none for the direct method and it’s a little hard to see the process of how the colour in the vat develops as you soak the leaves and the colour change you are looking for when you add the washing soda so I’ve done a tutorial which hopefully makes that a little clearer!

I live in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges, literally on the side of the mountain, our property faces south west with a view looking out over Melbourne towards the bay and Williamstown in the distance, it’s a lovely part of the world. Although we are very exposed to the extremes of weather, particularly in Summer when it gets incredibly dry and seriously hot. Our thin layer of heavy clay “soil” (which barely covers the millions of shovel breaking rhyodacite boulders) bakes to resemble almost solid rock. It’s not great for growing the sensitive and needy plants that I am partial to. It is excellent conditions for growing native indigo to dye with however!

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You can buy native indigo at most good nurseries. It grows quickly and is lovely in early Spring with abundant purple pea flowers. It looks best planted en masse. When you are harvesting the plant for dyeing look for leaves that are dark green with a blueish hue as these will contain more indigo pigment. Hopefully you can see the difference between the newer greener growth and the older blue/green leaves in the photo above. I’ve picked these ones when they were flowering, I haven’t had any trouble using indigo picked at other times of the year but again I seem live in an area conducive to growing indigo for dyeing.

So, this is how I do it.

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Pack a jar with leaves. Small branches, flowers and other bits you can’t be bothered removing are fine too. I picked off most of the flowers (which are useless for normal dyeing as far as I can tell, happy to be corrected on that!) Fill the jar with hot tap water – not boiling. The jar I’ve used holds about 500ml. You can see here how the leaves are still quite green, the water is still fairly clear although with a slight aqua hue.

I added a length of silk in the jar with the leaves and water to show you the first method of dyeing with native indigo, the direct method or fresh leaf dyeing. I added the silk after filling with the hot water, you can see how the silk after about an hour has started to turn blue. How long it takes for this to happen will vary. I kept my jar warm on our ducted heating vent and left the silk in there for a day, pulling it out occasionally, stretching it out and then putting it back in.

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Here you can see the dyed silk once it has dried, the shade of blue has a greyish hue. I could have left the fabric in for longer for more dips and a darker shade but I want to use the indigo for another method (see below).

The leaves in the jar are no longer bright green and the water is a red/brown with hints of blue, this is a good sign!

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Here you can see the slick of bronze/blue indigo on the surface. This is after four days. If you don’t see these kinds of signs after a few days it might mean there isn’t much indigo in your leaves. You can leave it for a bit longer or use your leaves for a normal dye bath (will explain in another tutorial).

Now we can move onto the second method of dyeing with native indigo – chemical reduction.

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Pour out the liquid from the jar into another bigger jar. I partially fill the smaller jar a couple of times, replace the lid and shake it to rinse the leaves thoroughly and then add that liquid into the bigger jar. I end up with about a litre. The liquid is now a dark red/brown with blueish froth. I have a few big old 2 litre French Arc wire lever type jars which are great for this, you don’t need to use a glass jar, it’s just easier to see what’s going on.

Now is the time to alter the pH of the “vat” to make it sufficiently alkaline. You’re after a pH of 9-10, any higher than that and you can damage your protein fibre (if using silk/wool, you can go a little higher for cotton/linen). Too low and the indigo won’t reduce properly. You can test this with some pH strips or a swimming pool/fish tank pH testing kit. I’m a bit of a hack and don’t bother with that (although I probably should!), I know my tap water has a starting pH of about 8 – 8.5, the fermentation of the leaves then makes the vat slightly acidic, to bring my vat (which is approx a litre) back to the right pH I add about 2 tbsp of washing soda.

Stir in the washing soda and then pour the contents of the jar into another jar a couple of times. If you watch whilst you are pouring you will see the liquid will change from dark red/brown to dark green with blue froth as you can see below. The vat also has a slightly “inky” smell, it reminds me of the smell of a blue ball point pen :)

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Now we are ready to reduce the vat. Which means to make the hydrophobic indigo pigment soluble so it can “stick” to the fabric.
For the purposes of this tutorial I am using sodium hydrosulphite or hydros, because it’s fairly fail safe, easy and quick (I have a 5 year old and a 5 month old, any other vat and you wouldn’t be getting this tutorial for several years). I use Stabilised Hydros which is 50% sodium dithionite, you can buy it from Kraft Kolour, excellent suppliers of dye stuffs and fibres BTW. They also have 25% strength hydros which can be posted if you don’t live locally. You used to be able to buy it from the supermarket as Dylon Colour Run Remover, but it appears that they no longer use it in their formulation, or at least it’s not listed as an ingredient.

NB: I sometimes have a mild allergic, hay fever-like reaction when using hydros, it gives me itchy eyes and an irritated throat (I have the same reaction to some wines). This is because hydros is a sulphur based reducing agent, if you have asthma and/or are allergic to sulphites please take extra care if you choose to use it. Regardless it is necessary to wear waterproof gloves to protect your skin from the alkaline vat and it’s preferable to work outside or in a well ventilated area (I also use a mask). Always add the hydros carefully to the vat and never allow your container of hydros to get wet because it can combust! That said, when used with care hydros is safe. If concerned however you can use a natural fermentation vat, I’ll have to do a tutorial for that too!

To my one litre vat I add approx 1 tbsp (10 – 15 grams) of hydros. To keep my vat warm I stand the jar in a pot of hot tap water, this keeps it at about 40 – 50 degrees. For the purposes of taking clear photos I’m moving the jar to the bench to photograph and then returning it to the sink.

From this point onwards it’s important not to introduce air into the vat, introduce your fibre slowly and if you need to stir or move the fibre, do it gently.

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Here I’m testing the vat with a strip of fabric to illustrate what it looks like when the vat isn’t ready, the fabric should come out initially a clear yellow (which it isn’t) and the pigment sticks to the fabric in clumps which means it hasn’t fully reduced.

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The vat is starting to reduce, notice the ‘indigo flower’ starting to form on the top.

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The indigo flower is getting darker and the vat is starting to turn yellowish, almost ready.

Anaïs woke up from her nap and I didn’t take a photo of the vat before I did the first dip with the fabric or many whilst I was doing it. Below is a phone photo I took afterwards which shows the typical bronze sheen and indigo flower of the reduced vat.

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This is the fabric submerged in the vat. You can see that the fabric is yellow, when it’s removed from the vat it slowly turns from yellow to green and then blue. I allow about 10 mins between dips. I should have taken a photo of the fabric while it was oxidising, sorry, I blame the baby.

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The two dyed pieces of silk. The smaller grey blue piece dyed using the direct method and the brighter more typical “indigo blue” of the silk dyed using the chemically reduced vat. I got a bit excited and over-estimated the amount of pigment for the amount of leaves and used a much bigger piece of fabric than I normally would for a vat of this size, that coupled with dyeing the other piece of silk first resulted in a lighter shade of blue. A much darker blue would have been obtained using a separate vat for each method and doing more dips. I only did three, after which there were children that needed to be fed, changed, attended to, kept alive and happy etc.

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When you’ve finished dying and the vat is exhausted (it no longer dyes blue). You can neutralise the pH with some vinegar and aerate it by whisking, it’s then safe to pour down the drain.

I hope I’ve covered everything, let me know if not!

 

 

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