Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kawaii!

The astute reader will have noticed that I'm not speaking French today, but that I've learned a Japanese word from Mami! Kawaii means 'pretty', and Mami used it to describe Cath Kidston, but I made a very pretty Japanese thing this weekend: Yes, reader, I went! The Alterna'town festival was very good. The round table discussions looked rather heavy (the one on taxes, when I went on Saturday morning, was six men getting pretty heated, so I gave that one a miss...) but the conferences seem to have gone well - our neighbour went to most of them and appears to have found them helpful.
I, however, gravitated towards the more hands-on, less linguistic side of things, and discovered this:
A workshop on vegetable dyeing, using indigo. Ahhh - the chance to hand-produce some blue clothes and fabric!
Dominique, our workshop leader, explained how the family of indigo plants is quite a large one, and includes the famous pastel, known in Britain as woad. Ancient Britons used to war-paint their faces with this, and one imagines them looking quite fearsome, but in France pastel was used for more peaceful purposes, and Toulouse became a very rich city in the 16th century as the centre of pastel production. First the Indian indigo trade, and then the introduction of chemical dyes, burst Toulouse's 'pastel bubble' (it really was a financial crash), but now the natural, local dyes are rightly popular again and you can see wonderful pastel-dyed clothes for sale locally. The big centre of production is now in le Gers, not far from us. Follow that link if you like blue - it's a beautiful site (in English)!
Dominique had her indigo (not pastel, I think) heated to 70 degrees in a big pot. Indigo is the only vegetable dye which does not need to boil, and does not need a mordant to hold in the colour. It does, however, need to ferment a bit for the blue colour to be released from the plants, and the pot was pretty stinky!
We had been asked to bring a piece of cloth or a T-shirt. Dominique showed us her own example, using a little cotton bag she'd been given by another stall-holder at the festival, and then advised us on how to devise a dyeing technique suitable for our own pieces.
She advised that I do my secondhand T-shirt using classic African tye-dye, which worked well... Most of the others used the Japanese techniques of shibori - again, do click on the link, because the website I found explains it a lot better than I could!
First, soak your tied-up parcel in water.Then dunk it in the indigo vat...A short dip will produce a soft blue shade, a longer dunk gives stronger colours...
Remove when ready, and watch the magic - it's yellow! No, it's green! But I wanted blue!
The fabric is briefly yellow, and then green for a longer while, because the blue only appears as the pigments become oxygenated in air or water.
They need another rinse in the water, and then they can be unwrapped...We were warned not to make holes as we snipped off the strings. This seemed like very heartfelt advice! In goes some shibori...
And once it's been dunked and rinsed, it's time to unwrap...
The green is still visible as you unroll, but it fades as you go.Kawaii! This one was made by another member of the workshop. It's an amazing technique.
Here is Dominique, in various shades of indigo herself, showing off my T-shirt!
The little bag was dunked twice: once in string to give the stripes, and once as a brief dip to lightly colour the whole fabric.One of the young girls in the workshop saw my T-shirt and said in surprise : 'It's just like you get in the shops, only it's natural!'Having been in Dominique's workshop, I asked permission to take some photos of her stand.The wools are such high quality. It almost makes me wish I could knit!
Almost... Here's one quick photo of the rest of the festival - I liked the Nepalise bunting.So that was a very worthwhile visit to the Alternative Living Festival! I'm ending this post with some photos from a magazine which I've been promising Sarah, from A Beach Cottage, for a while. (She's having a giveaway, folks - do pop over!)Sarah found a window in a skip the other day. It reminded me I'd seen this great window photo...... in a French Beach Cottage!
I hope that gives you some ideas - I love the way it's been set up, myself. Tomorrow, plenty more weekend news...

25 comments:

Michela said...

Really Kawaii!!!
We call this technique "Batik" and I think it comes from Indonesia! It's a good idea for "recup" old faded clothes
Have a good week!

The Curious Cat said...

ooo what fun! I love tye dye! I always mess it up though so now I have this entry to refer to next time!!! xxx

beck said...

What a great post, I enjoyed reading all about your colourful exploits! This reminds me of when I was little in the seventies and my mum was an art & craft teacher. She did alot of dying with naturally made dye, from onions etc. We had a lot of tie dye clothes! Love the window xo

Serenata said...

Wonderful - what a lovely interesting post and well you know my opinion of anything blue - just perfect! Glad it was a worthwhile weekend. I'm sure Sarah will love the picture of the French Beach Cottage and that window!

Elizabethd said...

Indigo is fascinating stuff. I found a shop in France a couple of years ago, maybe one day I will remember where, which sold not only that which they had dyed and made, but also handcreams and lotions made from woad.

abeachcottage.com said...

oh wow, I remember tie die from way back, what fun you must have had making that...and how creative

thanks soooooo much for digging these out for me, I appreciate the time that took, all I can say is wowza, the French always do it best, non? hmmm would love me a leetle Frenchy beach cottage...one day

S

xo

Michela said...

Hi again Floss! My mum is not a prefessional seller, but she can surely recognize real Limoges sets from the modern ones(there's a fake one on her stall too!). So when you have time, please send me your pictures, she would be very glad to help you!

Hen said...

Oooh, interesting, loved seeing it turn from yellow to green to blue. A good way to spend a day.
Hen x

Lace hearts said...

Oh wow, Floss, what a terrific set of pictures. I love the tie dye detail. I've never tried dyeing fabric at all. Looks a really good weekend you had.

Mami said...

Oh wonderful.You remeber 'Kawaii' Japanese word.
I'm so glad to hear that. Also your shibori works looks excellent!! Your T-shirt is Kawaii and exactly seems new one. Thank you for interestion post.

juanitatortilla said...

You did it!!!
I saw this indigo vegetable dye over at The Warp and the Weft's blog, some time ago, and naturally thought of you. I believe she was visiting Toulouse as well?
So glad you managed to get this hands-on experience. I used to love to dye my things to give it "extra mileage" when I've grown tired of them, or have looked completely worn out. But with artificial, chemical dyes of course.
Shibori makes such fantastic effects, wow. Great job!

Karen said...

I have always wanted to try working with indigo! Thanks for showing your experience to us! That looked like soooo much fun! Karen

Apron of the Month Club said...

Good morning! hope all is well in your side of the world. I have some sewing to do tonight, which I am looking forward to.

I am so impressed with your work.
Yoli :)

Angela said...

Your indigo post is fabulous! A real Rhapsody in Blue!! Very impressive stuff - a tee-shirt to dye for. [must stop enthusing, I'm getting overloaded with bad puns]

Rose Charles said...

Hi Floss,

What an interesting day! It looks like a lot of fun :-)

Rose XXX

Ashley said...

That is awesome. I love indigo!

Sarah said...

Wow what a fun thing to do. Love your t-shirt! Reminds me of some tie dying I did at school many years ago. Also gives me some more ideas for stained t-shirts I have been wondering what to do with. What a great day of learning. Love the windows too.

Lululiz said...

I am sooooooooooo envious, I would have loved to do some dyeing with indigo as well. And as to those wools, they are just amazing. Don't you think they are worth learning to knit for, lol?

Florence and Mary said...

Doesn't that look fun!

Victoria xx

Lola Nova said...

I have so much to catch up on! I would love to try dying with indigo. Years ago I experimented with plant dyes but never had the opportunity to use indigo. Great post!

Polka Dot Daze said...

That looks like a lot of fun!

Melanie said...

I am dieing to give dying a go, lol. In my most recent copy of Inside Crochet magazine, there is an article on how to use wild mushrooms for dying, so I think I may try my hand at that. xxx

Pomona said...

I'd have been at the dye workshop with you! Much better than intense discussion (empiricism again!). I remember doing tie dye in my teens, but only with Dylon - indigo looks much more interesting.

Pomona x

Country Bliss said...

That looks like a lot of fun, very interesting post too.
Yvonne x

Ange said...

Floss - the next time this festival's on let me know. I have literally fallen in love with this colour since living in Toulouse and would love the opportunity to dye some fabric too!! What a wonderfully descriptive post!