Black walnut dyeing

I collected black walnuts last fall from a park in Danbury, Connecticut. I stored them in a plastic shopping bag and did not make any progress in processing them. Recently I was reorganizing my dye materials and opened the bag to a moist, rotting, buggy mess — ugh!

I poured the nuts into a tote and stored it outside in the freezing weather for a few days. A squirrel got interested but only chewed on a few nuts. I eventually dumped most of them onto the ground in a barren patch behind the shop to avoid shocking any plants with juglone. Not wanting to miss out on the dyeing opportunity completely, I reserved about 10 of the nuts that were only minorly deteriorated.

I put the nuts whole into a pot (reserved for dyeing!), covered with water, and set on the woodstove. Over a few days, I took the pot on and off the stove, not really monitoring any boiling or simmering activity. I strained out the liquid and took the nuts out to the dumping area. The liquid was deep dark brown.

Prepared five fabrics chosen from my stash: white and ivory cottons, a linen napkin, and a white and a peach duppioni silk. I scoured them first with hot water, washing soda, and a little dish detergent. I bundled some of the fabrics using shibori techniques with rubber bands and clothespins. Some fabric went in loose. The fabrics stayed in the pot on the woodstove for several hours and off the stove overnight.

Results of fabric dyeing:

Before ironing

After ironing

A few days later, I chose some papers from my stash, bundled them between tiles and can lids, and lowered them into the walnut bath. Also threw in some threads wound onto spools. These also stayed in the hot bath for several hours and the cooling bath overnight.

Results of paper dyeing:

The whole group

Two signatures

Four accordion strips

Assortment of small single sheet scraps

I really like the walnut brown color and the clouds and marks from the dyeing bundles. The darker edges on the papers look great. I’m not sure how I’ll use these materials, but for now I’m just enjoying them. And happy to get the walnut mess out of the house. Next time, I’ll dye with them fresh like you’re supposed to!

Next up: dyeing with my collected acorns, which thankfully are in better shape than the walnuts.

Buttonhole books

The second book I made at a Chapter II workshop with Margo Klass was the buttonhole book. I really enjoyed making this structure and made a second one at home. I bought more large sheets of toned paper so I can make more.

Decorative papers, painted with acrylics and walnut ink

The cut into the spine, khadi paper

The cut into the spine, glued. Getting ready to reinforce at top and bottom with small squares of bookcloth.

Completed book showing buttonhole stitching on spine

Interior view showing decorative and plain guard sheets, and gray toned text sheets

The second book uses striped paper for the cover and blue painted decorative papers. I used Rosemary’s embossing powder to add some interest to the interior.

Decorative pages, one with a tree stamp and embossing powder

Two buttonhole books, showing covers and spines

Plant portraits

Sixteen plant portraits on Hahnemühle Ingres paper

I made these in preparation for Margo Klass’s concertina class tomorrow. I will need to use 8 to 12 of them for glueing into the album.

When I first took them out of the steamer yesterday, I was very disappointed. It looked like nothing had happened! Just the palest wash of colors, the slightest suggestion of leaf forms. And brown edges that looked like the paper had been burnt. Maybe something was wrong with my steamer? I gave up for the day, figuring I’d have to try again after class was over to make contents suitable for the album.

Today I had some time and energy to try again. I thought I’d have to overdye with new plant material, in other words start from scratch. I made a much stronger solution of iron-vinegar potion and dropped a piece in. I know this, but I had forgotten that an iron-vinegar dip can “develop” a pale print. I was shocked to find deep shadowy tones and shapes emerging! So I went ahead and developed all the rest. In the end, I only overdyed the chrysanthemum (leftmost, second row from top) because it didn’t have enough definition.

I feel good about using these for my album content. They portray my most familiar, most local plants and my current skill level. I don’t have the patience to get detailed prints showcasing single plants. Everything kind of mashes together in a great purple wateriness because I stacked four sheets into my plant sandwiches. And I don’t have the knowledge to control what dye oozes out of which plant to influence the whole stack. Still, forms are identifiable in most of these and there is most definitely a magic going on. I’d like to repeat in a second album someday so I can view progress.

Talisman book

I stitched my four winds books into a dyed and embroidered cloth cover. The cover was made from an old damask napkin, folded in half. The pages were attached with a three-hole pamphlet stitch. I added an extra stitch (with French knot) at the top and bottom of each to hold them more securely.

I had fun stitching beads onto the spine, although it was very finicky. Bead sourcing:

  • Packet purchased at Gina’s store in Muizenberg, Cape Town
  • Felt bead made by Nicola, a gift from my Cape Town visit
  • Two Czech glass flower beads from India Flint, a gift to the class members of “a clearing in the woods”
  • Bird and silver leaves purchased at the books arts bazaar in Portland

I just love how things accumulate and come together.

Speaking of accumulating, here is a partial view of the interior. That glowing pink cane from begonia blossoms on top of old blueprint paper.

Closure: an old hair elastic and an abalone shell button.

Here’s a view of the opened book showing the nice fan effect.

Photo of cover before pages were stitched in:

This project is part of India Flint’s School of Nomad Arts class being (t)here 2019.

Diagonal pocket book

I made these from stash paper. This was the April challenge from my Facebook Group, Crafting Handmade Books. Instructions: structure #23, The Diagonal Pocket on page 116 of The Art of the Fold, by Hedi Kyle and Ulla Warchol.

It’s a thrill to find uses for painted papers as well as other papers I’ve collected.

I didn’t have any trouble with the instructions or the “squash fold” that was supposed to be challenging. I had trouble with the accuracy of my folds, which improved with practice. My first one was folded backwards at first and had to be redone. The backs of these painted papers are unsightly with paint blotches, and I decided to add a lining after I was done folding. It would have been a lot easier to add the lining before folding!

Papers used:

  • Blick’s cheap drawing paper painted in stripes using Golden acrylics. This was done in a Jane Davies workshop a few years ago. (Here’s a YouTube video of Jane painting stripes.)
  • Lining: strangely shiny navy blue note paper that I found in Sam’s parents’ house when we were cleaning it out.
  • Text pages for pamphlet: Masa paper recommended by Ali Manning of Vintage Page Designs and purchased from Talas. Not sure how much I’ll like this paper as it is markedly different on each side.