My friends Alfred and Carrie came over on Saturday, and we tried our hand at katazome, or Japanese stenciled paste-resist dyeing. I spent a day or two carving stencils for the katazome, the most ambitious of which was a paper-cut of a Chinese dragon (the original is out of a Dover book of Chinese paper-cuts). It took me four hours to carve, but was well worth it!
Here is the raw stencil, carved from synthetic stencil paper. The traditional stencil paper is made from handmade mulberry paper layered together with persimmon tannin and then smoked – but it is quite difficult to find, and I decided to reserve my one or two precious sheets of it for something really special, not just random experimentation.
The stencil couldn’t be used like this, of course – it was far too delicate. So, following the instructions I got from Karen Miller during the katazome class I took with her, I put it in a frame of stencil paper, then put silk gauze over both paper cut and frame and sealed them together with paint. Here is the finished stencil:
The gauze supports and protects the stencil, so delicate patterns are quite feasible.
I also carved a number of other stencils – a horse, a squirrel, a baby zebra, and two goldfish – and layered them with gauze and paint as well.
Next I made the katazome paste – a mix of very finely powdered rice bran, glutinous rice flour, calx, and glycerine. The rice bran and rice flour need to be mixed up and then steamed for half an hour before adding the other ingredients, so I got that out of the way as early as possible.
Finally, we got to stenciling. Here is my very first attempt:
My friend Alfred was nice enough to set up an indigo vat for us, so after the paste dried, we dipped the shirt in the vat – twice, letting it dry between dips. The result, as you can see, was a lovely indigo blue. (Indigo vats are magic, by the way – the fabric looks yellow-green when it comes out, and over several minutes oxidizes slowly through gorgeous greens and teals to the final blue shades. I’m not a big fan of natural dyes, but indigo is special. I want to play more with indigo!)
Next I decided to get fancy. So I stenciled on some paste, let it dry, and applied paint over the paste. Then I covered the entire area with more paste, and dipped everything in indigo. The result was these lovely tote bags:
In case you are wondering about the colors, which are rather subdued compared to my usual brilliant palette, I was experimenting with natural pigments. One of Mike’s hobbies is oil painting, and he likes to mix up his paints from scratch. So he has a lot of pigments, mostly from Sinopia, which specializes in (mostly) natural pigments. Since indigo is a more subtle and genteel color than my usual bright reds and oranges, I thought it might be nice to combine it with a more subdued, earthy palette. So I mixed some of Mike’s pigments with a solution of three parts water, one part Lo-Crock Binder from Pro Chemical and Dye. That produced a beautiful, very thin paint perfect for stenciling.
Anyway, I was so delighted by the katazome results that I mixed up another giant batch of katazome paste today and spent the afternoon happily stenciling away. Some were intended to be stenciled directly onto pre-dyed fabric – like the dragon shirt below:
I will stencil gold paint and maybe some purple clouds over the dragons, then wash out the paste. I’m planning to do something similar with the next three shirts:
Finally, there’s one shirt that I plan to dye using indigo:
In this case the fish and the white background will become blue, and the pasted areas will remain white.
So stay tuned! Many magic things will be happening over the next few days.
Speaking of magic, here is a magical sight for you – the shadow weave warp is fully threaded!
I’m not sure it’s exactly 2800 – between the threads that broke while beaming and an inexplicable twenty-ish extra threads left over at the end, I lost the exact count awhile back. But it’s still a large effort!
After threading, I spent this morning sleying like a madwoman, with this result:
If I hadn’t gotten distracted by the deliciousness of katazome, I’d have been weaving today! But it may be delayed by a day or two while I finish off the katazome pieces.
Finally, the cats. How are the cats? They are just fine, thank you. In fact, Ms. Tigress is her usual exuberant self, as you can tell from this photo:
Normally she doesn’t molest paper towels when they’re in a plastic-wrapped package, but perhaps she was getting back at the pawparazzi for the rather unflattering photo in my last blog post. Regardless, the rest of the package now lives in a closet. It’s dangerous living with such a playful predator in the house!