Eco Dyeing with Linda Chee

Linda, continuing her discussion of Eco Dyeing from the mini, said that she has been working on it for about two years since an India Flint workshop. (It took her two years to get into the workshop.) They connected. They both have a feel for dyeing plus both India and Linda’s husband are Latvian. India was willing to share information. Linda is willing to pass on what she knows to people who are interested in the art.


Currently, most of her dyed pieces are at MONA. They choose six makers every six weeks to feature in their marketplace. You can see dyed examples on her website, where Mungo, her Grand Basset Griffon Vendeen is her best publicist.
What affects your end product? The water, the season, the additives, the leaves, the pot. Only experience will tell you what can happen. Be patient. If it is not going to happen, forget that idea and move on.
Linda collects things from beach in Tasmania to wrap cloth around. She found that things soaked in sea water dyed much the same as those soaked in fresh water.
More open weave wools work best. Eco dyeing doesn’t work well with cellulose fibres unless they are pre-mordanted. Linda uses an aluminium pot which provides the mordant and buys wool scarves through a fair trade organisation. Tubular knit wool jersey with curly edges is available for $55 per meter from Beautiful Silks in Melbourne.
The complexity comes from how you fold the cloth and place the leaves. Wrap cloth around a core eg of metal or PVC to create pressure on the leaves or bark so that the dye molecules are extracted. Folding and ironing the cloth can take a significant amount of time. Linda places the leaves into pockets that she has ironed then ties it up with cord. The folded fabric is then clamped between two pieces of board to leave the edges exposed to the dye bath. G clamps take up a lot of space in the dye pot.
Linda dyes carefully for 1 hr 40 mins at 93°C. She does not boil. You want the colour to come out, you don’t want the silk to get brittle, or the wool to felt. Let it cool down in the pot. Leave it overnight clamped. Don’t leave it for long or it will go mouldy (alternatively, sterilise the item).
Design is really important. Think about where leaves are placed, how the folds are made, which direction the cords are wrapped because it will all add to the end product. Linda uses bits of architecture as resists – or seeds. Iron soaked in a glass jar in vinegar for six months, gives a dark grey paint.
The effects on silk are very different than on wool. The colours are more muted.

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