poinsettia

flaming red poinsettia, the flowering plant for this season of love, joy, and cheer

This flowering plant with its large leaf-shape bracts in colors of red, white, or pink; with a yellow pistil in the center of the colored bracts makes a beautiful Christmas decorations around the house. The actual flowers, or cyathium of the poinsettia plant (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are the clusters of yellow cup-shaped structures that are located in the center of the colorful bracts. The flowers have both male and female reproductive organs and have no fragrance to attract pollinators. The showy red bracts serve that purpose and attract the insects to the poinsettia. When the flower detects a visitor, the cyathium glands ooze their nectar to lure the insects onto the surfaces of the flowers. The pollen from the flowers is transferred by the insects as they move from plant to plant feeding on the nectar.

the real flower of the poinsettia

close-up view of yellow flowers, or cyathium

The flaming colors of the bracts can be accelerated by placing the plant in total darkness for a period of time. This method is called “photoperiodism.” There are so many wonderful facts and stories written about this traditional Christmas plant, and the list is endless. Did you know that December 12th is Poinsettia Day?

With all the characteristics about this plant, I was interested to find out if the plant is a good source for contact printing. I was in luck, a local store was having a sale last week. I bought a few to decorate the house and a few more to experiment with. I am convinced that the green bracts will give some color; and the red bracts will need a modifier (iron water), in order to print.

For this experiment, I took a branch and dipped the plant in an iron solution (made from rusty objects), before I placed it on a piece of wet silk. Then the fabric, along with the plant material was bundled up tightly with strings, and left in simmering water for about 2 hours. I let the bundle sit overnight in the pot before I opened it the following day to see the results of my experiment. I am happy with the results as it does what I had predicted. Below are results and pictures from this experiment and I am happy to share. Happy Holidays!

leaves and bracts of the bloom on wet silk

before and after

before and after

dark colored and no more red, a result from the iron solution

anxious to see the magic underneath the leaf

peeling the surface to reveal the result

a lovely stained leaf print in hues of green and speckled  grayish brown on veins

dark charcoal prints in center (red bracts), a result from iron oxide in the iron solution that reacts with the tannin in the plant materials

A special note: unlike mistletoe and holly, which are highly dangerous plants; poinsettia is not deadly poisonous–but it could still cause an upset stomach if consumed. The milky sap from the plant may be harmful to people with allergies and sensitivities.

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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in the news

A writer from a local newspaper wants to write an article featuring Obovate Designs. I am flattered and honored for this wonderful exposure. The article will be in print tomorrow in Tri-Valley Times. Below is the link that you can read online. Thank you.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/my-town/ci_29219930/livermore-patience-persistence-pays-off-fiber-artist

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sell, sell, sell

my booth at Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts

In October, I blogged that I was invited to participate as a vendor for the following community craft shows in November: Craft Fest in Bedford Gallery; and Mistletoe Madness. Both the events were well curated with a variety of different artwork and handmade artisan goods. Business was good and I am glad that I’d prepared a wide selection of inventory to display for both shows.

Selling at shows and craft fairs is a wonderful way to gain exposure and to market small businesses and local artists. These events also serve as a wonderful opportunity to bring the local community and local artists together and is something fun for everyone. Doing these shows gave me the opportunity to admire other artist’s work. The variety of ideas, concepts, craftsmanship and presentation is enjoyable and an education in and of itself. Finally, the experience of meeting your customers face to face and the immediate feedback is helpful in developing ones presentation and understanding the tastes of your customers. Below are some pictures from the shows, and I am happy to share. Happy Holidays!

silk scarves on a spiral rack

L-R: hand dyed tights; greeting cards displayed on an table linen with eucalyptus prints, and wool shawl on body form

my booth at Mistletoe Madness, a Christmas event. This was my second year as a vendor

handmade flower pins from wool tops and silk

hand knit acorn and leaves for the holidays

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥
“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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busy as a bee

Freshly dyed scarves

I am excited to be selected as a vendor at the Bedford Gallery Craft Fest event this November 7th and 8th. Following the Craft Fest, I will at the Mistletoe Madness show in San Leandro (November 28). I have plenty of preparing to do for these upcoming events.  So far, I have got quite a bit accomplished and I am looking forward to the shows. Below is a sneak peek of some new pieces to my inventory.

this piece in a combination of turmeric and indigo dyed was inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.

Arashi Shibori dyed silk necktie in lac dye

eucalyptus prints and Shibori dyed silk necktie in indigo vat dye

Fleur de Lys template (hand crafted by John) in plexiglass

Fleur de Lys, print in indigo dye

indigo dyed tote bag for my own use

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥
“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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colors of nature

an array of natural colors in warm browns, charcoal, reds, yellows, taupe, cream and greens

This was last summer’s solar dyeing project that I had forgotten. The marked jars are tucked neatly in rows inside the wheelbarrow where I had left them last summer. Already, the spiders and critters have made a home for themselves between the crevices of the dusty jars. I can sense the jars are “calling” for me to open them and explore its contents. 

Going through each of the marked jars, I found some of them had turned moldy and smell bad. It must have been due to the hot summer weather and also to my negligence to check on the jars. Nevertheless, it was fun opening the jars to explore the contents inside and retrieve the samples. Below are pictures of the samples with captions listed in the order of plant material, followed by fabric/fiber used.

hydrangeas; silk

society garlic flowers; merino silk

black tea; silk, merino wool fabric, wool yarn

basil; silk & wool yarn

tansy or golden buttons flowers; silk & merino wool

Gaillardia (blanket flowers); silk & wool yarn

Kalanchoe flowers; silk & wool yarn

Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat flowers); merino silk

Anthemis tinctoria (Dyers chamomile); silk, wool yarn

Rue (ruta graveolens), merino silk

this one is my favorite….

eucalyptus; silk, rusty can

tied markings in random swirl in ocher and yellows

deep contrast in yellow, browns and burnt orange, a result from iron rust, and tannin from eucalyptus

an itsy bitsy scarf for me

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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indigo dyed dress

bold leaf prints from castor oil plant

This is the dress made from a fabric that was dyed and contact printed with botanicals and then pre-cut for a dress,  as described in last week’s post; “before and after“. This past weekend I assembled the dress that you see below. I love the somewhat wide and angular neckline and the 3/4 length sleeves that were finished at the edges in a lighter shade of indigo blue. Another feature of this dress is the wide flare on both sides; which it can be brought together, either front or back and secured with a button for a flattering A-line dress.

contrasting prints in charcoal on background colors in a variation of azure to cerulean blues

back view of dress

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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before and after

In this post, I am sharing with you a two-step process using a plain silk fabric that was first dyed blue in indigo vat dye; and then contact printed the dyed fabric with plant materials to create an interesting design and color. 

Indigo vat dyeing is an incredibly dyeing process! Just when the dyed fabric was removed from the vat dye, the dyeing solution oxidized from green to blue when the fabric was exposed to oxygen in the air. This was because the indigo dye molecule is soluble only in its reduced (oxygen-free) state when inside the vat; but when exposed to the air, the dye reduced back into insoluble form. This alchemy of nature happens instantly before your eyes–it is almost magic! The result is a beautiful and permanent blue dyed fabric.

Next, I arranged the following plant materials: castor bean plant (Ricinus communis); geranium (Pelargonium); silver dollar tree (Eucalyptus cinerea) that were previously soaked in iron water in a random design onto the dyed fabric. Then the fabric and the plant materials were rolled up with a rusty iron pipe carefully and tied with strings before it was steamed for more than an hour. Here is the result after it was taken out from the dye pot. See the finished dress when I sew it together on my next post.

indigo dyed, and ready for the next step

dark and coppery outlines and leaf print was a result from the iron oxide from the rusty pipe that reacts with the tannin in the plant materials.

close-up deep outline prints from large castor bean plant (Ricinus communis) and copper brownish orange from Eucalyptus cinerea.

more on castor bean plant leaf print

geranium (Pelargonium) leaf prints

a single leaf print from Eucalyptus cinerea in coppery brown

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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TGIF, friday’s necktie

chicks dig tie, a comic strip by Bill Watterson

chicks dig ties, a comic strip by Bill Watterson

Many companies have casual Fridays, if you still feel the need to wear a tie, this is the tie to wear. Trust me, no one else will be sporting a tie like this and the women at work will be asking you all about it.  This brings to mind, the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, where Hobbes declares: “chicks dig ties”.  So, guys out there–you get the idea?

For this project, I bought a plain white silk necktie and eco dyed it with locally source plant materials. First, I gently removed the stitching along the length of the tie and pulled out the interfacing found inside the tie, leaving just the unfolded silk fabric. I then washed it in soap and water; and with the material still damp, I arranged plant materials along the length of the fabric; bundled it up with strings and boiled it in a water bath of onion skins and bark for an hour.

fresh out of my dye pot, and peeling to see what enfolds

bold blade leaf print from red ironbark (Eucalpytus sideroxylon)

the colors of fall

The challenging part was to stitch the necktie back together by hand. Since, this was my first time doing this, I had to examined some of John’s ties to see the actual construction of the tie. It took me a couple of hours stitching it back together. It was fun and now I know to make a neck tie from scratch. I am pleased with the results and happy to share. This tie is available for sale here.

front view of necktie

back view of necktie

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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contact prints on leggings

peach, eucalyptus, onions skins, sumac prints on a blend of nylon/spandex leggings

I was out last weekend to shop for some leggings. With luck, I also found some plain white tights. They are just perfect for this idea that I had in mind for some time to try printing on synthetic fiber (blend of nylon/spandex). The tights were pre-washed and soaked in a weak solution of vinegar and water; and then contact printed with a mélange of botanical: peach, rose, eucalyptus, sumac, rue, oak, lemon, daisies, and onion skins. Then the bundles were steamed in water for an hour. The results turned out fabulously and we also made a video to record the process.

The exciting moment for me was when I opened the first bundle, which revealed that the process I used had worked wonderfully. Below are pictures of the different types of plant materials used in this project.

peeling off a single peach leaf

green prints from peach leaf, and reddish orange from Eucalyptus

green, red, browns, yellow–the colors of autumn

bold colors from rose and Eucalyptus prints

rose and Eucalyptus leaf prints

green from rue leaf and reddish orange from Eucalyptus

Ruta graveolens (rue, or herb-of-grace, is an old fashioned garden herbal plant

clear green prints from dahlia; reddish, orange from Eucalyptus & onion skins

Quercus coccinea (scarlet oak) leaf print with heart-shaped Eucalyptus

prints from long & narrow Eucalyptus radiata leaf

this is recycled and decayed Eucalyptus camaldulensis (red gum) leaf

bold prints of speckled and decayed matter on leaf

Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

another interesting print from recycled & decayed Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

another interesting print from recycled & decayed Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

bold print from decayed Eucalyptus ficifolia (red flowering gum)

Save best for last, my homemade movie of the process. For a larger view, click on to the icon below, found next to the word, Vimeo.

Contact printing on leggings from melinda tai on Vimeo.

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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colors from black bean

A selection of my samples from black bean dye bath in various shades of blues

While cleaning out the kitchen cupboard, I found a large bag of dried black beans tucked in the corner behind the canned foods. This reminded me of a thread I had read in one of the Ravelry discussion groups about the variations of color people get from using black beans as a blue dye. I thought it would be interesting to find out for myself the color and dye potential of black beans.

This post discusses the results of my experiment using different types of water and various modifiers to see how they interact in the dye-bath. Modifiers are chemicals and minerals that assist in dyeing. They can shift or alter the pH in a dye-bath from acid to alkali (and vice versa) to enhance colors. The modifiers that I used in this experiment were: washing soda and baking soda. Other common modifiers (which I did not try for this experiment) are alum, iron (alkaline), and vinegar or citric acid (acidic) in most of my dyeing.

Following are results of the different combinations that I used.  It is definitely worth experimenting, as I have discovered there is a vast difference in color and hue depending on the combination of  water and modifiers. I am pleased with the beautiful results that can be achieved with a simple kitchen staple; the black bean. Below are detailed photos and notes, documenting the various process.

Part I: wool and silk samples; tap water; baking soda modifier

First, I started off by soaking the rinsed beans in a pot filled with enough water to cover the beans. After a few hours of soaking, I noticed the liquor (bean juice) was already showing a dark murky color; a result from the water absorbing most of the pigments from the black beans. The pot with the black beans was left to soak overnight. The next day, the liquor (bean juice) was drained off to another pot; the soggy and plump looking beans were tossed into the compost. Then the liquor (bean juice) was poured into two Mason jars. In one of the jar, I stirred in a tiny amount of baking soda, and left the other jar plain without modifier. Then, I placed into each of the jars, the same amount of wool and silk samples. The jars were then left out for another day before I opened it the following day.

Results from wool and silk samples; tap water; baking soda modifier:

shimmering sea-foam green on silk–black bean and tap water with baking soda modifier

grayish teal on wool–black bean and tap water with baking soda modifier

grayish-violet on silk–black bean and tap water without modifier

Part II: cotton samples; rain water; washing soda modifier:

After seeing the results from the first experiment, I am also curious to see the effect and the difference in color when using soft or distilled water instead of tap water. I was fortunate to have had collected a container of rain water from last year’s rainfall. I bought a pound of organic black beans in the grocery store. The beans were rinsed and soaked overnight in a large pot filled with rain water. The next day, the liquor (bean juice) was drained off from the beans and poured into two separate containers. This time, I kept the soaked beans to make a chili dish for dinner (don’t tell John).

I have two pieces of cotton muslin and some cotton trimmings: one piece of fabric and trimmings was pre-washed in plain tap water (first batch); another piece of fabric and trimmings was pre-washed in washing soda (second batch). After they were rinsed clean, I placed the first batch that was washed in tap water into one of the container; and the second batch of samples into the second container. The solution in the first container remained unchanged as I immersed the cloth samples in the liquid. As I manipulated the samples, I could see they were turning to various shades of blue.

Results from first batch of cotton samples, washed in tap water:

pretty powdery pale blue cotton and trimmings

cornflower blue vintage lacy table linen

cerulean blue color, next to dark blue ceramic sculpture made by our son

Results from second batch of cotton samples, washed in washing soda: here you can see the extreme color changes from white to bluish purple (fresh out of the pot). This was the highlight of my day!

colors of my wisteria, bluish purple

a lovely color for a vintage lacy table linen

Collage of pictures to see, touch, smell, and savor

~Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melinda Tai and Obovate Designs with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Thank you for visiting, I welcome all your comments.♥

“A smile is worth a thousand words, live happy, dye happiest.”

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