antique linen scarf

usually i do work on several projects at the same time. i have always worked like this, it’s the same with books – never just one.

so, one of my current long term projects is an antique linen scarf. it used to be a pillow case which i took apart. the linen is of a beautiful quality, handwoven, a wonderful linen sheen, drapes really nicely. it is has also thinned out a lot, it’s around 100 years old after all.

originally i wanted to keep it white and visibly mend all the worn out areas with vintage buttonhole silk. i did do a few of those mends. then, in summer 2020 i took a workshop in plant dyeing and dyed the whole piece with indigo.

then it sat for a while, as i wasn’t sure how to progress. the next idea was then to cover it with sashiko stitched geometric patterns, thus strengthening the fabric and keeping it from wearing out more. turns out, the fabric did only want to be stitched along the grain. so, i decided to listen and cover the whole piece in rows and rows of parallel sashiko stitching. this will take a while, but i’m not in a hurry. i stitch a few rows whenever i feel like it. whenever i come across another thinned out area, i mend it, patch it, and stitch on. i kept all the prior ideas in terms of stitching – taking out would have made the fabric deteriorate even more, and somehow i found it nice to have all stages of this project visible in some way; also visualising the way my stiching has already changed over time, and i’m sure it will keep doing so. and that’s just what learning is – practicing and having the practice change you and your work.

this is how thin the fabric is, it’s almost see-through.

a patched area:

and some mended areas that pre-date me, they already existed when i bought the pillow case; plus a hand stitched monogram. i really like finding mended areas in vintage or antique fabrics. they are traces of the textile’s story.

and a close up of the layers of sashiko stitching. the white ones were my first attempt. now the whole piece will be covered in stitches like the blue ones, in different shades of indigo dyed thread by Sashi.Co. on another note, if you want to know more about sashiko and hear the voices of japanese people who have been practicing sashiko throughout several generations, check out the instagram and youtube of atsushi from Sashi.Co (or Upcycle Stitches, which is their us website). sashiko is much more than just running stitches on fabric. there is a deep history and culture attached to sashiko, and i really recommend to get a glimpse into this world by listening and learning and not just copying a style.

yellow

recently i was gifted with a few tagetes flowers that were left since summer and still out in the winter cold. dried up and frozen over several times, i wondered if there was still any dye left in them.

tagetes erecta plant in winter

i picked the dried flower heads and took them home. to use them for dyeing, i put them in a pot with water, heated everything up and let it simmer for a while. you’re basically making tea, a very concentrated one. every once in a while i dip a piece of fabric to get an idea of the dye colour and strength.

tagetes flower head soaked in water to be heated up

once the dye is to my liking, i strain out the flower heads and let it cool down over night. as i mainly work with linen and cotton, for a dye like tagetes the fiber needs to be mordanted before dyeing, otherwise the colour will not stick to the fabric and wash out. for this i currently use an aluminium formate (aluminium triformiat, C3H3AlO6) cold mordant, which i keep in a bucket and throw threads or fabric to be dyed in there. it is really practical, as it works at room temperature, and you can leave fiber in there for a long time if you don’t want to or can’t dye them immediately.

the next step is the actual dyeing. for this i slowly heat the dye up and add the threads/fabric after taking them out of the mordant and removing any excess mordanting liquid.

threads in tagetes dye

leave the fabric or thread in the dye until the colour pleases you. it will get a little less intense after drying, so keep that in mind.

thread in tagetes dye

once you like the colour, take out your fabric or threads, squeeze excess dye (careful – hot!!!) and hang up to dry.

sashiko thread freshout of the dye bath
freshly dyed vintage cotton/linen handkerchief fabric
sashiko & cotton embroidery thread

after a while the dye bath loses its power – it will stilly dye, but the colours will be much gentler.

embroidery thread – dye bath already less intense

after your fabrics and threads are dry, wait approximately two weeks before rinsing them for the first time, this helps the colour settle and really stick to the fibers.

these are all fabrics and thread dyed with tagetes flowers from @westspacevienna roof top garden. first dye bath:

sashiko and embroidery thread
linen, cotton & cotton/linen fabric

second dye bath:

embroidery thread
embroidery thread

i’m still amazed at how much colour and vibrancy was left in these dried up, shrivelled flower heads. will definitely go hunting for dyestuff in nature in the next weeks. i guess there could be a few more happy surprises out there.

and i look very much forward to work with these materials. it’s really special to know where the plants come from and who grew them (thank you jana @netzwerkdachbesetzung & lilly @wiener_dachfarm for your generous gift of these flowers. ❤ and sandra @vermilio.vienna for helping me out with all my dyeing questions and troubleshooting). combined with vintage and antique fabric and thread i’m constantly hunting for, these will hopefully become nice and slow textile works in the near future.

plant dye

a few recent plant dyeing experiments.

purple/violet – avocado kernels with iron mordant (iron (II) acetate (basically rust in vinegar) on linen fabric and cotton embroidery floss

pink – avocado kernel on linen and cotton embroidery floss

dark brown – walnut husks on linen fabric and cotton embroidery floss

lighter brown – yellow onion skins with iron mordant on linen fabric and cotton embroidery floss

yellow – two different batches of tagetes flowers, collected in january (dried out, frozen over a few times, still on the stalks, and they still had so much colour!) on vintage handkerchiefs (cotton and linen/cotton), linen fabric, cotton embroidery floss and cotton sashiko thread

plant dyed fabrics and thread

stitching practice

this was today’s work – stitching on my slow stitching piece. it is something like a stiching journal – a piece i stich on whenever i don’t have the headspace to work on something more complicated, or when i need to find a place of calm.

and just today the thought occured, that maybe rather than a side-project, a side category, maybe this is really the core of my work with textiles and stitching. the slow, repetitive movement of pulling thread through a piece of fabric so that it might clear my head, give me space to think, slow me down, makes me present if only a few minutes a day. and whatever emerges, emerges. sometimes it feeds into my other creative areas, sometimes it’s just stitches. sometimes my stitches add up and eventually become a garment. but sometimes, just stitches…

running stitch on avocado dyed linen; vintage embroidery floss

Grain

I had forgotten how much I love the look of silver grain, the moment when you see your developed film for the first time, or even the scans. And sometimes there is the odd shot that makes my heart jump from the sheer beauty of that grain. Just the grain itself…

Both Icarex 35S with Zeiss Tessar 50/2.8 and Kodak Trix400; lab scans. Light leaks and all (or wherever this kind of streaking is coming from – hints highly appreciated), these two images make me really happy. Their beautiful grain does.

Sandvorspülung/Sand Replenishment

The East Frisian Islands on the German North Sea coast are constantly eroding and moving, as they are basically sand deposits in the sea. Some of the islands are constantly moving towards the East, as sand is eroded on the west side and deposited on the east side due to storms and currents in the sea. To protect the coastline of the islands and also the people living there, some islands like Norderney use sand replenishment (Sandvorspülungen in German). This means, a special kind of ship (hopper dredger; Saugbaggerschiff or Hopperbagger) collects sand from a sand bank close to the beach and then pumps it through a pipeline on the beach.

This year a sand replenishment was done while we were there and as I’m always fascinated by things I haven’t seen before, of course I took pictures. If you want to know more about the whole process, wikipedia is your friend. 🙂

The pipeline is running along the beach and is moved on as the sand builds up. The ship connects to the pipeline and then pumps a mix of water and sand through the pipeline. It’s really quite impressive to see how this works. The ship is the Magni R from Denmark.

Stella Maris

Norderney, one of the islands on the German north sea coast, apart from its stunning nature, has lots of architectural gems. Buildings dating back to the Weimarer Republik, Bäderarchitektur, Jugendstil, Gründerzeit, perfect houses from the 50ies, as well as the occasional eyesore from the 70ies (some of the have their own kind of beauty, some just don’t). And then there is the summer church Stella Maris, built in 1931 by Dominikus Böhm. It is a Neue Sachlichkeit building, also known as Bauhaus. When I accidentally discovered it last year, I took a guided tour and snapped a few pictures. This year I didn’t manage to get in, so only got a few shots from the outside. I liked the clarity and simplicity of the church, the way the light works on the outside and in the inside. It feels nordic in its no nonsense-ness, very welcoming and open.

More info about the church (in German) here: Stella Maris