Mad in Pursuit Notebook

North South East West Cardinal directions cosmogram

Earth Cloth: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Feb. 18, 2016. In my fascination with textile arts, I keep wanting to make "eco-prints," or rich patterns on cloth using botanical material. Here in the northern hemisphere, it isn't really the season, so I decided to experiment with the onion skins I'd been saving in the freezer for just such an occasion.

Onion skins are natural dye 101. They reliably produce brown. After my handful of experiments with mediocre results last year, starting at the beginning seemed like a good idea. Silk is also good for beginners: as a protein-based fiber it takes on color easily. Did you know that the Chinese were making cloth from the cocoons of silk worms as early as 2700 B.C.E.? Anyway, including an iron blanket further increases my chances for success. Iron is powerful, deepening and "saddening" colors.

Creating earth cloth isn't difficult. It's mostly slow and requires a sense of adventure. Moving through the process helps me step out of my easy reliance on mass-produced cloth and clothing. It puts me in the mindset of pre-industrialized women, who needed create beauty in their inventive use of what they had at hand and in their patience for the long haul. Tasks like discovering rusty nails to put in an iron bath take a certain life strategy, a willingness to consider alternate uses for throwaways, and a folk knowledge of how the world works.

Recipe for this week's project




The advice I've read says to allow the material to "cure" for 5-7 days before washing/rinsing to retain the best color. I did iron my scarf because I was anxious to see how it turned out. See image at top.

Iron Blanket

Iron liquor. Combine in a jar: a few rusty found objects, like nails, washers, etc. and a solution of 2 parts water, 1 part white vinegar. Close the jar and let it sit for a couple weeks till a rusty-orange color appears. It can be kept indefinitely, used and reused.(from Sasha Duerr, The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes)

For an "iron blanket," soak a long strip of cotton (mine was about the same size as the silk scarf) in the iron liquor for at least an hour. Layer it into the bundle. The cotton strip will also pick up the imprint, but can be washed and returned to the iron liquor for the next project.


Bundle of silk, onion skins, and iron-soaked muslin


THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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All pages in this website by Susan Barrett Price are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. [The snowstorm image at the top of this page came from Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons license.]