I’ve never been much into craft classes. Books and the internet are my normal sources of training, because they are available when I want to know something. Which is usually so that I can start something NOW.
But every now and then, something catches my eye. I had seen that the University of Leeds had an exhibition called Resists: exploring resist-dyed textiles across cultures, which runs until 13th December 2018, and I was toying with the idea of going. But I was busy with work, and it is a long way to go. Then I saw they were running a stitch resist workshop afternoon, so combining the two seemed like a good bet.
Bintan Titisari gave us some background to this traditional Indonesian techniques, showing us the range of effects that are created on various different islands, and some of the traditional motifs. We were then let loose with cotton bags and a pencil to create our own designs. Mine combines two traditional motifs, with the general plan of representing a storm, with rain coming from the cloud motifs, a blue background, and rainbow colours appearing at random.
Once our designs were complete, we sewed along the lines with running stitch, gathered up the stitching, and tied the thread in very firm knots. This technique is a form of tie dying, where the dye can’t get at all the fabric because of the bulk of the fabric round the gathers. I intended to take a picture at this stage, but we were running out of time, so I forgot. Bother.
The next stage was to move into a lab to apply the colour. It felt very strange to be decked out in lab coats, goggles, and gloves to mix and apply Dylon, which is safe to use in your kitchen at home. We had dye in primary colours, and after soaking our bags in a background colour for 15 minutes, we moved on to carefully squirting other colours in selected places using plastic ketchup bottles, which seems rather incongruous in a lab. We could then choose whether we went for the technical option of leaving our bags to be “cooked” at 40°C for 24 hours in the University’s special colour setting oven, or taking it home and leaving it wrapped in cling film for 24 hours. I went for the latter option, to avoid going back to collect the bag. The picture shows my dyed bag being properly wrapped by two experienced textile specialists.
Once the parcel had matured for 24 hours (OK a bit longer, while I got round to it), I rinsed the bag in cold water and left it to dry, before undoing the knots and releasing the stitches. At this stage, the cotton is crinkled where the stitches used to be. It is possible to stitch both sides of the bag separately, but as you can see, to save time, I sewed through both layers at once. The two sides are slightly different, due to different amounts of extra colour being applied.
To remove some of the creases, I soaked it in water again, dried and ironed it.
I’m pleased with the result, but it is interesting to see that you can see the places where I was rushing because I was running out of time.
I always think it is interesting to reflect on what I’ve actually learned on any training course. Sometimes it isn’t what it I expected it to be. The most useful things from this course were:
- I was reminded of a method of making a knot at the end of your thread. Hold the end of the thread on your needle with your thumb, wrap the thread round the needle 4 or 5 times, and pull the needle through the loops. How could I have forgotten that?
- I was introduced to cotton darners. This type of needle was easy to thread, and good for any technique where you are making long lines of stitches, or large straight stitches. They are easily available in good old Samuel Taylors in Leeds, but I didn’t have time to go back there on the way to the train. I’ve had blank looks in several shops, but have now found a pack.
- When I’ve tried this technique on my own, I have used a strong polyester thread. The thread we used was slightly rough, which helps to hold the fabric in place. This photo is not the best, but it serves as a quick reminder of the “new” needles and thread.