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Aloha from Molokai

February 8, 2009

Greetings from the island of Molokai, Hawaii.

On this, our 25th year of coming here, I am finding new paths, renewing old interests, kicking back and having a lot of fun with fiber.

For starters I’m dyeing, in what has to be the most beautiful dye kitchen in the world.

I’m handpainting silk caps and hankies…

…and spinning them on hand spindles. Here is a purple hankie with a 15 gram Holly long shaft Featherweight Bossie.

Next, with the help of a good book and Carol Lee’s fine DVD, I have come back to an old love from many years ago: natural dyeing with plant extracts.

I chose six kinds of plants that grow near my doorstep: hibiscus flowers, areca palm, avocado pits and peels, koa haole, schefflera, and beach naupaka. I extracted the dye by putting flowers or leaves in quart canning jars with hot water, and left them on the lanai to steep in the sun for a couple of weeks.

When it came time to dye my fiber, where better to begin than with that quintessential Hawaiian flower, red hibiscus.

The extract and dyebath were a rich wine red.

I put alum-mordanted wool yarn, a Bombyx cap (sometimes a hankie), and some tussah top into the dyebath, heated it, and let it cool overnight The next morning Mother Nature delivered one of her surprises.

The wool yarn came out of the purple dyebath gold, and the silks emerged gray. After rinsing, the gray proved to be a soft sage green.

The other plants gave a lovely array of rich golds, subtle bronze tans, bright yellows and rosy browns.

Two of the plant extracts fermented spontaneously, so I set up ammonia/hydrosulfite vats for them. They rewarded me with an intense saffron yellow and a creamy pale primrose.

What marvelous complex colors, especially on the silks. What a delight. I know there are more plants, more mordants, and more surprises here in Hawaii. And surely more awaiting me at home.
Aside from fiber pursuits, not much has changed this year in our little corner of paradise.

The flowers are beautiful.

The trade winds blow a gale through the channels between the islands.

The neighbors come to call.

And the sunsets are spectacular.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2009 8:25 am

    Looks and sounds like heaven. Your colours are quite heavenly too.

  2. February 11, 2009 1:16 pm

    Wow. Thank you for the mini-vacation!

  3. February 11, 2009 4:39 pm

    What a life! I’m glad you’re feeling better and get to enjoy it at 100% now.
    Your experiments are so fun to watch, too!

  4. February 12, 2009 7:45 am

    Beautiful photo essay! I love how you dyed to match that flower.

  5. February 12, 2009 7:58 pm

    Oh, I’m so jealous I’m green! At least I have a Holly spindle that arrived just today to cheer me up! 🙂

  6. Sam permalink
    February 12, 2009 11:28 pm

    Jan, this was an utterly delightful read! Thank you so much for sharing your process and your gorgeous photos. I love the natural dyeing experiments and would love to talk more about this. I love your chickens neighbors. 🙂

  7. February 13, 2009 3:56 pm

    Wow, what a great story of your adventures! I’m so glad you got a chance to play and experiment, your colors are fabulous. Now, what’s this Kerry wrote about feeling bad? I hope it’s nothing serious? I am hoping to SEE you soon when we hopefully are up in Winnipeg. 🙂

  8. February 17, 2009 3:02 pm

    Jan, you never cease to amaze me. What a delightful post.

  9. February 18, 2009 11:52 am

    The most beautiful dye studio in the world, indeed!

  10. February 21, 2009 8:20 pm

    How on earth did I miss this post for the last two weeks! I had no idea you’ve been going there for 25 yrs. Lucky you! The dyeing, the flower and sunset pics are are gorgeous. Aloha!

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