A recent visit to the Textile Museum of Canada for the Sheila Hicks: Material Voices exhibit was an exciting and colourful foil for our grey Toronto January weather.  The entire third floor of the facility was hung with her monumental bas relief fibre pieces.


Perpetual Migration, 2014 – 2015


Baoli Chords/Cordes Sauvages Pow Wow, 2014 -2015


Predestined Color Wave I and II, 2015


Mandan Shrine 2016


Convergence (Vermala)

The museum provided audio and video background information on individual work, as well as dvd loops on the development of major permanent installations at the Ford Foundation in NYC and MGIC in Milwaukee.  For more go to sheilahicks.com

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This summer the guild explored the mysteries of dyeing with natural Indigo.  The dye day was indeed wet and wild with a full downpour at times but the process was fascinating and the results amazing.  Indigo is a two stage process involving Preparation of the Dye Bath and the Dyeing itself.  Luckily Heather, one of our members who does beautiful eco printing was familiar with the process.

Preparation of the Dye Bath was done 3 days in advance and involved carefully adding a Stock Solution of indigo to a prepared 5 gallon plastic Vat that could be covered with a tight lid. The tight lid ensures that the dye bath does not oxidize.  The blue of indigo comes from oxidation.  You want this to happen in your cloth or yarn once it’s removed from the vat and exposed to the air.  This oxidation in your fibre ensures colourfastness.  You do not therefore want the dye bath itself to oxidize, because then it can no longer give you a colourfast dye in your fibre.


To make the Stock Solution, indigo powder was combined with some hot water in a plastic jar.  As indigo does not easily dissolve in water we added some marbles, capped the jar and shook for a couple of minutes.  Other chemicals to adjust the ph, aid reduction (deoxidization) and provide a mordent were then added. The stock was left for an hour . We were delighted when it changed from blue to clear yellow indicating that reduction (deoxidation) had occurred.


The Vat was filled with five gallons of hot water, treated with the ph and reduction agents and let to stand for 15 minutes and then the Stock Solution was carefully added.  This we did by inverting the stock jar into the vat while keeping the mouth of the stock jar under the surface of the water in the vat. No splashing here!  That would add oxygen to the mixture.  We then left the  dye bath covered for the 3 days preceding the workshop.  It also remained covered during the dying process.

Dye Day arrived and so did our eco printer and our spinners carrying their scoured yarn.  Scouring in hot water for an hour using Synthrapol for cotton and Orvus Paste soap for silk or wool is important in this process. The full effect of natural dyes can only be realized if any oils or treatments have been removed form your cloth or yarn.

Dyeing is done by carefully introducing your fibre to the Dyebath, leaving it covered for 5 to 15 minutes and carefully removing it allowing for minimal bubbles.  As you rinse and then dry your piece in the air the blue colour magically develops.  For best colourfastness with natural indigo it is recommended to dip, rinse and dry several times for short intervals.  The pictures below show Pat’s hand spun after the first dip and after a later dip.

img_2870  img_2871

At the back of the drying rack in the picture above is the first stage in the creation of Ann’s space dyed yarn. Using a 40 ‘ skein, she has added a resist at intervals by wrapping with plastic and tying with string. Once the yarn was dry she unwrapped these areas and over dyed the whole skien resulting in a double blue effect.  We look forward to seeing the socks for which this yarn is destined.

indigo-drying-2 img_2868


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Marian, Barb and Jill met at the Arboretum at the Royal Britannia Gardens to walk the trails of Cootes Paradise.  The Lilacs were in full bloom. It was a beautiful day and the scents and sights were amazing. What a way to inspire creative juices.  Image a lilac tinted dyepot to enhance the beauty of our spinners yarn or to colour some carded merino for felting.  Isn’t there a poem that says at a certain age in life we can all wear purple?


(Jill took the top two photos and Marian the bottom one.  Barb’s husband Paul edited Marian’s photo.  The dogwood was also in bloom which is a bright contrast to the lilacs.)

The  trio then headed to Waterdown for coffee and lunch at the Copper Kettle. They also checked out the Harrington Lane Farm store where they are running out of our cards again and have sold Carole’s red tea towel. Maybe next time the tea towel could be in lilac!

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People say there is nothing to do unless you are in the city.  This guild member proved that exploring her neck of the woods can really fill your day!

“Saturday was a beautiful day for a road trip. We started at the very south part of Hwy 6 at the Royal Botanical Garden’s (RBG) Native Plant sale.

We then headed north on Hwy 6 to Wellington Fibres. Donna did an excellent tour of the processes and the machines used to produce the yarn from her goats and customer’s sheep fleeces.


The colours in the shop were gorgeous and tempting. The babies in the barn were very cute. It was interesting that one of the female goats kept trying to get into another pen to attack another mother. 


After the open house we headed to Elora for lunch and a view of the gorge.”

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Our traveling weaver spent time exploring Granville Island and discovered some wonderful pieces at the  Studio Store.  Here again are her comments and photos.

“Thirty years ago Diane Sanderson established the Silk Weaving Studio Store on Granville Island, Vancouver BC.  Always worth the trip downtown.  I bought a bit more silk; finer this time, 2/30 “


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One of our guild members is currently touring out in BC and Alberta.  She recently attended a textile exhibit.  Here are her words….

“Rust has really come into its own as a mordant for natural dyes of late.  My first inkling of this was the guild experiment of rolling up some steel wool, salt and vinegar with tea leaves in silk scarves which, when left overnight in a warm place wrapped in plastic resulted in stunning transferred patterns.  

 This early version of ‘Eco Printing’ was expanded last summer at a guild member’s cottage with rust cloths prepared by immersing old sheeting wrapped around rusty farm implements in an acid bath overnight.  Cotton cloth soaked in the resulting rust water was then laid out and covered first with a pattern of leaves and with then the rust cloths and a layer of saran.  Once rolled around a dowel and  sealed tightly with packing tape and twine these scrolls were boiled for several hours.  Again the transferred pattern of the leaves was stunning.

 Recently at the ‘Mended’ exhibition by the BC Surface Design Association I was interested to find the following two rusted works.” 


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One of our guild members spent this winter in Florida.  Kathleen is a novice basket maker.  She attended the Stowe Basketry Festival for the first time three years ago and has taken to this craft like a duck to water.   Below is her summary of her winter in the south along with photos of her finished work.  She is a novice no longer.

kathleen gathering pine needles

“I spent the winter in the northwest corner of Florida and worked on pine needle coiling.  I networked with other coilers, basket makers and foragers.  Everybody was warm and welcoming to this “Northerner” who was exploring the area and what it had to offer.  I was lucky enough to attend the Mobile Alabama Basket Makers monthly meeting and was taught a few new tricks of the craft.  I pineconewent out into the “wilds” of Alabama and foraged for my own pine needles and was thrilled to find some up to 22″ and even 24″.  And look at the size of the pine cones.   

What an adventure that was!  We were in the middle of nowhere and all of a sudden I heard a gunshot.  Yep! I was deep in the south!”  

Kathleen McDonald.


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