OK, so we ran low on fresh fruit and veg in the house and there were a couple of errands to run, so I made the two-hour drive to Nakuru to stock up. I once made the trip in an hour and five minutes, driving at 130 kph, but in those days the road was good enough. Not so anymore! Just getting from our house to the main highway takes me nearly a half hour over unpaved, stony ground! This is due to Lake Baringo having risen so much over the last couple of years. I noticed a story about that in The Daily Nation today–all about schoolchildren battling snakes to get an education!
I shopped where I usually do, calling in at the new Gilani Meat and Eat butchery which has recently moved to a new location, and from there going on to Nakumatt for what Gilani’s did not have available. This little video of that Nakumatt’s opening will give you some idea of how modern we are here!
With my grocery cart heavily overloaded and already heading out the door, I remembered that I wanted to find some henna to try out my friend Charu’s suggestion of using it to dye fabric. I awkwardly spun the overloaded trolley around and headed back in toward Customer Service. The folks at the Nakuru Nakumatt who work the CS desk are great!! They quickly put out a call, and someone came from deep in the shop to collect me and show me their stock of henna. I parked my trolley beside one of the KK Security Guards and headed back into the shop. Lo and behold, there was henna on the shelf!
I quickly made my last purchase of the day, added the henna to my waiting trolley and bumbled out the door for my car. I had managed to accomplish all I needed to in the short time I had in town, and I was still facing a two hour drive to get home before dark.
Godrej Nupur Henna
Now, I have the henna! The brand is Godrej from Mumbai, India, and it is “With goodness of Amla, Brahmi and Bhringraj”–the ingredients are listed as Amla, Bhringaraj, Brahmi, Jaswant, and Henna: Emblica officionalis, Eclipta alba, Centella asiatica (funny–we used to export this one!), Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis and Lawsonia inermis. Find Godrej on Facebook and eBay.
Charu said to mix the henna with water and instant coffee and put it into a container with the fabric and some iron. I happen to have an old iron–I mean, REALLY old. You may never have seen one of these. They look much like an electric iron for pressing your clothing, but this one dates from a time before electricity. The people who used this iron had to set it directly into the fire, then lift it, wipe off any charcoal and “strike while the iron was hot!” I think this one probably will not suffer too much from a night in a dye bath, so I intend to use it for my alchemical purposes.
What I don’t have, though, is instant coffee. I cannot think why the coffee would be necessary, but if anything, I’ll simply brew a pot of the real stuff and throw that in for good measure. To me, instant coffee is a sacrilege and I refuse to buy it!!
So, that’s the next step in my plan, a plan that seems to be unfolding day by day to help me do something with all the pink silk fabrics I have. I have it in mind to do some kind of tie-dyeing for some of the fabrics I dye with henna, just to add texture.
Yesterday, though, I simply could not wait any longer to see how my mud cloth was doing. I snipped a bit off one of the painted cloths and washed it in hand soap and cold water to see whether the soy milk had done its job, whether it was working. OK, so some of the mud washed off, but I’ve definitely got color change!
First test of mud cloth
In this photo, you see the snippet I cut and laundered. Notice the dark thread coming off it? That thread probably took more mud because the fiber were more open than those in the more tightly woven cloth itself. That thread nearly matches in color the mud you can see on the face of the cloth at top right. I laid the snippet on the back of the cloth to show the difference in the fabric’s previously dyed color. My hope is that the mud will result in more color change if I leave it on longer, but even if it doesn’t do that, I’m pretty sure I’m going to prefer the earthier color of the mud paint.
By the way, this last paint job I did, one cloth painted solid with mud, showed me immediately the benefits of working with some kind of resist. I know you can boil the daylights out of potatoes or rice and use the thickened liquid as a resist. I’ve done it before on cotton, but it was really hard to wash it out.
I think there’s some dishwashing liquid people in the US use as a resist; does anybody know why it works, what the key ingredient is? If you do, please let me know in a comment below so I can try to source something similar here; thanks! Whatever I decide to use, it will have to dry before I paint mud over it; otherwise any imagery would be smeared.
I intend to let the fabrics I’ve printed so far “cure” for about 2-3 weeks before laundering all of them and using them to make a new lot of quilts. Meanwhile, I’ll give the henna a try and let you know how that turns out.
I realized while painting my mud cloths that I have a definite preference in fabrics. I LOVE solid colors. I love stripes, too, because you can twist and turn them in tricky counterplays. I LOVE textures in dyed cloths, whether actual surface texture like slubs and imperfections, or dyed/printed to look like texture.
I do not like prints! I don’t like prints because I never know what to do with them! My designs are almost always based on lines, and prints obscure the seam lines that I find so important. This is all great news to me! It shows me a clear way forward in my work!!
What other suggestions do you have for creating color on cloth when you’re in the African bush?! I need all the help I can get!! Read more . . .