Recently we were treated to a taster workshop on using soya milk and natural pigments to colour cloth. Colleen had attended a full workshop during the summer with textile artist, Claire Benn in the UK and was willing to share her knowledge with us. The sharing of skills and techniques within our group is an important part of being a collective. It takes the mystery out of something that can seem daunting and allows further exploration within a structured course if the process appeals to one. Dying of cloth can involve many chemicals and solvents that are not good for the environment so it was great to sample a method that is more environmentally friendly.
Using soya milk as a binder for the pigment is a cheap and ecological alternative to using acrylic binders. Soya bean is rich in protein which has adhesive like qualities and, when made into a milk, it bonds with the fibres of the cloth. To make the milk you soak the soya beans overnight and then blend into a milk.
This method is suitable for use on natural fibres, both cellulose (linen, cotton, viscose/rayon) and protein fibres such as silk and wool. The fabric must be scoured before use to remove the size or dressing used in the manufacturing process.
As you can see from the images we were really just playing with the process and the pigments. I don’t have any final images to show as the cloth has to be left to cure for four weeks before it can be ironed and used.
I have just outlined the basics of the process here but there is a lot more detail you will need if you are to try it yourself. Fiber Arts Take Two are releasing an online workshop in March 2023 called ‘Out of This Earth’ with Claire Benn, if anyone is interested in learning more. You can sign up to get notified of their courses and they have wonderful interviews with textile artists around the world and are a great source of information on textile art. www.fibreartstaketwo.com. Claire Benn is a textile artist, author and teacher who is passionate about landscape and the environment and you can see her work or sign up to her blog on her website. https://www.clairebenn.com.