Catharine Ellis
Natural Dye: A Focus on Cellulose Fibers and Printing

Session Two - June 17-23, 2018


Course Description
Natural dyers often find cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, ramie, Tencel, etc.) more challenging to dye with natural colorants than protein fibers. The core of this class will cover various approaches to successful mordanting and dyeing of these plant-based fibers.

We will use both immersion and printing techniques, including mordant printing, direct application of dyes, mordant discharge, and layering of color. Mordants will include both alum and iron and we will use tannins extensively.

The class will make an organic indigo vat and explore immersion dyeing, color mixing, and printing applications with indigo, including indigo discharge and resists.

Emphasis will be placed on experimentation and accurate record keeping. Each participant will build a reference notebook of samples and processes for future reference and use. Small individual projects may be dyed at the end of the week as time permits.

This class will stand on its own or can be combined with Natural Dye: A Focus on Protein Fibers and Printing from Session I at Shakerag for a more comprehensive overview of natural dye practice.

Artist's Biography
Catharine Ellis has been making textiles for over 40 years. Her work most often combines both weaving and dyeing. For the last 10 years her focus has been primarily on natural dyeing, and she continues to research and develop new applications for the use of natural colorants in her own textiles and for her teaching. Catharine is the author of Woven Shibori, (Interweave Press, 2005). An extensively updated version, released in 2016, focuses on natural dyes. She is currently collaborating with Joy Boutrup on a new book: The Art and the Science of Natural Dye (Schiffer Press). Her work has been exhibited in venues worldwide and she teaches internationally.

Artist's Statement
My mom taught me how to bake. We made cakes from scratch and I learned why the butter and sugar were creamed and how the eggs helped with the leavening. There was “science” in our kitchen, though I’m sure that my Mom never saw it that way. She just knew how and why things were done and the correct sequence. I credit my love of the natural dye process to those first kitchen experiences. I’ve learned how to apply a mordant, when to use a tannin, and the importance of using the very best ingredients. Each process or dyebath has its own distinct smell. Each plant requires its own treatment, and I’ve even begun to grow some of my dye plants.

My dye studio is a place where experiments happen every day. The cycle of experiencing, learning, and teaching causes my work to grow and evolve in ways that I am never able to predict.

Website: Catharine Ellis

Supply List:

  • A couple of old towels for cleaning up
  • A protective apron or smock
  • Scissors (for both paper and fabric)
  • A loose-leaf binder
  • A roll (or two) of double stick tape
  • Fine point black sharpie marker
  • Cellulose textiles for class experiments will be provided for the entire class but you many want to bring some of your own raw materials (fibers, yarns, or fabrics) that are typical of your own studio work for experimenting. Cellulose includes cotton, linen, ramie, Tencel or bamboo.
  • Simple printing and application tools such as brushes, a small silkscreen, stamps, stencils, etc. I will have some of these to share as well.
  • Dried dye plants that you might have gathered (or grown) and would like to experiment with.
  • Rubber gloves (long enough to come up well over the wrist)






Catharine Ellis

email page print page small type large type
powered by finalsite