Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Weekend with Flax and Linen

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending The New England Flax and Linen Symposium in Historic Deerfield, Massachusetts organized by the Flax and Linen Study Group of Historic Deerfield Mass. 
This event took two years to put together. 
It's been almost a week since and I'm still processing all that I learned. 
Basically, my mind was blown away more than once. 

As a long time wool person who thrives in this slow process in which I insist in working, I could appreciate greatly all the love, passion, struggles, failures, discoveries, creations, sharing of stories and techniques that everyone who came to speak so willingly and excitedly shared with us all. 

It was all such a treasure!!!

There were historians, weavers, farmers, dyers, mill owners, biologists, environmental activists, authors, textile researches, anthropologists, spinners, and so much more. 
All there to learn and share alike.

As a mother of a 14 month old, it was delicious to get away for a bit on my own. As
I arrived early Friday evening and enjoyed driving through Greenfield and Deerfield admiring the golden light setting in, a peace washed over me that helped set my mind into a much needed gear of cleansing and opening up to receive information. I drove by beautiful fields and many odd abandoned looking buildings. Beautiful dark rich wooden barns and endless rivers and ponds. So many dye plants too but I knew it wasn't time to think about that. It was freeing not to do a thing except attend every talk and demo, rest, and eat. 

Driving down the road of Historic Deerfield was a treat in itself. 
I found a beautiful peacefulness that my mind desperately needed. 

 A few of the most inspiring speakers for me where; 
Cassie Dickson from North Carolina. I could listen to her speak all day. She spoke about retting methods which is the key process of helping the flax to turn into linen. 
I was completely inspired by what Cassie shared and I I came away feeling like it was something I could do on my own.  
Cassie spoke about her processes and her experiments about dew retting and getting various colors from just this process. That was my favorite part of the entire weekend. 

Here's one of her slides of various flax bundles dew retted in North Carolina at various times of year. 
Don't you just love these colors?!

Cassie also teaches every year at the John C. Campbell Folk School, usually during their Shaker week a Linen and Silk class. I cannot wait to do this some day. She told me students will be working with silk cocoons from the silk worms she rises. How amazing is that?!?!?

Another favorite speaker of mine was Jeff Silberman from the Fashion Institute of Technology. He spoke about his personal farming experience and gave a wonderful overview of the textile market today.
These next two pictures are of his slides regarding his research of the world textile production. 
Very eye opening to me. 

I was surprised to see silk at 0% and flax at 1%


On the first day we all had a chance to see the whole seed to fabric process take place in most of it's forms. Though I did not get a photo of each step, these are in order. I have to admit, after a very full morning of talks with such rich info, and then it being in the mid 80's around noon, my brain had already melted and then I started to physically melt. It was very hard for me to stand in the beating sun with so many people watching these processes and kind of competing to ask questions. I knew that I would learn better some other time and I was already making mental notes on continuing my learning. 

I'm excited about planting a very full bed of flax next year, then hanging it to dry. 
They were very fast talks and explanations about some of these processes but I feel confident about trying each of them out when the time comes. 

I learned you have to keep all the fibers lined up through the whole processing period. 
dried flax

After the dried flax has spent some time rotting (retting) it is dried again to then just be beaten until the outer core comes away and the softer middle is revealed. I'm not using correct term I'm sure, remember I just learned some of this stuff. 

The dried out layers has be removed by being kind of scraped away. 
scutching the dried flax
Then the scutching can begin. Which is to comb the fibers. The fluffy bits left behind is known as tow flax- which can also be spun, but separately I believe. This scutching process gets the flax down to a finer material which will be easier to work with on the wheel. 
combing the flax or heckling

Below is the flax spun up which some one used a spinning wheel for. 
This presenter (I'm so sorry but I've lost track of whose sample this is!) did various test samples of her washing/ bleaching methods to show us the process. 
I just love seeing them all together like this. Just fabulous, a design in itself. 

I can see myself going through the bleaching process in order to then dye a very pure color, but I LOVE these natural colors so much. I think I would also do some over dying of the natural colors. Can you see indigo and madder over dyed onto these greys? 

I also had a chance to explore a little bit and catch my breath from all the learning. 

I discovered a butterfly garden  which was delightful when I suddenly found myself surrounded by monarchs and these bright blue butterflies. 

And early Saturday morning I attended the Greenfield Farmer's market where I got some great tomato growing tips, found the softest sheep skin for R's book nook and yarns for myself. I love collecting locally grown and spun yarns for my test dyeing. 

Well, my brain has not quite stopped buzzing with everything I learned and all these new ideas. I've got a BIG ONE cooking which I need to mull over and hash out with my beloved, but I'm SO EXCITED. Also come November I'll be taking this class with Amy King of Spunky Eclectic at Portfiber, my favorite local fiber shop. 

A HUGE THANK YOU to ALL who came to speak and helped to plan at this amazing Symposium.  

If you work with flax or linen, at any stage and want to share info here in the comments for others to find you, please do! 


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mothering Creative : Creative Mothering

It took me a while to figure this title. 
The words "mothering" and "creative" are becoming interchangeable and one of the same now. 
Inspired by Rumi's quote"Let the beauty of what you love be what you do." 
I've seen it shortened to "Do what you love what you do." 
Which has become my motto over the years. 

I've been wanting to get back into posting more like I used to but my head space has been limited. 
So this extra long post feels oh so good to just share with you various things I've been tinkering with here and there. 

When motherhood was approaching I knew everything would change completely. I feared never getting back to these spaces I so love and feel so much like myself. 
I also feared that if I spent time in my creative spaces, it meant I was being neglectful and not a loving mom. I've been stewing over these thoughts for a long time. 
My boy is now 8.5 months old and just started crawling this week. 
And I believe he's trying to cut his 7th tooth. 
It's a lot. 
With the help and encouragement of my husband, family members and friends simply modeling to me how they managed their self care in general, I soon realized part of my self care is continuing to grow and nurture my creative self. 
To mother it. 

I recognize now I only have tiny moments in between my tiny human's needs. 
I've let go of expecting long uninterrupted hours of time to myself. I knew it was coming and I tried to prepare myself. 
It's always been hard for me to put aside expectations. Or to even adjust/change them. But I'm working on it. And I think something is giving way, on my end, and it feels good. Like a relief even.

When I step outside the house, cross our muddy lawn, spotted with chicken poop and tufts of grass from our almost winter and into my studio, my endorphins light up and the tension in my upper back eases. I breath in the smell of this old space, once a garden shed, now insulated and painted white but with the original floor. 

Someday we'll add more new windows and add trim and sills. 

The wood, my burst iron liquor glass jar (whoops!), my oil paints. 
I look at my newly organized chaos of painting and dye equipment. 

My new but old Kessenich floor loom. 

Just a few corners of my studio. 

My lichen jars. 
this is pinker in person. a latge jar of xanthoria fermenting.

With baby monitor and coffee in hand, I feel both spacey and giddy but I get down to business. There's no time for staring off into space wondering how I should get started. 

I soak my yarn. Clean a pot for the cota. Fill the pot with water. Set it onto the heat. 

I start my fermented indigo vat. 
Grind the madder root. 

Weigh out my ingredients with the help of an Aurora Silks tutorial on a natural indigo fermentation vat. Which I've been dreaming about doing since 2011 ever since my neighbor who passed said loom onto me told me about this recipe. 

I'm really excited about this and I have it set up in my house with a box lined with foil and our chick light. 
Here's hoping! 

I'm just starting to feel a soothing flow of creative energy and concentration when it happens. 
A squawk and a cry. 
A grunt and a coo. 
He's awake. 
It's been 30 minutes. 
My heart sinks. 
I breath and gather myself for accepting what is. 
This moment. 
I wait a few more minutes. 
Organize, straighten. 
Turn off the burner. Head inside. 
I pause in his doorway and see he's still in his resting position, on his belly, with arms and legs tucked under him, like a frog. 
I wait, looking at him. I realize he's pooping. 
And I can see he also wants to sleep. 
Poor thing. 
I head in anyway.
We start our process of hugs, change, tickles, play, breakfast, nap. 
He goes down like a champ. I'm scattered even more then before but I see my window of open opportunity and I charge forward. 

After his next nap, we take a walk.

As short as it was getting outside, it made all the difference for both of us. 

It is so easy to forget that our little humans really doesn't need much. Not like we do. 
I'm an over thinker by nature but this guy is teaching me to just dive in, stay present, and to be better organized. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spinning Progress and a sneak peak for the next Maine Fiber Issue

It's such a beautiful thing. 
Especially with a little one at my feet.

I've some how managed to finished my white Navajo Churro fleece in the space of 2 weeks. 
I will have 7 skeins of single, woolen spun, aran weight, and 2 double plied, bulky, extra large skeins available dyed in various plants- some of which will be with New Mexican foraged plants I dried and brought home. Like Cota, or Navajo Tea which will yield light to medium earthy orange. I cannot wait!!

I promptly started in on the grey Navajo Churro fleece I bought from Tierra Wools in Los Ojos, New Mexico. 

I L O V E spinning this fleece sooooooooooooooo much. 

It's a larger size, the guard hairs are slightly softer and slightly less then the white fleece. 
And there is tons of long ultra soft wool, still with a bit of lanolin. 
I was hoping I could finish up this fleece by the end of this month, that's 7 days left. However, as of right now I have 11, 4 oz batts to spin. If I spin one a day and add a few extras on a few days, I can do it. We'll see. When I spin my single aran weight yarns though, I can fill a bobbin in about 40 minutes. 

In addition to all this spinning and staying home with my 7 month old love, I've been working on the issue of Northern Journeys Magazine for my Your Maine Fiber Connection column. Which will be out on April 1st. If you do not live in Maine, you can follow my link above to read the online edition. 
Northern Journeys Magazine is a free quarterly all arts publication. 

For this next issue I've interviewed the Cumberland County 4H Wool Breeders Group AND Nancy and Al of New Aim Farm and Mill in Waldoboro. 
In this section there will also be a seasonal plant dye recipe and a calendar of fiber events coming up. 

The flock at New Aim Farm and Mill, California Variegated Mutant Sheep

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Finally! Spinning Season Is Here; a white Navajo Churro Fleece

I fall more and more in love with this fleece every time I work with it. 
As I really should, as I did spent a number of obsessive hours de-hairing it. 
By hand. 
Purchased from a farmer named Pat, I met him at the Albuquerque State Fair last year in September. 
I was determined to find a white Navajo Churro fleece to bring home. 
Pat was standing outside the sheep tent with three sheep in a small demonstration pen and a fleece on the ground. 
My husband and I inquired about the fleece, we chatted for a while and we discovered that we both knew Peter Haggerty of Peace Fleece and I knew that this was the right place to buy my fleece. 
And it turned out it was the only place to buy a churro fleece at the state fair. 

I brought it back to our vacation rental, skirted, washed it in small batches then we shipped it home. This is the first time I've worked with a churro fleece. I worried a little bit that it would be too wiry or coarse but I'm quite pleased as it has a soft springy sometimes downy spongy texture. I just can't wait to dye it with the cota that I both collected and purchased, which gives a beautiful orange. 

This summer as my newborn was still in his super sleepy stage and sleeping through everything, he'd nap next to me in his Moses Basket on the porch in 70 degree weather as I worked on this first skeins, which I ended up plying.

I'll be spending the next 6 months or so spinning every chance I get.
I do have about 7-8 fleeces I'd like to get through. 
3 huge ones, and I think 4 very small ones, like 1 pounders. 
Despite what someone said to me when she saw me piling up fleeces at the Fiber Frolic when I was about 5 days from giving birth; 
Yes, I do have a baby now to care for and he will always come first. 
Also, I have myself to care for and if I don't make time to spin, I simply can't be.

So, watch me lady. 

If your a new parent or a seasoned parent, just remember, it's ok to do things for yourself too, and often. When we give our selves joy by creating moments and asking for help, or simply folding our children into the mix of what we are wanting to do, it can feed everyone emotionally. 

So, despite my having "no time" I'm also committing to sharing a post here once a week of my spinning progress and any other adventures and projects that might happen. 

Sharing makes me happy.  

p.s. Oh! I forgot to mention my new (old) loom!! More on that next time. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

A little wreath making

For years I've wanted to make my own wreaths.
I think it started when my older sister introduced me to this little shop in our home town called Welch Farm. It is unfortunately no longer open. It was a sweet farm store that had a room dedicated to just items made from dried flowers and other rustic style decorations. 

We fell in love with these wreaths made just of dried blushing pink hydrangeas. My sister gave me one for Christmas or a housewarming present, I can't remember. 
I loved this wreath and even though it was so fragile, it always moved with me adorning my front door or my bedroom door from apartment to apartment.
If someone would brush against this wreath, I'd hold my breath and clench my fists trying not to scream. 
It did finally kick the bucket though when it got acceidenly crushed during a move. 
I was so sad but knew it had a longer run than I thought it would. 

Ever since that time I've had a little bug to make my own wreaths out of other natural materials that I love.
Like these muscle shells from the beach just a few minutes walk from my house.

I collected them last April intending to make one for my son's room.
I have always loved this classic blue of the sea etched into these shells that scatter the Maine coast.

I used a $5.00 grapevine wreath from JoAnn Fabrics and a hot glue gun. I realized I had to sift through my pile to fine ones that were basicly the same the size and all going the same way. Because with mucsle shells there is a top and a bottom. Or a right and a left. Depending on howyou look at it.

I also wanted to make some winter wearths for all four of our door. Three for our house and one for my studio door. Everything in these wreaths I also found at JoAnn's. Though I realized that next time, I'm going to search for things on my property that have fallen on the ground.
I have a special spot in my heart for songbirds, especially cardinals. And lichens. And pine trees. The little trees and birds are not meant for outdoor decoriation, but I didn't care. I'll see how long they all last when our snow comes. In the spring I'll make something different. 
back door
studio door
all four together,

So many years have passed when I don't do any holiday or seasonal crafts/ activities and then I get really bummed out because I didn't plan or I was too busy. Making time to do things like this right around Thanksgiving really gets me in the spirit. 

Now, if only I can find time to make some salt ornaments....

What crafts put you in the mood for the holidays? 

Friday, December 4, 2015

Journey of a Yarn; the rainbow cap

5 years ago, my sister was expecting her 3rd baby. She asked me to create some of my rainbow yarn for a blanket. Her oldest, 4 then and with healing chicken pox, came over to spend the day with me and help prepare this special yarn for her future baby brother. 

I had the best day planned with my niece. It was filled with grilled cheese, tomato soup, and sharing my favorite Irish movie, Secret of Roan Inish. I just had to run to the store before hand to pick up the goodies. However, as I was leaving, my car died about 5 feet after I started driving. I then went carless for 2 years. It certainly made life more interesting but that's a story for another time. 

I loved doing this project with my niece as it's really kid friendly and even though she wasn't feeling her best, she was so into it. 
For the yarn, my sister requested mixed Bluefaced Leicester with silk which you can find here, my favorite local fiber shop, Portfiber. 

I love working with this fiber so much. With the grey and the silk mixed in, whatever you use for dye, it always looks so beautiful because of the multi textures. 

Dyeing rainbows is a lot of fun to do with roving. 
And because I wanted a very specific color placement, I used jars, which some call space dyeing. 
I think I dyed 8 oz or more. I may have dyed the roving in batches if that were the case. 
For the dyes I used 1 Kool-Aid packet of each:
yellow rite dye- the lemonade doesn't give a strong yellow
blue raspberry lemonade- be careful here. make sure the picture on the package shows a blue pitcher and not red!
and grape
oh! and strawberry sometimes to get that nice gradient inbetween the red and purple. 

I let my roving soak for a few hours. If it were just wool, it would have been 30 minutes or so. But silk takes much longer to absorb water. 

Lucy dumped each packet into the jars. With the yellow, I only sprinkled in a little bit because the pigment is so strong. 
With a tea kettle filled with just boiled water, I filled each jar about half way full. Lucy stuffed the roving in. I helped her by telling her when to stop stuffing so to keep the roving equal in each jar. I them topped each jar off with more water and with the end of a wooden spoon, she poked around each jar until the wool was completely submerged. We fiddled with each one to make sure color was swimming around the wool. 
After about half and hour- I don't like to wait longer than that because the wool soaks up the color so fast. I scooted the wool from each jar over into the next jar by about 2 inches so that as each color ends, it slightly bleeds into the next. This also gives you beautiful color gradiation. 

That's really all there is to it! I typically let these set for a day or until there is no colored liquid left. 
To make it go even faster, try this outside on a very sunny hot day and leave them in the sun. 
The red/cherry you can usually use again because there is so much pigment there (can you believe we used to drink this?!) With the purple, there will be blue color left which I always find amusing. But with the other colors, they usually get soaked up all the way. 

Once done dyeing, I gently pull up all the roving, squeeze and let soak in a room temperture bath, with a tiny bit of wool washing soap, like orvis paste. 
I then hang it dry. 

Once dry fully, I prepare for spinning. Because I wanted a long color repeat, I gently pulled the roving apart length wise so that I have continuous long pencil roving that started with red and ends with purple(or pink). Preparing your roving this way, makes it very easy to keep your spinning even. There is very little drafting you need to do and you can just let it flow from your fingers into a soft single. 

Once the yarn was spun, I wound it onto my knitty knotty (skein maker) and soaked it again (like I did for the roving). It helps set the twist of the yarn. 

My sister made a few items with this yarn and a little bit she had left over, went into a little cap for her middle child who is now 6. She recently passed that cap onto me for my baby. It was far to big for R's new head. So I frogged it, soaked the yarn again to get the knitted kinks out and started knitting a new hat for my babe. 

It took me 5 tries to get just the right fit. I've knit a ton of hats but hardly even knit baby hats. 
Living on an island with the wind we get, it was very important for me that he had a solid hat that covered his ears. 

I loved making this so much.
And you know what?
It still smells like Koolade!

And I love how this yarn has made it back to us in this full circle that's seen so much love between our two families. 
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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

New Shop Items, Baby Socks, and a Fiber Column

I've just have too many thoughts swimming around up here to get organized properly.
Or at least like I used to. 
Days of spending endless hours creating and writing are over. 
Or at least on hold, for a long while. 
But that's ok. I've got a human to raise and cuddle and love and just be with. 

Motherhood is a crazy time warp spent swimming through diapers, cuddles, and every emotion. 
And being a new mom whose life has been spent creating has its special challenages and highlights. 

My good friend, Casey recently told me about the podcast On Being with Krista Tippet. In particular this episode with Ann Hamilton. I loved the last question of the interview about balancing motherhood and creating. 

I had had a particular crappy week with teething issues with our 5 month old. 
The concept of balance has always eluded me. 
That is until however I heard the Ann's answer. 
I then started to feel differently. 
Thoughts mainly consisting of:
Nothing is written stone.
Lower my expectations for myself and for my baby's routine.
Sink in deeper and cuddle more.
Put off that project if it's not working. Let it breath, think about it, come back to it. 
The response Ann had to how she keeps her balance invloves looking at everything, from her art work, to making soup for her sick child, to whatever needs to come next- as all one big project. 
What I took away from it was
L E T  A L L  O F  I T  B E  YOUR  W O R K 
the laundry
the meals
the playing
the relaxing
the creating

And for me the word work isn't a negative one. But rather filled with privilege, meditation, graditude, hope, shelter, color, nourishment, entertainment, therapy. 

This past week, my heart has felt new aches for the world that it hasn't felt in a very long time. 
I've been reminded to be thankful all over again for the rhythm we've created in our family, the environment we live in and to remember to look up at strangers to smile, say hello, or even give a compliment. To just slow down and notice. 

So, to let all of it, my work, to be part of one project that is never ending. 
Doesn't it make sense? Because laundry and meals and general care of our selves and our child is not suppose to have an end. Neither should our creating. Or interacting with one another. 

I used to think I needed (and sometimes I still do) so much clear head space to get settled into a creating rhythm. But I also realized that part of my creating rhythm needs to include prepping and cleaning materials and making lists or steps and documenting- it's really endless what needs to go into creating. 

All this has come about for me with the approach of winter. I've been remembering that at the beginning of last year, I was writing and creating a dye tutorial once a week or this space to share. I miss my dyeing desperately and hope to get to it when I can. But in the mean time, I'd like get back to my once a week posting and share whatever I've been working on for the week. When I decided to do this, I was reminded that Damn! I make a lot! Despite the broken hours and stranded projects and misplaced ideas I have at 4am. I'm still creating!

For my shop, new Holiday themed project bags. I love making these so much. 
I am a fat quarters hound. I visit a fabric store and I immediately start looking for stacks of fat quarters. I found these sweeties at Z Fabrics in Portland, Maine. I've also been taking a weekly sewing class there working on garments. I love it so so much. I've completed 2 so far that I'll share later.

I often have several knitting projects on the needles and I love keeping them tidy and clean and in a to go mode. I never know what I'll want to work on while on the boat and on car trips. 
Sewing up fat quarters and adding a simple ribbon or lace at the top to create a simple size bag and an easy to open and close bag. 

I couldn't resist these prints. And I really enjoy adding to my project bag collection every season. 

My little one has been growing faster than I can blink- as babies do. He's just over 5 months now and growing out of his soft stretchy new born Old Navy socks. Though I can't believe how long they've lasted. Babies grow in funny ways. Our guy has been growing long and fast but it wasn't until last month or so that he started growing out ward much faster than before. 

I've had a few balls of my hand spun Irish Texel and fermented lichen dyed yarn hanging out in my stash for a while now from experiments I did here last year. You can also read about my whole process for lichen dyes there. 

For this little sock pattern that I improvised, for the starting point I used the pattern from a book in my home library, Last Minute Knitted Gifts, Angora Baby Booties
I've made countless pairs of these booties and they are so much fun to make. I tried the base of this pattern with my thick and chunky handspun. The only adjustment I made was continuing to knit up the leg and adding a few rows of rib stitch. I tried to make my bind off nice and loose and stretchy but it didn't happen. Resulting in making it kind of hard to get the socks on his chubby feet. I found instead it worked to fold over the rib edge and get them on that way! He wears them that way too. And usually stay on for a quite a while. 

My latest endevor involves venturing more into my home state of Maine exploring and sharing Maine's fiber happenings through a new media outlet known as Northern Journeys Magazine. A quartley publication that was created by Jason Thomas nearly 20 years ago in Idaho. You can read more about it on their website. I will be a contributing columnist for each edition for the 
Your Maine Fiber Connection.
In the first edition, I share my own fiber journey. The online edition will be live soon. 

I somehow was able to complete this post around a feeding and getting a pumpkin in the oven and feeding myself!