Monday, January 30, 2017

The Power of the Perfect Project

I've been knitting for 20 years 
and
for 20 years
I never stopped.
I have constantly had a project (or 5) on the needles. 

But this past year I slowly 
ran
of
steam.

There have always been good reasons happening in my life where it would make since to slow down. 
But knitting has always been a safe haven, a respite, an outlet. 
So I never have.

Until now.

This summer I decided I needed to make myself a sweater, with a fair isle yolk, with my handspun yarn. 

I had been creating yarn for my shop for a number of years but I never saved enough of it to make something really special for myself. 

I carefully hand selected various colors and packed them away and spun a whole shetland white fleece to compliment my plant dyed yarns. 

I searched and searched for just the right pattern. 
I searched and searched for just the right designing tools. 
Because really I couldn't make up my mind if I should design it myself or do something simpler.

Then last week as I finally choose a pattern and cast on, frustration set in as I struggled to work the 200 stitches. 

I let it sit for a few days and then I started day dreaming about socks, hats, and mittens knit in two colors. White and yellow. White and green. White and pink. 
I knew what I needed to do. 
As I sat on the floor of my studio with my toddler by my side rummaging through a box of ribbon, I frogged the few rows of my sweater. Added the yarn back to the basket and set it aside for later in the week. 
It felt so good to change course. 

Next, I went through my yarn chest and quickly but ruthlessly set aside half of my yarn 
to give to a friend who 
knows how to knit, 
really wants to knit more, 
but only owns 1 pair of needles and 3 skeins of yarn. 
Friends don't let friends be yarnless.

She needed my help 
and it felt so good to pass on what felt like almost 
10 pounds of yarn and a handful of needles to her. 
Some of this yarn I had had for 20 years. 
I could still tell you where every single bit came from. 
She was overjoyed to receive such booty 
and I was overjoyed to give it to her. 

While putting all my yarn back into the chest, 
I was reminded by these three little balls of silk kid mohair 
I had dyed with lichens, mushrooms, and then indigo. 

Back in August I had attempted this pattern but I messed it up right away so I frogged it.
Seeing the yarn again, 
I was reminded of what I had wanted to make and decided to give it a try once more. 

That evening I had everything set up so that after I put my son to bed, 
a new episode of my current series was set up along with pie, tea, the lighting, my pj's and slippers.
I cast on as Queen Victoria brooded and pined for her M
and I was in heaven.

Finally a project I knew would work and I knew I would enjoy. 
And one word would float through my mind as I worked on this: 
gossamer. 
  


Late last night when my husband returned home from a weekend away, I showed him my new project. 
As he picked it up, he said,
"Wow, it's so.... gossamer like. 

You can find this pattern, here

Monday, January 23, 2017

Beloved

Last week I caught my little guy's cold, of course. 
It hit both of us hard and fast and it's not one of those quick colds that moves on and out with me as usual.
Though I managed to finish one fleece and start a second, which really is a big accomplishment in our household these days, I didn't manage to do much else. 

Saturday I was all prepared to join my family in my home town for a vigil in support of the 
However I knew Friday I was too sick to leave the house. 
Instead I spent much needed time sleeping which helped me get over the worst of it. 
And in between naps, I stayed caught up with my friends' live videos,
which gave me 
chills. 

Then I saw the crowds.

ALL     OVER     THE     WORLD

On every single continent no less. 

I was proud and inspired and uplifted 
and it was the first time since that horrible day in November where I walked to the ferry in shock and witnessed people CRYING
Now these feelings I had after the march weren't, 
"oh. everything is ok now."
It was more of a stirring and realization of the power of what 

TOGETHERNESS 

can do. 

People didn't get together only because they despise Trump's rhetoric.
But to stand up and say, "Yes, we see you won this particular seat. This particular role, that has been the most powerful one in the world, 
However, we'll be DAMNED if we sit back and watch you destroy systems we have in place that 
WORK

and that give us a 

SAFE HAVEN

Planned Parenthood and the ACA for one.  

Now, there is A LOT wrong with our country and always have been. 
But the amount of very difficult changes President Barak Obama managed to succeed on bringing, 
cannot be compared to any other President. 

This election showed us and the world that we, as a nation are as divided as ever. 
It brought to light some serious dark and ugly nastiness that has been laying dormant since 
the time Jim Crow was dismantled. 

The week following the election, I was lit with so much fierce anger that people, in my country, were so heartless to ignore and even prefer possibly the most fake man ever to seek the Oval office. 
All because they HATED the Clintons THAT much. 
Because they HATED a black man being president. 
Because they HATED the idea of a WOMEN being in charge. 
Because they turned a blind fucking eye to the hatred for others this man has. 
Because the fact that he has verbally sexually assaulted AND physically sexually assaulted numerous women- means nothing. 
Because this man spread hateful lie after hatful lie about a man because he didn't have a white bread sounding name. 

What I saw was a complete lack of integrity and respect by choosing to look the other way while a man bragged about his power to grab a women's vagina, whenever he wanted to, because he was famous. 

Lack of support for their neighbors who are Mexican and Muslim, while this man tore this ethnic and religious groups apart over and over. 

No, no, it doesn't matter because we can't have a women in the Oval office.
And we hated having a black man in the Oval office. 

And the INSANE thing is, 
he didn't even win the popular vote. 

The majority of America spoke and we were betrayed by own 
"Democratic" System

I  WAS  PISSED

However, me being pissed could only last so long. 
I've never been that angry in my life. 

Turns out it's not too good for mu body...
Unless, I'm working out. 
Then I'm working with a new fuel. 
I still knew within a few weeks that I needed to recycle my angry energy into something
useful. 
Maybe even Powerful.

Then one morning while driving south to visit a dear college friend for the morning,
I was listening to one of Krista Tippett's Podcasts with 
Vincent Harding.

From there, I knew what I wanted to say
and I posted it on the 1st Advent 

~You Are Beloved ~


To my Black sisters and Brothers whose ancestors were torn from their homes to be packed into ships and sold like objects, all to serve the white man, all over the world. To you now as you suffer the loss of your own through police brutality, mass incarceration, and systematic racism; You Are Beloved. 

To my Native American sisters and brothers whose homes which I stand on now which where taken from you in the most vile way. As you continue to stand up, as I write this, and fight for our country’s drinking water with fierce resolve and the utmost bravery; You Are Beloved. 

To my Muslim sisters and brothers who have come to America in the search of the VERY SAME PROMISE my ancestors came to America for, and to those of you still in your homeland fighting for your lives, to you and those you’ve lost; You Are Beloved. 

To my Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer sisters and brothers, who’ve fought so hard to live your truth in the open with out fear, to serve in the military, to marry who you love, to simply be as you are; You are Beloved. 

To my Jewish sisters and brothers whose ancestors were born persecuted. Who’ve migrated all over the world to escape persecution. Whose survived Nazi Germany and beyond. You and those you’ve lost, You Are Beloved. 

To my Refugee sisters and brothers who have left your home in order to save the lives of your own and your family’s, whether by your own volition or through the help of others, to those of you who have suffered even more unfathomable loss while on your journey, to you and those you’ve lost; You Are Beloved. 

To my sisters and brothers who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of either strangers to you or the most trusted people in your lives, and who have felt so alone because not even those closest to you have believed you; You Are Beloved.

You Are Seen.

You Are Heard.

You Are Loved. 


You Are Cherished.


now, onward.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Centering with Making

I've got to admit, I've had trouble lately with my making.
For about 20 years I've had an insatiable thirst to keep going.
I never tired of it. I never hit a road block. I never got bored.
Not in 20 years.

However, 
As my life continues to take on new shapes with raising a child, my energies of course have needed to shift. 
I've felt it most heavily. And I've been troubled by it.
I'm trying to go easy on myself as I realize my brain needs to hold space for an actual growing human, not just my creative ideas.

So as I've shifted towards allowing myself to evolve so I can do both,
I find myself here.

Mending and stitching tiny pieces of preciously plant dyed bits of fabric to larger bits of fabric.
Just so I can see the true and natural highlights of each and every test.
Both successes and failures.
The stunning magentas of my carefully attended fermented lichen solutions
and the oh  so  boring  beiges of
pine needles, ferns, petals, avocado pits, twigs, leaves..... this list could go on forever.

You see, it's not that THAT is all you get with pine cones, pine needles and various petals and leaves- just beige.
It just means that that is one way to get beige.
Weak baths, too high heat, not enough heat. Not enough time soaking. Not enough plant material. Fiber not mordanted properly. And again, this list could go on forever.

My one regret in life (ok, I have a few) is that I know I can't live long enough to test every single plant IN MY AREA ALONE with all the fiber and mordant and techniques that I ALONE know of.
And there is SO MUCH I don't know.

But it is and will be my life's work anyway.

Ok, onto what I worked on last week.
Which I admit is a little odd. Maybe will be seen as a snooze fest, but I friggin' loved it and it brought me so much needed

P   E   A   C   E

Last week while cleaning out my fiber studio, really because it was the New Year and it was the only thing that felt comforting, because I was experiencing this creative desert,
a new idea sparked.

I have a huge closet that I can stand in and it's actually one of my favorite places in our whole house. It's where I keep all sorts of things including my fleece stash.
I pulled out this pitiful bag of fabric scraps that I thought I would part with and just end the misery of being annoyed by their existence and then feeling like I certainly couldn't part with the lichen magenta or orange mushroom dyed silks.

Then I visualized this:

various "failure" plant dyes on silk

Then this:

various lichen dyes on silk
Then I started to visualize A LOT of them.
Either hanging close together to form a quilt image. 
Or actually sewing them together to form a quilt to hang. 

These bottom two, I started first. With the top one being random pieces I pulled from my basket. 
The bottom piece being all mushroom dyes. 

               

Working on this through the week, was SO rewarding.
It's the kind of project I can get lost in. 
That, "I can get through anything because I am working on this project" kind of project. 
I can take it with me on the boat, do during nap time, and really anytime if I have a few minutes, which... I'm laughing, I don't really ever have a "few minutes" to so anything like this. 

I have a TON more to do and it will take quite a while. 
And that's just the silks alone.
I also have a pile of cotton and a pile of linen.

Now aside from the satisfaction it gives me to work with color I helped to facilitate to transfer to the cloth, I also get this other kind of sparkly satisfaction that I'm doing something with not just the pieces I have used in my own testings in my home studio, but also those in one of my last classes where it was very clear how annoyed my students were at just dealing with these pieces. I took their unwanted pieces and added them to my pile. 

A question I am often asked, which also turns into a statement:
"You can't get a very interesting range of color from plant dyes. Can you?" You sure can. 
"Well, they always fade." They can fade if alum is not used correctly. Otherwise, no they do not fade. 
"All you get are yellows and browns." Referring to our Maine pallet. Not me personally. And, let me show you this magenta...
"Oh it's so much work." So true. 
"Using plant dyes are so toxic." Well... if you use tin and chrome (for example) as a mordant and DO NOT TAKE EXTREME CARE, yes those are very toxic. But when using alum, or working with lichens which need no mordants, and you take regular common sense measures of ventilation, 
no, using plant dyes are not toxic. 

I'm so excited to continue this long project and it reminds me more of the whole work I do. 

I hope to at some point have this shown in a space that can further educate Mainers on the color that can be unlocked from our endearing landscape. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Happy New Year with Maine Shetland Yarns


 I can't believe I haven't shown up here since September! 
I've missed writing and sharing a bunch so I've made it a New Year's resolution to commit Monday's to writing. 
I've set a few writing goals for myself for the New Year that are energizing me. 
Along with a few exciting endeavors I've been thinking about but those are still secret. For now. I'll give you a hint though, they involve the words "color" "school" and "Peaks Island".
Stay tuned!

Today, I'd like to get you caught up on my latest making. 
Our little guy is now almost 19 months old! It's like two steps forward and one step back with how easy/ difficult day to day life can be. 
Add living on an island plus sub zero tempts, fevers, and ear infections, and we don't get out too much. There's been a whole lot of snuggling AND climbing the walls. 

However, I am getting better at carving out time for just me and the things that give me life and feed me. 
Like working with wool. 

handspun maine shetland fingering/dk weight. 
These beauties will be available in the shop soon. 
Something I don't normally do for the shop is such fine spinning. 
But this wool told me exactly what it wanted to become. 
I had to listen because the wool is always right.

When I buy a fleece, I never know what it will end up looking like once spun. 
As I spend all this time with it from 
selecting it
skirting it
washing it
drying it
carding it
by the time I start spinning it, I've had ample time to become familiar. 
By that point I've formed a bond with that wool. 
I know I may sound a little nutzo but I'm really serious. 
I have no idea why I love wool so or why it feels me with such a primitive mothering instinct, but it does. 
Anyway, 
I wait for the moment I bring the huge fluffy batt to the wheel, spin a few yarns, play, and through all that, it whispers to me what it needs to become. I swear it;)
And this last fleece, a very dark soft shiny charcoal Shetland just NEEDED to be spun into the finest singles and then plyed into a sport weight. 
I then knit up a swatch of it, something I'll be doing from now on with every single fleece I spin so I can better understand and communicate to you what you're getting. 
But OH! 
IS  THIS  YARN  
*D   E   L   I   C   I   O   U   S *
It will be available in my etsy shop soon. I promise.

Next up at the wheel is a Maine Icelandic, same color and has been enjoying long slow soft twirls onto the bobbin. I'd say light worsted weight with a bit of fluff. 
Icelandic is one of the trickiest for me to work with at times. 
There is so much downy fluff but also long shiny, not too scratchy hairs. 
It kind of wobbles in between wanting to be finely spun, which can feel like wire, in my opinion.
Or thick rope. 
It really is a slippery slope with this wool. 

I'll let you know how we get on. 

In the mean time, R and I try and get out every day to explore a part of the island. 
Sometimes, I get out a few extra minutes to myself before getting on the boat and I find these:


foot prints left by our 4 island resident geese. Who I might add, aren't that friendly and like to chase me off the beach. 

December skies out here on Peaks are always beautiful too. 


What wool are you spinning this winter? 




Monday, September 5, 2016

Purple Pansy Dye; a solar method

It feels SO GOOD to get back into my solar dyeing experiments. 
I was rummaging through my excess of pre-mordanted samples the other day just to see what I needed more of in order to plan for next spring. 
Now with a toddler, planning is everything.
I don't have everything available that I'd like mordanted but I realized I shouldn't let it stop me. 
I had been dead heading my purple pansies in my studio window boxes all spring and summer- though lately I've been letting them go. 

I also set up two other jars of fern and one of that dark red weed I've talked about before. I'll get to those later. 

In the past I have simply placed my petals in the freezer until I had the amount I wanted. But this time I thought it would be simpler and work just the same to let them dry, because really they just get darker. 

I weighed out my fiber group in grams and the same with my dried petals. I had half the amount of petals as I did fiber.
I wetted out my fibers for an hour or so, placed them in the jar with tap water, placed the petals onto the top of the fiber and filled the rest with just near boiled water. 

This pic is just after it was set up, next to the fern jar. 


Under an hour color started to appear through the jar and the fibers started to change. 
I LOVE working with pansies. 
I do believe it's time for the black pansies to be out in nurseries....


I let it go a few days and then pulled it all out to give things a good squeeze and inspection. And then I put everything back. 

Behind are my tansy and lobster mushroom dyed on maine shetland skeins.
They are available here.


Here everything is looking more on the dark purple grey side. 
But I waited even longer.
I went away for the weekend and came back to find the yarns were a darker green...
So I decided to try a little experimenting with ammonia and vinegar. 
Or rather, ph adjustments. I was shocked at what I found. 

I poured a little of the pansy dye into two jars, just an 1" tall. 
In one I dripped in some ammonia which brings up the ph (and I'm really sorry! I never actually checked with my papers! I was very in the moment and wasn't thinking critically). 
The dye bath was a very dark purple. But with the ammonia is shifted to forest green. It was SO cool! Must get better pictures next time. 

In the other jar I dripped in some vinegar and it shifted to magenta. 

In each I dipped in the fibers at one end and then the other. 
The ammonia had more of a striking effect, especially on the wool and cotton- at first. The vinegar seemed to have done nothing at all to change the colors on the fibers. 



Here they are dried. 
The group to the left with the dark skein first is kid mohair/ silk mordanted in an iron liquor, then partly dipped in ammonia after. It has strikes of green through the dark grey blue. 
Skien of alpaca mordanted with alum came out light grey blue with a bright strike of chartreuse. 
Last skein in group is also alpaca mordanted in a copper liquor. Less effect for both dye and ammonia dips. The clothes on top are silk mordanted with alum. And cotton mordanted with alum. 

Btw- I prepared these samples over a year ago now and I've decided since that doing just a copper liquor isn't very effective. Now when I prepare my samples, I only do alum and iron for wool and silk. And only acetate and tannin for cotton and linen. 

The middle group is wool mordanted with alum and dipped in ammonia. 
Cotton mordanted with copper liquor, ammonia dip. 
Silk I think alum mordanted dipped one half in ammonia and the other half in vinegar. 

The last group to the right with the dark strip of cloth is alpaca mordanted with iron (kind of hiding under the wool). Wool mordanted with iron, ammonia dip. The cotton mordanted with copper and silk mordanted with iron. 


My purpose for these exercises in dyeing is to find what I like best. In this case I like the iron mordanted on silk best. And if I do this again, I'll remember to use at least 50% of petals to weight of fiber or more. I also loved the mohair and silk blend also mordanted with iron. 

Solar dyeing is one of my favorite things to do! 











Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dyeing with Lobster Mushrooms

I'll never forget the first time I spotted these odd bright orange shapes peaking up through the pine needles 3 years ago. 

In 2013 was enjoying my 4th year teaching at the New England Fiber Arts Retreat in Washington, Maine and I had only just heard about dyeing with mushrooms. 
While on a walk I spotted these brightly colored clumps and brought them back to camp for my foraging class. 
As a group we looked them up and found immediately some good info on how to dye with them.
It was a fun impromptu surprise for us all. 
Along with just alum mordanted wool you get a pale orange. With a splash of ammonia the dye bath goes alkaline (ph goes up) and more corals come out. 

This was a fun picture to take this year as I was just arriving. I took last year off as I had a 6 week old babe. So returning this year was EXTRA special and sweet. That moment when I was walking up the road and seeing everyone for the first time made my heart almost explode with joy. 


Anyway,
after locating more this year, (I love how dry they all ready are) I planned a project for my shop yarns. 

Though best used at a 1:1 or higher mushroom to fiber ratio, I think I did use more fiber to mushroom. I really wanted to dye 2 skeins at once as that's what I like to do for my shop, to have at least 2 skeins in the same color way. I had about 4oz of whole mushrooms, also from the help of my dear friend Alissa Allen who found me a few and who reminded me of the tips around ammonia. We were blessed to have Alissa join us for a 2nd year at the retreat to teach her mushroom dyes!! 


I did try to shave the orange bits away from the mushroom as underneath they are white. But it was just too hard and time consuming. And as I was doing this during nap time, it had to be quick. 


I let my yarns simmer for an hour or so keeping an eye on the temp and then took it off the heat until morning. The color was ok, a paler orange but I wanted to shift it into a pinker tone. I pulled out the yarns and splashed in some ammonia and put the yarns back in for a dip. Maybe 15 minutes or so. I learned the hard way in the past not to heat wool in an ammonia bath as it quickly hardens the wool. And as I was dyeing my handspun shetland, I needed to get this just right. 


The color did shift to a slightly more red orange. The above picture is when it's wet. Bottom picture is dried and is now listed in my etsy shop
Also above pic shows my tansy dyed yarns which you will also see here and which I will be writing about next and my purple pansy solar dye which I will also be writing about. 


Have you used lobster mushrooms before? It's of my of favorite mushrooms to use. Maybe next time I'll find a better solution to peeling the orange off and get a really good stock pile built up for deeper oranges and magentas. Oh the possibilities!! 


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! 

~*~