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. 

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! 


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?