Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dyeing with daffodils, carrot greens, and lichen

I have involved myself in so much over these past few weeks that I almost feel like a new person. Which is perfect timing as it's spring and every spring nearly as long as I can remember, something happens to me where I feel reborn. Reborn in the sense that my whole creative side and spirit becomes rejuvenated and inspired with completely new concepts which start to sprout out of me.

Now that I have more than enough enamle pots, old spoons, a siv and an endless supply of aluminum sulfate, I've delved into natural dyeing at home. I also believe I've surpassed my fear of being unsafe with chemicals when I realized and quite decided just not to use any to dye with except for alum. For instance, many natural dye recipes call for iron, tin, copper, or some such mineral. Knowing this would alter the color (because of the natural occuring pigment in the mineral) I didn't want it to interfer with what I might find from a plant where I have no idea what color would come out of it. Once I decided that last bit, it's made my natural dye endevours so much easier and fun to approach.

This first picture near the top is spun wool that I dyed with the daffodil stems. The picture here to the left is a single spun wool from Maine Island raised sheep that I dyed with carrot greens. So- last week I started with two new plants. Daffodil stems and carrot greens. Both were so much fun. Both I boiled down in seperate pots and then strained. The daffodil stems smelled slightly like sweet grass. the carrot greens smelled like bitter greens. I mordanted the wool in alum and then simmered the two seperate skeins in their two seperate baths of daffodil dye and carrot green dye. The daffodil stems gave a slight warm parchment. The carrot greens gave a light lemon yellow. I was so pleased. I had no way of knowing if any color would emerge or not so to see the change, I got tingles in my fingertips and on the top of my head. That's when I know I'm onto something that is bringing me complete and utter joy. This week I will repeat the daffodils, this time with the whole flowers as they began to wilt the other day. I may dye the whole skein again, but I'm not sure. Though I'm a purest, it would be so easy just to throw this tiny skein back into the pot and really add to it.

A few days after this dye bath, I boiled up some lichen my mother had given me over the summer that I had kept in a bag in my kitchen cupboard. It was time. After I boiled the dryed lichen and bark and twigs, I got a lovely rootbeer brown color. When lichen is coiling, it smells sweet and woodsy and even more so when the fiber is dried. I love the smell. I strained it, saved it in a pot for two days (beacuse I was lazy and had other things to do.) But then I got it out again and this time threw in several fiber types but this time in roving form. Pictures will appear soon.

As a colorist all my life, I have always been completely seduced my bright and bold colors, but, with these subtle, gentle shades, I have seen and felt such a loveiness in them that I just adore. Where once I may have said about the daffodil stems, "oh nothing happened- it's so bla." I see SOMETHING. That something is important to me. It's like I'm finding out a secret out about these plants that maybe no one else knew....

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Ebb & FLow of Life

The following comes from a link my mother passed onto me this morning and I found that not only did it speak to me but it reminded me of what I talked about in my pervious post. It comes from the website:

If Sameness is a Demand We Make.
When I lived in Hawaii, if the temperature dropped to 65 degrees Fahrenheit, we felt we had been hit with serious winter. In California, 41 degrees was enough to cause complaints. Here in Canada those temperatures are considered balmy when they occur in January and we celebrate the warm weather!

It is all relative to what we consider normal. Deviations from the norm are either something we resist or welcome. What determines our reaction is how much our “norm” includes the possibility of change, surprise, unexpected occurrences. In Calgary we know that the Chinook winds will surely come and raise the temperatures dramatically a few times every winter. We count on that change to be part of our “norm.”

If sameness is a demand we make of our partner, our job, our children, our friends, our world, then we are going to be seriously challenged when the inevitable happens. People grow; they evolve; change their minds, rethink their politics, get new jobs, move to different cities. They find new friends, gain or lose weight, take up yoga while we sit in front of the TV. If we feel a loss or a threat from their growth, it is time to expand our sense of what “normal” is.

As the song says “Everything must Change. Nothing stays the same.” The temporariness of form or experience is something we can rely upon, absolutely. It is in the variations of weather, the ups and downs of relationships, the shift from toddler to teen, the necessity of learning new skills, that keeps us in harmony with the nature of things. A kind of non resisting ability to let things flow is a high awareness and a healthy way to live. Knowing that change will surely come, we are more likely to treasure the moment and celebrate it now."

--Rev. Carol Carnes

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Heart Mending

If you know me well, you know I am not with out emotion. Everything I experience weather I choose to participate or not, I have an emotional reaction to it. Emotions are what color our lives. They bring ebb and flow. They bring in the new and get rid of the old. They help guide us. To have none or to always make decisions based on logic can rob us of truly living. Truly loving. Even the emotions that bring pain, sadness and sorrow, just like tears, they too have a very special job of clearling out what is not needed in our lives anymore. I've been meditating on this last thought over the last few days as I tried to sort out the reasons someone close to me decided to leave my life. I had spent so much time anticipating this that when it finally happened, it still shocked and hurt. But as my week came to an end and a new one was beginning I could feel the weight of a choice I had to make. I could choose to continue to wonder about something I would never know, which would only bring me mroe sadness or... I could do something else. Live my life.

It took a while on Monday, but I eventually realized what I needed to do. While on my morning walk Monday morning I took the route to the East End Beach. It was low tide and I walked slowly along trying to spot the clear shapes almost hidden in the sparkle of the sand. As I knelt down to pick up my first piece, a rather stout dog trotted over to me and head butted me in my left hip. I didn't fall over but thought it was rather funny and it made me smile. Which was a nice change. It was also hard not to be hopeful in the kind of day where it was nearly 50 degrees at 8:00 in the morning. The sun made everything look brand new. And hopeful.
That same evening I did something I had been meaning to since the summer. I learned the Tango. And it was fabulous. Every other Monday at the North Star Cafe here in Portland, there are Tango lessons offered for $5 and then a live band plays. I danced with several partners and with each dance, it felt more and more natural... to be having such a simple and elegant conversation with a stranger that was solely based on the trust of movement and sinking together into the sound of the music. Completely Beautiful.
I am so thankful to myself that I got out of the house, away from my sadness and made myself try something new and kind of freightening. It was empowering, I plan on going back and learning more, and not only was it a fantastic start to my week, but really a new chapter for my life.