Monday, November 25, 2013

Slipped Gears; day dreaming with lichens, family, and baby booties.

I say 'day dreaming with' because in these joyous moments of new lichen dye discoveries, seeing a growing rooster, and talking with my sisters, I'm day dreaming too. Mostly about new projects, some very big and some very small, on the horizon. Day dreaming is fun and it's useful! I should know, I've been doing it all my life. And here I am. Inside my very day dream I've had since I was in Mrs. Veno's 1st grade class. The first teacher who wrote my name on the board. I was caught talking in the bathroom which meant I was not paying attention when she told us during our bathroom break there was to be no talking.  What I remember most about that year was with every report card, was sent home a disapproving note to my parents; "rachel day dreams too much." I didn't really know what fuss was all about. I just knew it was so much more fun to be thinking about milk weed pods and why that silk was so silky. And why was goldenrod so yellow.

On and off for about a week now I've felt myself happily gliding into a holiday mode. Day dreaming about the meals, plans, projects I'll create. Just when I feel I've established a nice buttoned up, all my ducks in a row house is cleaned and projects are complete organized routine, that's when it happens. A gear slips. I get so excited about an idea and before I know it I've collected all 24 of my dye books for note writing. Or I've started sorting my yarn again and five ideas emerge.  I end up pacing trying to decide what to start first and why it's more important than the others. I bring down 3 prepared embroidery projects, 2 knitting projects and park myself to watch my latest series and then the cat starts begging to be brushed by pulling my arm towards her with her too hard to see and too sharp to tolerate claws.  So, this past week, I glided and floated happily along enjoying what ever came my way. It was quiet and restful as I did a lot of sitting back, thinking and planning.

The few things that kept me busy:

My latest lichen jars. While in Prince Edward Island a weekends ago visiting my husband's aunt, I discovered this lichen, Lobaria pulmonaria. Also know as tree lung wart. I found two slightly different shapes of it but looking very similar in two different spots. I harvested maybe a fourth of what I saw. Back home, I set up my ammonia method for fermentation. Within a day the liquid turned a bright orange. I'm have some left in my bag that I will also try with the boil water method. Reading in my lichen books, this is suppose to give a dye ranging from peach to orange with the boil water method or BWM. It doesn't say anything about the ammonia method but I'm trying it anyway. I also tried the orchil acid test by dipping an exposed inner white flesh edge of the lichen in bleach. If there is orchil acid, the white bit will turn pink to red. It did nothing and stayed white. So I thought I would continue to experiment anyway. When I actually dye with this lichen, I will of course post results. Look how orange it is!

Speaking of day dreams, back in 2006 I first opened up my etsy shop. Back then it was Bosco44. Named after my sweet dog I had as a kid. Etsy has been changing a lot over the last few years, increasing all that you can do and how you manage. There are tiny companies and studios all around the world doing the etsy thing full time. I manage my shop completely by myself. I am the sole creator for everything in the shop. A while ago while checking out my shop stats, I realized that my biggest year for sales was 2009. I remember thinking to myself, "ok, this needs to turn around now and I need to surpass these numbers soon." It had been too long. I then noticed that since 2010, my views, listing favorites, and sales have slowly but steady climbed. Then I noticed the third thing. Since the time I left my full time working for someone else grind at the end of August 2012, sales have doubled, shop and listing views have doubled, and my favorites have more than tripled. 

This past week hit a special mark for me reaching the first time since 2009 when I had a serious influx for sales during this particular season. I hit my fourth sale of the month pushing me into beating my highest sales year from 2009 going over by 4 sales so far. 

In this little package was my first rainbow roving. You can see the whole series there at the shop. Having 3 orders in a week really did a lot for my self esteem I have to say. And to wake up on a Sunday morning to be greeted with a notification on my phone or to hear that heavenly "CHA-CHING!!" from my phone or ipad while cooking or tending to other things, there's nothing like it.  

My sisters and I try to get together often usually meeting at one of their houses for an afternoon with our lunches and knitting. It had been a little bit since I had been to this sister's house and had forgotten about just how fast chickens grow. I took a few minutes checking out their coop set up. They have roughly 8 or 9 (?) chickens now and they all look good. Like tweens sporting their new haircuts and outfits just before the 7th grade. In that stage of still cute and nearing handsome adulthood. But more on the cute side. And wanting to be noticed. 

Check out Ralphie's du. The rooster. 

I collect clothes lines, remember. I can't help it. I see one and my phone is clicking away before I've thought about it. 

I love this window door thing and the hanging feeder. 

So here I was just kind of slowly day dreaming about next steps in life and I found myself sorting all my natural dye samples from classes and workshops I've taught. I've had this sweet little pile of kid mohair and silk yarn that I've been r e l i s h i n g in experimenting with. I realized I had just about all the colors of the rainbow plus brown. 

And as always, working with mohair always makes me think of baby booties. For a few years now, I've been knitting several pairs for my shop, friends and family with what ever mohair I have. I've been using this pattern. It's so easy and I've made so so many. I love knitting it because it's very quick and you kind of knit a tiny ravioli to start- by double knitting. Can I call that double knitting? It's ok, correct me if I'm wrong. 

As the yarn is SO tiny and strand like, not like the old mohair I use to work with that had a sizable loft to it. I used US 1 double pointed needles. This is also the first time I've knitted this pattern with stripes. It was interesting and I figured it out along the way. 

They are just too CUTE! and I'm pretty happy with the colors. Which include from toe to cuff- all dyed with plant dyes by me, madder root light, madder root dark, goldenrod, onion skins (the green!) garden grown indigo, indigo extract, logwood purple, alkanet, lichen, and black walnut. I still have plenty of sample yarn left over so it's very possible I'll be knitting a pair for the shop. Maybe slightly bigger as these could be for a newborn. But these little things will be tucked away for when the time is real.

Obligatory cat picture. A very friendly wandering cat I noticed from my window while washing dishes who in my mind is named Henry.  

Thanksgiving and Chanukah is this week. As you celebrate how ever you do this coming holiday season, do your self a great big favor and take time out to just day dream. Look out a window and just let your mind go. And do it often.  

ox, r

Monday, November 18, 2013

Little hands weaving

Last week I had the delightful pleasure of spending the morning at Little Tree in South Portland, an at home care environment for little ones. Martha, my good friend and former colleague started Little Tree shortly after her son, Asa was born. As Martha was doing a theme on Harvest, she asked me to join her group as a visiting artist and assist them with a weaving project. I was delighted.

As these sweet ones are 2, Martha and I knew to keep it short and sweet and let them do what they do. It was so fun watching how each child took to the process and the materials. Some were very eager while others watched for several minutes before joining.

As Martha was conducting the circle time in the next room, I set to work on warping the loom. Her husband, Charlie tied the branches together before hand and it was just the size. Because I warped the twine around the branches instead of using nails on one side, there is a warp on both sides. And we discovered it would work out well for the children to weave on both sides! The top of the loom was balanced on the countertop above so the children could easily walk behind it to weave.

For a moment before we begun, all 5 of them where sitting, patiently at the table watching me. I thought I'd take the moment to teach them 3 words; loom, warp and weft. most of them repeated it back to me and it was so sweet to hear those words in a 2 year old voice:) 

Grass was collected and then I spent less than a minute demonstrating how to weave the grass through. Some where excited to give it a try while others loved crawling and wading through it. 

When the wool was introduced, these two girls got right to work and started wrapping it in the most unexpected way. Making clouds:)

This would be a wonderful project to start with your family too as it can be an on going process and art instillation for your home or your yard. I first learned how to do this while at Medomak, a week long fibery retreat in mid-coast Maine where I teach natural dyeing. Dana Fadel, a weaver and my good friend teaches a community weaving project there as well and it's always a big hit. Here at Little Tree, we used the same method for warping and weaving. 

The wrapping back and forth, weaving in and out is a tricky concept for a 2 year old. However, they are just at the right stage in their development where parallel play is developing which is more important then doing things exactly right. When the parallel play is happening, lots of other things are too, like working on and figuring out their fine motor skills. 

This is a project that Martha plans to have on going and the children will be adding more as time goes by. If I'm able, I'll post an updated picture in the future.

If your interested in having me as a visiting artist to your play group, school, or group, send me an email. My work consists of visual, textile, and fiber arts and I'm more than happy to work with you on coming up with ideas to go along with your current theme. I have extended experience working with children of all ages and abilities. 

ox, r 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Trip to Charlottetown

Last weekend, Jubal and I drove to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to visit Jubal's aunt. This was my 4th trip and Jubal was there about 4 years ago. We were both giddy to return to a beloved place that had given us both fond memories. To me what's so special about PEI is it is so much like Maine but somehow magical. And made magical by the memories I made when I was 17 on vacation there with my family. Not to mention, my all time favorite stories written by Lucy Maud MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

As it's a 10 hour drive from Portland to Charlottetown, we stopped off in Calias and stayed at Greystones Bed and Breakfast. After traveling Rt. 9 in the dark through fog and light rain, arriving at the B&B was like coming home. Or at least a cozy magazine. I could not highly recommend staying here enough. The rooms are immaculately decorated, warm and inviting with beautiful touches. For breakfast in the morning I was served an egg souffl√© which was amazing and kept me going nearly all day. I did keep eating, but I knew I didn't need to.  

The reminder of the drive was lovely. There is something about crossing a border no matter where I am that is always exciting. 

We crossed over into St. Stephen, New Brunswick with ease as the line of cars coming from the other direction reached further into town. We both started to calculate in our heads the amount of time we'd need to come back through. We enjoyed a pit stop at the St. John City Market. We picked up lunch, a few treasures and we were off again. 

I love a country who has a cream for every food. 

A view of the Confederation Bridge connecting New Brunswick to PEI. It's 8 miles. my first trip in 1996 with my family, it wasn't finished yet but I think it had begun. We took the ferry over and I remember seeing this bridge reaching out into the water. I felt a bit speechless just not being able to wrap my mind around a bridge being built into the open water like that. But there it is. All these years later.  

Reaching the other side. 

The next morning we visited the Charlottetown Farmer's Market. It was packed with lovely local delights. We did a quick tour around just enough time to sample a steamed scallop, pick up a gift, choose wool, and sample fresh porgies.  

We then drove to Belfast to tour the Belfast Mini Mills. The drive there was peaceful and filled with this light that looked like the sky couldn't decide weather to shine or snow. 

We found these funny ice sculptures forming on the gutter of one of the buildings. 
One of the many things that makes this mill so unique is they build all their own equipment AND build the same equipment in smaller sizes to send to small villages all over the world. It wasn't hard to consider what it would be light to set up a mini mill in our own back yard. 

This bag here, this big fluffy white bag, it's 100% Samoyed dog. They use borax with the washing and it removes all traces of dog smell:) 

This little pile of grey fluff, 100% quiviut. Just holding it for a few seconds, my hand started to warm. 

A few treasures I brought home included a bag of 8oz of Lupin Lane colorway a huge batt of merino, alpaca, mohair, silk, bamboo, and qiviut. And a few skeins of undyed superwash merino for sample skeins. 

We then ventured to the McPhail Homestead for a foraging walk. Jubal had come here with his aunt on his last trip and had very fond memories of finding a pile of chanterelles. He just where to look and with in minutes he found a pile. 

As always I had a great time finding a few mushrooms. I love finding these. I believe it's a type of hedgehog. Perhaps traveling hedgehog.... I think I've seen this name in my book. My favorite thing about these mushrooms are the teeth. Those little fangs that hang under the cap instead of gills. 

For dinner, Jubal cooked up the mushrooms and we had them with our chicken and roasted vegetables. They were so delicious. 

On our last day, we walked around Charlottetown. I had such a longing to see the old places I first saw with my family so when we turned a corner and I saw this store, I felt like our trip came full circle. We popped into the Anne of Green Gables store, I couldn't help it, where I bought #8 of the series. Though these books were written for children, I love reading them. They are witty, calming, and inspired. 

After a brisk walk around, we visited a cafe where there happened to be a knitting circle in full force. When they asked me if I had my knitting, I responded that I left it in the car. Someone said, "you mean you go places with out it?!" Yes sometimes I do and then I kick myself. 

The drive back that afternoon was eventless and the sky was turning more towards snow. We stopped off in Calias again had a good rest before we tackled the rest of our trip. It was all too short but so happy we were able to go.