Saturday, October 25, 2014

More Lichen Hunting

This shop has been filling up with these sweet project bags. 
And then I say good bye to them just as fast. 
So happy to see them go to good homes and into the hands 
of happy owners. 

I've been thinking for a while of this idea involving lichens and Peaks Island.
Peaks Island is about 3 miles around and all walkable.
I'm going to attempt to do a lichen collection and survey of the lichens on Peaks over the next few years. Or however long it might take. 

tiny mushrooms found on maples down front. 

It's amazing what you see when you look closer!

I'm pretty certain, by sight that this lichen is Xanthoria parietina. I adore Xanthoria lichens.
I found even more of these tiny mushroom colonies on more maples, but only in the cevices. This time in town near 50 Commerical Street.

Licen with jam tarts.

I have little piles of lichens floating around the house with little notes here and there so that I can identify each one. 

This great book arrived in the mail yesterday and
Soon I'll have a microscope to work with and from there I'll create my own 
Peaks Island lichen herbarium.

I've also been thinking about how this work might be useful for some environmental cause.
The Island Istitute perhaps? 
If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them:)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lichen Hunting

Today while I passed time until my fiddle lesson, I took a walk in a near by cemetrary. 

It was the perfect kind of day for it, as it was damp outside.  

For 25 minutes I stared at a few tombstones with dozens of different lichens growing. 

Some were tiny and some out stretched. 

Some over lapping. 

It was glorious.

I can't quite tell you how much I love and adore lichens. 

For so many reasons. 

I'm so inarticulate most of the time and all I can say is I love lichens.

For the past day and a half, I've been checking the mail about a dozen times as a very special tool is arriving soon. 

The one and only,
Brodo's Lichens of North American.
An encyclopedia size book with keys that will help me identify my finds. 
Next on the list, is a microscope.

“I find myself inspecting little granules as it were on the bark of trees little shields or apothecia springing from a thallus such is the mood of my mind and I call it studying…"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Finding Balance in my Process; A Manifesto

I have been stuck for a long time now when it comes to writing, sharing, etc. 
I had a good format going for a while at the first of the year where I was sharing a natural dye tutorial once a week. 

I'm still working on dyeing, even more now actually. 
Doing a ton of testing samples and dyeing up soft squishy hand spun yarns for my shop. 

I thought I'd chime in and share (here and there) what I have been doing when I'm not dyeing. 
Over the last few months I've been thinking A LOT about materials I use and what they mean. 
To me.
To you.
The environment.
The cost to all- not in a financial way.

Here are my thoughts... though it's taken me a very long time to articulate them well, this is the best i can do for now. And now is when I felt like I should share as the way I use materials are changing. 

So here goes. 

For several years before going full time with my textile crafting, I've been enjoying just floating along doing what I really enjoyed and not thinking too much about it. You know, not stressing. 

Since I went full time in September of 2012, this feeling of otherness has been creeping in. 

I wasn't sure what it was and it took me another year and a half to realize it was an empty spaces. 
Like those little empty spaces that exist everywhere in our houses. Like in our junk drawers, basements, attics, and living spaces. 
All from a result of not using space wisely. 
I'm a bit into feng shui. Though I don't know a ton, I do know that when space is not fully utilizied to it's full potenial, an energy drain forms. Draining us of energy.

So you know how when you go through a huge deep cleaning spree and organize and get rid of a ton of things and then your left with all this space? Maybe you feel cleaner and lighter and sharper? This was happening to me in the little crevices of my mind where nuno felting, mitten building, bird felting, dyeing, foraging, painting, sewing, embroidery, weaving, drawing, writing, quilting, and spinning... all existed. 

I've been juggling so many things! And I spent way too much time online on Pinterest and Etsy. But you give a crafter an oppertunity to not work for the man but work for herself and gosh, she may be really good at knitting mittens at lightening speed.... but no so much at time management. Or money management. Or muscle managment....

This time last year I was loving all the knitting and the spinning and the dyeing but I worked at crazy frenzy paces. Not eating the best- I had my days- but I actually resented having to stop and feed myself something normal. 

Then, last spring I started to look more into the Fibershed and what that was all about. 
The more I read and talked about it with other folks, the sudden surge of energy rushed into 
those little empty crevices in my mind. Melding with the other like minded ideas in my head. Pushing ideas that didn't fit. Picture Mr. Roger's game of what does not belong... or was that seame street. 

Also, because I saw others, mainly women as it happens, doing these things, I simply felt empowered about my own work. 

I started to see and feel these long time and new fronds of ideas unfolding in this cleaner and newer environment of my mind.

These thoughts started to pay more attention to other details in my life. 
Things I have thought about before but never spent too long on them. 
I started to think about where all my clothes comes from.
How many little fingers touched this very fabric? 
As Americans, on a whole, for so long, we are taught by the media and marketing to always throw stuff out and buy more and do it with credit. 
We are pushed so hard to have certain things and a certain number of things.  

So again back to my process.

Over the last several months I've been taking stock in what I use for materials in the items I make for sale on my etsy shop.  
The materials I use in one piece of the puzzle.
Another piece is 
WHAT am I making 
and why. 

Side bar:
Since I've been knitting over the last 18 years, I've heard, "I saw this super cute {fill in the blank} thing and I think you should make one too!" if I had a nickle for everytime anyone said that to me, I would be a rich women. Well, maybe a dollar. Nickles don't get you far these days. 

Here's the thing though. I was an art major. Not at a typical art school but rather a Christian College with an amazing but rather small visual art program. What I learned there in that department in the four years of college, I give more credit to then the rest of the education in my entire college experience. The principles of all sorts that my 3 professors, Bruce, George, & Z taught me about making art far FAR out weighed everything else I was taught there and actually prepared me very well for this carrer I've chosen for myself in a way that can only come from deep within the creative self. I think for some as parents, hearing their child declare an art major can be filled with all kinds of emotions. Most of which, "how on earth will this child support herself after 4 years if all she does is draw nudes and study color?" But I knew at 6 years old I was an artist and always would be. I didn't choose it actually. Color, form, and texture occupy most of the space in my head and my heart. All. Day. Long.  

A memory that has stuck with me since college that I apply to my loney crafting days still; 
I think it was my junior year... or senior year of college. All the art majors (there were about 20 of us I think) took a bus to NYC for the day to visit the art museums and galleries. I had never been before. I still remember the amazing series of large oils, all of clouds. I left feeling lighter and enlightened thinking, WOW.... you can paint clouds...... 

A conversation on the bus back home about various religious paintings other took the time to see, {I had no interest as I was slowly learning, I was not religious in the least} got me thinking about what I painted and was interested in. I have always been so taken with light in nature and color in nature. Always. I expressed to my professor my disapointment in myself or maybe that God had in me for not being interested in religious types of subjects for my work. I had actually been waiting to get that inspriation to paint a suffering religious sence in dark brooding colors, but it never came. I was only interested in the bright colors of Matisse and the soft colors of Casset and Homer and others like them. El Greco and Bacon angered me. All that grool and suffering. I HATED it. What he replied back to me has stuck with me since and has helped me reach my path here. Or rather stay on it. 
"The world needs beauty depited too. And that is what you do with your work." 

So when it comes to creating something for the shop, myself, or a loved one, it comes from a place deep with in myself. From my childhood under our maples, next to the daffodils, inspecting my favroite rock for lichens and mica treasures. The sparkling sledding hill I raced down and trudged up with my sisters. The need for whole and true communication from each other to the uninterrupted and natural growth of sheep. And the careful harvesting of goldenrod and always leaving plenty for the bees and butterflies to continue on so that they continue to provide us all with food. 

It comes from a place of not wanting to support mass production at the expense of the environment or each other.
Acid dyes are created with coal tar, the 5th highest polutant in the world. 
And even koolaid, sold as a drink to children, something I so happliy pertook as a child espcially in the form of popscicles. Lime and grape being my favorite! 
But it also has dyes and no nutrition value. 
In my mind,If I continue to use it as a dye, 
the maker of koolaid has no idea why I'm using it 
but only that I continue to fund it's making. 

And then there is the fabric. All this fabric I have carefully washing ironed and folded and organized by color on my shelves.
Fabric I have collected for years. 
How was it all made? 
These concepts and facts mean something to some and little to others. 
To me, it does mean a great deal where every aspect is from and how it was created. 
We do know more know now about the treatment of factory workers than we used to. 

I adore fabrics.
However, I'm making a pledge to myself to simply not buy any more fabric with out knowing how it was made. 
If I can't figure it out,
I'm not buying it.
I have plenty to last me years I know. 
I will use what I have. 
And when it is gone it's gone. 
When the time comes I will search out a new kind of fabric. 
One in which I know the environment in which the plant was grown was not harmed.
 Such as not using pestisides on flax and cotton or the mulberry trees where silk worms lived where not sprayed. 
I will not buy silk cloth where the silk worms were drowned before they could emerge naturally and gracefully from their cacoons to finish out their life cycle and die in peace. 
I will not buy cloth where the people who made it were treated unfarely from the wage they are given, to not being paid their over time work, to not being given breaks, to being forced to work to pay off debts, to how they are treated while working on this cloth, or if children were forced to work, etc. 
I will not buy it.
 Perhaps your wondering, what is the point? Why bother? Why waste your energy caring about something you can't control and caring about people who have nothing to do with you and you'll never meet. 

But that's just it. 
I may never meet them, but they have everything to do with how we live.
And we have everything to do with how they live.

The more we continue to buy, the demand for this and that go up. 
The more demand goes up, the more the stock market goes up and business people see $$$$. 
And that is all they see.
Exploiting humans to feed other humans is an age old practice and I am sure it will go on forever.
But I'm simply and quietly choosing to remove myself out of the cycle, the game, the show and 
do my own thing. 
I won't ask others to join me, though I do hope my words will encourage others to THINK more about their choices. Where they put there money. How they seek for new ideas.

Because you see, the money we spend is not only to support ourselves and family with food and shelter, which is all a basic human right. 
But the money we spend is also a vote for continued manufactured products.
It's as simple as that. 

I'm not saying here I'm going to boycott certain store or products, though in a way I am. 
What I'm really saying and what I want to share with you is my intention and the reasons behind them when it comes to making, crafting, living. 
I love to collect and buy and shop and have. I do. 
But I have plenty and I don't need to have much more. 
I love to create and I love to share. When I need to obtain more materials, lots of research goes into it before I purchase my madder root and soon my cloth, for example.

So, what am I to do with all this yarn I've been collecting over the years.... and all this nuno felting material dyed with acid dyes and who knows what other chemicals went into the roving process????
Let's lighten things up a bit. 

In an effort to destash all my lovely commerically dyed and mill spun yarns, 
this is happening:

When it comes to lots and lots of different colors, my mind goes in to C.O.M. 
That's what I call, color obsessive mode.
I can't turn it off and I can't do much until my color oganizing idea sparks are quenched. 
So this fine rainbow of a beasty will be a studio poncho for me as I work this winter out in the red shed on my oil painting. It is so much fun to knit. 
When my hand isn't cramping. 

This is how I'm knitting it, and I'll show progress photos later. 
I hold togther about 3-4 strands of one color type of a and work 2 rows across the 200+ sticthes I cast onto my largest and longest circlar needle. 
I could use a longer needle. 

Before when I didn't know what to do with all this yarn that I just don't feel comfortble knitting for my shop any more as it goes against the grain of my plant dye, foraging life style and mantra. 
And yes, I was a bit selfish and was not willing to donate to just anybody, like dropping it off somewhere. 
So now I can wear somthing, look down and have great memories of all this yarn. 
See that blue light blue fluffy ball? I go that in Brunswick, Maine. Near where I grew up at the Yankee knitter before it closed. 

Now here's the 2nd thing, the nuno felting material.
So nuno felting never took off with me or I with it. 
In fact I'm HORRIBLE at it. After trying to teach it three time, I realized I needed to stop abusing others with my lack a dazicle techniques. 

But look:

As awful at it as I am, I am good at making tight and tiny strips of nuno felted cloth. 
A quilt will emerge from this pile if it's the last thing I do. 
I'll share updates on that.

In other news;

My next workshop is at my dear friend's {Casey} shop, 
If you live in the Portland, Maine area, 
are curious about natural dyes and want to brush up on your indigo skills, 
this will be just the class. 
We'll have at least 2 different kinds of vats going. 
Possibly more to accomadate ALL YOUR FIBER!! 
Yes, that's right, I said, 
With in reason. 
Which simply means, whatever we have room to soak and dye in the space of a few hours. 

Some new shop updates have been happening every day.
Getting some fresh goodies and wears coming in

Thanks for sharing in this journey that we call making.

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” 
― Rumi

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dyeing on the Road; Exploring Santa Fe Dyes

I have really missed my regular blogging. There is always so much I want to share and discuss but then I overwhelm myself because there is SO MUCH I want to share and dicuss.

So trying to break the silence by getting back here a little bit more regularly.
In the future I'd like to discuss more natural/ plant dye subjects and hear from you.
That's what I'd really like.
I just started reading this book called Mauve by Simon Garfield.
It's about William Perkins and his discovery of acid dyes.
I figured if I'm going to commit to a crafting life of not using these dyes ever again, I need to know more. More on that and those reasons later.

For now, I want to share with you my latest dye experiements
I conducted while on vacation in Santa Fe during the last 2 weeks of September.

While planning for the trip, my husband often asked me what I'd like to do while there.
I always answered with and far away look in my eye and half saying.....
"I don't know...... Georgia O'Keefe stuff and dyeing. And red rocks..."

I had no idea what else to think about.
I'd never been to the south west.
Let alone any middle states.
We did drive into Colorado for a few minutes just so I could finally say-
I've now been in a state that is not boarded by the ocean, Canada, or Mexico.

The landscape in the southwest is SO BIG and left me with a wonderful feeling that I still don't have words for.

Now for some dye experiments.
In my workshops I have been asked, everytime,
"Rachel, what about this_? What about this mordant_?"
My answer, (if I do not know) is simply,
"I don't know, but why don't you try it and see."

The thing is, every single plant, lichen, mushroom, vegetable, fruit, bark, etc can be used as a dye. Something will happen. But also, each of these things that grows all around us, can then be dyed with hundreds of different methods and mordants.

Perhaps next time I should ask the one asking the orginal question,
"what about it? Are you wondering what color it will give? If it will be wash fast/ If it will be permenant? If it gives off poisinous fumes while cooking? If it is endangered or an invasive?"
In any case, all these questions we should be asking ourselves when we first dye with something we know nothing about.
And there are millions, really more than that, plants out there that I know nothing about.
Unfortunately, life is not long enough to sample ever single plant structure growing on this planet.
If I were some how able to do this. I certainly would.
For now, I'm focusing on what I cross paths with.
Weather it's in my own back yard, like purple aster, goldenrod, box elder, plantain.
(I have not dyed with some of these yet)
Or weather I am on vacation in Santa Fe, knowing there will be so many plants around me I've never seen.

In either case, I want to be prepared to follow my whim of dyeing.
I encourage you to do the same or similar thing. Especially if you teach workshops too.
This is a wonderful excerise to do wtih your students.

I've never been particular about how I mordant.  But recently, as my curiosity for what every single plant I come in contact with does, having a pile of pre-mordanted samples on hand, has been gold to me. 

A few weeks ago I set up a plan of action. As my curiosity grows and grows for what each plant will give for dyes, I'm also thinking about what fiber will take which dyes best (or really this means, what I will like the best).

I collected fiber in the following yarns;
100% wool, 100% alpaca, 100% linen, 70% kid mohair and 30% silk blend.
Then 100% silk fabric and 100% cotton fabric.
There was no important meaning behind this- it's just what I knew I had.
Next time, I will also use 100% linen fabric.
At the most where I am, a whole yard is around $18 and I can get over a 100 sample from that.
My sample are about 1" x 4". I like to keep them small so I can hang them on my sample hoop later.
linen yarn is around $22 and I only get about 10 sample.
Also, silk fabric is better for me to use then silk yarn. I get a whole lot more for my buck. And it translates better to what I'll be doing with it. I don't work in silk yarns but I do in silk fabrics. 

I kept all the skeins and the fabric together- in their orginal shapes and washed everything in a super hot orvis paste soak- a super ph nuetral soap, did a few rinses to rid the soap afterwards. Doing this soak helps to remove any mill grease and old dust that can interfer with best dyeing results. 

I choose my mordants. I would have one control (no mordant) and three others, alum, copper liquor that I made a few months ago, and iron powder.
{i've always been a huge advocate for mordanting in the dye pot with the fibers.
And this is what we always do in my workshops. But for this purpose, I went the long way around and I found it pretty soothing.}

I did find that the alum mordanted fibers do have a slightly off white tone than the non mordanted fibers. And the copper and iron of course looked like their mordant. 

When all was dry, I split up each skein into a ten strand sample just using the space around my elbow and hand, wrapping. 

{our vacation rental in santa fe. i brought my samples with me to try whatever I saw out here}

To read your samples when all is dyed, I suggest the following. 
with the non-mordanted fibers, do nothing.
With alum, tie 1 knot in the end of each yarn sample. With the fabric, cut a tiny slit at 1 end. 
With the copper, (or whatever you use) do 2 knots at the end of each sample. With the fabric, cut 2 slits. 
And so on. Then write this down in your dye notebook so you don't forget or get confued. 

Where to buy and how to prepare mordants. 
I love using alum. Of all the mordants used through out history, alum is the safest. 
Now, in our modern day living, it is used as a water purifier. So pouring the exhausted alum mordant baths down your drain or down your toilet is completely safe for the watering system IF you have city provided water.

If you have well water, I am not certain how it would affect your system. I want to believe it would be fine, but I really don't know as I don't know much about well systems. 

While visiting Santa Fe, I spoke with a women at the farmers market who said she used to use natural dyes. But she used to let her pots evaporate in the sun because her water table was too high. However, she switched to country classics- which is an acid dye. Those dyes do not exhaust so I'm not sure where the trade off was for her water system.

This is a subject that I've been researching and the Fibershed is a great resource for finding out more. 

For the copper mordant, I bought a bucket of copper bits and bobs at a yard sale where I live in Maine. 

I placed a few piece in a large glass jar and poured over vinegar and water. About 1/2 and 1/2. I let sit for several months- but I don't think you need to wait as long. A few weeks will do. The vinegar helps to bring out the copper. 

As this is the first time I've worked with copper, I can't tell you how it compars to using the copper powder. I have done lots of copper mordant and dye samples with this method and I haven't been hugely impressed with the results. I've been more impressed with the iron- something I didn't think I'd be excited about. I think the leaching of the metal does help with a mordant but the color result is never hugely different than if there were no mordant- only slightly different. 

With Iron, I did use powder. I've had it on hand for a long time. But when I run out, I'm going to create the same solution as I did with the copper- but with old nails and bits I find on the ground and at the sea shore where I live. I'll be wondering if the solution will behave the same way my copper solution did... I'll let you know. 

Using too much iron powder will ruin your wool- making it rouch and crispy so follow a good source of a recipe for using iron. 
When I did my mordanting for iron, I used 2% to the weight of dry fiber. 

Now for the good stuff. 
I found some snake weed on the side of the road.


Navajo Tea
{i bought a dried bag of this from the Espanol Valley Fiber Arts Center. I love the oranges that happened}

Pyracantha berries
{the 1st photo looks has more bron tones than it actually does...i was very surprised by this dye as is gave lots of gray with heat for about 30 minutes at 180f. my favorite is the iron wool and silk. SUper dark and moody. Later on in the week I solar dyed just a strip of alum mordanted silk with like 6 berries and it turned the silk a light orange. So my theory that I've been thinking on about how high and fast heat can really change the color structure was true in this case.}

My favorite, by far, was the purple carrot. 
One night for dinner I was making a salad with 2 purple carrots I got from the Santa Fe farmer's market that day. 
I peeled two carrots into the sink and my hands turned pruple. 
I came close to washing them down the garbage disposal but my curiosity got the better of me. 

here was my complete process for this. 
I took the shavings of 2 carrots and put them in a small jar and turned on hot water over the peels. 
I let it sit over night as I also soaked a sample each of the below picture. 

n the morning the jar was dark purple and I put the fibers inside and let it sit outside all day. 
at the end of the day, i checked them out and the temp. The temp in the jar reach 110f! 
I did a wash test and no fading. AND there was no bleeding of color. 

dried pieces. 

I let them sit in the jar again over night.
in the morning i took out the shavings and some of the color was drained from them but not all.
i started a new jar with them and left it all day to see if more color would bleed into the water. 
That is the jar to the left. 
Look how magenta:)
I popped in a little doiley and a lenght of lace ribbon. 

The first jar I left the dye bath in there- I will mention though that I accidently dumped half of it out (!) I was so upset. But i filled the missing space with water (it was half the jar) and continued on. I entered in a sample each of what I had left and what i didn't dye with yet for the purple carrots. soon realizing that this dye was so concentrated, diluting it was no problem either. 
That is the jar on the left in the right photo. 


{these 2 colors are the exact colors of these sparkly water batons my sister, shannon and I had when we were young. She had magenta and I had purple. I would spend hours flipping this baton over and over just the watch the glitter float and pile softly to the bottom. It was very soothing. 

Really happy with these colors. And so excited to add another vegetable scrap to my repertoire. Could it be a stronger dye than red cabbage? 
I'll let you know if it fades.