Thanks to unseasonably mild weather, this morning I was able to harvest some dye materials that were buried under snow this time last year. So I chopped mullein leaves during the football game and got them soaking. Tomorrow my unnaturally tidy studio goes back into dye mode.
Lately, I’ve moved a few underused appliances out of the kitchen and into the studio. And I’m kicking myself for waiting this long.
The dehydrator won’t be missed in the kitchen. I just never got in the habit of using it there. But in the studio, it didn’t take long to decide it’s invaluable. I’ve been using it to dry willow leaves, which I then use an old coffee grinder to turn into a coarse powder. And that’s just the start. Continue reading Tool Tips For Natural Dyeing
If there’s something even better than having a burner for everyone and a floor where spills don’t matter, it’s a big patch of dye materials right out the back door and great companions while harvesting, brewing and learning.
Students in the Natural Dye Retreat at Sievers started their week by cutting material from the willow patch on campus. It’s beautiful material for dyeing as well as for basketmaking. I’ll write more about the specifics of willow dyeing soon (I haven’t forgotten, Frances!). But for now, here’s a picture of a wool-silk yarn dyed with willow leaves (salix alba vitellina) and modifiers from a demo I did while the fresh-leaf Japanese indigo pot was heating.
At what point are invaders considered naturalized? That’s been a central topic in a class I’m taking this fall on the ethnobotany of Central Wisconsin. A recurring theme has been how one person’s weed is another’s food or medicinal plant — or natural dye.
It wasn’t on the syllabus, but buckthorn came into the discussion early in the class. We’ve all tried and failed to stop the spread of this European invader. Buckthorn leafs out early and holds its leaves late, often shading native plants. And it produces a huge amount of fruit, making it easy for birds that eat the fruit to disperse the seed where they poop, making more buckthorn. It has spread so widely now in our area that it seems likely here to stay. Which led to the question, “What will people think of it in 400 years?”
It’s taken almost 20 years, but I think I finally have a handle on one species of the looping genus known as nalbinding (or nalebinding, or naalbinding…).
Last weekend I traveled to Iowa to Vesterheim, the national Norwegian-American Museum, for a 3-day class in their Folk Art School with Kate Martinson, an Emeritus Professor of Art at Luther College in Decorah.
The first time someone showed me how to do a nalbinding stitch would have been about 1996. By that time, I had been looping for a while and was pretty comfortable with the basic structure and concepts. But it’s one thing to see someone stitch in nalbinding and another (at least as an adult) to translate watching into doing. Especially with nalbinding, where you work into both the back and the front of the piece
Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing with some natural dye process variations. On Saturday, I took some of my experiments to show at a demo at our local farmers market. I love doing demos at the market, and thought this would be a perfect time to celebrate the color potential of what you can grow or gather in this area.
For the demo, I took some of solar dyed yarns. After last year’s fermented dye experiments, I was a bit reluctant to venture back into the realm of reek. But I thought it was worth taking a chance to see if the addition of alum to a jar of solar extraction would give results worth the potential stink.
On Saturday, I set aside nagging doubts and made my first fresh-leaf indigo vat with leaves from plants grown in northern Wisconsin. And it worked!
Usually, I don’t stress that much about experiments that might fail. But with a limited supply of fresh leaves, I was more than a little afraid a mistake could cost me a whole growing season.
My family has a code phrase for things that are a big deal: If you don’t fully understand why but you hear the helpful phrase, “It’s a $7 ham,” you know it’s something to celebrate. This week, two new looping treasures have come into my life. One is a gift that adds another another layer to the tale of two bags I wrote about last time. The other, an out-of-print book, is a $7 ham (cue the confetti).
This nettle fiber Akha bag arrived in the mail this week, an unexpected and cherished gift from my friend Tressa Sularz.
Two new (to me) bags came into my life this summer. They brought two new people into my life, at two different events, and two new examples of looping from different parts of the world to spark conversations when I carry them.
Today, I gave myself permission to ignore my to-do list (prep for Sievers workshop next week) until afternoon. By then, I should have a huge accumulation of laundry washed and hung to dry. In between trips to the clothesline, I need to download a huge accumulation of stuff from my head. Some are things I wish I had taken better pictures of, or better notes, or any pictures or notes, because I think you would find them inspirational. Others may be of no interest to anyone but me. But it’s hard to be tidy during a mental house-cleaning, so here’s goes.