Inspiration From Looped Bags

At the Northwest Basket Weavers winter retreat, I had the pleasure of seeing some looped bags collected by other people. This often happens when I give a lecture. I’m always grateful when people share their finds with me and allow me to share them with you — even when I lose sleep trying to figure them out.

Looped string bag from Sharle Osborne.

Sharle Osborne brought several lovely bags to show me, including this one. Its size, shape and stiffness at first had me thinking it might have been a camel muzzle, like this one from the Pitt River Museum.

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Natural Dye On Spruce Roots

An old building like my studio is hard to heat, even without this week’s sub-zero temperatures. But it will be a few more days before I’m ready to unplug the furnace and work in the basement until spring. 

One of those experiments is dyeing spruce root for basketry. My friend Karen Tembreull gave me some split roots to play with. I think the indigo-dyed roots need a few more dips, which I’m happy to have drip on the studio floor but would feel a need to mop up in the house. Continue reading Natural Dye On Spruce Roots

Gifts With A Story

One of the nicest parts of holiday sales is hearing, “That’s perfect for….” and the story of who and why. It’s like you become part of the story, as well as the extended family.

Botanical print scarf from my etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/listing/480107880/silk-scarf-eco-fashion-plant-dyed.

That happens a lot with the botanical dye scarves and yarns I sell. People are looking for something they can feel good about giving, and they like being able to honor a giftee’s love of nature. I love that people are interested in the techniques and materials I use, and that those items go out in the world to spark conversations.

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Singing The Fresh Leaf Blues

My latest attempt at an organic vat from fresh-leaf homegrown Japanese indigo has me singing the blues — the pale, grayish, stinky blues. And while this batch of yarn counts as a dye fail, I learned some things getting here.

The yarns look better than they really are, but there’s no point letting them dry out for a photo. I’ll keep changing the water until the odor is gone, then overdye them. Probably in a fresh-leaf vat reduced with Thiox. Because it’s the end of August, which in northern Wisconsin means our growing season could end in six weeks or six days. 

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Snipping My Way To Color

Natural dye material is ready to harvest just about everywhere you turn here in rural northern Wisconsin, where I’m snipping as fast as I can. It’s nice to have a reason to slow down for a bit and enjoy dyeing with a friend.

The angel who started my Japanese indigo last spring came over yesterday morning. We combined leaves snipped from her plants and mine and had a nice visit while the pot warmed gently over a two-hour period. 

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Studio Transformations

This weekend has been our annual fishing camp, and my studio was temporarily converted into Fly Tying Central. But once the feathers and flash are picked up this afternoon, I’ll start spreading out natural dye materials to dry while I’m away teaching at Convergence.

Fly tying table at fishing camp.

Convergence is the Handweavers Guild of America biennial conference. Packing for an event like this is best done without any distractions — at least for me. At least if there’s anything that has to be counted. So I got all that done before our company arrived on Friday.

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Local Color At Sievers

One warm, sunny October day in the mid-1990’s, I fell in love with Washington Island. I was in Jo Campbell-Amsler’s willow backpack class at Sievers, and we left the studio to weave at what is now called Percy Johnson Park. 

Now I take my own students there when I teach a Sievers class called Local Color. The class combines field trips, natural dyeing, photography and digital imaging, and printing and embellishing images on fabric and transfers.

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Japanese Indigo In Containers

Last year I grew Japanese indigo successfully in a recycled horse trough with the bottom cut out. This year, to plant my expanded crop, I’m also trying three more container growing options.

recycled-horse-trough-container_indigo

Each year, Bill and I try a few new container experiments for growing vegetables. Last year we raised potatoes, sunchokes and basil in wire cages made from hardware cloth. We lined the cages with a thick layer of dry leaves. (We found a ring of plastic cut from an old barrel makes it easy to pack leaves up the sides of the container.) Then we fill the center with a mix of soil and compost. This year, one of those bins is planted with indigo seedlings.

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