It’s been a while since I took time to write, so to catch up a bit I’ll focus on topics — starting with willow. I’ll write on indigo and other natural dye materials soon.
This season has been a good one for peeling willow bark. I was able to peel before and after going to the Willow Gathering at Luther College in June. With some of the early harvest it was easy to separate outer and inner bark, so in addition to natural dye material I got a basket full of inner bark dried for cordage.
Years ago at a workshop, I picked up another basketmaker’s trimmings to make cuttings for my own willow patch. Over the years, that variety’s leaves and bark have become among my favorite for natural dye. But I never knew what variety it was.
This video shows key features for identifying willow species in the United States. I believe the willow I’ve been trying to identify is peachleaf willow, salix amygdaloides.
Before I started growing named cultivars bred for basketry, I harvested and wove a lot of the willow that grows wild here in rural northern Wisconsin. I wish this video had been around then!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.