Adventure Bandanas

It’s August, and we’re two weekends into a month of fun visits from family and friends. After canoeing on Saturday, Bill and his cousin took charge of the kitchen and the rest of us went out to my studio to play.

A 12-pack of white cotton bandanas from Dharma Trading Company makes it easy for me to fit in a fun project for the kids. I pull out the FabricMate markers and we just start drawing things that remind us of the cool stuff we’ve seen and done over the weekend. Canoes and wildlife often appear in our Adventure Banadanas. It’s a sneaky way of making story cloths — textiles that help people get started telling the stories of their lives.

Once they dry, FabricMate Markers are permanent without heat setting. The girls did their own bandanas entirely with markers. The boys painted on additional color with Dye-na-Flow fabric paints, and we had fun mixing colors to see what we could get. We accidentally spilled some paint on the plastic-covered table, then did it deliberately, swirling colors together and mopping up paint with a bandana for another effect.

And for other not-so-deliberate spills (usually related to the fact that my table is the right height for me, but not for my young guests), it’s nice to have a floor where a little extra color just blends in.

After drying on the line, the Dye-na-Flow takes just a few minutes to heat set with a hot iron. Next weekend when the next batch of cool kids comes to visit, they’ll get to heat set their own. They’ve been doing it (with close supervision) since they were small.

Over the years, we’ve done treasure map bandanas and scavenger hunt bandanas, but my favorites are still whatever the kids come up with themselves. So I try to give them just enough direction to get started, then just stand back and pour paint!

Crossing That Bridge

When last we met, I showed results from my effort to use up some Procion H dyes, including one process that didn’t work out as I hoped but produced a fabric I liked anyway. This week’s goal was to use that fabric to get back into the studio groove in the new year. My challenge was to work quickly and not get too invested in the piece — just get it done and build some momentum.

Auditioning fabrics

To me, the piece had the feel of moving water seen through foliage. I had used dye on my gloved fingertips to dot some “rocks” in the stream, but they lacked contrast. So I found some silk and appliqued on more distinctive rocks. Another scrap of silk became a fallen log. Having hopped across a lot of real rocks and crept along my share of mossy logs, silk, with its sheen and slipperiness, seemed the perfect choice.

My intention wasn’t to create a literal representation of a particular scene, but to find a story within the piece that I could reflect on while stitching. A lighter area gave me the impression of shallow water, and that gave me the story: When you come upon some obstruction to forward progress, there’s usually not only some way to get beyond it but several ways. Hop across from spot to spot. Creep across on that slippery log. Or look a little farther upstream and see if there’s a place to wade in.

Hop Creep Wade detail by Donna Kallner

In the finished piece, I used multi-layered top and bottom borders to frame the scene — sort of like looking down at a stream through the guard rail on a bridge.

Hop Creep Wade by Donna Kallner

The bridges other people build sure come in handy sometime. But they don’t always lead quite where we want to go. In the new year, I’m resolved to remember there are other ways to get across. We might get wet, but it will be an adventure.

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Speaking Volumes With Thread

In the articles section of Valley Fiber Life, I ran across some information about oya, a Turkish form of needle lace, which is a form of looping. I love oya. Years ago in a used book store years I bought a copy of In Celebration of the Curious Mind: A Festschrift to Honor Anne Blinks.It contains a wonderful essay on oya by Pat Hickman. As my students stitch, I enjoy reading them passages like this one, where she describes how oya could be used to communicate what is difficult to express in words alone.

Soon after marriage, a new bride was expected to send a gift of a scarf with oya edging to her mother-in-law. If all was going well, she sent one with meadow flowers — happily, evenly spaced between light and dark leaves. If the marriage was not working, a scarf with dark green finger-like projections, called “tombstones,” was sent as the gift…If a wife and her husband were not getting along she would wear a head scarf with small red peppers hanging from it until their argument had passed.

The author of the article at Valley Fiber Life is Figen Kakir, a “Brit chick knitting in Turkey” who also blogs at The Knit Box. From Figen I learned that
Phases in the work are called root oya, rock oya and main oya.


Oya lace has always had a story or message to communicate – love, sadness, yearning, mourning, joy. Originally made to trim headscarves, bed linen, towels and bridal veils, the designs have been named after flowers (lilies, hyacinths and violets the most popular), nature and legends (such as Mejnun’s nest).

I’m intrigued. Does anyone know the story of Mejnun’s nest?

What do you say with your needlework that you would find difficult to express in words alone?

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