An Early Start For Indigo

I’ve lived in Northern Wisconsin for 30 years and the only month where I’ve never seen frost is July — but I’ve heard it can happen. My growing season for tender plants like Japanese indigo is generally from early June to mid-September. This year, I’m trying to extend that season on the front end.  I’m hoping I won’t have to bring potted plants indoors in the fall to protect them from frost while seeds mature for the next year’s crop.

Previously, I started my indigo seeds at the end of April and set the plants out under milk jug cloches after Memorial Day. Our ground can stay cold well into June, and the cloches act like mini greenhouses. This year, though, I started seeds in early April, and set the seedlings out under cloches on April 24.

We’re expecting overnight temperatures in the high 20s later this week, which might put a quick end to this experiment. To be safe, I have more seedlings indoors and can replant if necessary.

This is the first time I’ve used a heat mat under the flat while germinating the seeds. In the past, I put containers on top of our 55 gallon aquarium. Without the aquarium for warmth, I splurged on a $17 heat mat that I only used for a couple of days.

I don’t have grow lights, so my seedlings get leggy pretty fast. On April 20, I transferred some seedlings into yogurt containers. That should give them enough soil to thrive in case they’re indoors another four to six weeks. These are my insurance policy, in case this experiment in pushing the season fails.

If the seedlings that went outside already do succumb to frost this week, I have seedlings left in the flat for replanting — several times, if necessary. But I have high hopes for this experiment. I’ll keep you posted.

Willow Identification

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!

Looping On The Road

Embarrassing things happen when you travel. At least, I like to think it’s not just me who occasionally looks around in relief that I will probably never have to face these people again. I’ll leave much to your imagination and just share today’s addition to things I hope never to repeat.

This is not the yarn or project I planned to bring on this trip. I’m heading to Florida to move my parents again, to a different assisted living/memory care facility. I know I won’t have much time for stitching the next two weeks. But you might have heard that bad weather has wrecked havok on air travel this week.

Continue reading Looping On The Road

Fuegian Coiling

At the Northwest Basket Weavers winter retreat, one of the workshops I taught was a technique known as Fuegian coiling, which is basically simple looping over a core element.

Fuegian coiling samples by Donna Kallner.

I picked up the technique (including its name) from Osma Gallinger Tod’s book Earth Basketry. Over the years I’ve applied the concept to materials ranging from bark and cordage to velvet and satin cores. Definitely not traditional — but then, it’s hard to find much information about the basketry traditions of Tierra del Fuego and the Fuegian culture area. And I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to the southernmost tip of South America.

Baskets in museum in Tierra del Fuego photo by Jeannie Averbeck.

So I really appreciate when someone who has visited sorts through travel photos and sends some to me to share with others. It’s even better when that someone sees through a basketmaker’s eyes.

Continue reading Fuegian Coiling

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.

Continue reading Inspiration From Looped Bags

Plugging In For A Winter Recharge

When winter days are dark and short, I really appreciate the things that help recharge my creative energy. Things like planning a summer workshop (Sievers class registration opens today). Or going to a winter retreat — that’s what I did in January. After teaching at the Northwest Basket Weavers winter event, I came home charged up with ideas I can’t wait to explore.

I’ll save pictures of looped bags people brought to show me for my next post and focus this time on classes and retreat events. Continue reading Plugging In For A Winter Recharge

Packing Light

After Christmas I packed and sent off materials for workshops in Washington next week. I managed to fit materials for five workshops at the Northwest Basket Weaver’s winter retreat in two flat-rate Priority Mail boxes, with just enough room to slip in a few tea bags. Packing light is a skill developed through practice, and I’m always learning. 

It may take me a bit longer to set up for the netting class, since I decided not to ship the homebrewed tension jigs I like to use (heavy) or C-clamps (heavier). But students will be able to keep the cord I sent instead, and I’ll teach them how to tie a tension aid themselves (that trucker’s hitch is a useful knot). 

Continue reading Packing Light

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


UPDATED January 30, 2017 — The kids were found on January 24, and are home safe with their Dad. Thank you to everyone who shared info and to all who were looking for these kids!

Please forgive me for a post that is not fiber-related, but I have a favor to ask: Two children from my community — Averie and Dalton Brown– are missing.

We hope someone somewhere will see the posters and recognize Averie and Dalton and help bring them home.

Continue reading Missing

Etsy First-Time Buyer Promo

Through Monday, December 12, there’s a special promotion going on at Etsy, the online marketplace where I sell my work. First-time Etsy buyers who spend $50 in one shop in a single purchase (multiple items qualify) will receive a $10 credit toward a future purchase on Etsy, which they can redeem through January 31, 2017. See the full Terms & Conditions for additional details.

If you’re planning to do your holiday shopping over the weekend, I hope you can take advantage of this bonus!