when is enough

This is me this week. I’m just not as cute or lovable. The last three weeks, i was pushing, running, pushing more, running again, as piles grew, but the piles while working didn’t feel that big when i’d stop, so i’d push and run some more. After last weekend and the following days, explanations for which i am not going to go into again, i’m exhausted. Physically, emotionally, cerebral-y (that is SO a word, even if i just made it up). Small world of one’s own, large world one lives in, i’m just so tired of it all. All i want to do is sleep. I’m taking two naps a day, going to bed early (though i do get up early from years of habit), but it’s still not enough sleep.

I’ve got plans, lists, ideas. I try to be disciplined. I keep a sketchbook handy. I’m not short on materials. I’m pleased with what i have done, confident in my skills, assured of future work– but I still just want to sleep.

Isn’t “lockdown” perfect for sleep? Sleep it all away, all the wilful ignorance, vanity, hatred, jealousy, self righteousness, self entitlement, self importance. Keep the circle small, make it smaller than it already is. If i sleep until January, maybe that magic flip of the calendar page will work this time.

I’m trying to find that one bit of perfection in a day but for whatever reason, sleep is the thing.

Christmas 2020 Moons, UPDATED

ALL are created as original works of art, from my own naturally dyed fabrics and threads, and then hand embroidered and beaded, as OOAK pieces. This year, many of the small pieces include a small easel for display, as they don’t do well on a wall, due to their delicacy. Dyes used include indigo, lac, madder, cochineal, quebracho rojo, marigolds, onion, eucalyptus, cutch, all done with historically accurate long lasting processes. Listings will commence Sunday, November 22nd.

If you see something you like, but it is sold out, i can approximate–remember, i said One of a Kind, but i do “series” also, so similar works can be produced. Please email me through the Contact page either on this blog or on the shop site.

i’m hearing bells

As mentioned in a previous post, i decided this year to participate for the second time with a local collective, Contextural Fibre Arts Co-operative. I did reasonably well the first time i joined in (2012) with ONE week to get stuff together! (I used the machine a lot then, and the majority of what i had was small very inexpensive textile art pins 🙂 ) This year i thought i was smart by signing up on the 11th of October for a Nov 21st date, but time got a wee bit lagged and dragged, and now i’m in the throes of panic *but* working the ol’ hoofies to the bone !

So, this year with the premise in mind that NO ONE is doing what i do, especially exclusively with natural dyes, here’s the various views of studio doings lately:

embroidery with naturally dyed threads

embroidery with naturally dyed threads

embroidered moon, naturally dyed threads and fabricsI have Organized Piles with Notes for slated work, fabrics picked out, some solid design sketches and some still in my head, labels, an inventory sheet, display ideas and display items, and am treating the whole as a Job. Yes, art can be a job, an enjoyable one, but the key IS discipline. Line it up, get her going then Go. Do.

I will have new work to show and sell, and promise the happy drool will be off my face 🙂 (Well, the happy will still be, but i promise no drool.) ALL Covid protocols will be in place to keep you safe, from masks and sanitizing, to distancing and contact trace info, limited numbers allowed in and (unfortunately) only one day this time to see the vast array our group has to offer in the way of unique textile arts and crafts, from wearables to gifties to Art. If you are in Calgary, or its environs–hey Alberta!—please share and spread the word!


OH MY GAWDZ, my Indigo suffruticosa is getting flowers!!!!! It’s been under a professional level grow light since Sept 30th, has doubled its size and is looking properly woody shrubs and now there are flower spikes in the leaf axils!!!! I was going to harvest at the end of October, but I want to see now if the flowers go to seed. Hoofies crossed!

Advance notice, mark your calendar!

ONE DAY ONLY. Inglewood neighbourhood, Calgary, Alberta, Canada—-a bit more planning for me this year for logistics as i no longer reside there! (Figures, huh? 🙂 )

The Contextural Fibre Artists are coming together for their annual Christmas Artisan Sale. Join us to see original textile work and meet the artists. Contextural is a group of professional artists who meet to support each of our individual fibre practices. Our artists work with fibres or textiles in many different ways, from hand-dyed clothing and home decor to woven items, printed and painted fabrics, embroidery stitching and more. Admission is free. We are implementing all AHS Covid protocols to keep you safe and comfortable while you shop with us.


I have been in my studio, the Dye Dungeon and my stitching corner on the couch, working my hoofies down. (Yes, this busy bee has hoofies…)

In a sense, i have left it late to produce, but then again, i know my speed and hopefully can make a fair showing.

See you there, Locals!!!!


big shop update

A plethora of pretty! A lot of luscious! Candy dishes of cotton, loads of linen and va va va voom velvets! Come         on       down              (expansive hand and arm gestures)!

My work table is over burdened at the moment with naturally dyed cloth, and with the exception of a few pieces for my own work, and since i use only small small pieces 🙂 i truly am running out of room to store it.

My prices are more than reasonable. You get more than a couple of scraps and a dinky bit of lace or thread. You get dyes that last, that are done accurately with historical processes. No fugitive fadey colours in my studio! You even get money back if i charged too much for postage/shipping! (The initial charges may seem “high”, but i still charge a lot less than Etsy or the like, and ALWAYS refund the extra.)

I have  new listings in the shop, with more to come tomorrow—–after the Thanksgiving weekend dinner digest 🙂 EDIT: OCT 17/20 MORE LISTED.



growing indigo in a northern clime, part one

Specifically, this type of indigo is Indigofera suffruticosa, a more tropical type than what most grow. Please bear this in mind for my “review” of growing it. Results may vary with other varieties like Indigofera tinctoria. (I have grown Persicaria tinctoria before, but that’s another post, and a variety/species to try again next year.) I was asked by Deb McClintock to share this as advice and experience in a climate than is very different from Texas (where my seeds came from her plants) and other warm/hot/temperate states, provinces and countries, compiling several previous posts and the final results.

I of course started my seeds indoors, May 16th, and placed under a grow light, a necessity in Alberta’s climate. Even the seeds released some blue after soaking overnight! We have a shorter growing season, colder nights (down to 5C –even in the summer—due to our altitude), temperatures rarely going above 30C (86F) and while we get lots of sunshine, my yard is not optimum for catching it! They were sown in a regular potting mix, augmented with a bit of sheep poo fertilizer. I watered them by soaking once a week as they didn’t seem to need much –in fact i’ve never had them wilt even when i forgot to water! Kept under lights until the end of May and then planted in a small pot, they didn’t grow much at all, though they did survive 3 hailstorms! I chose to pot them also because i have a very tiny yard, and the best way to get enough sun on these babies was to put them in something moveable, which was done up to 3 times daily.

By Aug 13th, there wasn’t much growth or improvement, so i transplanted then to a larger pot placing them inside the radius of a large peony cage as well, again with a good layer of sheep poo, a composted manure that usually helps enough that i swear i can see things grow 3inches to a foot a day depending on the plant …..not so much this time…… and wrapped the cage in plastic to trap heat, and which also protects them from hail, a too common occurrence in Alberta summers. I had noticed that any time the night temperature dropped to or below 15C, the leaves would fold down, like a mimosa pudica (the ol’ kids favourite “sensitive” plant). Incidentally, a larger pot does not guarantee growth–i just figured if they DID suddenly go crazy, i wouldn’t have to shock them by transplanting after the fact. Each week, i gave them a weak feeding of Alaska Fish Fertilizer, as i don’t know how deep the roots go, or if they are even down to the layer of sheep poo amendment.

Wrapping them did seem to help. The photo below was taken Sept 9th. I covered the top as well with plastic, creating a small greenhouse. We did have ONE night of frost warning Sept 8th, but i don’t think it actually went below 2C, so the plastic helped, though i also snuggled it up to the tomatoes and threw a heavy flannellette sheet over the whole area. The plants at that point were at a  barely 10″ height.

In the week before i brought them in, Sept 22nd to 29th, our temps started showing autumn, ranging from 14C to 23C during the day and 4C to 8C during the night–this was also the period, it showed an impressive change, filling out and getting woodier stems! At this point, they are still only 12″ high, a far cry from Deb’s 6-8′ beauties!   I figure it might have improved greatly as a last ditch rally: “NO NO NO, i don’t wanna die because winter is coming! Imma making leaves, lookit me, maybe i’ll flower! Don’t let me die!” 🙂



Incidentally, though we had something in the yard that chomped all my honeyberry leaves down to nubbins, and then attacked my rose, nothing seemed interested in these babies. Perhaps luck, perhaps no pests here of the type that would be interested. No yellowing due to soil or water factors, no sun burning, so viruses of any type. Hoofies crossed that no spider mite will occur now that the pot is indoors.

I didn’t want to tempt the Fates though, so brought it in on the 29th–and FREAKED the morning of the 30th as it had folded down so much i thought it was dying!!!!!!!!! I set it up the evening of Sept 30th under “professional” grow lights, near a heat source, and it recovered, so i’m hoping it was just from being near a partially opened window for that night. (By “professional”, i mean Grow Lights, the kind used in the industry–greenhouses, plant nurseries, cannabis set-ups–not the cheap dicky ones sold by Wallymart or the like. If i’m going to invest in something that takes time and some technology, i invest in as top of the line i can afford, or don’t bother.)

Here’s the grow light set-up, nothing fancy: a saucer on a stool, a heat vent in the floor behind–though i put a small cardboard diverter on that so it doesn’t blow directly on the pot—-NOT LETTING CONDITIONS FOR SPIDER MITE HAPPEN!!!!!!!!. and the grow light hanging from ceiling about 2.5 feet above. The light can be adjusted up as/if the plant gets taller. (HOPE HOPE HOPE.) I intend to baby it for at least a month, thinking that longer than that is not going to do much for growth or volume for use.


Had to put a dark bag on the outside though to save our eyes, as this is in the living room! The light goes on at 6am and off at 7am, hoping the timing is okay for hours. (It’s not like there’s a manual for this sort of thing, for any plant!

Part two will be written in probably a month as i see what happens in its new crib :), and then hopefully, enough leaves gathered for at least a teenyschmeenyweensy indigo extraction experiment.

EDIT OCT 3/20—-Talk about freaking my beak! Within 5 minutes of turning these lights off at night, the leaves fold down COMPLETELY. I would assume this is a defense mechanism of sorts to conserve both heat and water expiration, so light *and* temperature affects this. Fortunately, they come back to full mast in the morning, on their own, as soon as light starts to creep in from the patio window, or the light is turned back on.

different kinds of simple

What makes something simple? Minimal colour, minimal texture, big details or small? Clean lines, perfect angles, closed shapes? Archetypal symbols, personal interpretations of symbols, no symbols? (That’s a non issue the “no symbols”: somebody somewhere is going to read something into it.) One swoop on a colour field? No flowers, frillies or lacies? One technique? Maximum  ℑ/⊇/ℜ**** techniques (that merge, don’t fight)?

This is simple:

Original Truths, detail 2, hand embroidery on cottons, natural dyes and rust processes, 20×31″

So is this:

Winter Prairie, detail, 2012, rust cotton, hand embroidery, 18×26″

And this:

Lady of Sky, indigo and Procion dyed cotton, ecoprinted cotton, naturally dyed and commercial threads, 9×24″, arlee barr©, in private collection

So too are these:

I find myself fighting with things, trying to be more direct. Ideally, the goal is that last simple dotted circle: THAT is the kind of minimalism i desire, but it’s not as easy as it looks, having a harsh Inner Critic.

Spent three hours on this today (base with minimal work SO FAR in photo):

To the left, i scattered three hot pink dots, and then ripped out four versions of stitching around them–flowers yes, but i want simple, not foofy. Sometimes i see too much in these, then overwork, then rip out, start again (or toss aside). How’d i let myself be distracted by all the jeuje-ing of colour and texture?

Actually, the above started like this:

Because what i WANTED to start with, i think i threw out when we did the Big Move downsizing in September and October of last year:

I’ve torn apart my whole studio trying to find it. I wanted to cut it into at least 3 parts, then use the offcuts in a fourth piece, but. But but but, the one i came up with is not even near what i wanted, or expected of myself.


Each interpretation/mistake/solution-change-fix though does usually lead to other work being “easier”. Maybe that’s the point.

****imaginary part/superset/real part symbol

dye week again

The shop is empty of fabrics, so it was time to gear up again. I used an old piece from 2009 as a colour inspiration guide!

I do need to revive my indigo vat though for some blues and soft greens, and wind and prep some more thread skeins!


Well, these are a *bit* more vivacious than the “source” 🙂 , but oh oh oh, such eye candy delights. It’s grey and smokey outside, neither summer nor fall, with only a liminal edge that says “day”, so i’m spending a lot of time in the Dye Dungeon. It’s therapy, passion, joy, science and chillin’ out all at once in these times 🙂

Madder, cochineal, onion, marigolds and quebracho rojo on cotton and silk

Listings will start appearing in the shop on Sept 18. Live! Now! 🙂

nope. and yes (growing indigo in Alberta).

Sometimes the “plan” gets forced. Usually doesn’t work.

Revamping idea for “Collige virgo rosas”: same velvets, different background. Don’t like this, or rather, don’t like them together.

Off to the dyepots today/this week. I have in mind some softer fabrics, softer colours AND dramatic colours on softer fabrics.

My Indigo suffruticosa has climbed now to a foot high! (Tongue in cheek. Deb’s got to 6 feet plus, have been harvested and processed already. Better to see the whole thing on her IG.) It got completely covered under 2 layers of heavy plastic when we had our first frost 2 nights ago, survived with no damage, nestled up to the tomatoes, and i will keep babying it as long as i can. Maybe bring in and put under proper growlights if i grab in time before a sneaky frost happens.

Considering how pathetic it looked a few days less than a month ago, and how late it is in the season, i can see some hope for next year! Above, Sept 9, below Aug 12.

Next year, i will definitely “poly tunnel” it from the start. It obviously *can* grow here WITH THOUGHTFUL INFORMED CARE, probably will get no bigger than a few feet, and likely won’t flower (much) but a few feet’s worth is still enough to harvest and use! (Just in case you haven’t see my other Ind suf posts, i am in Calgary Alberta, a tough grow zone, with shorter seasons, much cooler night temps in the summer, and frequent hail.)