you just start somewhere

In the annual purge that takes place in January, i found an old “mark making” journal. A period of mixed media and a lot of colour, it was my antidote to living and working in my MIL’s basement, a horrible place and situation in many ways. “Notes from Mother Nature”ย  was made in October of 2008.

My “epiphany” is gelling, if indeed epiphanies do gel. Reflective searching thought, and research has led back to some ideas, but unless i actually start somewhere, nothing will take form. Simple, right? There are many many parts i wish to use again: the studio worktable is a jumble of sketches, fabrics, notes and paper scraps.

So, start small, because small can become big when the sum of the parts become the whole dance.


Jam Day Ecoprintingpalooza

Friends and i have been planning and hoping to get together for literally months to have a play day! All of us of course have busy lives, but finally on the 27th, we were able to commit all at the same time, to the 29th of January.

Lyn has a wonderful second story studio set up, waaaaaaaaaaay out by the mountains!

With oodles of materials to work with from rose to cherry, sumac and grevillea, onion and maple, marigold flowers, rose petals, turmeric, something like sliced betel nut, privet berries and oak, eucalyptus, osage curlings, well, you name it–if it was scavenged locally, buyable or shared, we had a plethora of materials to choose from. Almost overwhelmingly so! We also shared pre-mordanted fabrics, and lots of discussion and tips about various methods and techniques.

We had a pot of onion skins going for one bath, and a pot of superstrong Lac as well.

I had a difficult time choosing, soย  i stuck to the “tried and true’s” of maple, oak, grevillea, euc and osage, with experimental hints of privet berry, rose petal, the almost betel nut, amaryllis and rowan. (Note, the privet berries give a nice green dye, but do NOT print at all….) Lyn generously shared a long strip of viscose (?) scarf (commercially dyed, and un-mordanted) that we first soaked in vinegar (NOT A MORDANT, but a modifier/Ph adjuster), and then layered with plant materials, with me adding a strip of previously logwood dyed silk in between. I had gone out for a bit of fresh air at one point and picked some fresh fir, tearing it into little pieces and putting that between the layers, with a bit of euc also.

!!!! When this was wet, we couldn’t decide if there was a definite imprint, thinking perhaps it was just an “embossing” effect as the viscose was thicker than most cottons and silks, but yup, fir and euc did the job and discharged just enough to make it interesting. First photo below, un-pressed, second pressed:

(To see more details, all photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.) Part of the effect i think is that some of the logwood “transferred” to the viscose, as evidenced by the darker colour. Even so, i think i’m going to discharge this whole piece, and try again. I might even add a crocheted or needlelace edging after so i can wear it as a scarf.

And look what it did to the logwood silk!!!


We tried some of the haremcloth as well. Lyn got crisp results, mine not so much, but i think mine was too loose a bundle.

I love this green from the onion bath, very atmospheric and reminding me of an old Arthur Rackham illustration.

Great colour on this one from the lac, but the maple, euc and osage is barely visible, except as a contrasting yellow:


Blah, but i like the string patterning, always my favourite part, and usually strong even on failed pieces:



I wish i had a shot of one of Susan’s pieces–she has used alum acetate with a chalking after (mordanting procedure for cellulose fibres) , something i have pooh-poohed as a step i didn’t “need” to do ๐Ÿ™‚ย  However, it definitely made the colours from the leaves and dyes bond better, with maple leaves showing such incredible detail and colour range that you would believe it had been painted by a VERY skilled artist.

These two pieces are the ones though that really made me SQUEAL.

Above, euc, oak and osage on cotton, with lac. Below, euc, oak and osage on previously logwood dyed cotton, in lac.

Obvious to me is that pre-mordanting properly can make a major difference. Click on the photos to see the full glory ๐Ÿ™‚

I still have one bundle cooking right now, as it missed getting into either pot, so maybe another surprise or two.

(And alas i don’t have a lot of in situ shots, or pics of Susan and Lyn’s results–oh some were to die for!!– as i forgot to put the chip in the big camera, and had to use my phone. And most of those were blurry ’cause i was so excited ๐Ÿ™‚ )

I do believe i could get excited about ecoprinting again. I’m still in “Epiphany” mode though, so taking more time for reflection and doing, rather than showing and sharing here.


You may, or may not(!),ย  notice that i have disabled the “like” button on posts, starting with Jan 21st of this year. It’s starting to feel like FB where people “react”, but never actually say anything. Blogging is about interaction, and as guilty as i myself am sometimes for doing that, i’m feeling if i *do* “like” something, it might be is helpful, encouraging or validating to someone to actually SAY what i mean. Trying to change that habit myself!

fool me once…….

HA! It took me TWELVE YEARS to figure out here was something wrong with this sketch. At the time, i was quite concerned that i get the valves and tubes all facing the right way, (there was an actual, real life cardiac surgeon on the QuiltArt list in those days, who helped a lot), but what about the hands???? Who holds a heart like that (pre-supposing one could, and not as part of some nasty ritual ๐Ÿ™‚ ) ?

It’s not the intended Next Big Thing, but a smaller part of the whole, perhaps a new “series”. Either that or a very intense sampling ๐Ÿ™‚ The hands are done on a potassium permanganate/rust/brazilwood cotton from a residency, with naturally dyed threads used for the embroidery.

I’ve done some dyeing now for this particular design, both “potperm’ and cochineal with iron (I want deep purple, not fuschia), and have some logwood dyed cotton as well for bits. I’m torn between using an indigo with potperm background, or just potperm–or something else entirely different!— and have to decide reasonably soon so i can commence the rest of the work.

Book Review: Natural Dyes by Gwen Fereday

Note to self: this is the last natural dye book that will be bought for the Stately Barr Manor Studio!

On the advice of someone on the FB Natural Textile Dyeing group (someone i trust ๐Ÿ™‚ ),ย  i ordered a copy of Gwen Fereday’s “Natural Dyes”.

It’s available through used book sellers, but i bypassed Amazon as it was rather expensive ($55-158!!!!!) , just in case it was garbage. I bought mine from Abe books, from theย  seller Broad Street Book Centre (an actual bricks and mortar store in NJ Hereford, an actual real live book store!!!),ย  and was happy to pay slightly less than 30US including the shipping from the US. EDIT: This seller is in the UK! And them sending on the 18th of December, to arrive here on the 27th was impressive also.

And it IS worth the money. Very clear, as the author is also a well respected teacher at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design at University College in the UK, it explains everything from proper pre-treatment of fabrics, both protein and cellulose, to specific dye types, and through to the most wonderful colour plates with “recipes” for achieving the colours. Best of all, as much information is presented for the cellulose as for proteins–while i like wool, and am happy with my results, i prefer to work with cellulose, specifically cotton, and let’s face it, most natural dye books barely give a passing mention to anything but wool!

For the longest time, my cotton results were frankly, lousy, because there was little clear information. I did hunt around and eventually found the tannin/alum method for cellulose (Turkey Red Journal), and that made a world of difference. I still felt there had to be more out there–let’s face it, the average dyer of yore would have been working with linen, cotton or local indigenous fibres, not silk, and possibly not even wool, depending on the geographics.

Even more specifically, and exciting, is that decent mention is made of Turkey Red Oil, a type of sulphated Castor oil, often used historically to deepen reds from madder, hence the “Turkey Red” (not the bird, the locale!) I found a near by supplier–REALLY near by, as in 20 blocks away!!!! It can be used with other colours/dye materials, so i want to play with it, and buying a SMALL bottle of it will mean that effort/expense/extra steps are not wasted or being committed to.

But i digress ๐Ÿ™‚ The only point i don’t like about the book is the extremely heavy WOF of cochineal used: 60%!!!!!! as opposed to the usual 3-10%WOF!!!!!!!!!!! (EDIT: JAN 10/17 Actually a lot of her recipes are really heavy WOF’s (500% madder????)—i’d say overkill in some respects, as fibres can still only uptake so much before it’s wasted effort, materials and EXPENSE. And if it crocks after, well, big problems.) And yes, a lot of the info contained is also in other respected books in my library, but the extras i needed are what’s made it worth adding to the shelf. If i *didn’t have any of the others, it would be a fantastic start to the library too. And best of all, no wasted pages on “projects”: really, i’ve said it before, if you didn’t know you could actually MAKE things out of what you dyed, WTF are you doing it for then?

Anyhoo. The next step is to figure some time management so i am not obsessing about one thing, as i am wont to do :), but dividing my efforts between this, and some serious stiching again, so that both are “sustainable”, i.e. they get DONE, not just blethered about.

Great White Whales

(I actually wrote this post at the *beginning* of 2017, never published it, and for the most part, did nothing with the piece i’m talking about…)

Jan 23/17: January means re-organizing, prioritizing in my stoodio. I dig through drawers and boxes, sorting, knowing some things will never be finished, but unable to part with them, making new stacks of “possibles”, and a bit of clenchedteethtossing of a few, VERY FEW, pieces. I get fired up by beads, miniscule scraplets of cloth, short ends of thread, and serendipitous colour combinations when things fall on each other.

And then, i find

The Great White Whale.

This whale takes up a lot of space, literally and figuratively. Once in awhile, the currents of present day sweep it back under the waters, and it sinks, sulking at the bottom of my subconscious for months, and then when i least expect, it breaches loudly, and sings, briefly, but oh so emphatically. I *know* i had the right idea when i first conceived it, but, but, but, BUT.

โ€œLet faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.โ€
โ€• Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Jan 1/18:

Is it any wonder i can get nothing done, feel no gumption, have no inspiration? Piles and messes like this used to really inspire me; now i just walk away from it, overwhelmed, disgusted, bored, frustrated. There are cupboards and bins not visible, full of fabrics slated for projects, and a lot OF projects in progress/notprogress. I’ll spare you those. Time AGAIN to re-organize, declutter, throw out.

In particular, the Great White Whale has been packed away since April 2014, with maybe a 10th of the expanse worked. It was overly ambitious, daunting, heavy in my lap and on my mind. I even had a separate blog for it, now private as i couldn’t bear to see it myself, never mind anyone else…. (I *might* re-open it, depending on depending on…)

Original cloth, 48×72″, made during 2012 residency:

I’ve worked on only maybe a 1oth of the area (not that the area is finished…).

That photo does no justice either to what i *have* done.

Everything on it got away from me. I *didn’t* believe in it anymore. Too many ideas and interpretations, i had intended it to be a record of sorts of my practice and evolution, but it’s just a damn sampler now.

Scissors, we will have scissors.

It never had to be ONE piece of cloth. I’m going to be cutting to cut, re-arrange, overlap, make deliberate spaces, maybe even holes, patches, whatever. Because i also see the photos like this:

and fall in love again.


why do i bother???

It was all planned out in my head, but the needle and thread sampling did nada for me. Went back to the work blog and zipped through all the photos, and tada.

This figure (never attached to anything, from Jan 2016)

on this PP dyed cloth

and logwood threads

and this strip that came from aborted work (two photos because it’s too long to photograph easily)

with this manipulation on the PP


’cause apparently planning is taking a hit lately, so i’m not going to waste time, just jump in.

“In progress” un-named.