fire burn and cauldron bubble, a little commerce too

As i mentioned in a previous post, learning to work with the vagaries of water in natural dyeing is a prerequisite to knowing what colour you will end up with! (Although it can still be a wee bit unpredictable, but that’s for another time.) Honestly, it’s mind boggling that SO many things can influence this, from mineral content, Ph, hardness, enzymes and, if on “public water”, the additives used in city water treatment facilities. We never noticed the smell of bleach in our water at the old house, but sure as hell do here.

I checked with various water treatment companies and ascertained that boiling water for 20 minutes would off gas the chlorine MUCH faster than letting it sit overnight to dissipate and doesn’t need to be in a really wide mouthed container as off gassing would require. Bonus, several dye pots have now been boiled clean πŸ™‚ Adding ascorbic acid will also facilitate removing the chlorine, but i have none, and it does raise the acidity of the water (Ph), so not going there.

Of course, IF THE MAN WOULD REPLACE THE DAMN MEMBRANE IN THE REVERSE OSMOSIS WATER FILTER TANK, all of this would be a moot point because that’s part of its his its job……………………………………………………… βˆ‡

Now i have to wait for it to cool down, because i want to do madder today and the temp can’t be over 60C, and boiling water is obviously 100C. Between the steam from the pot, and the smell of rhubarb root being dried in the oven, it’s rather witchy in here right now. CACKLE.

HEY! I live in Calgary. It’s winter. Calgary in winter is cold. Calgary has temps right now of -24C. Well, duh, Captain Obvious, stick it outside on the snowed over patio.

‘kay, moving on.

Remember that weekly plan thing i was working from? It’s only been a week since i started it, but happy to say, it helped. I crossed off a few things as DONE, migrated some to next week (which i figured would happen anyways, as that’s the way lists go, period), and have a new plan for the 20th to 24th, which is slated for JUST STITCHING. As much as i love the dyeing, i also love the “making from” part, or what’s the point?

So, here are this week’s Velvetarian’s Delight(s). These are packs of 3 colours, and each pack is sold separately:

Above, 3 packs available. Below, 1 pack available.

Below, 1 pack available, BUT i love this combination so much myself, that i’m going to try to create more of these colours!

I am offering these packs in the shop now, and for less than they were before for the 3 pieces per pack. Unfortunately, my supplier sent me cloth from a different bolt (hey it happens, they run out), and these are thinner than previous, while some have flaws as well. They are still luscious, fun to fondle, in delicious colours, and actually the thinner quality makes them more malleable, more liquid and easier to manipulate. I do suggest however that they be interlined with a soft cotton of toning colour so that stitches and beading show better.

 

I have GOT to get some threads wound and prepped for dyeing as well–i’m coveting that lilac and the moss for my own use!

testing new waters

At the old house (and i mean where we lived before *and* the fact that the house was 100+ years), i knew what the water would do to my natural dyes. Turns out it’s a new ballgame in the new place, a totally different ballgame.

A. There’s a LOT of chlorine in our water in this location. We noticed the smell when we moved in, but stoopidly, i forgot that if i want to use it as hard water (’cause hard water is good for certain natural dyes like madder, weld, logwood and brazilwood, and we get hard water because our water is from the mountains) *and* there’s chlorine, you have to let the water sit for awhile so the chlorine off gases (dissipates). Didn’t have to do that at the old house.

Did you know that if you add ferrous sulphate to water with chlorine in it, that it turns the water PINK? Pretty, but the iron didn’t want to do what it was supposed to because the chlorine was being all busybody and getting in the way.

B. I use our filtered osmosis system for a lot of my dyeing. But it doesn’t work well, when apparently the tank membrane broke and is letting things into the tank, like iron and gawdzknows what else…..this also doesn’t work well for natural dyeing. There are a lot of minerals in our water too, but i’m not sure what else there is that isn’t supposed to be “is”…..

On the 14th and 15th i tested some of the Ugandan marigold my son brought back for me. I was shocked at the amount of green instead of yellow i got. My tannin was green as well, not a good sign, but a sure sign that there was a fair amount of what shouldn’t be in there, in there. I *did* get some pretty colours so that’s okay, but.

This means i now have to test all the dyes i work with, checking the new parameters and verifying my normal practices as still viable. It’s a good thing then that with the rhubarb root and quebracho rojo work i did last week i made lots of notes, and because of that, the marigold was documented as well! BUT it’s also weird that the RR and the QR gave me close to the results i was used to, even though i had used the (broken) filtered water.

Interestingly enough, in several natural dye groups, this was posted. I mean, i KNEW water affects the dyes, but wow, what a lesson in my own space.

So, i begin again.

planning the plans to plan

I don’t know how other full time artists handle the tasks associated with making a living in the studio, but i’ve decided i have to treat this like a “job”. I don’t mean cut and dried “you MUST do this today” or “from 211:315AM to 32:3719 PM, you will be weaving gnats hair into celestial robes” kind of job, but being serious about what i want to do, need to do and would like to do. It’s too easy to get side tracked when the studio is “in home”! There’s always a dog to walk, a dish to wash and “Oh look! Cat barf! Goody! Gotta scrub that.”

Hours, how do we manage this? It’s easy to say it could be a 9-5 job (Oops better write this fast as it’s now 10 minutes to 9!), but i think a *little* flexibility could work πŸ™‚Β  I wrote a post last year (gah, last year seems so far and so close away already…) touching on the subject (3rd paragraph) and parts of it will work, but as i mentioned: tangents! possibilities! potential! As a natural dyer, there *are* certain things that *must* be done; scouring, mordanting, dyeing, the winding of thread skeins (running really low on those to use), the labelling and storage of, and the decision on what to sell and what to use.

On my work blog (private, neener neener neener) i have draft posts with each week’s dates, but not so neurotic that any but the first are lists of what the plans are. Sample, this week Jan 6-10:

  • mordanting! (some are pre-tannined already: linen, chenille scarf, get them in alum)
  • new indigo vat needs startingΒ  DONE ON WEEKEND! √
  • dye with indigo, madder and weld: velvet, linen, trims
  • trees for moon pieces–smaller than done before, and larger
  • ORGANIZE studio better…… UN-ENDING JOB!!!
  • wind threads, scour, mordant, dye, combination colours
  • chair cushions-indigo (there has to be personal things made too)
  • finish chenille scarf (a test, post about that later)

I also realized through December that while i can work in front of the tubage, and don’t need to concentrate fully on what i’m doing in the stitching corner, that it *does* slow me down, just enough that i start feeling pressured IF i feel i have set a deadline. I can wind threads, but not embroider with them with “Stumptown” or whatever onΒ  …… Instead, i talk to the DogFaced Girl……

But, not all studio work is Work either. There has to be time to make the art, the pieces that are in our hearts, that are sketched out excitedly and that the stash is culled for. Play it by ear: this week is that list above, but the week after can be the Art Part, because those listed things HAVE to be done or nothing gets done.

I do also stop for lunch, coffee refills, bathroom breaks and skritches for assorted animals. πŸ™‚ I have too, lately, cleaned up the work space every night–not cleared completely of course, but at least organized and tidy for a fresh start the next day. *We’ll see how long that lasts, as i usually end up with “inspiration” and “possibility” piles everywhere! Sometimes there are going to be days when i just go in and “WOWZERS what happened, it was a GREAT DAY” without even noticing what time it was. Sometimes those days are like this:

See the teeeeeny little green buds on the stems? I cut these raspberry canes two weeks ago, thinking it was a futile exercise to save some of the raspberry bushes from the old place. (Remember i live in Alberta and it’s ^%$#ing cold and snowy in the winter. I never managed during the move to dig up even a small piece.) Last night, we noticed GREEN. That’s sometimes how things go in the studio, indeed in life also: hopeful, life affirming, chance, luck, caring.

 

How do you deal with time management? Any tips?

 

laughing at myself

First project of the year, a little test for scale, motifs, use, this needle book is for me.

5×4″, indigo, madder, cochineal, tansy, osage, sandalwood, quebracho rojo, linen, cotton, silk, naturally dyed “*orts”, beads. I won’t show you the inside: apparently some 4 year old snuck into the studio and worked that part! πŸ™‚

I had grand plans for this little work, thinking i could make multiples and offer them in my shop, enticing people with price and portability. HA! If i actually charged what that *should* be, no one would pay the price. A common problem many makers have, either inadvertently, or deliberately, is actually pricing the true value/worth an object has cost in terms of time, skill, design and materials, assembly, and in my case, the dyeing of cloth and threads, and hopefully a small markup for profit. This Thing took the same amount of time and work as one of my larger moon pieces! Would *you* buy a $100 needle book? Nope, me neither.

At least i know my new indigo vat is working though and i *did* cull some ideas for other work from the making and thinking time!

*Orts are the left over short ends of threads (or teeny weeny scraps of fabric) used in other projects.

sort of a recap

These are why i believe natural dyes in textile arts are important to me and to others with this passion, no matter their “technique” or Practice. Ixchel Suarez had asked about this in a post on FB, in a natural dye group, about the importance of natural dyes to tapestry, *almost* intimating that it was the one use of the medium/material where it was so important, but i know there are other embroiderers, knitters, weavers of all the sorts, twiners, basket makers, rug hookers, book makers, fabric designers etc. who also use exclusively natural dyes. I can’t imagine using commercially dyed threads on anything now! There are nuances to natural colour that can never be replicated in synthetic dyes, and everything always “goes together”.

I know a lot of people can’t tell the difference between synthetic and natural dyes, just to look at them. I’m at a point though myself that when i look at photos of other natural dyers work, i can usually tell what dye they used, whether it’s tried and true historically accurate natural dyes, or “food waste” S**T. Really, i can. Really! There’s something warm and poetic about madder in all its antique hues, indigo and finding beauty in the palest to darkest, no β€œwrong” blue as a result, clear as the golds and leaf russets of osage, the aureate luminosity of rhubarb root (as prosaic as that one sounds…), the terra cotta nobility of cochineal and cutch, the royal richness of purples from lac, cochineal and logwood. SIGH.

I haven’t done any dyeing since before we moved to our new home, too much going on, too many other projects, but i’m starting to run out of threads especially. I’m planning for 2020 (i can’t believe that at all, that it’s going to BE 2020), and trying to figure out a schedule of sorts with flexibility for making the materials i use, and then making from/with *that* making πŸ™‚ The best i can figure is to devote a week every 2 months (as needed, because surely i won’t have to do it EVERY month) to the dyeing, a week for paperwork, putzing and planning, and two for making. That still isn’t written in stone of course: part of this whole thing is the spontaneity generated by excitement, discovery, tangent, possibility!

I’m not making Grand Art right now (with the exception maybe of the patient Samara, and hopefully others like her), but i am making art that other people enjoy, and that *I* enjoy making. I see all these together and i get excited all over again, knowing that i, me did this from “scratch”–i may not have grown the sheep or cotton plant or moth cocoon, or woven or spun the cloth and thread, but i still “made” these fabrics and fibres, i coloured them and that’s pretty damn satisfying.

Would i be as rapturous if it was the “old days” and i was using commercially bought, commercially made, commercially dyed materials? Not sure, don’t care: i am where i am, and where i need to be now, now.

 

 

I also have in mind to if not REPLICATE, but to redux, remake, re-interpret a few older works in natural dyes:

Too, there are also old techniques i favoured, themes i loved, and mediums, and i’m testing some for the use of natural dyes in them. So many ideas! Piles, heaps, hills, masses, oodles and multitudes, stacks and torrents! Good thing it’s not 2020 yet πŸ™‚

 

no scrap left behind

I come from a long line of Sensible Savers and Scroungers. While most of my line put the scraps in the ragbag, and none were really stitchers, small pieces came in handy for cleaning with or patching. I learned to sew on a machine when i was 5, creating barbie clothes (of course) (though my Barbie wasn’t a true Barbie, just a knock off) with scraps saved from Mom’s making of our pyjamas and shirts. In my early early teens, my uncle Ron did window dressing for big department stores as part of his Arts program, and brought me bags of bits i didn’t even know existed: pink sparklies and gold lame and screenprinted trees and red fake fur. (Shoulda seen the hotpants i made from those!)

When i became a single mother, i scrounged old clothes from the Free Box at Gordon House, a neighbourhood community organization in the west end of Vancouver–BLISS! (And wow, it’s still around, in a shinier location now, with a thrift store instead.) There were barkcloth muu-muu’s, “old lady suits” of metallic brocades, Hawaiian print shirts and plenty of odd 70’s cast offs that no one would be caught dead wearing in the 80’s πŸ™‚ I STILL HAVE SOME PIECES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I made a LOT of patchwork then, having discovered quilt magazines too. That was a skill no one had in the family either, with the exception of ONE quilt made in the 30’s by my Great Grandmother, which i still have.

Now these velvets, these natural dyes, oh my. Seems such a waste to toss the little bits, and realizing as i was cutting more moons, that there were still “useable” bits. So iΒ  made *more* moons *from* them, and i have a list of other little things i’d like to make too.

That was the first batch above, but then i started really piecing, using some of the off cuts from them:

(Two of the three from the “Thorntree” series, still in progress, these will go on backgrounds as well.)

Of course, with velvet’s slurki-ness, some scraps are too small, so they will either be stitched raw edge on something else, or (becoming a neurotic masochist), i will hand stitch. There IS a limit though πŸ™‚

But then i remembered these from 2012, which became the “juice moon” series:

OMG how would these look in VELVET????????????????????????

I think there’s at least one more series with that idea, and then i must rest–and get back to some Samara stitching–lots of ideas for *her* background. (No bling though πŸ™‚ )

 

 

in praise of scraps

Tomorrow is the LAST day of this messy, chaotic, stressful move, the last bits and pieces of 10 years in an old house (and almost 16 years together of collecting..) that honestly made it easy to “accumulate” things. Funny though, the new place is bigger, has better storage and is more organized in layout, but we want less Stuff now… Another dump run, another donation run and the last bits and pieces from odd corners is by midnight’s goal……

The studio is slowly slowly taking shape, though one thing that is needed is MORE LIGHT. I discovered how bad it is down there when i realized the white thread i was using was actually a soft yellow……..

I’ve been itching to do *something* down there that doesn’t involve going through every bin and box, and then strewing things around because i get sidetracked. Found a bag of velvet scraps–they still got strewed πŸ™‚Β  —and spent some time digging through and fondlesorting, ending up with this gorgeous indigo piece. Close by also was the box of jewellry findings, so:

I made a Thing! A second Thing will join it, and maybe they will be worn at a company christmas party.

But oh to get back to the projects, especially Samara! And i need to find a new canvas for her—the one delegated disappeared on one of the truck runs……..