Category Archives: journal: lessons to learn

is it the right way on the wrong track, or the wrong way on the right track?

I started the second figure yesterday and up until 33.2657 minutes ago was pleased.

Now i’m not.

Photographing things helps me see more “objectively” and looking at this now it really doesn’t represent what i want in the second figure.

There’s also the fact that i WORKED IT FROM THE WRONG SIDE!!!! I want the figure facing the left, the hexes that represent stronger memories, youth’s facile way of remembering and the naive thinking that always the mind will be the same. (I know mine’s not anymore…)

It’s too red. The greeny blue is too greeny blue dark.  It’s blotchy, but at the same time, too “solid”. This one has to be more robust, less disintegrated, but as it stands, it’s too Too.

The fabric must also have been pulled wrong, off grain when i started working it in the hoop, as the proportions and angles have shifted. I *knew* i would have a bit of a problem with that, due to the larger size, so i think it’s going to have to be stabilized differently.

Though the colourway of DMC 4140 matches in the perle #5 and the 6 strand embroidery floss (separated into 2 strands at a time in the needle), the perle is too heavy. Even if i was happy with the whole, i’d have to pull that head stitching out, and redo it with the floss. And i don’t think the harem cloth is strong enough to withstand having been so tensioned, stitched, ripped out and then restitched.

Time invested in this though was not Lost. I learned some things, and will start again.


cosmic debris clearing

Oh MY. It’s the annual “Clear all this crap, WTF was i thinking keeping this?” time. I’ve been going though boxes and piled bags, big Rubbermaids and small mystery piles, pulling out crap and good stuff and more crap, and getting rid of it. No more shuffling it into new piles or boxes, not gonna use it, LOSE it!!!

A few delights along the way though.

I don’t have this piece of fabric anymore, but i did find the metal “flowers” that left the marks. Set that aside for res work.

In one box, i discovered dozens of separating zippers, still in their original packaging, from the days of my wearable art business—1999!!!!! (That number looks so wrong now that we’re in the 2000’S….) I found plant saucers, sheer synthetic uglies, empty journals, full journals (half of which are not worth keeping, though i still have sketchbooks dating back to ’93 that i consider “valuable”), dried eucalyptus leaves, bags of rubber bands, patterns i haven’t touched for 20 years at least, bundles of fabrics tied together from when i mass produced bags (all cut and ready to stitch), a lot of paper garbage, scraps too tiny for even the savviest of hoarders to use and clumps of hair where obviously some animal we’ve had made a nest.

I apparently also have a plastic bag fetish, a secret one even to myself, as i had no idea that i have stored in various other plastic bags, enough to fill two large garbage bags……..pitched it in the recycle bin of course, not the garbage.

I managed to sort my cottons (and other “naturals”) into white solids for dyeing, and coloured solids for over-dyeing, by emptying 2 Rubbermaids that were filled with definitely what would be considered Crap with a capital S. Though i don’t sew clothes for myself anymore, i still can’t bear to part with a few yardages, but most of it is going going gone to UjaamaGramma donations.

I wish i could find someone who was truly interested in a collection of at least 100 Threads magazines.

Somehow i have three containers of indigo, and several of soda ash. And more measuring cups and spoons that you can poke a snake at. On the bright side, i have two boxes of ecoprint “fails” that are destined for indigo over-dyeing.

I figure by the time i’m done, i should have at least 5 very large garbage bags full of stuff to donate, and 3 to either recycle or huck in the Gar-bahj. Even if it doesn’t sell for the Grammas to use the funds from, some will get shipped after to places/people who can use it in some form. The last bits are today’s plan.

There’s floor space again.




Posted by on March 13, 2017 in Probably talking to just myself


fifty shades of orange

HA!!!!!!!!!!! After 7 years and some grey hairs, i’m finally getting my “true” oranges in natural dyeing.

Annato powder used on several fibre types

Annatto results from 2010—-corrections for silk types added today— i was still learning about silk, as i’d never used it before in *anything*, believe it or not!

The “Way Back Machine” aka my own memory dredged these up, from the first few months of my natural dye experiments. I had Jenny Dean’s book “Wild Colour” (STILL my go-to bible for all things natural, along with her other books), but could find only Annatto powder in the “International” aisle of the local StoopidStore. It was cheap in one sense, i think 50cents for a package, but of course i look at the weight (10 gr!!!!), and wonder if it was “cut” too with any waste plant material, and understand why i had to use 3 packages of it to get the results above! Not so cheap after all, except in terms of colour depth.

Pale, but pretty, i still like these shades, but now that i’m getting more serious (ie FOLLOWING THE INSTRUCTIONS–though there’s always room for experimentation), i lucked into actual Annatto seeds, thanks to my local dye and textile friend, Susan, who got these for me. And the cost is pretty much the same per OUNCE! By the way, if you really really REALLY like orange shades, you can buy Annatto seeds on AliBaba by THE METRIC TON for a mere 700US.

I could see the difference the minute i added a miniscule amount of soda ash to the bath. I don’t even remember using this that wayback time.


Of course, cloth ALWAYS dries a lighter shade, but this bodes well.


And after an overnight soak (recommended, seeds left in, though they can be taken out also):

Above: threads, left top silk, left bottom overdyed pale grey silk, right cotton

Below, top previously madder dyed silk, bottom white silk:

Below, previously madder dyed cotton doily:

Below, the results all together:

Top left, gallnut extract pre-mordant, below unmordanted cotton, unmordanted silk. Top right, previously madder dyed cotton with matching doily, below previously madder and tansy dyed silk, bottom centre, unmordanted white cotton flannellette. Annatto doesn’t really “need” a mordant, but given the latest session of pre-mordanting craploads of cotton in readiness for Res 2017, i hucked a piece of gallnut extract mordanted cotton in as well, just to see if there was any difference.

MUCHLY better-er than 2010!!!!!!

I flung in two pieces of silk and some silk thread separately *after* the cotton was done, as different fibres have unique uptakes, and animal fibres grab the colour first. Best to take advantage of that after the cellulose fibres have had their turn–i figure it’s one way to “exhaust” the bath as well;) (Two separate baths if you want to do both in one session.) One piece had previously been dyed with madder over tansy, one was white and un-mordanted.

I plan on doing some other tests with various modifiers and post mordants as well, so who knows what shades i’ll get in the end? And some/most are slated for overdyeing with other colours.


EDIT: This dye material is INCREDIBLY POTENTLY STRONG. It immediately stained my stirrer, and at 3TBSP per 3L water, i’m pretty sure that next time, i’ll use much less, perhaps even “thirding” the amount of seeds to water. Of course i got a LOT of dyed fabric from this pot!!!!!! (I also did not cook and grind into a paste, as some do, as the seeds gave up their colour readily without a messy extra step. I suspect this was the influence of the soda ash–before i tossed that in, the seeds just laid sullenly at the bottom of the water, with no bleeding.) And sthere’s still a lot of colour left in the bath, so i’ll decant that into something dark and airtight, dry the seeds, and store all for the next use.


However, it can be used as a base for other colours, and if they are substantive, or more resistant to fading, can hold the colour better.

And note, supposedly, annatto used as a food colouring has been linked to certain childhood behaviour disorders, and can cause an anaphylactic reaction in some!!!! As always, just because it’s Natural, doesn’t mean it’s safe for Everyone.



drag point

There comes a time for me with every piece that is a drag point. I’ve been “in the zone” with the whole, but suddenly the whole has more parts than i realized, and there’s only so zoney you can get, to get it done! This is such a large piece, and it has many parts, not only in design and execution, but in meaning, so i’m looking at the pauses and stutters as part of the thinking process. I’ve done a lot of reading and research, something that had fallen by the wayside for awhile. I missed that, and am glad to be taking that time again.

The meanings of memory, of remembered, and true, time, the flashes of forgotten experience, the daily recognition and reflection, what would you do if you had no cognizance of most or any of this? Mental illness, dementia, repression, amnesia, delusion/illusion, cognitive conformity (oh that one really frosts my cookies), moral licensing, (the previous two can be/are linked), and most strangely of all, lifelong severely deficient autobiographical memory (SDAM) , and highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). What if you could remember *everything*??????????

I remember things from when i was 3, vivid memories of sneaking into the bathroom and taking one of my father’s razor blades (the real ones in those days), sitting on the top step of the stairs and slicing my thumb open, and knowing i was going to be in trouble for it. From the same time, i remember re-assuring my younger brothers (they were 2 and 1) that the loud noise at night was just a train going by. I don’t remember anything from ages 9 and 10. I remember too much from some really bad personal years, but, as in the old joke, not what i had for dinner last night. Some of my memories are distorted, integrated with someone else’s, stolen, i know that from talking with family or friends, who remember differently. Absence of memory, strong memory are protective mechanisms, talismans, guides (yes, do it, no, don’t), for me.

And now i remember i have limited time.



I’m close to done most of the hexes on the left panel of this work (more than these photos show), and wanting to “balance” the right side, will be adding more hexes, but with a different feeling, and configuration. (These photos are also “sideways” because the section is so long, easier to view this way, the bottom actually on the right!)

Next step will be to choose the threads for this side. The main one may still be a bamboo colourway “Stormy Weather”, of which i will have JUST enough (it’s ir-replaceable, as a gift and from a private dyer), OR this one below, and some warmer toned threads than the blues/greens i’ve been using on the left side. That red silk for “under” the hexes has been with me for at least 20 years!


I’ve used the hexagon shape over the past years in many ways, usually symbolizing nature and connectivity, and now  have added the element that the hexes represent memories—connecting and referring to each other but separating, compartmentalizing, fragmenting as we get older–as we age the connections become disparate, as time and self dissociate.

And i still don’t have even a “working title” for this.


Posted by on February 6, 2017 in in progress, journal: lessons to learn


happies at work

Thank the deities for a fulfilling  day job.


I “retired” once from the biz, but am so grateful for the distraction and creativity, and the trust of my clients.


a stitch, or many, in time

“How did it get so late so soon?” ― Dr. Seuss

Time and space are slowing with this one. Since the last “photo session” on the 25th, i have added 11 more hours worth of stitch to this area, and feel (while i’m loving it) that little more has been done…………..

Intricacy, tiny occlusions and inclusions, artistic license *and* accuracy, the Devil is in the details as They say.


(I however have to pick parts of that top hex out, as it woogled and borgled.)

The indigo was definitely the right choice.


I’ve had to make tons of notes as i go along, because there are many steps for working each section of the neuron. I keep missing little bits as i go through each one!


I wanted to add what i thought were synapses somewhere, but my thinking about this has been wrong. I thought a synapse was a totally different animal, but research shows me it’s the space “between” neurons.

I can appreciate the beauty of this though, as it’s not all cut and dried facts. My favourite shot to date below, though the lighting is not true.


The “hand” of all this stitching is sore, but the “hand” of all this stitching is so wonderfully tactile too 🙂

I had a big long discussion with myself originally on this post about “meditative” and “mindful”, but blah blah so i deleted it.

hexes rising

indigo-hexes-jan-24A few years ago in a Yoshiko Wada workshop, i fortuitously dipped two previously ecoprinted hunks of silk in a henna based indigo pot. In the ensuing years i’ve often dug them out and admired the greeny blue that resulted, though often thought the mud colour induced by chemical reaction over the ecoprints was well, too muddy. Sometimes i’ve wondered about just tossing them or giving them away.

Whew, i didn’t. You never know what will be Useful and Beautiful and Perfect, if you throw it out. The earthiness now of those colours are what was called for in secret by this piece. I listened.

My biggest challenge with this though, is finding a UBP slab of true madder.


I’ve been tuning into certain words and phrases now as i stitch in the evenings, hearing from the strangest sources quotes about memory. A cheesy B movie yielded up “We survive by remembering, but sometimes we survive by forgetting,” and a Cicero quote from an episode of Criminal Minds “The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.” Proves one never knows what might be relevant or inspiring, and from the oddest “sources”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!