Category Archives: journal: lessons to learn

even greater distances

I don’t know how many textile artists work, when out of the public eye on blog, Instagram and FB, but me, i keep files and a private blog for ideas, sketches, colour and fabric combos, inspiration and possibles. Though little was “accomplished” this year, i’m happy with the results, and the dye play i’ve been doing, BUT i found myself this morning opening a new file and category for “WORK 2018”.

A LOT of the 2017 notes are archived already. Some are switched to the 2018, and a LOT MORE deleted.

I love the little moon series i’ve created over the last two years, and intend to make many more, however i also need to get back to the larger works as well. “Samara” will be one of them, and after seeing her in the sun yesterday, i pulled a bunch of these naturally dyed fabrics.

They may not all get used here, but given the initially planned harder look, i think this is more on track with what she’s saying, softer, still strongly feminine, but with a more “fertile” approach. I want her wings to be more inviting, enveloping, brilliant even. Autumn after all is not just a time of endings, but of rich harvests and warm gatherings. I do need however more autumnal colours so into the dyepots again with some of these scraps.

For other work i’ve wanted to do, i guess i will be making larger pieces of the potassium permanganate dyed cottons after all. I must have cut up the piece i did during residency, thinking it was a “fail”, a lesson learned: leave it alone and the time will come as it needs to!

While digging around in the actual fabrics i still have, i found this, and am thinking to use it as a “marker” for a new series with the PP.

It’s snow dyed, with Procion, but that doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, colour is colour. And the texture of this old rayon velvet is freekin’ awesome. It’s vintage, at least 20 years old and at a yard and a half, is plenty to incorporate into this dreamed of work.

Another week of dyeing, and i figure i will have enough of threads and cloth to “share” and to use.



greater distances

Every time i finish something now, it seems a greater distance to the next one. I know these things are in there, in my heart, mind, gut, wherever that inspiration and dedication comes from, but digging it out gets harder and harder, though lord knows i feel empty and bereft without *something* going in my hands. Sometimes i wish i could just take a picture of the inside of my head and put that immediately on the fabric and in the stitching, but alas….it doesn’t work that way, does it? It’s almost as if there is a starter shot i’m waiting for, anticipating but never hearing or hearing a second late. I know i will jump in when the sound stops, but in the meantime it’s quite frustrating! It’s like that first step will mislead me, a commitment to the wrong future. May 2014

I used to “worry” about producing X number of pieces a year, but in the last couple, have recognized i don’t work that way anymore. The few i do get done take time, lots of time, as i invest my heart and soul in them, working myopically, intensely focused, by hand. “Tabula Memoria” was an 8 month project (Dec 2016-Jul 2017), and this year i have completed nothing else. I’ve started a few things along the way, small, not terribly exciting to me, or soul satisfying, but i don’t wonder anymore if i still have “It”, just because there aren’t 11tybajillion “finished” bits…..

I do still have It. It though has it’s own timetable. Part of this is logistical: there’s a certain piece of potassium permanganate dyed cotton i did during this summer’s residency, a large expanse, but do you think i can find it? I can’t even remember if i’ve already cut it up and used it for something else, overdyed it or threw it out. That of course is the piece i MUST have…… I’m giving myself a day to find it, and if i don’t, well, back to the PP pot. (Potassium permanganate that is, not a hissy fit of urine….)

And this, this i must get back to, caught yesterday still hanging on the studio wall.




heeling in

In a big way…

I have first year madder growing in a large pot, and it’s done rather well this first season. This is the hottest and sunniest spot for pots: our patio gets foot blistering hot and has full and /or reflected sun for at least 8-10 hours a day through the summer. (I watered thoroughly almost every day.) A bit frost tinged, as we had our first frost on Sept 16, it’s still growing and green, so it’s still alive.

HOWEVER, Calgary’s cold cold winters, heavy frosts and possible large dumps of snow mean that i either bring it in to overwinter–and where the hell do i put a pot that size where it can get decent light and warm-ish temps (ALL windows in the house are already, and always, glutted with plants)—–or mulch and insulate it like crazy, as pots freeze first, fast and heavily.


There *is* a plant planting procedure called “heeling in”. I’m just doing it with a pot, rather than bare roots. I can’t plant the root ball in the ground by itself, as madder roots spread (optimally!), and i want to be able to harvest them easily (see my Gallium post for reasons why that CAN be a good thing or not, even if the roots are a decent size), and also because our ground freezes HARD for quite a depth. That’s a BIG hole though, because the pot is 13″ deep and 14″ across.

A kind person in a FB group suggested this, and that’s what i’ma gonna do. I need to collect some insulating material still, for around the pot, and to mulch over it, but i’m keeping my hoofies crossed that this does the trick.

I won’t know until April probably if this works………………praying to the Dye Plant Gawdzesses, that this will blessedly show new growth then.

For the record, i bought these madder seeds from a Canadian company, Salt Spring Island Seeds. While i appreciate being able to get them, i don’t appreciate companies that have NO information on actually growing and caring for them–WTF??????–an email to them resulted in basically “we don’t know” (anything about them)…………… Of course, this company also sells Elecampane seeds, touting them as a source for blue dye from the roots…….PUH leez…..


animal lovin’

Oh, deer….this morning’s usual let the DogFaced Girl out was interrupted. At 545, in the dark, in my nightgown and bare feet, i am sliding through mushy downed apples and cold wet grass, as i try desperately but calmly to herd two baby deer towards the gate. Momma Deer is on the other side of the fence, glaring at me, the babies are panicking because they’re too little to jump the fence, and now i’m panicking they are going to hurt themselves. Finally, i get them to a point where they can SEE the open gate they came in, and they bolt. *Now* Nessie can go out, and i’ll assess the hoofies everywhere destruction in the garden later. Wouldn’t give up these wildlife experiences for anything though! Oh and wash the applesauce from between my toes!


Sigh, part of loving animals is saying goodbye too…Last week it was our old baby boy, Mo, (right) and today, it’s his brother Cosmo (left). The family plot is sadly filling…………..

Truly the end of an “era”. I don’t know about other people, but Greyman and i mark this especially, since when we met, we immediately had a “blended family” of 5 cats… now ALL of those babies are gone.

First we lost Slowroll:

Then Doogie:

Then, their Momma, Selena:

Then, Miss Piggy:

Then Mo:

Now, Cosmo:

Still loving Nessie, the DogFaced Girl, and Slapshot, the Spastic Elastic:

 We gave them/give them love and spoiling, and they do the same for us. We just can’t have a house empty of animals.

Posted by on August 30, 2017 in Probably talking to just myself



I don’t think i’ve given my studio a good deep clean for more than a year, and certainly some drawers haven’t been touched, or even opened (!) in longer! When the space is so bad you can’t bear to go in there,and don’t want to work on *anything*, in face feel like just giving up period, it’s time for a purge.

Hauled out 2 bags of actual garbage, picked through said drawers and sorted, tossed and “refiled” a few “projects” that went totally out of sight out of mind. Moved the serger and extra sewing machine to the basement, along with the huge plastic bag of plastic bags stored in plastic bags (apparently i have a secret fetish for them…), paints which i rarely use anymore (after sorting the dried up ones out), stuffing materials, and assorted cosmic debris.

My extra chair has room for a person now, instead of piles of books, cloth and EMPTY storage containers. The books are all put away, but easily accessible, the threads are back in their colour drawers, and the dyeable cloth is in one three Rubbermaids, and the dyes are all in one spot along with their tools, bottles, instructions and adjuncts. I have a floor again! And worktable space!

I found some things i haven’t Seen in a long time: a baby bootie pattern i thought i lost 16 years ago (they were ADORABLE, and i may make more), a sheer curtain i was beading with dragonflies (obviously lost the other matching but unstarted one) which needs only ONE wing to finish, and a blanket “fling” i’d really like to complete as well.

All this was because A. the owner of “Tabula Memoria” will be picking up the work in September, B. because i got tired of tripping and sliding on things (think minefield, not obstacle course) C. i could rarely find what i had in mind, and when i did i had no room or gumption to work on it.

And D. i bought new dyes and i want to be able to use them! Because i had a Lightbulb moment at the beginning of the week: get into the ACAD bookstore *before* res ends. They don’t just sell books, but all the art supplies students need for their wonderfully varied programs. And i don’t have to pay for shipping!

I bought Osage, Logwood and Cochineal, having never worked with the first two, and only minimally with the third. I decided to go the true route, and suss out the real deal from both Maiwa, and Jenny Dean’s books.

I’m realizing too that haste makes waste. I’m sure that stubbornly doing things my way was the reason that my madder dyeing has been less than stellar! Instead of using proper WOF dye material to fabric, i have wasted a LOT of dye materials, thinking there was “enough” being used, and then throwing it out because it gets moldy as i get discouraged and ignore it………………READ THE INSTRUCTIONS: just because the dye bath *looks* rich with colour, doesn’t mean it is.

The logwood and the osage are now soaking, and tomorrow i hope to start dyeing cloth with them. YUM.


first “potperm” results

Though i’ve used the vat at school, this is my first home usage of this scarey dangerous wonderful stuff 🙂 so we’ll just call it the first results. I call it “potperm” simply because potassium permanganate is a mouthful, and one i commonly mangle in pronunciation as well, usually in front of knowledgeable people, resulting in some embarrassment. It’s also referred to as PP in “industry” usage.

Moronic giggle here: “i’m dyeing with PP today”.

And yes, i was apprehensive. Put on my Steel Loin-and-Bosom Girding Big Girl Pants and Bra Set (the beige ones, no sense in calling any more attention than usual) and suited up. I mixed my “vat” in the back alley, wearing an apron, respirator, safety glasses and neoprene gloves, and used a PLASTIC cup to mix in a PLASTIC bucket, with a PLASTIC handle, with NO metal bits. (And carried it by the bucket itself, as i trust no handle ever, given the potentially caustic splash factor.) This stuff is reactive with metals, so i’m not messing with metal lidded glass jars, metal pots, metal spoons, metal bowls, nuttin’ metal PERIOD. The bucket lid is TIGHT as well–apparently this stuff can blow (literally, UP) if it dries out. It *does* exhaust, of course, as it’s used: there’s only so much that can remain in suspension after repeated dips of cloth, something i found out at ACAD. (WHY did i think it would last forever??? Does any other dye? NO, duh, dumdumdum. Sometimes this Mad Textile Scientist can be rather dense….) I also hosed down the area after, thinking any minute particles would be diluted enough to harm neither friend nor foe (local wildlife and plants).

Since i intend to do some fair yardage with this “dye”, obviously i increased the proportions of water and potassium permanganate. (Most home usage i’ve noted is 1/4 to 2tsp per litre of water, whether for dye, garden application, or anti-fungal/antiseptic use.) That means i used 3/4 cup for 15 litres of water. (Not an exact measurement or conversion, but there’s a large margin here for colour depth, so adjust accordingly 🙂 )

I did the actual dyeing on our concrete back patio, again hosing down after. I used some soymilk, alum, and alum with gallnut premordanted cottons ( 3 premordant solutions), and some unmordanted pieces, and was completely surprised by the results! (These photos below are all as the fabrics oxidize and dry. I’ll show photos of the dried effects and colours later in another entry.)

The soymilk took the least amount of dye, but hopefully once rinsed, the lovely mottling will stay as an effect:

You can see the major differences here in the soy (far right) and the unmordanted, left and middle:

Above, the middle fabrics are top a 5 minute soak, the bottom a 10 minute soak, not sure if this will make a difference either.

Not sure if the different dye absorption, dry rates on the main fabric and the threadwork will make a difference in end colour

The results, still oxidizing and drying:

Potperm comes out of the pot in various shades of purple, then oxidizes, like indigo does, but to browns, so don’t get excited by those pinker shades 🙂 See those two bottom ones? The stripey one was mordanted with gallnut, the one  on the bottom rung was mordanted with gallnut and alum—quite a difference from the others! You also can’t see the ones on the other side that had longer soaks, as the light is whack.

Just as obviously, there are a lot of dye techniques to try out, from shibori to over-dye ( i know how it reacts with/to indigo, but how does it affect other dyes?), ecoprint to discharge*****. I think i’m going to have quite a stash. I also momentarily worried about what it would do to silk, but then i remembered that several years ago at the school, i did this one on 8mm habotai silk, a very sheer, delicate weight–it’s still fine, no damage. It appears the vat i used for this was very active also, possibly quite a new mix at the time, as the colour is deeper than i got this year during res.



Tip o’ the day: do not mix up with the mid morning break of iced coffee: same colour, different effect.

(YES, THAT IS A JOKE: i never eat or drink around dyes, dry, inert, mixed up or in use.)



oh gawdz…………………..i discovered my bucket of soymilk mordant shoved behind a box in the basement by Himself…….actually, it was fine moving it after THREE MONTHS–but OH SHIT THE REEK, as i poured it in the toilet. Oddly, no mold, just festering masses of curdlets…………………no crust even! just a solid mass. Weird Science at it’s best. Or worst.

it didn’t even shiver when i lifted it and carried it upstairs, no smell, no mold, weird, but the minute it was tipped…………. OH LORDY, there are no real descriptors……..

And since this is the bucket i used for the above, it was washed with boiling water and soap, and rinsed really really really really really well, as potperm can also react with other materials, organic and chemical. I dried it in sunshine. (No eclipse here, just some weird light and bent holes through a colander….totally underwhelming.)




the wings of possibility

Rarely are things set in stone here in the Stately Barr Manor Studio. Evolution, the Baby,  and tossing out part of the bathwater is part of the game as well, to mix several metaphors…….

Samara’s wings aren’t exactly what i’d call problematic, but with a clear vision in mind that somehow isn’t getting to the actual execution, it appears that the plan has to be changed somewhat. When i started her wings, the “feathers” were like this:

Not quite what i wanted, though i like them, so i started these:

Ha, still not quite what i wanted, so i’m going to combine the ideas. I also like both fabrics i used, so redrawing the pattern is also going to have to take into account the placement of both to present an integrated it-makes-sense design.

And no res exhibit for me after all. There is no way human for me to even get enough done to vaguely represent what the whole will be. I can live with that, studio work being the more pleasant result than forcing a deadline.