beauty is… (and a shop update)

…in the eye–and in camera in this instance–of the beholder!

Here’s another thing i love about natural dyes: NUANCE. These two photos are of the same pack of goodies! Taken at different times of the day, the light conditions really show the subtlety of the colour components that make up each dye. Below, these are mixed batches of cochineal, madder and solidago. HOT CRAYONS!

I can “replicate” these in a sense, knowing what’s in the pot, but when you use “leftovers”, you can’t be sure of the proportions. Just/trust letting the pots do what they will, is much more satisfying. Oh sure, there have been a few Muddyduds along the way, but hey, overdye to the rescue!

One of the other delights of these deep colours is that they will last longer. I cringe when i see some of the weak pale colours that are an IG “standard”. Some of them *are* pretty, but they’re NOT going to last–to me it’s like putting 1/16 of a tsp of cinnamon in the cinnamon rolls–it’s discernible, but barely. Are people not aware of WOF, or are they being too cheap with it, or do they think it makes their pound of madder last longer which cuts their costs??? Here’s a perfect example, “madder dyed”:

How long is this going to last, under ordinary conditions of wear and light exposure, even under following “special care instructions”? I’ve seen clothing lines blithely calling this (and that photo specifically!) naturally dyed, and then producing multiples of the garment–that to me IS cheapness of production. Ever noticed that samples from extant collections are (for the most part) still VIBRANT, or at least very indicative of the original colour?

And yes, i DO sell softer colours, but they are NEVER as insipid as the above! There’s still a good percentage of WOF in my work 🙂

Anyhoo, that’s my two cents. I have other offerings in the shop as well, if you care to peruse them, and thank you again to all the Lovely Blossoms who have the faith and trust to support my small endeavours.


madder returns, and baby blue hopes

So………………..this is the culmination of 3 and a half years of growing madder. There were 4 winters in that time span, and the first three i had the good fortune of a large garden, where the huge pot could be heeled in (buried and well covered in other words) for our harsh winters. Not so with the recent move and downsizing though: i kept the pot against our sunny house wall by the heat escape vents, wrapped and covered it well, but no growth at all when spring started. Time to “harvest” roots, regardless, as madder is good to dig up in at least it’s third year (5 is optimum apparently).

I dumped the pot, and pawed through it, working as fast as possible because there was a new ant home in the bottom (i HATE ants: they creep me out, have done since i saw Salvador Dali’s “Un Chien Andalou” when i was 16…..) and was very disappointed. Not only did the roots never get below the depth of half the pot, but they were SMALL, stringy and unfortunately, had started to rot. POOP.

I ended up with 65 grams of “fresh” root, which as i understand means they would dry down to about one sixth of that, not quite 11 GRAMS…… I can see a red tint to them, but am not hopeful for good depth. I will use as soon as i can because they don’t *have* to be dry to use, though it’s suggested that letting them “age” develops more of the alazarin. (Although as i hit “publish” on this post, i note they have been drying now for 32 days, admittedly a far cry from drying for a year 🙂 ) I won’t be trying to grow it again as our new garden space is too tiny to heel anything in, and seriously, the “return” on all the effort was not worth the effort… If i ever win the lottery, and have my big space in the country and a proper greenhouse, well, then we’ll revisit that.

Most of the Indigo suffruticosa seeds i planted did pop up. I lost a couple to drying out, because of the winds we’ve had lately, and due to the fact that Calgary is very dry at the best of times. I’m not assuming these will get as big as they grow in Texas at Deb’s though (SHE”S HARVESTING ALREADY!), because we have a shorter growing season, much cooler nights (due to our altitude) and so far this season not a lot of heat….. They did manage to get through 3 hail storms unscathed, probably because they are so tiny! I’m going to cloche them for awhile, trying to keep some heat in, and hopefully they will get big enough that i can get something. I still have a very tiny harvest from my first indigo Persicaria tinctoria attempts at the old house–a handful stored dry since 2015! (Edit: Even cloching these babies didn’t do much though they did double in size in a week. Still pretty teeny! And i don’t know if a bug/virus got them, or it’s the cold weather, but they are all spotted.)

I’ve decided in future, i won’t be sharing much about the actual process of natural dyeing, just the results. I get a fair number of hits on my “how to/how i did it” posts, but since 99.9% of readers don’t acknowledge even with a simple “thank you”, it seems rather pointless. (I’m sure it also bores the hell out of my readers that don’t care about that part of the process.) I seriously think schools have done a poor job teaching anyone HOW to research correctly, but i ain’t getting into that. All i can say is “just because it’s on the internet, or “popular”, doesn’t make it true”.

making it smell like Summer

I can’t pretend Spring is coming with the coming weekend supposed to be in the minus20’s(C), but i can smell Summer right now: I had a pot of rhubarb root simmering, an excellent dye the last time i used some. The fragrance lingers, even to the next day, and always reminds me of alder burning in the old wood stove on Bowen Island. This is a test of sorts too, as the first time was freshly dug and cut up, and this particular bag has been in my cache since October of 2015, so very dry. Some dyes just don’t do well dried! Checking the pot after an hour assured me though: there was LOTS of colour seeping out.

Silly me though! I forgot to weigh the bag and have no idea how much i used. I decided to start a separate note book for my silk work, as it’s a different kettle of canned worms than other fabrics, and the colours are amazing! And guess who didn’t take notes last year when she was doing all this? I mean, i know if i used quebracho rojo, or madder, or osage obviously, but what post mords or post mods did i use? What mixes of dyes did i use to get other colours? How many times did i use that bath? I didn’t even keep swatches!

Rhubarb root has more of an affinity for protein fibres though: all the trials i’ve done on cotton or linen gave at best, a pleasant warm toned pale yellow, and even post modifying doesn’t change much of that. (Except for iron which which pretty much *always” turn any natural dye to shades of charcoal!)

Here’s my array of tests, in order of post-modifier: copper, iron, soda ash and vinegar. (Unfortunately, i threw out the ammonia for some reason, so couldn’t try that…) Again, little change on the linen.

For some reason, there also seems to be little difference in the colour when overdyed with indigo, but my vat may be too strong still. This is the one time i wish for a weaker one! (In *my* experience, a weaker vat gives a better chance for the first colour to influence the outcome.)

So, did i lose you with that highly detailed ireallydon’tgiveashitphotoijustlikecoloursandb? 🙂 (I myself quite like the orangey soda ash results, and the iron.) This is how we roll, us natural dyers!!!! BUT, once we know the general outcome of all those steps, we can play confidently and happily, mixing, mixing more, and mixing again. It’s not just a matter of throwing an avocado in a pot with some pretty muslin 🙂 And more tests will now be done, in overdyeing with *other* dyes: quebracho rojo, cutch, madder, cochineal, etc etc etc.


Speaking of misconceptions about dyes……..this article was brought to the attention of several natural dye groups yesterday. Quite an uproar ensued, because while yes we should be more aware of our purchases and the effects mass consumerism has on the world, we should also not have to, as natural dyers, be misrepresented by an uninformed “trend forecaster” belittling us with comments about natural dyes being “Subdued and melancholic…….”, even if she *is* trying to be “on trend”. Except for aforementioned avocados maybe, HA.

The ennui that rises from this article is a palpable stench. I would guess that’s the subdued and melancholic way of saying “i just don’t give a damn”. But then she of course redeems herself with pithiness because “She is given to issuing prophecies such as: “I think we will get very inspired by blouses.” *My* blouses are pretty vivid and lively 🤣(This is as bad an article as one i read by Germaine Greer, who hadn’t a CLUE about textiles, and textile art. I wrote about that on my old blog, here, and here. If you’re going to set yourself as an expert, do some research, for jeebly sakes.)

why don’t we write long blog posts anymore?

I started blogging in 2003, intensely personal and set to completely private. I thought that was what blogging was for: an online journal, diary, lists of daily experiences, woe-is-me’s, and small joys. I don’t remember being able to add photos or links, it was literally just an online personal notebook. In 2004 i discovered there were PUBLIC blogs–and WHOA, there were artists, there were TEXTILE artists out there who like me, wanted to record their journeys, their tests, their revelations, how to’s and failures, and their art, for everyone to see.

I would spend hours every day clicking on links–in those days we shared that, shared the work of people we admired, with no thought of jealousy or snark, long lists of blogs we each visited, links to strange things we liked. One of my favourites was “Corpses for Sale“, an artist who yes, made life like (death like??) corpses from latex and hardware supplies. (That was part of my body fascination in art phase 🙂 ) The  site is pretty slick now and i guess disturbed people enough that a warning was posted on it: “WARNING: Displaying a corpse in public may break some County laws.”  HA.

I digress………

We posted samples of how we worked, we wrote actual tutorials, we traded art, we wrote long posts and added lots of pictures, bared our guts, and laughed at ourselves a lot. I remember being excited so often by what i saw, what people made, how they discovered things, how their artistic exploits evolved and expanded. We formed groups by dint of actual MAIL, real letters and packages, we created round robins and exchanges, we made art collaboratively and entered shows specifically for that, we solved problems for each other, we communicated almost every time we “visited”. Our best “communal platform” was Flickr, a Flickr that was a lot more user friendly in those days. We were interactive, wrote long “in response” posts of our own, did even more sharing of links and how to’s, and left thoughtful comments that were more than a “like” (or a troll response!).

So what happened? With few exceptions, most of us don’t do, act, think, or respond any more, do not inhabit our blogs the way we used to. (Guilty.) They’re drop shipping ports now: “Go to my Etsy, Facebook, Instagram, flavouroftheday platform”. (Guilty.) Or they are “monetized” now, supported by suppliers, links to quote affiliates unquote and advertising for spuriously related products. (By the way, any ads you see at the bottom of MY posts are completely out of my control, as i use WordPress’ free platform. They get put there automatically and i don’t even know what they are!)  Islands in the vast galactic sized ocean the net has become, with no other land in sight it feels. Some of us disappeared by choice, or sadly, died, some just faded away with no reaction or reason from themselves or their followers, some did abrupt turns and we left them behind because they no longer interested us. (Guilty.) Attention spans shortened drastically, “yeah but’s” appeared, “one up man ship” started distorting responses. (Guilty.)

So. Almost 17 years later (cause that calendar page is gonna flip again in 20 days and everything will be MAGIC again…), i want to go back to 2004 in a sense, and BE here. I may miss things, may not appeal, may flounder, flop and fail, but i’m going to try. Are you?




“True Colors” book review (or how to make yourself even *more* unpopular)

Firstly, i’m ambivalent, PERIOD, about posting this review. I realize it may have been a deeply personal choice of the editor/writer to make these particular inclusions in the book. I’m also rather curious how some have been given the title of “World Master” as well. But honestly? I wouldn’t recommend buying unless you’re one of those people who has to have *EVERY* book on a subject: borrow from the library when it gets there.  (Petition your library: they are always open to reasonable requests for aquisitions, and it’s still a sale for the writer/publisher.) It’s not that it’s expensive (it isn’t by a long shot) but you’d be better off with other more historically “slanted” books, like Dominique Cardon’s epistle, any of Yoshiko Wada’s beautiful offerings, Jenny Balfour-Paul’s indigo histories, and many museum guides online and sometimes available as catalogues.




This is the first natural dye book i’ve ever been ambivalent about. On one hand, it’s exciting visually, a cornucopia of natural colour use around the world, illustrated gorgeously with close-ups and atmospheric scenes. Spotlights are on cultural meaning and history, empowerment of indigenous people, and the uses of ethno/geo-centric dye materials, in traditional and in cutting edge directions. The many facets of indigo are intriguing, and in some cases jaw dropping in the dedication to preservation of a skill, and in the use of aeons old techniques and materials for contemporary art applications in other media. The indigo sections in particular opened my heart to appreciate *all* the permutations of blue possible and to embrace the vagaries of the vat, finding beauty in the palest to darkest, no “wrong” blue as a result. The book should have been edited then and there, to be finished.

The reverse side of the coin however is the inclusion of erroneously labelled “sustainable” branded “dyers” who promote the use of food waste, fugitive dyes and the instant gratification element of DIY, with no actual historical data. This isn’t a recipe book by a long shot, but i would have expected a disclaimer by some, (even one!) of these currently Popular Girls, about dyes that last, are done correctly with proper mordanting, with light and wash fast tests, instead of “seasonal colour” that essentially wastes more resources by the very fact that they have to be redyed over and over to have colour. I feel that these chapters are puff pieces only, designed to fill the book, with no actual value added, but since there are only a couple of these artistes included, there is a small blessing in that.

As i said, this isn’t a recipe book by a long shot, and was never intended to be, but in giving the title “World Masters” to some of the included artists, it cheapens the whole field, promotes bad practice, and encourages questionable business models. It’s unfortunate that the classic dyers, innovative artists and contemporary uses will be glossed over by many in favour of the easy to do fugitive. A coffee table book, and it may pique some interest in those who intend to get serious, but in the end, not a reference book, not destined to become a classic, and not very useful for the most part, except perhaps as a “Digest”.


Unfortunately, or funnily, or strangely even, i cannot post this review on Amazon, because the book hasn’t been “released” yet. Really? I got my copy 2 days ago!

You’ll note too that i actually was rather mild in my condemnation for fugitive dyes, and mentioned no names 🙂 These ARE *MY* personal opinions, and whilst many think i’m a Know It All, i have never steered anyone wrong, deliberately or otherwise, with information i have shared. “The facts, Ma’am, just the facts.”


coming to terms with the artisan self

I’ve come to the logical conclusion this past week, that i am an artisan type artist now. I say “now” because it’s taken me this long to recognize that all the damn drama i put in and the fighting i’ve done with myself on so many occasions, has been a millstone around my neck. I’m not about to give up the “serious” work, but i know now i will never be considered on a larger scale as “a prophet in my own land”, or anywhere else for that matter. “My land” is still within the scope of textiles, but i won’t ever be a Judy Martin, Penny Berens, or any of a multitude of other Canadian artists who get the gallery shows, the invitations, the international acclaim. I had my spate of “popularity”, exposure, recognition a few years back, in international magazines and on several well-respected online sites, but the days are done.

Please know this is NOT sour grapes.I don’t envy, am not jealous of these artists: i respect and admire them. They have integrity, skill, talent, vision, fortitude and knowledge. In fact, i am in awe of them, love them.

I enjoyed/enjoy (even with the usual accompanying angst that each piece extracts from me 🙂 ), the making of the more reflective pieces, am very proud of them, stand 100% behind them, but in the long run, these do not support me, do not go anywhere, with a very few exceptions, but a wall in my own home. I’ll still create them (Samara, i hear you calling again), but truthfully, it’s the more “crafted” pieces that are going out to the world.

That actually makes me happier. Yes, there’s coin, and who doesn’t like that aspect, but knowing that someone appreciates enough what i have made, to put up their own hard-earned cash, to enjoy the package they open, to take pride of ownership in the purchase, is, THAT is the true validation of what i’m doing. Paying entry fees, shipping costs, filling out paperwork, and rarely if ever being able to attend a show that accepted the work, not so much! Only one of these shows have ever put money in my pocket (and i thank that organizer/buyer/artist from the bottom of my wizened little heart, you know who you are, Darlin’). We all know that “exposure” thing really doesn’t mean much for too many artists…..

Artists can die of exposure……………………

I don’t suffer when i am making the smaller pieces, the stuff that goes in the shop. I don’t have to, shouldn’t have to act like the proverbial starving artist living in a garret. I won’t be shamed or ashamed for not making big political/subversive/feminist trope/anything trope/mindful/revolutionary/label label label Art anymore. I LIKE WHAT I’M DOING NOW. It gets me out of bed in the morning, it helps me sleep at night, it keeps the Black Dog from howling (though he may still growl in unguarded moments). I won’t be an apologist anymore for my Self. BUT, the next person whether in cybrespace or in real who gets all dismissive and condescending to me, gets a mighty slap on the self righteous ass. Make your own damn sandwich then 🙂

So. To that end, i have new plans, though i am smart enough to know that not all always goes according to plan. I need to actually go to the local galleries, participate in the local shows (yeah, still gotta do some, whether artisan market or solo), talk myself up locally. Online has been a great experience, and i will continue there, but i need a more reachable plateau. After all, this is real life.

My tasks this week then are to find those galleries, put some “propaganda” together, figure out tags, prices, presentation and then apply, submit, show.

Oh yeah, and do the artisan thing and make!



my drawers will never be empty (book review):The Art and Science of Natural Dyes

JUST when i had got all my dye stuff and tools and pots back down to the Dye Dungeon, this arrived in the mail 🙂 I pre-ordered this last July, the moment i heard it was finished, and have been anxiously waiting for it. I pretty much snatched it out of the postman’s hands!

The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments and Results  – Catherine Ellis and Joy Boutrup

I’ve already had 3 “AHA” moments, and i’m only half way through. It’s not a book you read once and then sporadically refer to, so fortunately, it’s also spiral bound so it stays open to the page you want. (Terrific, now i have to dig my book/magazine holder back out of the “donate” box….)

It’s not so sciencey that it can’t be understood, but it’s also not a skim it and do it manual. It covers the “classic” dyes, none of the usual beets, beans and berries nonsense, so don’t bother if you’re interested only in sauteing up some food waste, throwing in a cute baby onesie and staging artful photos for IG. If you’re serious about natural dyeing, and i don’t mean Total Scientist Mode but are a dedicated hobbyist/artist/small business owner, this is the book to explain WHY things work/don’t/happen. I still recommend Jenny Dean for basic, accurate dye recipes and processes, but this one will give you insights into the many variations that can and are encouraged to happen with skillful, knowledgeable hands.

There’s a small section on testing the dye potential of local foraged plants, minimal though helpful, but not the focus of the book. That being said, those tests could lead to work with those plants, following the advice for the classics. It’s all grist for the colour mill!

I’m not about to dissect any “recipe” in this reference manual: A.  buy the book, i don’t like spreading out the photos of pages i find interesting, as i’d rather you support the authors, and their research and B. the recipes are classic anyways, BUT with much new information that can be digested fully with the book in front of you 🙂

There’s a LOT of excitement about this book in the natural dye groups, and rightly so: it also supports all the things i, and others, have said about what constitutes solid, legitimate dyes and the techniques used to create these wondrous rainbows. I have to laugh though in one sense, because i just know that the new catchphrase is going to be “Welllll, Boutrup Ellis says……..” This book should be MANDATORY reading for anyone who goes near a natural dye pot.

It’s not a cheap book, but then it’s not a cheap book, like so many of the Popular girls are publishing right now. I’m about to settle in with another cup of coffee and a pack of stickit thingies to mark pages, and do a little dreaming and planning.

Edit: After 1000’s of hits to this blog post, it occurred to me that there really should be a link here to the book! Beware though–already some are claiming it in their “used but good condition” racks at two and three times the price!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

EDIT: Feb 9/18WHOA! “#1 best seller” in dyes at Amazon, sold out of a lot of places, and the bloodsuckers have moved in with their jacked up prices because they bought several copies deliberately to re-sell. Good for the authors, not so much for the buyers!

transparency in natural dyeing

#Plantdyes. #Naturaldyes. #Botanicaldyes. #Vegetabledyes (????????????????????)

These hashtags drive me up the wall. Use them, sure, but QUALIFY them.

Natural dyes patchies, work in progress. You may have noticed that when I post, I hashtag  (edit:or ID) ALL of the dyes i use: when people say “plant dyes”, it doesn’t always mean it’s light or wash fast; in fact it could be fugitive. I pride myself on doing these colours and the subsequent art work made from them correctly, from the start. I make sure my efforts are going to last! The “Beets, Beans and Berries Brigade” can go suck on a turnip 😜 #naturaldyes #plantdyes #cochineal #sandalwood #indigo #logwood #osage #madder #quebrachorojo #naturaldyersofinstagram #yycartist #calgaryarts

I’ve asked people what “natural dye” they used. They don’t answer. I’ve asked to see their lightfast tests. They don’t answer. Or they do answer,  huffy because “it’s not going to be washed anyways”. I’ve asked what mordant they’ve used. “What’s a mordant?” or “Vinegar.” Sigh………… I ask precisely because i DO want to know–there are dyes out there that are not Old World, European, Asian, that we know nothing or little about at present. Maybe i could learn something new, but not with these attitudes.

Raspberries, grapes, beets, strawberries, black beans, mint, spinach, daylilies, passionfruit, cherries, rose petals, hibiscus and hollyhock blooms: when we start out, we try these. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s colourful, pretty, sweet.  BUT THEY ARE NOT DYES. I admit it, i used 2 of these things, but only because they were in a book by a dyer i trust. (That dyer has subsequently revised her opinion on them as NOT true dyes. And i threw in the compost the blooms i’d saved.)

I strongly believe that natural dyeing has become such a burgeoning industry, that anyone who has ever seen beet juice stain a tablecloth, suddenly is a natural dyer, writes a book, and sells the product to increasing numbers of gaga followers. Hell, *i* could write a book, and it would be accurate, but since there are already more than enough GOOD, WELL RESEARCHED, RESPECTED authors and books out there, i wouldn’t presume. I don’t have all the answers (yet 🙂 ), but someday i will (have all the answers, not write a book), because i DO the research: i don’t trust anyone who doesn’t address or demonstrate anything about lightfastness, i don’t trust “seasonal colours” when half of them are not real dyes, i don’t trust just because something makes a wonderful ink means it also dyes cloth or threads, i don’t trust anyone who won’t be clear about what they are doing if they are selling it, i will never trust someone who advocates the use of kitchen waste without discerning and explaining the difference between a stain and a dye. I’ve *seen* the beet juice dyed yarn on Etsy, the packages of coloured fabrics on Instagram that have no identifiers. How do i know they are “plant dyes” , not food colouring, or watered paint, or procion, ’cause i ain’t never seen THAT green or deep fuschia from plant materials???? Yeah yeah, i know about mordants and modifiers, but some of the colours i’ve seen do not occur in natural dyestuffs! I just wish more buyers too would call out the frauds, identify problems plainly, and stop the “oh but it’s pretty anyways” crap.

No one wants to bake or buy a cake that looks gorgeous, but is really just icing bewitchingly swirled onto a cardboard base……………

I think what i’m asking for is honesty here. If you take pride in your work, and you know that you know what you are doing, share that. Don’t make people guess, don’t defraud them, don’t lie, cheat, obfuscate. If you write a book, aren’t you supposed to be sharing the real true information, or are you just promoting your own agenda with the artfully staged photos, the vague instructions, the “projects” that take up half the book? Holding the information close to your chest is selfish; if you’re doing it wrong, you will be found out i guess, if you’re doing it right, well, so can someone else. And yeah people copy, of course they copy but with natural dyeing, there are so many factors, that their projects are not going to be copies of your projects no matter how hard they try. If you’re hiding that information so you can sell your books, or your fabrics, and you’ve done it wrong, you will be found out, and there goes not only your bank account, but your reputation and the reputation of natural dyers WHO DO IT RIGHT.

I have been asked for instance, “how did you get that colour from madder?” I’ve answered, “by using it correctly, as per a madder recipe”. I can’t be more specific because there are water, mordant, modifier, fibre type, age of dye stuff, original source of dye stuff, length of time, temperature and Magical Fairy Moon Breathless Goddess factors–and that last one is no artsy fartsy obfuscation, because sometimes there is such a confluence of events to create a colour, that it HAS to be magic. Even this pragmatic skeptic has to admit this.

Don’t skimp on the research yourself, personally. Don’t take at face value one blog post that has a colour you like. Don’t EVER take at face value the most popular as the final word on a subject. (Popularity has nothing to do with actual knowledge.) Compare notes with each source, find the original source. Was it all done correctly from the start? Scouring, mordanting, actual dye material, possible post mordanting and/or modifying, light fast and wash fast tests? (These last two are my biggest peeves–i RARELY see any indication these have been done.)

Ah, i could go on and on.

Maybe most people are more interested in popularity and money, than pride of place, of ethics and honesty, of quality work/art. I’d like to sell more too, because i sure as hell  get frustrated when i see those big numbers of sales on stuff that just isn’t made correctly, done poorly, weak. There’s no “sustainability, eco-consciousness, mindfulness” to any of it. I have however found natural dyers who give a damn, who share the info, who are constantly learning, who are nice or snarky (because they too are frustrated) and know their stuff, who will troubleshoot with you. Those are the ones who have the art of transparency in spades (to mix a metaphor).

As usual, i’m probably just pissing into the wind.

I wrote about this before too, in less polite terms 🙂

art vs craft, disappointed but not even any discussion

EDIT January 22: I’m going to add the response i gave to the owner admin of the group, at the end of this post. I don’t want to dwell on this anymore, have resolved it as much as i am comfortable with, and will go back to my Art and Craft. 🙂


I posted this photo on a very popular FB group, and had wonderful responses and reactions. Every time someone shared it, i would get an email notification: i do check, i am curious who likes, what possible demographic i’m hitting, what people think. Today i clicked on a one of those notices and got the ol’ “the person who shared this blahblah/the post is no longer blahblah” The entire post/photo had been deleted.

WTF? This is the second time something i’ve shared to the group has been treated this way, even after wonderful reactions, shares and comments.

These above were deleted as well, BUT currently in the group is a post from awhile ago by a Well Known Teacher: small pouches, dare i say without sounding sourgrapey, not nearly as “artistic”, engaging or original as mine. I guess i should have called the boxes “Reliquaries”, the pouches “Alembics”, snotty enough right? Boxes and pouches are just so plebeian, doncha know…………

How come these are art then?

embroidered moons, natural dye, arlee barr, hand embroideryOH i know, it’s the EASELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But it’s the same fucking technique, materials, skills and time.

Now i DO understand that this group’s mandate is Textile ART. They don’t want dollies, doilies, bags, socks, placemats–unless of course, the artist has worked in a political or socio-economic “statement”…….. HOWEVER, a fair bit of the work posted there is from people who are just jumping in without a clue about either the/any technique or the/any aspect of design. There are also some INCREDIBLY talented artists who share. I am not THE “Best”, but i’m not competing, nor is that my intent, by sharing, and i’m certainly not by a long long long shot, the Worst.

So, then i posted this:

Thank you all, those who shared my little vessels (boxes), hand dyed with natural dyes, hand embroidered with naturally dyed threads, with designs of my own. There’s a definite science and ART to using natural dyes, but apparently, it isn’t good enough for certain groups, even with over a hundred likes etc and many shares, because it isn’t “Art”, it’s “only Craft”. My post was deleted, the second time this has happened to me with my work in this group.

Craft is an art as well–we buy from, support, hold in esteem many craftsmen/women as well as artists–and where is the dividing line anyways? Is it craft because it’s useful, is it art only if it sits on a table or hangs on a wall?

I’m really disappointed, and hurt by this. I spend a lot of time and skill on not only dyeing my own fabrics and threads with historically accurate methods, but working out the designs, the mechanics and the presentation. I had hoped this group would not only be more receptive, but more supportive and encouraging.

I have my Big Girl Pants on, but they’re pretty knotted up right now. (I’m even ready for them to delete the post.)


WOW, it took only 2 seconds to be deleted. I didn’t even get a screenshot.

Why is tapestry an art? A quilt? A cross stitched porn picture? If they were made in the shape of something that could be functional, are they now “only” Craft? Whoa. Roll that tapestry into a cube and slap a lid on it, and now because it’s a box, it’s craft, not art? Why is embroidery an art if it’s hanging on a wall, or on a body, but if it can be Used for Something, it’s craft? The piss off is that if i had posted a hairy string laden “vessel” embroidered with fetishes and twats, it would have been “Art”– but because it could be “Used for something”, as opposed to just sitting on a shelf and being admired, it isn’t…….OMG THEY HAVE LIDS, THAT MUST BE THE PROBLEM..🤣.

I *do* have an “ulterior motive” by showing in these groups–i run a small business. It’s exposure. I need/want people to know what i do, where they can find it, what’s new with me. At least half of members in any of these groups are there for the same reason. It’s not cheap, it’s not wrong, it’s networking, advertising, sharing, educating, encouraging. Putting your eggs in one basket these days just ain’t gonna cut the mustard.

I was also asked if i could get over  “how many years hurt by rejection” i was going to take –well-meaning or not, from a respected friend, that kind of hurt too,  and i say: EVERY. FUCKING. YEAR. I am allowed to feel this way. This is part of my living, a lot of my reason for living, my joy in living. If you can roll that off your back, lucky you. Either that, or you’re lying to yourself……. If my kids are rejected, it does hurt. Even when the kids are gone/old.

You know what too? We don’t “art” something, we CRAFT it. Huh.


My addendum the day after i wrote this post:

Thank you all for the responses *you* “CRAFTED”. Obviously i know now that there is both too large *and* too small a line between the two viewpoints. I wasn’t looking for sympathy, but rather a discussion, or at least some thoughtful responses on the difference, if there IS any, between Art and Craft.

I heard back from the owner/admin of the group, and it was a kind, thoughtful response BUT, while i respect the rules of the group, (and yes, i agree the text post was a no no) i can’t really tell if there’s too large or too small a divider between art and craft in the group! I don’t know if it’s happened to others, but this really brought home the disdain brought to the table by some. (Speaking of whomever it was that deleted the posts originally.)

I have used the same materials, skills, techniques, time and originality to create these. Is the lower set “art” because of the presentation for wall or easel, and the upper set “craft” because it is functional? Technically, they are the same, but presented differently in the final “use”.

If i take a tapestry, considered art, fold it into a cube with a lid, and climb in, is it not now craft because it’s able to hold something? Form follows function? If i had pretentiously called the small forms/boxes “Reliquaries” and the pouches “Alembics”, would they then be art? So, under the parameters of the group then, ANYTHING that can be used as a functional item is not Art. And yet i see other posts with felted or machine stitched forms that are obviously BOTH art and craft.

Apparently then, it’s rather arbitrary, depending on which other admin gets there first.

I *did* thank her for the kind words, and the thoughtful response. I won’t leave the group, as that would be “cutting off my own nose to spite my face”, but i will be making very considered choices about what i share. (I will also not name the group, as that would not be fair to the artists there, or this particular Admin.)

There’s a lot of crap posted in the group, but there’s also a heck of a lot of incredibly talented artists as well. Dare i say, even some incredibly talented *craftspeople*?


I’m going to burn in hell

If you don’t give a flying youknowwhat about natural dyeing, move on, friend.

Beets, beans, olives, mint, spinach, blackberries,  carrots, cherries, raspberries, red cabbage,. Yum, but not dyes. Really. They are not dyes. Even so called “reputable”, “popular” authors are buggering about now with these. PLEASE please please PLEASE, if you must include these in your book, make sure it is OBVIOUS that these are fugitive/bad/stains only/pointless for using on fabric. Maybe write a book on how to dye Easter eggs instead. Or salt and flour playdough for kids.


I’m not aware of any field of craft anywhere else as “natural dyeing” that advocates the use of bad practice as “play”. Since so many espouse “ecological awareness and sustainability”, how does that balance with the waste of time, resources (water and electricity), materials (cloth and thread) and plant materials? Granted some of these plant materials *are* “waste”, but they’d be better in your compost then, so that you could then grow healthy plants that *do* actually dye. The approach too that “if it fades, it can still be pretty, or dyed again” does no service to the natural dyers who pride themselves on products done well to begin with, that do not need overdyeing after a month, and who have customers who spending their money, expect a little more than “well, i can re-do it when that purple turns to washed out beige”.  (Assuming the customer is able to get the product back to them, WANTS to get it back to them, and then can pick it up again….AND are you going to charge them for the re-dye???? Really?) And is that customer going to trust that the product WILL last this time? Even if you are not selling the item, how many times has the family member/friend worn that spinach dyed toque? Or have they “donated” it to the local charity, or tossed it in a garbage bag going to the landfill, saying “oh so sorry, i lost it”? MORE waste.

When learning to play with different mordants and modifiers, why not use an accredited dye that will actually teach you something about natural dyeing? Just because mint/blackberries/beets react with these chemicals, doesn’t mean a real dye is going to act the same way. Just because a plant is “readily available” does not make it a dye plant. Where is the historically relevant data, where are the extant samples, the light and colour fastness tests results? Artfully staged photos are not “proof”.

Because you can bet if i styled a cantaloupe with some coral silk, or an eggplant with artistically draped purple wool gauze, someone would automatically wax rhapsodic about the beauty and depth of colour, and accept it at face value… I’ve seen it too many times on FB, Instagram and on blogs. Liars.

The claim that natural dyes are “expensive” is specious as well. At the very least, many reputable dye houses sell mixed packs that can give even a novice good results. There’s a system of Cost per Wear, that says if i buy a dress for 200 and wear it once, it cost me 200 that is now gone: if i wear that dress 20 times, it cost me 10 per wear, and i didn’t have to buy a dress to replace it. If i use water, electricity, cloth and beets (for $10 for enough to “dye” with), and the colour washes/fades out, i now add the cost of the water, the electricity, the cloth, the time and the damn beets and it probably comes out to more than 10, that is now GONE. AND i have to redye it or the cloth itself is now wasted. This is “sustainable? This is ecologically responsible?

Is this the “if it’s on the internet, it must be true” mentality? Books can be as bad for information, given the spate of vanity/self publishing now, or from publishers/editors who really don’t know the field, and who don’t care as long as the book sells. Even authors with years of experience and actual research will advise that something didn’t work after all, that the information was erroneous to begin with. (Jenny Dean admits hollyhocks do NOT work as a supportable dye.) And if you’re going to teach, or are avid about less waste, and more responsibility in the textile field, why not promote something that does last, that is proven to be viable. The number of books a person publishes, or what position she/he holds has nothing to do with veracity. (Look at Dr Oz……….) Obviously too, “facts” can be tailored for books, not presenting the whole picture.

We have this little Cult of Personality too, where no one is willing to speak up, to give honest opinions, to present true facts. This means the book/blog/website/class/workshop is free to promulgate more disinformation/folklore/slanted views, and now it’s the Bible, and if you disagree, you are a heretic.

Burn baby, burn. Guess that’s me.

And there’s a new post too about this 🙂