sharing the bounty

Though i could probably make several garments from the fabrics and threads created so far, during the Summer Madder Project, i’ve decided to add some to the shop.

All of these have been properly prepped, premordanted and dyed according to well researched practices, and historically accurate methods. I haven’t cut any corners just so i can make some coin, as i intend to use bits in my own work–and why short myself?! All of course, are natural fibres, in various weights of silk and cotton, as are the threads. All have been well rinsed after, and because they are done correctly to begin with, there should be no bleeding. Your methods of care may influence the colour, but not out of the ordinary. (Even synthetics can fade…) All natural dyes should be treated with care ie, minimal sun exposure (you can wear it once in awhile at a sunny festival, but not everyday), proper wash handling, which means hand washed with a NEUTRAL soap (Dawn Original dish soap, believe it or not, is perfect, and is what i use), and storage in a closed drawer, closet or box. This all being said, if you are adding it to your stash to use in art textiles, rather than wearables, well, most of that doesn’t apply, except for the sun exposure. Nobody hangs a painting where sun will hit it, and neither will you with your art, will you? 🙂

AND , because i DO things correctly, you will NEVER find stuff like this in my shop! Someone is going to waste 30 bucks and be forever angry about natural dyes and their longevity…………….(Link is now to a removed item, though there are plenty of other items in her shop that are still “dyed” with beet juice, turmeric and black beans, notoriously fugitive stains…. )


EDIT June 8/18:  Further to the beet juice “dyed” yarn on Etsy from the link above, i received a demand from the “dyer” to remove the link from my blog, as a bad example of natural dyeing. She boasted that her methods ARE historically accurate, and that she has a “niche market”………This is part of my response: “If this were true, my dear, you would not be using beet juice, as it is a fugitive stain, not a dye, and appears nowhere in historically accurate dye research, samples or extant work…..People, particularly clients, deserve the truth and accuracy that a skilled craftsperson brings to the field.” That niche market is going to be sorely disappointed. Edit again: that link was removed, but she still has other stained, rather than naturally dyed items……….

And i *won’t* be removing the link. Links, correctly done (because they’re presenting ALL the information ON that link), by the way, are not “stealing”–who’s “taking” anything? If i were praising someone, you can bet they wouldn’t say the same……

I *don’t* wish ill to this person, but i completely disagree with her business ethics, and integrity. She does herself no favours either, but will go broke when people start demanding their money back, or passing on the word that there is no point shopping there.  Sad, especially since the correct knowledge is in at least a visit to the library!


dandilion delight

We had a long long hot hot summer last year, and it looks like it’s going to be another one, so what better way to mark it than by celebrating the dandilion?

Our back 40 is rather lush (in the spring, but dried out by August’s end!), and the dandilions are plentiful, bee feeders and happydays harbingers, but a bone of contention with the neighbours.

I figured though that beheading them (the dandilions, not the neighbours), would keep the snarking at bay for awhile, and threw some in a dyepot.

The first look was Meh. Yeah, it’s yellow, but barely worth the effort. (Though using dandilions is one of the EASIEST ways to get colour. But no, the roots will NOT give you any GD magenta, ever, ever. EVER.) Then i threw in a pinch of soda ash–BOOM. YELLOW. DANDILION YELLOW. Wowzers, it’s neon, electric, it’s definitely a Spring colour. (Paler yellow wool yarn at top is without the soda ash.)

So, do i add yet another yellow dyed silk to the stash and wonder why i do so much yellow and never use it? Nah. Let’s use it. I’m betting it would make wonderful dandilions 🙂


A side note to my fellow natural dyers and ecoprinters: apparently some person in the US has made it her mission to prevent teachers from other countries coming to the US to share their skills and techniques with students, reporting “potentially un-work-visa’d travellers” to immigration and customs! Can you imagine any other art field professional doing this?  And while there *are* divided camps about the “purity” of the technique with those who decry the use of ANY “chemical” or any use of plastic, and those who use anything they can experiment with, and a fiercely competitive attitude amongst some on both sides, this is going too far! It deprives students of learning, workshops and their facilitators of making money to bring other teachers in, no matter what technique or field, and is so narrow minded and malicious, that it just blows me away. Just goes to show you, that not all earthgoddessy-natural-eco-mothers are altruistic sharing sweethearts…………





about “shop updates”

It seems every time i do this, i lose a few followers, at least on FB! Please remember that small businesses/artists need support too–especially since i myself am temporarily no longer a “floral arranger”/”employee” by day.  Some/most of us do not work for conventional employers, whether by choice, or because of need for childcare that necessitates someone staying home, or living in a place where jobs are few and far between, or that geography says it’s too far to commute to! You get one of a kind items this way, made with skill and care, unique viewpoints and representations, often created with original to the maker supplies too, and passion and intent. We can’t just show you what we’re doing: it has to pay for itself, pull its own weight, fly out into the world. Some of us are not just artists, but WORKING artists–and working artists make art/things for sale, not just to pretty up a blog or Instagram.

An artist/maker spends time not only making the product, but developing the skills sometimes for years, doing the initial sketches or design work,  gathering the supplies, setting up a work space, photography and editing after, listing the product, packaging when sales are made, schlepping them to the post office, buying special envelopes for some work, and has to pay fees as well to keep the business going, from shop fees, to financing charges, more supply buying and a host of little things that are peculiar to each artist. I don’t mean any of this to offend anyone, am not begging, and certainly am grateful when someone appreciates what i do by opening their wallet. BUT things, “products”, Art, stuff, never spring magically from “a sweated brow”on to a for sale page with no thought or effort beforehand 🙂 It doesn’t just get THUNK into existence: there’s WORK first. I keep my prices low, given the amount of effort/skill/vision that goes into them, and having seen some sell smaller less involved bits for more coin,  it sometimes really depresses me, when they’re shocked that i would have the Audacity to actually want good coin, not a token of “faith” in my pocket. There are times when i just want to give up, quite honestly.

On the other hand, i’ve had well meaning friends and family say some of my prices are too “low”, and yes, i’ve always subscribed to the “some bucks is better’n no bucks” theory, but i know what has gone into those particular efforts, and am comfortable with what i asked for 🙂

I’ve had queries about specific pieces that i have shown in my galleries here, things i *might* like to sell to a good home, but have not actively pursued a sale, or even a hint of one, and after a few back and forth emails, when they find out the price–because my bigger pieces, my more involved pieces are more expensive because they were a hell of a lot more work, not only in size, but in execution and skill — *cricket noises*, no further communication, not even a “thanks for answering, but regretfully, no thanks” response. I get that you thought because you bought a piece 6 years ago for $75, that you might figure one of my massive works is only double that now, but that’s not how it works. I know too that active, dedicated, supporters of textile art don’t always have money, and that too, some figure because they have supported someone before, that they should get a deal. I’m happy to work out a payment plan for something already produced, and have on occasion happily done commissioned work on a payment plan as well.

Do you want something that lasts? Are you the kind of shopper that only buys things that *immediately* gratify you? Are you making an investment in your own happiness, or just to fill your belly, impress someone else, keep up with a trend? I’m constantly remembering customers at the flower mines who would decry that “flowers are so expensive for something that doesn’t last”–well, honey, how’s that steak you had last night, keepin’ on? Those flowers that lasted “only” a week made someone happy every *single* day of that week. That’s a lasting impression.

So is art, Art. Big statement piece, small joy as a present for you or a friend, something to make something else with, it’s all in the shop. Thank you for listening to the end of the commercial, not muting it while you go for a pee and a snack 🙂


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 🙂 ),  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 the  seller Broad Street Book Centre (an actual bricks and mortar store in NJ Hereford, an actual real live book store!!!),  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 🙂 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.

how much does a year?

I used to judge myself on how many things were finished in a year . In the last six years, i’ve let myself slow down, with technique, thinking process, research and results. It’s much more satisfying for me to view work that i am connected to *because* i have taken “more time”. It seems very much to me that quantity over quality, fast fix over real depth has become the way for some to feel they are Artists. I don’t believe any of the masters in any other medium keep a ledger on how many paintings/sculptures/plates/widgets, whatever they have produced each month. It actually makes me laugh too when i see articles about the newest stitching SuperStar “who takes up to 35 hours to do each piece!!!!!!!!! OMG!!!!” Some of us count into the several 100’s, even 1000’s………… No, it doesn’t make us better/more involved/more enlightened, but please, it doesn’t mean we are not conscious of what we are doing just because we count them either. (All creativity is mindful)

Time also has the advantage of your voice and style being added to the work. When you slow down (and i’m not talking about just hand stitching or embroidery here, as that is *not* what “slow” means or what the Slow Cloth movement is about), you actually have the luxury of really looking at what you are doing, can ask yourself if design elements or techniques actually fit with what you are doing, if what you are doing is truly important enough to you to actually/factually do, and really get personal with the cloth. You also learn to fix mistakes, not just cover them up–though as we all know, the occasional mistake can be serendipitous. That can apply to machine work, or any of the fancy “buy more product” mixed media projects as well. It often seems also that speed kills creativity in the competition to try everything, new under the sun or not.

I don’t want to be prolific anymore, i want to be profound. (Even if that is only in *my* head, not recognized by my “peers”…) Of course, the last paragraph of this post aside–because time is precious, does not last forever,  and who might die tomorrow?—- time is also needed to play, to experiment, to simply fart around, but time also must be used wisely and judiciously so that millisecond of Profundity is recognized and acted upon.

Over the last five months of this year, having finished a really large intensive commission, i have found myself at an impasse with my work. I pull out things: sketches, fabrics, notes and get all excited, then realize the momentary WhatIf is not a sustainable mood or strong enough desire to actually do it. I’m an Idea Gadbee right now i guess, too many flowers to visit, not enough time to get back to the inner Hive. There are an awful lot of posts here in the time since “Tabula Memoria” that will just have to sit and seed. I don’t like being one of those people who posts over and over about what they are GOING to do, instead of just doing it. Or not 🙂 Admittedly, my work blog has a hell of a number of those, but that’s good for future mining.

These last few weeks of the year 2017 are being spent with noodling around, and returning to, if not finishing, a few old old old projects that *do* want to be worked on OR finished (still not counting with those), and so, whatever happens, happens.

It’s not so much about the hand, as it is the involved mind. Originality doesn’t arrive at lightening speed, nor does Becoming an Artist. In the words of The Old English Poets “Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is, yes it is.”

becoming a purple thread

Certainly a vanity, thinking one knows everything, but i’ve always subscribed to “Learn something new everyday, and you know you’re not dead” — i *don’t* know everything, but i do my research and i’m happy to not only do the correct thing, but to riff on that once the lesson is learned. If i need an affirmation of something i’ve done or a puzzlement needs solving, i’ll ask, but i don’t JUST ask and expect the whole answer “with 8×10 glossies and paragraphs and arrows on the back” to be handed to me on a silver platter.

I remember asking a Contextural member a long time ago how she achieved a certain shade in her natural dyeing/ecoprinting, and she sweetly and truthfully replied “Every dyer has her secrets” with no smugness, and in all honesty. I took that to heart, learning what i could and often failing because i didn’t follow the basics first.

I’ve got that part well sussed now, and am quietly thrilled with the tried and true, and the experimenting. All of this past week’s naturally dyed threads here have notes on each as to what it is, but you’ll have to figure out certain parts for yourself 🙂

And the details in close-up:

Where these threads go next will be “the long white gown”,  metaphorically speaking.


Excuse me? Because i count the hours it takes to make something, do my stitching, i’m “cheapening” and “commodifying” my work???????????????????????????????????????

I’m not one to get into that mind-set that all creative work is “meditative”, but there are moments when it comes close. Often, my hands are occupied, while my brain sorts other tasks, or tunes out completely while watching tubage, whether it’s informative, trash, entertainment or “current”. I also sit without outside stimulus, sometimes i’m outside listening to the birds, sometimes i’m on the train conversing with fellow passengers. Time slows and speeds during these periods. “Mindful”? Well, all of creativity is mindful, whether good or bad. Intuition and spontaneity still spring from the subconscious, whether or not my brain is in Alpha, Beta or Theta mode. I will not/do not buy into that arena that says i can be/am only an artist when i am zoned out. I certainly can’t do it while in Delta, but maybe, just maybe, perhaps more likely, some of it is Gamma. Look all that up, the types of brain waves. When you come out of your coma, maybe.

When you PM me to take me to task for counting hours, instead of just “going with the flow”, you are saying my way of working is inferior to yours. You want to get nasty? I think your work that consists of attaching ragged scraps together in a cacaphony of colour and pattern, “embroidered” solely with running stitch and “completed” in two days is the cop out in this case. But that’s just my opinion.

I count hours for good reason. Deadlines must be met, commissions must be paid for –i can’t start a project that takes hundreds of hours to do if the deadline is in two weeks; i can’t AFFORD to sell work that takes hundreds of hours for a pittance, like maybe you’re fine with, because “you love doing it” as you “release the love into the world”.

In the final analysis, i do what i do because i DO LOVE it. You don’t like the way i work, tough beans, BabyCakes. My methods are my own, and they are no more “wrong” than your way. If it turns your crank, go ahead, but hands off the keyboard when you criticize my way as perverse.