I’m still rattling ideas around, getting lost and frustrated, but slowly slooooooooowly pulling things together. Remember when “word of the year” was really trending? I don’t do that anymore, but am thinking anyways of one year in particular when i found myself: 2012 the year of “Origin”, going back to old ideas and techniques, staying true to myself, letting myself rest. I need to do that again. Because seriously, the months since completing Tabula Memoria have been one long nasty picnic of doubt, self loathing, frustration, boredom and, yes, even Anger with myself. (Don’t get me wrong: i love that piece, but it took a LOT out of me, something i didn’t realize was happening at the time.)

Certain things keep popping into view in old files, in Flickr and my private blog, and i do believe it’s time to work ’em again/finally.

From 2011, this weaving idea has been pinned up and removed from the inspiration board so many times it now has a fine cloud of holes around the edges 🙂

The interpretation is actually going to be a bit different than i originally planned, and involves the harem cloth (and natural dyes) mentioned in a previous post. Also using that fabric in something like this has sparked some ideas:

I loved making Mother’s Heart in 2013, still one of my favourite pieces, and maybe i could shake it/make it on/with the languishing Anno Suturae. (Photo above is when i was auditioning background pieces for MH). Redux’s are always fun as you evolve and riff from them I seem to do better/feel more in tune with what i am doing, when seemingly disparate elements are combined, and i feel i’ve misplaced that somewhere in the lat few years.

I have Anno Suturae pinned up rather haphazardly so i can see the whole, check different orientations and decide where to cut, move, remove and add, because it’s time to really combine some ideas. I may even “lose” the stitching that is already on there, as most of the intent is gone. Perhaps it should be renamed Annos Suturae!

My Inner Critic of course is snargling.

“Yeah right, another “Plan”, wonder how long that will last?”

“Oh, you’re just copying yourself again.”

“You obviously don’t have any original ideas anymore. Ha, original, get it: you talked about Origin, but you’re way off base. Ha.”

“It’s easy to sit on the computer and blether about it. When ya acshully gonna get off yer bazotski and do it? Oh yeah, never.”

Going to have to shut that bitch in a box and throw her in the freezing many yards away garage.



harem cloth notes

I’ve had harem cloth, a type of cotton, in the stash since waaaay back when i took one of Jude Hill’s classes (2010?), on her recommendation as a “base”. Gauzy, lightweight and infinitely malleable for many techniques, it’s usually been relegated in my studio to hand dyed overlays to build colour, test stitches (predominantly machine), and much went into indigo baths. I found it much too diaphanous however, to use as a batting/background in *my* opinion, for my work, stitching that requires some Meat to hold to, build the dimension and accent texture.

(Image courtesy of Dharma, where i bought the fabric.)


For the most part, i figured it was too “lazy” a fabric to use much, usually just lying there all wan, frail and languishing, trying to pretend it’s a pale Rossetti maiden. It *does* take dyes beautifully though, and shibori tie/stitch works well because it’s sheer/filmy, but beyond the figures on “Tabula Memoria”, it never got centre stage.

But i DID use it obviously and since i’ve gone through almost 20 yards, with only a yard left, figured it was time to re-order.   The new batch that arrived in December is even more delicate! That sparked some new ideas though, because it is exquisite in its ethereal transparency! (Of course, i have no doubt that spectacular work can/will be done with the TEN yards i bought, and when/if i re-order to make more Wonder, the quality will be different again…..)

Now, as those of you who have ecoprinted with sheer fabrics know, that transparency usually means the images aren’t that visible unless laid over something else. I gave up on 5mm silk a long time ago because of that, going to at least a 12, but am wondering what effect natural dyes will have on such a rarefied weight of cotton. Before you get all squiffy, i *know* the colour won’t make it more solid, but am wondering about light play, (un)even-ness, colour striking and possible patterning. Actually, i want it to be a bit uneven, imperfect, but i don’t want it splodgy and poorly done either. I still want that otherworldly appearance.

BOTHER. Well, ya gotta laugh at yerself sometimes, doncha? I wanted to stick a video clip of Tom Hulce as Amadeus (Mozart), laughing here, but it would just be too cruel to subject you to more than one clip 🙂

I wrote all that before i washed the fabric. It’s the same. It all still applies though.

Guess i better experiment.

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.

Histories and Mysteries

Rather silly, but very indicative of the modern world, i’ve been digging through the digital file archives again to find fabrics i couldn’t find physically! (All these above from the 2012 res at ACAD.) I’ve been racking my brains as to where the second from the right went…turns out it’s mostly in small squares now for a ‘circle a day” project (of which i have i think maybe 6 done…) I know the first on the left was the background for “Strange Soul Take Flight” the second i haven’t the foggiest, and the point of the whole endeavour, to find the original for Anno Suturae, far right.

Maybe the orientation is “wrong” as i have been working (or not working…..). I usually go for portrait,

but maybe landscape is actually the way to go? And i think i like the “heavier” elements at the top, like they are floating , first photo in post, rather than at the bottom, sinking, sunk.

Well, that means that scissors are definitely a factor! Some of the already done embrilting is oriented in a specific direction, so turned sideways is not gonna cut the visual mustard. Some is interpretive so it won’t matter the direction, but since it’s all crammed into one section, is going to have to be sliced and diced anyways.

Heart above okay, snail below, WHY?????

Fortunately, the actual work has been bundled up in a drawer since the last time i touched it, and given the colour choices in thread, i don’t have to worry about figuring out which colourway i used, or having to order more. As usual though, i had kept track “just in case”:

What remains to be seen is if i can sustain the interest (AGAIN, STILL), and not Gadbee around with other work!

Great White Whales

(I actually wrote this post at the *beginning* of 2017, never published it, and for the most part, did nothing with the piece i’m talking about…)

Jan 23/17: January means re-organizing, prioritizing in my stoodio. I dig through drawers and boxes, sorting, knowing some things will never be finished, but unable to part with them, making new stacks of “possibles”, and a bit of clenchedteethtossing of a few, VERY FEW, pieces. I get fired up by beads, miniscule scraplets of cloth, short ends of thread, and serendipitous colour combinations when things fall on each other.

And then, i find

The Great White Whale.

This whale takes up a lot of space, literally and figuratively. Once in awhile, the currents of present day sweep it back under the waters, and it sinks, sulking at the bottom of my subconscious for months, and then when i least expect, it breaches loudly, and sings, briefly, but oh so emphatically. I *know* i had the right idea when i first conceived it, but, but, but, BUT.

“Let faith oust fact; let fancy oust memory; I look deep down and do believe.”
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Jan 1/18:

Is it any wonder i can get nothing done, feel no gumption, have no inspiration? Piles and messes like this used to really inspire me; now i just walk away from it, overwhelmed, disgusted, bored, frustrated. There are cupboards and bins not visible, full of fabrics slated for projects, and a lot OF projects in progress/notprogress. I’ll spare you those. Time AGAIN to re-organize, declutter, throw out.

In particular, the Great White Whale has been packed away since April 2014, with maybe a 10th of the expanse worked. It was overly ambitious, daunting, heavy in my lap and on my mind. I even had a separate blog for it, now private as i couldn’t bear to see it myself, never mind anyone else…. (I *might* re-open it, depending on depending on…)

Original cloth, 48×72″, made during 2012 residency:

I’ve worked on only maybe a 1oth of the area (not that the area is finished…).

That photo does no justice either to what i *have* done.

Everything on it got away from me. I *didn’t* believe in it anymore. Too many ideas and interpretations, i had intended it to be a record of sorts of my practice and evolution, but it’s just a damn sampler now.

Scissors, we will have scissors.

It never had to be ONE piece of cloth. I’m going to be cutting to cut, re-arrange, overlap, make deliberate spaces, maybe even holes, patches, whatever. Because i also see the photos like this:

and fall in love again.


letting the hands have their way, though not feeling very handish….

Just stitching. Red scrap salvaged from student scrap box at ACAD. I even left the dart in 🙂

For the need of it.

 New wallet!


For the sake of it. Naturally dyed threads:

For the potential, new work component:

All she will have is the honeycombs, i think.


For the nostalgia, old project picked up again (“A Stone’s Throw from the Midnight Lake”), stitching started 2009:

hand and centre ripped out in 2012, going to rip out the heavy leaves at bottom right as well, and the beads in the centre:

Started with embroidery again this past week. And yup, i’m hiding the machined lines with hand embroidery, not that i think it’s bad or not valid, just because i can, and like the heavier/more textural look with hand embroidery. Mixing naturally dyed with the commercially dyed as well, ’cause colour is colour. (And what a ridiculous time frame for such a small piece…. 15.5×23.5″)

I’m thinking an indigo moon might work in that centre? A face?  A tree? Mmmm, tree.

 For the possibility, new work, sample, done enough to think about:


Idea to be incorporated in piece with the lace figure.


For the practice, keeping the hand in.


It’s that Magical Thinking time of the year again. We don’t worry about it, each day, each year much the same (safe, warm, employed, happily married and parenting animals, no drama), but if that turn of a calendar page does something for you, enjoy it. See ya on the flip side.