Alchemist's Apron, Back Forty, critters, dyeing, Nature printing

Sunday brunch post

Coffee’s gone, eggs, cheese grits, and leftover chili devoured.

Listening to Michelle Wolf’s Netflix show in the background. She is really funny, but there’s a little too much screeching going on, so switching to Radio Heartland. Ah! Mountain Stage. That is perfect.

Today is muggy and damp but so far no rain. Sandy finally gave up and bought a new lawn mower yesterday.

I was amazed by two things this morning. One, the US Postal Service delivered my order from Pinetree Seeds that I ordered on Friday. On Sunday morning. On Memorial Day weekend. Two, I saw the groundhog on TOP of the fence munching on vines. Now I know that it can climb.

The Pinetree package contained small animal repellent spray, holographic flash tape, and indigo seeds. I sprayed the rocks and planters and landscape timbers and pots, since the rain is supposed to hold off until tonight. The motion sensor is working on human sized animals, but I’m not so sure about smaller ones. This repellent contains “Putrescent whole egg solids, mint oil, rosemary oil, and cinnamon oil.” Maybe it will helpful with the skeeters too.

Now I’m going to play in the studio today and tomorrow. Yesterday I only wove a little on my tapestry diary. Still wrapping my head around that and how to proceed, if at all. I dyed some iron/vinegar mordanted pockets in tap water with onion skins and the rest of the pitcher of red zinger tea. I wrapped up one with a sprig of deep purple plum leaves and another with the tea bags. The tea bags didn’t do much but the plum leaves worked blue magic. I soaked these in a really strong mordant for days so my colors are very dark. Love the olive color, though.

Oh yeah, I busted the back of my new smart phone a week ago, so it is now held together with packing tape. It shattered across the lens of the camera. Fortunately, the only thing wrong with my old one is that it doesn’t hold a charge very long, so I kept it. I can still use it for a camera and it hooks up to wi-fi.

I really can’t do much in this studio without cleaning up this mess, so I’m done here. I’ll post any progress on my little tapestry or the tapestry diary later. Tomorrow is another day off.

Alchemist's Apron, Back Forty, dyeing

A catch-up post

I just haven’t been able to make myself blog lately. So here are a few paragraphs to catch up on April.

The bed in the Back Forty is complete and I couldn’t be happier with it.

The swale was constructed just in time to catch the heavy rains we have had in the past couple of weeks. I stood outside my back door to take photos of how the water was flowing on April 15, not knowing that a high F2 tornado was on the ground two miles east of me. It is not unusual for us to get tornadoes around here, but this one was particularly destructive in a mostly poor area. It was lucky that it didn’t strike when school was in session because there would have been many more deaths and injuries.

Potatoes and arugula seedlings are coming up in the planter nearest the door. I planted kale, dill, parsley, basil, purple carrot, regular carrot, and a few beet seeds in the bed. In one planter I tossed a bunch of seeds that had spilled out into the bottom of the shoebox I keep my seed packets in. That should be fun. The fig tree looks awful but there are some green sprouts on it now.

We have broken apart some the the whiskey barrel planters that were rotting. They were originally rain barrels on each corner of our house. I remember when I unwrapped them (they were shipped to us) you could smell the whiskey all the way down the block. Too bad that they sprung so many leaks because they did look awesome. Then they had a second life when we cut them in two for planters.

More photos later.

Justin is now working on turning the container garden at the end of my driveway into a plot ready to plant this summer. He’s doing some tree pruning and clean-up for me too, then I will have to let him go because I’ll be spending my money on chiropractor visits and travel.

My pain is much better, and I am seeing a new chiropractor to try to get my neck and hips in alignment. It helps that I have hired Justin to do the heavy work – it was a big plus that he turned out to be a great permaculture designer!

Work has been busy as usual. I’ve played around with natural dyes some for India’s online class, but a lot of my experiments have not resulted in good color or prints. Now I think that the pillowcases I was using are not cotton, or mostly not cotton. I’ll soak some more fabrics in the iron/vinegar mordant and use some tried and true dyes. I’m playing catch-up in her class too, and have been dyeing this silk/cotton thread. The beautiful purple came from dried dark purple hyacinth blossoms that I gleaned on my walk home from work. The olive green is from a mullein dye bath. I’ve gotten some golds, yellows, silvery grays, and browns. The top thread is the original color for comparison.

Lots of stuff happening this time of year, and I’ll try to not be so slack about posting. My mood has been up and down. With the end of the semester in sight it will get better.

Alchemist's Apron, art, dyeing, fiber art, Lake Waccamaw, Nature printing, North Carolina, Slow cloth, Upcycling

Alchemist’s Apron project

Last weekend Sandy and I went to Lake Waccamaw and I gathered materials to dye my project for India Flint’s online class, “The Alchemist’s Apron.” I’ve experimented with natural dyes down there before without a whole lot of luck. This time, using a good mordant and bundling the plant materials directly in contact with the cloth did the trick.

In this project we cut apart a shirt in a particular way to make an apron. This is a lightweight denim shirt that Sandy discarded a long time ago. I saved it, paint stains and all. I have a few other white thrift store shirts that I could use, but I wanted to experiment on this one first. Blue is my favorite color, unless you bring up any of my other favorite colors, like orange, purple, yellow, brown, black, red, and green.

I made a mordant from iron scraps, white vinegar and water in a pickle bucket that is safe to use but turned out to be almost scary powerful. The chemical reaction creates a billowing orange foam much like the toupee on Dear Leader’s head. I have a lifetime supply of iron mordant now because I have to dilute it so much. This mordant developed over about eight days.

Even after diluting it with rain water it had a weird metallic sheen on top which cracked when touched. I ended up straining it through a piece of thick cloth to get out most of the rust, poured in hot tap water to dilute it more, and even then I got a lot of brown/orange color on the shirt. I soaked the shirt for two days and a half in this mordant solution.

Then I bundled it tightly with swamp bay leaves, common privet leaves, red tip photinia leaves, dried live oak leaves, dried bald cypress needles, dried sweet gum leaves and balls, and some dark blue berries that could have been from the swamp bay or Chinese privet. They were growing beside each other and I identified the Chinese privet after dyeing, which was a no-no. The leaves and berries of Chinese privet are toxic to ingest. My guess is that they are not dangerous to the skin since I saw nothing that mentioned it and this will be going on over other clothes. I cleaned up all the berries and washed the apron well. Also, I could be wrong on the ID.

The swamp bay leaves smelled heavenly in the dye bath. Some leaves didn’t leave a print but made a negative print where they blocked the dye from the leaves on top on them (a resist) and had a black edge around them. Looking at it today, I wonder if the black leaf prints are actually the dried live oak leaves and the leaf prints with the black edges are the swamp bay leaves. Unwrapping these bundles is such a joy – you just don’t know what you will get. I knew that it would be mostly black prints because of the mordant and the tannins, but that was about it.

Here it is after rinsing it in the bathtub. It has since been washed and dried and lost none of its color. I’m pleased, because early spring is not the best season to do natural dyeing.

The next step in the class is to dye threads for stitching and sewing on pockets. Many pockets. I needed some more thread dyed with broom sedge to finish an old project anyway and I saw some down the street on the old train tracks, so I’m going down there to gather it now. It makes a lovely yellow.

I also stuffed a garbage bag full of Spanish moss that covered some tree branches piled on the side of the road for pickup. That will be mulch for my container garden. The birdies love to line their nests with it too. I’m sure that conservative crowd living at the lake thinks I’m bananas walking along the canal road, plucking up Spanish moss and leaves and branches from their yard trash piles, wild graying hair, braless, and no make-up, with my Bernie 2016 bumper sticker on my car in the yard. Ha!