Back Forty, dyeing, Rebel stitching, tapestry, Tapestry Diary 2018, Upcycling, weaving

Saturday morning WHEW thank God post

I’ve been living for the weekend lately.

Here’s my newest obsession – taking online instruction from India Flint. Her first foray into a structured online class just began this past week: The Alchemist’s Apron. (By the way, that price is in Australian dollars and the exchange rate for US dollars makes it much lower.) Stitching has saved my sanity lately – honestly my work should not be this stressful. It’s the best job I ever had but bad ju-ju from anxiety and frustration is contagious for me.

The weather has been pretty whack, just as it has been almost everywhere else in the US and Europe. It’s hard to know what to do with the temps going up and down the way they have. It snowed earlier this week and was predicted to snow again this weekend, but I think that the forecast has changed. We haven’t gotten enough sun to really warm up the soil and the greenhouse. I spent some time yesterday evening and this morning filling an egg carton and peat cups that I found in the back building with seed starting mix and water. They need to absorb a lot of water before I use them. My garden usually gets a late start compared to others in the area anyway. I started a few broccoli seeds and will figure out a place to begin tomatoes and peppers inside. There are few sunny spots in my house.

Some critter left a rather large dump in my raised bed, and I wonder if it was a raccoon. After shoveling it out I covered the bed in wire fencing. That will not make the husband happy. He does not like my gardening methods, but organic gardening can’t always be pretty, especially if you don’t have the room to sacrifice some of it to the critters. I’m just praying that the woodchuck will not come back this year.

I went to the Greensboro Permaculture Guild seed swap on Tuesday night but wasn’t feeling great and didn’t stay long. Great group of people, though, and someone brought some warm freshly baked bread that was so good I wanted to snatch it and run away and gobble it all down by myself. However I resisted that wild urge and helped myself to a variety of beans, including Jacob’s Cattle and cannellini beans. I shared some of my Whippoorwill and Dixie Lee field peas that I have saved over the years. The Whippoorwill field peas originally came from Monticello.

There I met a young man and his daughter who I am going to call later this weekend and arrange to hire him to help me prepare a couple of planting beds for the summer.

Deep Roots Market is having their Taste Fair this afternoon from 12-4 which is unfortunate timing since today is also the day for the March for Our Lives. Greensboro’s march and rally is from 2-6 p.m. I will show up for part of it but I need desperately need art time.

I have filled a pickle bucket with iron scraps and vinegar and water to make a mordant for natural dyeing the shirt I will transform into the apron for India’s class this week. It was supposed to be in a big glass jar but most of my rusty bits were too big for the jar. It’s been a long time since I’ve attempted any natural dyeing because of my upper body problems. The exciting thing that happened is that I finally found my stash of naturally dyed cloth in the bottom of a hamper this morning. Most of it is silk though, and will probably be saved for something else.

My mood has been as whack as the weather and my tapestry diary this past week shows it. I’m kind of bored with it and I wonder if I will have the willpower to push through that and finish it. Some stitching will make me much happier today.

dyeing, fiber art, Nature printing

A little of this, a little of that

Weekend before last, I dyed this white cotton tank top from Dharma Trading with turmeric, soda ash, cream of tartar, and bundled it up around a stick with oak leaves and steamed it. Then I dipped it in some water with a scrap piece of iron and some vinegar to take the edge of that brilliant yellow. Now it has been in the wash twice and is much more tan. I’m going to bundle it again with some eucalyptus leaves and steam it. Maybe add some fig leaves. The material feels so light and soft.

Scenes like these on my walk home from work made me consider doing the visual diary journal again:

I remember when I was little I found a whole continent in the roots of a large oak tree – mountains, valleys, lakes, forests…

art, dyeing, Nature printing

Natural indigo dyepot experiment and leaf prints on photo paper

I decided to try my hand at dyeing with natural indigo powder this weekend since I missed my weeklong workshop at Arrowmont where I would have dyed with a fresh (fermented) indigo vat. Following instructions on the Dharma Trading website, I soaked the natural indigo powder overnight and ground it in a blender. I added soda ash because I’m not interested in playing with lye. I used all the thiourea dioxide I had and tried my best to introduce as little oxygen as possible to the pot, but I still had a deep blue dyebath. I decided that I might as well try it anyway.

It did not work at all – the dye oxidized in the pot and it all washed out of the skeins. There could have been several reasons I couldn’t keep the extra oxygen out of the pot, one is that our tap water has been cloudy for the past few days. However, I did learn from the experience. I won’t even try to dye in a deep blue indigo vat again – it was a waste of time having to wash out all the skeins and equipment. The good thing is that the skeins are ready to be mordanted and dyed in another dyepot.

Because I am eager to start on my new tapestry, I’m going to use my Procion dyes. I know how to use them. Later I will try again with pre-reduced indigo crystals.

Since I am not to let a hot pot of old dye go to waste, I boiled a bundle of glossy photo papers layered with leaves and bound between ceramic tiles at the bottom of what was left in the indigo solution and got some great results. I learned this method from Marilyn Stephens at Interlaced-Textile Arts. I would not have considered using this photo paper for plant prints, but it was bought long ago and gathering dust and probably would not have ever been used. These are all plants that I pass on my walk to work twice a day. I’m not sure whether the indigo will rub off the paper or not, but here are the photos.

art, book arts, critters, dyeing, Family, Lake Waccamaw, Nature printing, whining

Lake Waccamaw etc., May 2014

Sandy and I spent a couple of days at Lake Waccamaw at my cousin’s house last week. It was a busy week despite being on vacation. We spent one day reading and playing in the water and the next day we went to Wilmington briefly and I did some eco-printing inside because of the rain and the midges and mayflies. When the workers began cutting back the bushes at the house next door on Friday morning we both decided to split and go to Marietta with Mama.

The full moon was beautiful the first two nights. The third night there was a tornado warning for a few minutes but most of the weather shifted to our northwest. Thank goodness, since there is no good place to take cover in the lake house.

I walked around the yard between storms and collected as many different fresh leaves as possible, combined them in a folded accordion book with some metal pieces that I’ve collected, and steamed the book, then immersed it in a dyebath with privet leaves and flowers and bald cypress needles in lake water. I figured that the bald cypress needles and lake water would provide enough tannin to create a mordant.

The problem was that I used too much metal and to me it spoiled a lot of the individual prints. The ones I like the most are simple. Also, part of my goal was to identify which leaves made the best prints, and for the most part, I couldn’t tell you. The Virginia creeper and Rose of Sharon leaves made nice prints:

There were other vines that I liked and the oxalis stems and bald cypress needles made nice lines. The flowers on the shrubbery and privet flowers worked well too, but very subtlely.

Mama transferred from the rehab center to my sister’s house for a week, and then we met my brother-in-law halfway on Friday and took her home. It’s been about a week since she went home and although she is still weakened, a physical therapist is coming to her house three days a week and she has a little more paid help to assist with light housework and yard work. She also has an amazing community around her that supports and loves her. I’ll go back down there this Saturday and stay the night.

I hate all the driving but I’ve found that books on CD makes it much more bearable. I decided to listen to Newberry Medal winners that I never read, because they are a little easier to follow while driving. Anything more complicated causes me to skip back to see what I missed, IF I missed something, when I am distracted by something on the road. Last week Sandy and I listened to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and this week I will listen to Holes by Louis Sachar.

We came home to a huge pile of hardwood shredded mulch in our driveway. The problem was that I ordered compost. We are using part of the mulch to put on our paths but it was disappointing since I thought that I’d be planting more in raised beds this month. Oh well. Actually, last week really sucked for the most part. A friend died, my sister’s cat was bitten by a poisonous snake and died (I loved that cat and everyone is wrecked over his death), my laptop got a bad virus and didn’t come back intact after wiping the hard drive, and our basement flooded. I’m looking forward to that week in June in Gatlinburg, studying indigo dyeing with Rowland Ricketts at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

However, even though the kittens are almost a year old, they are so much fun. We put carpet down in my bedroom and it looks and feels so much better. Still reorganizing and getting rid of stuff and it feels good. We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary and ate a delicious brunch on Sunday at Sweet Potatoes on Trade St. in Winston Salem. Best shrimp and grits that I’ve ever eaten and I do not made that statement lightly.

Will try to do better with the blog posting but between work and Mama’s illness it was all a little too much.

art, book arts, dyeing, fiber art

Chad Alice Hagen’s Felt, Resist Dyeing and Bookmaking Class

Whee, this was better than Disney World. Seriously.

Chad Alice led us through finishing prefelted needle-punched merino wool batts, then we clamped fun metal and Lexan and wood stuff to folded pieces and dyed them, and took them off, and reclamped, and dyed them, and took them off, and reclamped, and dyed them. All in all we used nine colors in the dyepots and most pieces went into three dyepots before the sun went down on Friday.

^^^After the second set of dyebaths.

^^^Look at her beautiful pieces. She is showing us how they were folded and what “tools” were used for the designs.

^^^After the final darkest dyebaths.

^^^Probably my favorite piece. I didn’t put it in the third dyebath.

^^^This is my favorite large piece.

Then we picked a piece for a book cover, cut it down, embellished the flap with stitching and beads, then glued thrift shop leather to the inside cover. She taught us a simple longstitch binding but I still learned a new way of doing it. She taught us how to do two different closures but I didn’t get around to mine – I’m still deciding what I want to do about it.

This was my second favorite for the book cover, so I chose it. She said not to chose our favorites.

Here’s an example of taking a mistake and working with it. My first two middle stitches on the cover were too loose. I could have gone back and rebound and tightened them, but instead I decided to do a twisty thing to them. Longstitch is versatile like that. Chad Alice showed us an elegant way to finish off the final knot for the binding on the inside of the cover.

The back cover.

And voila!

art, dyeing, fiber art, Marietta, Slow cloth


Before I move on with my day, let me post about this ongoing art project that began in September, 2013. Here’s what I wrote about it to send to India Flint for this project.

Our family farm sits upon the site of a Native American village and mound site from around 900 years ago. In the 19th century the area was known as “Affinity.” Reflecting on and finding artifacts from the cultures that lived there before always fascinated me.

In September 2013 I printed and dyed long strips of cotton fabric using plants and leaves I gathered from the farm with the intention of making a scroll. The dyestuff included goldenrod, broomsedge, oak and sweet gum leaves, and pomegranate rinds. The bundles were rolled around old tobacco sticks that were once used to hang tobacco leaves in barns to cure.

I also was taking the last college art course of my degree, and created a ceramic box for the scroll. The lid of the box is a relief map of the farm from a satellite view. The bottom of the inside of the box is a relief map of what I imagine the same view might have been 900 years ago.

During the making of this project (which is still in progress), my brother told me that he had banned hunting on the farm and is in the planning stages of constructing an observation platform and feeding station for wildlife overlooking a beaver pond. This made me consider the lives of the other inhabitants of the land that have always been there. I began stitching outlines of these creatures on the scroll with silk dyed with black walnut hulls from the farm.

The cloth turned out to have a mystery coating on it, but it still took the dye and even retained the texture of the materials in the bundle after washing it, so the texture is part of the piece.

Spaces were saved to stitch poetry on the scroll, probably from Wendell Berry’s “The Mad Farmer Poems.”

coffee pot posts, dyeing, fiber art, Greensboro North Carolina

Saturday morning coffee pot post

British encampment at Guilford Courthouse Battle reenactment

I have the house to myself today while my husband goes target shooting with his friends. Ten or so years ago we would have been at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park doing the reenactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, one of the last battles of the American Revolution that weakened Cornwallis to the point that it led to his final defeat at Yorktown not long afterwards.

It’s going on today and tomorrow, and it’s a great show if you’re in the Greensboro area.

I enjoyed those days but I can’t say that I want to go back to them. It was a lot of exhausting work and my body doesn’t respond well to camping any more. I keep saying that the next time the GC reenactment rolls around I’ll take all my 18th century clothes and camp equipment out there to sell, but I have bursitis problems this weekend and that’s a long hike from the parking lot to the campsites with a bunch of stuff to carry. I should have done it yesterday but I wouldn’t have been able to do it because I had a major flare-up. Which leads me to this story that I posted on Facebook last night:

I have a recurring hip problem that flared up today, and that always makes me feel old, even back when it started in my 20s. So I’m walking home from work, in my tweed coat and a big knitted cap, beside the daycare playground as usual, as normally as possible.

I hear “Chase the old lady! Chase the old lady! The one in the glasses!” and three 4-5 year olds run up to their side of the fence.

There’s no one else behind me, so I say, “Am I the old lady in the glasses?”

“YES!” they shriek, “Chase the old lady!”

“I should be pretty easy to catch if I’m an old lady,” I say as they pretend to run just behind me on the other side of the fence.

“It’s okay,” the little girl assured me. “We like old ladies!”

I do believe this is the first time I’ve been called an old lady, other than hippie slang. But as long as they like me, I guess I can handle it. Probably won’t ever forget it, just as I’ll never forget the first time I was ma’amed or called “Miss Laurie” by a young adult. I hope that I do become an old lady one day.

It was a busy time workwise, but it is satisfying work.

If I don’t have any more indigo seedlings (I only have one!) by the time I get back to the office on Monday, I’m going to plant other seeds in the peat pots. Maybe next time I’ll heed the suggestion to soak the seeds before planting. At least I know what the indigo seedlings look like in case any stragglers decide to come to life after I plant the other seeds.

Thursday night I had the pleasure of listening to my grad school Slow Food mentor and friend Charlie Headington give a shelf talk about the books that have most inspired him at Scuppernong Books in downtown Greensboro. (The books were The Botany of Desire, A Pattern Language, and Introduction to Permaculture.) We had an amazing conversation afterwards in which he bolstered my spirits and boosted my ego, as usual. I have been lucky (and willing) to find the teachers that I’ve needed during the last fifteen years. Sometimes you just have to find a way to make it happen. I was extremely lucky that Charlie was nearby, bringing me to the subject of my Australian teacher and mentor…

Today I’m going to work on getting some text and photos of my farm scroll and box to India Flint before her deadline of March 19 to self publish a book of her students’ work. I’ll post it here too. It’s not quite finished, but this is a slow project for me, very personal and I may be adding to it for some time. Here’s a taste of it. It’s quite hard to photograph this piece in its entirety!

dyeing, Visual journal, Visual journal 2014

Visual journal, February 27, 2014

I am attempting to germinate indigo seeds in my office. Two pots are actually planted with woad seeds. I planted them about two weeks ago and just found out that they take about a month to germinate.

I am going to be quite ticked if they don’t germinate and I waste four weeks on watching and watering dirt.

The plan is to rent space in the university community garden to grow these. I don’t have enough sunny space at home.