Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Slow Fiber; processing barks and testing for color.

I've been so inspired lately by Jenny Dean and India Flint. Both prolific natural dyers, reading their books have helped me slow my process down much more and appreciate the process even more. Something I read in Jenny Dean's book, Wild Color, is about using barks. Several months ago I collected a few large pieces of birch bark I found on the ground. This past weekend I found some apple barks laying on the ground while at an apple orchard. Soaking barks can take at least one week to soak but i'll got longer. I've warmed up to this idea as I don't always have the time or the head space to watch pots all day. The processing of barks for dyes simply starts with breaking or cutting it into pieces, adding water, and forgeting about it for a week or so. 

I collected and processed about 4 oz of Hudson Golden Gem apple bark.

Along with 4oz Black Oxford apple bark. I processed these barks in the same way I did the birch bark. I now have two stainless pots (I used stainless steel in order to keep the water as pure as possible. I don't want any leaching from chipped enamel pots because it can alter the color). I filled both half with water, covered them and they will live on my porch where it's sunny but cool. This way, I'm hoping, no mold will occur. If it does, I'll just skim it off. 

Apples not included but I just wanted to show you what these varieties looked like. Also, the inner barks are much like the skin of the apples.... The Hudson gem being lighter and well... golden. The black Oxford being deeper and saturated. 

Another great tip I found in India Flints book, Eco Colour. She suggests using a tea test method to see if a certain plant has any dye potential. 

Our mums are still going but have a few dead heads. I collected a small handful.

Every jar that enters into our home, goes here. I'm constantly grabbing from our stock pile to stuff lichens into, mix mordants and dyes, and to store dried plants. Of course, once it's used as a dye tool, it's never used for anything else. 

I poured boiling water over three plant types to see if any color would flow out. 


From left to right; mums, a rust colored plant, rose petals in hot water, rose petals in cold water. I noticed a few minutes after pouring boiling water onto the rose petals, the pigment in the leaves disapeared. Curious, I then tried cold water. The color took longer to seap out.

Now it's time to get back outside and make a trip to the post to mail off an etsy order to New Hampshire and stop by the store for vinegar to start my copper liquor. And more ginger ale for my Jamison and gingers. I love these late at night. Always make me feel like I'm back in Ireland. Sigh... :)

Happy Tuesday and enjoy your day! 

ox, r

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just the Good Bits

Last week was much like any other week in my life of late. I knitted, foraged, visited with family, created, tried new things, and went apple picking. Ok, I don't go apple picking every week but I am so glad I did this week.

In my last post I lamented on and on about having too many ideas keeping me up at night and not always knowing how to balance life with so many awesome things to do. Awful problem isn't? It's ok, I know how lucky I am every single day to be home creating. So I decided I needed to start to organize my thought process into more of a flow chart, alter my habits so that creating, cleaning, living, all of it, can just all flow together and live in harmony:) I'm trying. That is until I new idea is sparked while vacuuming. Down goes the vacuum, up comes needle and thread. 

At the beginning of October I created this little journal for myself to help me remember just the good bits of each and every day. So, every night when I climb into my fluffy marshmallow bed, I jot down all of the bits of light that made me smile through out the day. I love looking back on it and remembering these small moments that fill my heart with so much joy. I also love it because its so easy to forget the next day when I have a million things I want to do. I want to not loose sight of the little things that gave me such a heaping spoonful of love and laughter through out the day. Like how I heard my youngest nephew Jude say my name for the first time, seeing my father twice in one day, having a meaningful conversation with two islanders on the way home, and finally not fumbling fingers going from the open E to the 3rd A on my violin. 

The following photos are a sampling of good bits....

Embroidery becomes me. As much as I've been obsessed with mushroom foraging and dyeing, I've been obsessed with trying to find time to embroider some of my favorite things. Below is the beginning of a series of Irish counties I will have available in my etsy shop in a few weeks. Each county in Irish. 

Oh yard sales, how I love thee.... several weeks ago I asked my dear husband if he might have any spare copper bits and bobs laying around in his endless supply of hardware in our basement. He wasn't sure but wrote a note to himself and stuck it on our cupboard for several more weeks. Then while passing through Hollis the other day, we found this. !!!!! What in the world?? You might ask. It's for dyeing:) I'll be soaking these bits in order to create a copper liquor to use as a second choice in mordanting the fibers and yarns I dye with plants. 

Progress on the Uptown Boot Socks. The pattern is from this book.  I love this book and this is the 5th pattern I've knitted. It's a super simple cable pattern and I've been using nature spun in lemon. 

Progress on the painting of our home. Your eyes or computer screen do not fool you. That is pink you are looking at. The top shingles only have the primer on. The dormers are still in the first color I choose- I've gone 3 shades lighter. But the pink on the siding is staying. It looks so beautiful in the light, exactly what I've pictured. And after all the hemming and hawing and consulting of family, I knew deep down it was exactly what I wanted. 

This is my attempt at using the new panoramic feature on the iphone 4s with the new operating system. It's fun but fickle. My view on the commute route.  

Collected more mushrooms a while back from my sisters and this time doing a spore print. Which I love doing. It's like magic seeing what comes out. Though these two prints give different colors, I still think they must be the same just different ages. Still need to polish up my mushroom identifying skills. 

Love this pink stem. 

The time finally came where I caved and decided to try to dye blueberries. In every workshop I have done for natural dyeing, I am asked (or sometimes told) about blueberries used as a dye because they must for the staining they usually leave behind! Finally put this to the test and found interesting results. 

I had 2 1/2 pints shriveling in the back of my fridge. But don't worry, I also have many pints in my freezer. 10 maybe? I love the idea of experimenting with food waste but not perfectly good food. So here it goes. 

I started one vat by soaking the blue berries in water and heating for 3 hours. After it cooled the next day, I strained out the berries, added the liquid to my dye vessel, added mordant, my pre soaked yarns, and a silk hankie. 

Now this silk hankie turned out to be the most interesting part of this experiment. I first soak it in the cold blueberry bath. 

Look at that color! This is after a slight rinse and hung to dry.

But then I had to do something silly and put it in the heat. After it was dried again, the color changed very much. Also, the bolder color above is with out mordant. 

I also created a second dye bath from the blueberries agin, this time cold soaking this Shetland wool for a day. I did a rinse test and no color stuck. I then slowly heated the vat for 3 hours keeping the temp between 160-180 and no color... Except it did alter the natural color. It left the wool a very pale off gray.... And the silk hanky, well it became even more grey in the day light. 

Three things that could have changed the color:
-cold vs. heat
-no alum vs alum
-no after soak vs after soak in mrs. Meyers lavender dish soap. A soap I use often for that after ph balancing adjustment. 

I look forward to working on why the color dulled. Could it have stayed that vibrant color? Or is it just the characteristic of the blueberry? Also, these were organic and no pesticides where used- which would, I'm sure alter final colors. 

Elsa. Our cutie who loves her belly rubbed. 

I started this Winter Leaves scarf using my own Shetland handspun yarn. It will soon be available in my etsy shop. Which will go beautifully with the Winter Leaves Hat.

Reflection from the lace curtain in my studio.

The studio as of late. Yarns and threads every where. 

This happens every time. Every time I say I'm done with mushroom foraging this year, I come across these while walking from the ferry to the car. 

The three black capped mushrooms below are called Phallus ravenelii. Very distinctive in appearance and odor. I think they smell like fresh flowers. The husband does not. The four above *just may be* Russet- scaly Tricholoma. My resource book here is very dated though. These top four I found in the ground and where completely dried. The black caps where not and are drying below in the basement. Soon soon soon! I will be cooking up pots left and right for the mushrooms and will post all results here. 

My lichen babies, I mean jars are doing well. I have 6 going now and shake them every morning. When I remember to I bring two of them outside, open them up for an airing in hopes of developing the color further. So far I have collections from Bailey's Island, Peaks Island, Eastern Promenade here in Portland, and Inish Maan, Ireland. Oh! And Squam lake, New Hampshire. Those are the two I air out. You can see them in the to the right, toad skin lichen or Umbilicaria papulosa and a black potato chip lichen. Still trying to find the name for. These two are taking on a deep earthy red color. The brighter jars in the center and to the left are all Xanthoria which I've learned are UV sensitive and why I do not set them outside as the colors will fade. 

My oldest sibling turned 40 last week and we all came together to celebrate with some cake. It was such a fun time and I laughed so hard reminiscing about how we used to listen to the Jerky Boys. Oh Gawd!! Watching my nieces and nephews play and such a nice time catching up with everyone. 

Capturing Elsa sleeping with her eye open... Kind of creepy. 

Jubal and I finally made it to his favorite orchard, Ravenhill Orchard. They grow organic apples including his favorite, the Black Oxford apple. It's a small variety with a hint of plum. Very tasty. 

This may be a type of polypore?

This may be another polypore, Coriolus versicolor? 

I found a wooly caterpillar. Something I haven't seen since I was a kid. I loved finding these little fuzzy creatures. 

Cider press scraps. It just accorded to me that these apple scraps might make an interesting dye. The thing is, it has been my experience and belief that anything flora speaking will give a dye. It just depends on the fiber, water content, water temp, mordant, and time. That reminds me, I also collected 3 types of apple wood from the ground for dyeing. And some dark rust colored weeds:)

These are my pair of Orchard fingerless mitts I finished a few weeks ago. Made from my own handspun Maine island fleece, dyed with madder and lichen. Something I may be writing a pattern for shortly. 

Of course when it was all over, I had to sample a homemade donut. Oh! It just melted in my mouth! 

Thanks for reading about my good bits. If you have some good bits you'd like to share, please leave a comment below:)

ox, r

p.s. a tiny little thing I forgot to mention, geeze! how could I forgot?! I've been featured in one of Ireland's most popular crafting blogs, michellemadethis.com. Michelle Fallon is a full time crafter and blogger living in Roscommon living the dream of crafting. She has been featured in publications and television in Ireland. I first came in contact with Michelle while Jubal and I were in Ireland for our honeymoon last spring. I had heard of and was planning on attending the May Roscommon Lamb Festival and Michelle was one of the contact people. I rang her up one day to get more info on what it was all about. You can read more about the day at the lamb festival here. It has been lovely getting to know Michelle and keeping in touch with her. In the very near future, I will be featuring herself here at my blog, so keep a look out:)  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Knitting, Technology, & Me...

Sure, I guess I should say "& I". That would be correct but it doesn't sound like me:)

Anyway, I thought maybe it be time I share the fact that it's not unusual for me to have on average 5 knitting projects on the needles at one time. I've thought about this as my need, curiosity, excitement, etc takes over the logical/ reasonable part of my brain. With the onset of Pinterest, Facebook, Etsy, and blogs, the way I research (aka peruse) has sparked my creative confidence and therefor enhancing my process in such a way that I've now gone from having maybe 20 new ideas in a day (way back in my awkward tween years of only thinking about painting, sewing, boys, sheep and cream) to the now Me, 35 years old, having 100 new ideas a day and all the while thinking about still; sheep, cream, and now a twinkle in my eye (a someday baby). And also enjoying very much being a newlywed with the most adorable man in the entire Universe. I am more than super lucky.

I love seeing what others make as it sparks a lot of confidence as I mentioned above to help me think outside of "my" box. Though I'm inspired often by others, it's usually for the texture, color, or whimsy. But not the whole package. Having trained in the visual arts, I learned early the importance of originality. I do enjoy using patterns in knitting for my own personal use because I want to wear them or gift someone with an item. And sometimes I want to push myself to learn new techniques that I don't often use. Patterns and books and guides and websites and pictures are all great and they have a nice place in my work, but what I love more and thrive on is thinking things up from my insides. Normally it's how I get to sleep. Tonight however, with a little *too* much caffeine, a little *too* late in the day and a little *too* much sugar, and a husband snoring just a little *too* soon.... I'm here pecking this out. It was what I was thinking about anyway as I tried my foods a-z trick to get me to sleep. The thing is I got to M and when I get that far I know I'm not going to go to sleep anytime soon. It's usually J when I don't remember in the morning.

So back to all these 100's of ideas.

This is what I think about on a daily basis;

embroidery- maps, flora a-z, favorite lyrics.

watercolor- flora, still life, nature, my two hens, nature studies- particularly the mushrooms I've been OBSESSED with collecting.

oils- landscapes of Maine and Ireland, still lifes, studies, color studies, my almost finished painting studio.

nuno felting- all the silk scarves I've foraged in thrift shops, landscapes, pillow, cowls, head bands, classes, stitchings, curtains...

dyeing- I have a grocery bag full and stuffed with smaller bags of dehydrated mushrooms waiting to get dyed up. I have sachets of kool-aid waiting to bond with the beautiful naked rovings I just purchased at Portfiber, the several leftover dye baths on my porch waiting for a 4th go around. And then there's the deep orange and rich brown that my heart is begging me to figure out. It's like my soul is craving this rich burnt orange. My eyes are thirsty for it. Or maybe I was once a maple tree in a past life. And more classes.

spinning- the plant dyed green cashmere, the plant dyed soy silk rovings, the creamy cinnamon icelandic fleece, the white finn fleece, the irish texel fleece, the sheltland fleece, the...OMG do I have eneough WOOL!?!?!

And then there is the knitting... Oh dear lord the knitting that has yet to be knitted!!!! When I get to this place I have to take a deep breath and rock myself to slow it all down.

I've gone through many guilty feelings, starting when I was younger feeling like if I started a second project when the first is still unfinished, I'd be neglecting the first. When I learned to spin then dye & then forage local flora, discovering beautiful local yarn shops, meeting local people who also made beautiful threads.... well, I gave up the guilt game, cast on a new project at the slightest whim. And like there was no tomorrow.  What a relief it's been to see some one knitting a delightful pattern & being so moved & inspired by the colors, shaping, texture, I'd go right out, get what I needed or dig through my stash to get 'er started. I realized with more of a liberating delight & less of a debilitating guilt that it felt exhilarating to have 5-6 projects going. Little thoughts of ADD did pop into my mind but I've since pushed them away with a reminder, usually saying out loud, I'll finish it! You'll see! It is a good way to live. 

So, with that said, what I've been working on of late. 

The rainbow mitts. So far have not found a proper name for them. And this, none of these are the best pictures. But here, the rainbow started from curly locks that I dyed while still working at Portfiber using acid dyes. After dyeing them up for the shop, I then couldn't help myself and bought about 9 ounces worth. I used the carder there and created a rainbow batt. I then spun the batt into a continuous rainbow repeat yarn. As I had just finished Bristol Ivy's Picot! Picot! Cowl I still had picots and eyelets on the brain and thought I'd incorporate a little of it into these mittens. Soon to be in my etsy shop, these are large, toasty playful mittens. Seeing two men try them on this weekend right as I finished them, not only did they fit them well, but they had a certain delightful look in their eye as the rainbow-ness filled their soul. It was quite enduring actually. Especially because the mittens have a sort of frill on the cuff. Will be in the shop by the end of the week:)


My Bill mittens, I call them because both this Climbing Vine pattern and yarn came from Hope Spinnery. For the past 4 years I've had the lovely and peaceful pleasure of teaching with Bill Huntington at the New England Fiber Arts Retreat in Washington, Maine. You can read more about that in another post here. Knitting this pattern was such a joy and crunched my brain in just the right spots as I haven't followed a pattern like this before. I'm in love the two color rib, the color change of the yarn and elegant design of the vine, thumb and how the top comes together. They are mine for keeps.  

Last week I cracked open my sock book to knit the Uptown Boat Socks. Using nature spun Lemon that I purchased for sale over a year ago in NYC at Knit City. It was on sale and I bought a ton of it. I love using this yarn too as its soft, sturdy and bouncy! And I've made a commitment to myself to start knitting all my own socks as socks from Target do not last one day. Very boring story of a tow making a premature appearance. This pattern is a simple twisted cable leaving an elegant honeycomb effect. I'm enjoying the slow procress and the "i need to concentrate just enough but not so much where I will bite your arm off it you make a noise while I'm knitting (like the fist pattern I knit from this book that included trelisis and traveling stitches and I was so damned determined to do something really hard because it was actually really satisfying. You can see those here.

I will insert a better and finished picture of the Picot! Picot! Cowl shortly. For now, Elsa is enjoying it. 

Here are the Maple and Birch fingerless mitts. Finished now and in my shop waiting to warm someone's hand up! Hand spun camel and silk. Dyed with madder and fustic dyes. Spun on my masurka wheel. 

As I've said before, these are my favorite favorites! You can find them here. The Squam Lake fingerless hand spun maine raised pygora and garden grown indigo will be an ultra elegant gift for yourself or a sweet someone. They are pure luxury and class. Also with an extra long cuff.  

If you feel moved, please share in the comments below what you've been working on. Feel free to include links to your raverly page, website, whatever. 

Damn.... I forgot sewing and weaving. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

These late September happenings

We welcomed a few new critters to our family. These two lovely girls have lived on the next street over for the last 5 years. Their prior owners are moving off the island soon and wanted to have the girls stay on. Jubal and I were more than happy as Jubal, especially has been wanting chickens for a very long time. Now we've got 'em. I don't actually remember what kind they said they were, but the brown one here pecking out of my hand is Tulip. The speckled one is Olive. Tulip, I believe was laying a few eggs when they first arrived. Not sure why they aren't laying any more but we think it's due to age? They are 5-6 years old now. This spring we hope to get some chicks to integrate in. 

Elsa joined us in late July and is such a sweetheart. She's 12 and has no teeth. She seems happy as a calm though and really loved her belly rubbed and brushed. We have to keep up the brushings everyday or she'll get all matted. She's such a love though. 

As Jubal and I both work from home, we try to get out whenever we can for a walk. But we both get so absorbed with our work it's so easy to forget to stop and take a break. Every time we do though, it always feels so good. This is a lovely spot. Kind of secluded from the beaten path. 

Just a few scenes from around Peaks...

I love this time of year because I'm more apt to work outside then in the summer. In the summer I can easily become a grumpy wilted sweaty weed. Not too enjoyable to be around. But when the weather gets cool, I suddenly become inspired and hopeful for all that can be accomplished around the yard. 

This here bald spot is our goldenrod patch that we pulled out in an effort to create more yardage. It may be surprising as you know how much I love goldenrod for dyes. It can create THEE BEST YELLOW EVER!! And has been proven by historians as one of the best light fast and wash fast yellow plant dyes. So, back to my plot, it's ok because there is just copious amounts of goldenrod EVERY WHERE. And my latest plan for this little spot involves lots and lots of foxgloves. My sister gave me some apricot foxglove seeds so those will be involved for sure. The quince bunch to the left will also be removed shortly. I should really post more pictures regarding the progress of it all. 

Speaking of progress, our gardenshed----> painting studio is still underway. We're pretty hopeful I'll be in there painting by the winter. Also, this week begins the painting of our home exterior. It's been 10-20 years since the metal siding was painted and is a faded white/ grey/ green(?). But soon, it will be a soft peach pink with butter yellow trim. 

Someone really gets a lot out of my knitting marathons. 

I've been foraging for mushrooms a bit on the island and have made some interesting discoveries. I found a mass of this white fungi in out upper forest hill. It looks a bit like a club foot mushroom but white. It's very spongy and watery on the inside. 

This one I found near an oak and where hen of the woods was growing earlier until we plucked that up. It was so tasty!! But this one, I'm not too sure. It may be honey mushroom.....? I've prepared them both for the dehydrator and are stored for later dyes this fall or winter. Will report back later with results. 

While teaching natural dyeing at the Squam Artworkshops this past September, I too came away with a huge amount of samples. As always when I'm dyeing, I alway have new discoveries that I think are very important to record. The bag to the right will be made into samples to fit into my hoop for use in further workshops and demonstrations. I really enjoy this process. With the remaining samples I think I'll knit a little something for that twinkle in our eye;)The blanket in the background is the ten stitch blanket. A really easy and pleasing blanket to knit. This was also knit with my first set of samples when I first was teaching myself to use natural dyes back in 2008. I knit, dyes, and spun them as samples for the shop I was working for at the time. They then hung in the shop window for about 2 years to test the light fast-ness. We could see a difference in change. The shop owner decided she didn't want to use them anymore and offered them back to me so this was my creation. It lives on the back of our sofa now. Actually, when Jubal and I went on our first date I had the beginnings of it with me. I showed it to him when he asked me what I liked to do for fun. He didn't look bored when I told him how much I liked to knit and work with fiber. A few weeks after I moved into to his house a little over a year ago, I completed it. I love this blanket.

In late September I held a natural dye workshop here at our house which was a blast and I'll be running a few more this fall and over the winter so keep your eye out if your interested. With the left over dye baths I kept through in more and more fiber. I was able to go 3 more rounds often letting the fiber soak overnight in the baths. I just love all of those colors! 

Especially the indigo.. this indigo bath I realized I could dye with it when it was cold. I checked the color first seeing that it still looked grass yellow green and then I did my dips with out heating it up. The color was just stunning. And dyeing with fiber like this is really enjoyable to spin because a lovely heather variegation happens.

One of my favorite mushrooming spots is on my sisters land in Bowdoin. With this last haul, my two little helpers and I spotted some fascinating that I haven't seen before. My littlest nephew is really good at spotting the tiniest mushrooms shouting out "EEE-CHAL! Is this a good un?!"  

These mushrooms have a beautiful faint lavender hue and turn a solid ocher in spots. I have a feeling they could be related to the red gilled mushrooms. As they are near where I saw them last and look like they have a similar structure.   

There's something magical that happens when you give two lively boys a snack.... The air becomes soft and all you hear is little lips smacking:) 

I'm beginning a new series of embroidery involving botanicals. This here is an indigo plant. I really enjoyed working the french knots for the tiny little blossoms but I really need to polish my lettering as I can't even read when I stitched. Practice makes perfect. 

Birch and Maple fingerless mitts. Spun from madder and fustic dyed over handspun camel and silk. Soon to be in my Etsy Shop:: 44 Clovers.

I finished these Squam Lake fingerless mitts this week as well. My own garden grown indigo dyed over hand spun Maine raised pygora goat. I bought the fiber from Jenny Smith who raises numerous fiber animals and lives in western Maine. She is often at the Maine Fiber Frolic with her wonderful assortment of fuzzy things to tempt you. LOVE THIS FIBER!!

Gosh, so that's what I've been up to. In a nutshell. Stay tuned for more projects, workshop offerings here on Peaks and at portfiber and textile gatherings. I'm in the process of putting together a textile night for islanders. If your interested in joining, send me a message. 

Also, what are you working on these days? Post a link in the comments. 

oxox, r.