Blooming Spring Yarns

March 25, 2009

img_1785Dye baths of logwood, indigo, wild sage, wild toyon, wild coyote brush, and cochineal were all used on local organic wool roving from Windrush farm. These pieces of roving can be seen in the last several posts in their raw state.  This yarn is my interpretation of numerous spring landscapes, filled with both indigenous and non-indigenous plant life. Driving home from the central valley I was in awe of the yellow mustard carpeting the base of the cherry trees, now in plumes of soft pink blossoms.  As I drove home through the wetlands, I saw the orange strips of seeding grasses striped with light and yellow greens.  All the while the sky transitioned between purple, dark and light blue as the sun set.  Arriving home, I walked out into the garden we have inherited, and are in the process of transitioning into a little food farm.  The flat bit of earth we call our backyard is now teeming with mallow, mint, ranunculus, rosemary blossoms, and lemon balm.  

img_1780These plants were the source of the clippings that adorn the yarn.  The complexity of one untended bit of ground astounds me. People have come and gone from the home we rent, leaving traces of their botanical preferences amongst the volunteers of dandelion, wild oat, and mallow. The birds have their landscaping ideas as well. The blue jays burry acorns, the finches leave droppings filled with various annual grass seed. The wind inevitably takes part each season, in choosing which japanese maple seeds will make it from the neighbors tree, into our yard, or which variety of dock seed will end up germinating in between the cracks of the cement. All of these forces act as a team to keep the earth green, and the soil protected.  I attempt, each year to utilize the work of the birds, wind, soil, to find new sources of color inspiration, and at times, I am fortunate to find a new dye recipe out of the collage of new growth.  


March 24, 2009


The deep, rain-filled cloud blues have been achieved. Logwood shavings, and my fermentation Indigo vat, together, have created a range of blues and deep purples. To compliment the deep stormy sky colors, I used cochineal and toyon to create the range of pinks I see in the cherry blossoms, native mallow, and fringed checkerbloom.  Every blossom is bursting, every bee is circling… time to leave the computer, and go back outside.

Grassy Undertones

March 18, 2009

img_2994As I study the grasses, I find more than green.  In visioning my spring yarn, I am drawn to include an unexpected color- orange.  Normally apart of the fall color scheme, I am seeing it everywhere.  As the grasses mature, and seed, a band of orange appears in the wetland fields.  I thought today would be about blues, and rain filled cloud colors- and I thought I’d be using my fermentation indigo vat.  But before I move onto the colors of the sky, I am held by the colors of earth for one more day.

img_17111Today was toyon branches, and cochineal bugs, these two dye vats together helped me achieve this lovely orange on combed wool, or roving.   An honest interpretation of the grasses I am observing in the wetlands.  Yesterday it was powder pink (cochineal), and a soft mustard flower yellow (sage), I am using plant dyes to describe every jaw-dropping color scheme I see as I drive down the country roads, and even the I-80 freeway.

The Beginning of Yarn

March 17, 2009

img_1707After the sheep have been sheered, the fleece is sent off for washing and combing.  If the mill just washes and combs the wool, it is sent back to the rancher as roving.  I like to start with roving for all intensive yarn making purposes.  I can dye pieces of it into a myriad of colors, and then spin them together for what becomes the most appealing skein of yarn.  Today I had in mind the blossoms of spring.  The mustard blooms in the fields, and soft pink cherry blossoms, for these color inspirations, I used wild sage and cochineal dye vats.

img_1705The cochineal created a lovely powder pink on this incredibly soft merino and corriedale cross roving.  With these batches of spring color, I am beginning to formulate my new spring yarns.  I am inspired by the deep blue sky, spotted by bursting navy and gray rain clouds, contrasting brilliant green grass, wild yellow mustard, and pink blossoms…  I still have a day or so of dying left before I can achieve all the colors in my vision.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll be dipping into my indigo vat…

End of Winter Blues

March 15, 2009



 A rustic indigo kimono, made for a newborn Boston baby…  I just finished several of these this week, which is unusual.  Blue really still is, the favorite color for newborn baby boys.  

I’m in complete support of the choice of blue, I think there is nothing sweeter than a little one, all cozied up in fuzzy organic cotton/ hemp fleece, all dyed in natural Indigo.  This kimono is a perfect garment for the end of winter days that we are now in.

As I sit at my sewing machine with my down jacket on, sewing this deep rich blue fabric, I think of warmer places I have been, where water and air meet in perfect balance, in a humidity that can really test you, and also slow you down, enough to appreciate and consciously deliberate every movement you make.   These places where the body slows, are where Indigo can really grow.  And where I have seen and worked in vats that are over 75 years old.  

img_1031This is a series of vats in Northern Thailand.  I went to this village, on the border of Thailand and Vietnam, hoping to uncover the enigmatic fermentation Indigo process.   These vats are in a line, so that the artisans can dip in one vat, air the yarns, and then dip into the next vat.  It allows many women to work together in a rhythm of dunking, pulling,dripping, blue, slow walking, meditation.

img_10451Here is Ju, the woman who inherited the Indigo studio from her mother.  A devout Theravada Buddhist.  She is walking on the most beautiful iron orange soil I have ever seen.  Her clothes are from the cotton she grows, dyed in the indigo vats that she creates from her own plants, woven on the looms that you see throughout the village.  The women sit under their teak huts in the hot moist summer  air, and gently throw their shuttles across their looms, in a click and swoosh, back and forth.  I think about the warmth, companionship, artistic fulfillment, ecological sustainability, and love that exists within the everyday motions and actions of this Indigo and weaving collective, and I wonder- is that possible here?  

photo-83I’d like to think so.  The thought begins to thaw the wintery ice that landed on my heart, upon leaving that village.  It is now six days until the equinox, and 6 days before I move my own Indigo starts from the indoors into the little green house I’ve made for them in the yard- a miniature Thailand!