Logwood Lavender

June 29, 2009

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I am currently chronicling the beauty of summer color in the garden, with the naturally dyed yarns emerging from my dye vats. What an incredible thrill as I pulled out these skeins from the logwood dye bath! This rich purple, much deeper than a lavender really, was obtained through one day of soaking and heating the logwood bark chips. I highly recommend Cheryl Kolander’s logwood source check out Aurora Silk. She works with the people of the Dominican Republic to source her logwood. Her project is focused on creating sustainable and thriving incomes for the indigenous Indios peoples. A population of people recently thought to be extinct. I absolutely love the project, and the logwood is like no other. Do give the dye a try!

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This handspun skein was made from Mimi Luebberman’s lovely corriedale cross roving. It is hearty and yet so soft. She sells her rovings, and naturally dyed yarns each Saturday at the Point Reyes farmer’s market. I recommend paying her a visit. Today I chose to use our food garden as my setting. The skeins sit on heirloom pumpkin leaves, framed by Italian Chicory flowers. The Italian Chicory is decidedly one of the most medicinal plants in our garden. It is cleansing to the liver, the kidneys, and appears to help with weight loss as well. It is very strong and qualifies as bitter, for sure. But sauteed with onion and kale, its delicious.
If you have the desire for chicory seed, drop me a comment, ours is almost ready!

Yellows of Summer

June 28, 2009

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It was so warm today. Napping felt appropriate, after a morning of working with the hot steamy dye vats. After arising from a rather long afternoon slumber, the sun was going behind the tall incense cedar, and I took a moment to honor California Sage. These skeins, one handspun, the other a machine spun merino, were both dyed in Artemesia Californica, or commonly known as California Sage. This is the soft gray shrub the skeins are sitting in. I enjoy seeing the dyed yarn, right next to the plant which yields the color. This is actually the way I learn my native plant species- by using them, and understanding their properties. I collected sage at my friend Judith’s garden, Judith also happens to be an incredible harvester of native seed. I recommend her seed company, Larner seed, (especially the hillside wildflower mix). . www.larnerseeds.com

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My last post highlighted our garden specifically- the job of the following posts will be to document my process emulating the colors of the garden in my dye vats. The yellows of the sunflowers are still intoxicating, and are, of course the inspiration for this morning’s yellow sage dye vat. I take many trips each day to watch the sunflower tilt its large head towards the direction of the sun. I wonder how it stays so strong in the heat, when all I want to do is wilt.

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If you have pictures of your garden, or color inspiration from nature you’d like to share, I’d love to see more blog entries on this subject. Or send me your pictures in an email. These color palettes from the environment are my creative fuel. Leave me a comment with your links.

Solstice Garden

June 22, 2009

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My art making process in the spring and summer is as much about gardening as it is sewing, spinning, dye making, and weaving. The art and the earth-tending intertwine and receive equal amounts of my attention, time, and care. I am growing my art materials, and those plants I may not use as dyes, remain as pure inspiration to the art pieces I will create this season. A newly arrived calendula bloom in the morning sun is an example of pure color bliss. This plant also offers itself kindly to healing bruises, swelling, cuts and scratches, as well as being extraordinarily complex and beautiful. I soak blossoms in almond oil, and apply the oil to whatever ails the skin. This plant along with all the others in our garden began as a handful of seeds, and a few elderly red potatoes from the fridge. We laid down a lot of horse manure on what was barren soil, in January. In late March the soil was soft enough to put a shovel into.

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A potato blossom, from our potato patch. We simply planted small red potatoes in the ground several months ago, and now we have a large almost tropical looking series of plants now covered with purple blossoms. We will harvest potatoes about three weeks after the blooms have faded.

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Heirloom akira sunflowers now rise 8ft tall above the ground. Getting them to that height required some mighty protective measures. Lots of slug removal, cayenne pepper deterrent, and soapy spray to keep harmful insects off.

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The inside scoop of the sunflower, and at some point this will be filled with delicious seeds. The chickadees are already landing on it’s hearty branches to prey on insects, in several months they’ll have much more to feed on.

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And the beautiful Japanese Indigo flowers. The plants are now 8″ tall and ready for their first harvest. I’ll be preparing the dye this week, stay tuned!

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The found rocking chair. A roadside find, now sits, repaired in our little garden. A perfect place to sit and watch bees, butterflies, and plants growing. There is so much activity from sun up to sun down, always a plethora of things for the creatures to do, and experience. I highly recommend creating a food garden. It is an incredibly therapeutic and magical experience, and completely worth the effort. That effort varies depending on where you live, your soil, and your fence or lack thereof. We began with little, just some horse manure, old bricks, many seeds, tree mulch, and rice straw- and six months later, we couldn’t be happier.

Photos taken by Andrew Fynn, garden tender, husband, and photographer.

Madder of Fact

June 11, 2009

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Salmon root is what I might call it. I’ve been working with madder for a week now, exhausting each dye vat to see what magical colors will emerge. I’ve explored red, pink, and orange, the warm spectrum. On these foggy northern California spring days, it is refreshing to work with warm tones. I used the Windrush farm corriedale cross wool, which has an easy and workable fiber length, and blended it with a very short kid mohair fiber. I wanted a chunky and artistic yarn. To do this I spun uncombed locks of the mohair tightly into the corriedale. The yarn is strong, and I think will make a unique head adornment.

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I’ve kept the kid mohair in my special fiber closet, due it being fully loved by our cat Marmalade. Today he tried once again to nestle into it. He loves fiber, almost as much as I do.

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For fiber in the North of San Francisco bioregion- <a href=”http://www.fiberfestival.com/Fiber%20Festival/Home.html”>

I highly recommend attending this year’s event, it is a lot of fun!

Native Plant Dyers

June 7, 2009

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Today at the California School of Herbal Studies a group of really fabulous individuals took part in native plant natural dyeing. Experimenting with Horsetail, Sage, Coyote Brush, Sticky Monkey Flower, Walnuts, Toyon, and Bee Plant, we came up with a range of colors on wool, silk, and cotton. The wool, and silk were mordanted with alum only, the cotton with black oak tannins.
The wool and silk were by far more successful in accepting color than our cotton swatches.

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The school is a wonderful place, meticulously kept, and hosts an incredible garden of medicinal herbs. Outside of the garden we walked along the dirt road, and found growing in their native plant communities- all of our dye species, with the exception of coastal sage.

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The creativity of this group was something special. Their positivity, inquisitiveness, and passion were an inspiration to me. I can see each one of them taking their new skill, and their emerging ideas, and creating extraordinary art- and functional attire.

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In Gratitude, I thank you all for coming and sharing your lovely selves!

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Madder Root Felt

June 2, 2009

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My friend Mia generously shared lunch with Andrew and I, in our emerging food garden today. We topped off our organic greens, with some very sweet watermelon. Mia modeled and kindly allowed me to take some pictures of this new madder root felted piece. She looks so natural in felt- I love it!

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Experimenting with madder root- I have found that it is still a rather unpredictable dye. I have achieved some of the most exquisite reds, from wine red, to the brightness of a flame. From the same recipes I have also achieved the softest salmon pinks, and delicate oranges. Madder is grown extensively in India, and throughout Turkey and parts of the middle east. I wonder if the alteration in color, is about the soil and water that the root is grown in, more than it is a variable in my dyeing process? Every batch I get, is likely from a different farm.

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This is an example of the flame like red achieved from a slightly different batch of madder root- but using the same recipe as I always use. This red shows off nicely next to the California Sage dyed skien. All handspun on Point Reyes wool. I’m so curious if anyone has any comments on madder root, and would care to share their stories? This dye root is such a wonderful enigma.