Creative Blog Hop

I was invited by one of my favorite makers, Inge of Windward Made to join her in a Creative Blog Hop where we answer four questions about our creative process. I was very flattered to be asked by her and hope you too are interested in reading my answers. You can read her insightful and interesting post here.

What am I working on? Right now I’m trying to capture as much of this summer’s color in fiber by dyeing yarn with plant sources.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? I suppose it would be that I dye directly from plants that I either grew myself or foraged for locally. Though, naturally dyeing is by no means new and although there are great plant dyers out there, the ratio of such individuals in the dye world is slimmer. In the beginning I wondered if I would be boxing myself into too small of a space. Would I have enough interesting color options in nature nearby? What about the fact that each batch is one of a kind and can't ever be replicated exactly? Is that really practical? But neighbors are now dropping bags of walnuts off on my back porch and pokeberries, promising to save their garden extras and keeping an eye out for certain plants I’m in need of so I can stay true to my desire to dye directly from my local environment. Eventually I'd like to progress forward to the point of using locally and more conscientiously sourced fiber, (perhaps even from my own flock!)

Why do I create what I do? I've always been a creative individual. I know this next bit has been used by every artist ever but creating is nearly as essential as eating and breathing to me. Back in 2011, I developed a new found love in knitting. Around then, my passion for gardening as well as exploring and better understanding the natural world around me was budding simultaneously. It only makes sense that the two should crash together in the form of dyeing naturally. Now I find so much happiness and almost childlike enthusiasm in seeing how everyday plants can color fiber. It's more than just making something clever or pretty. I think a lot of "art snobs" overlook craft. True craft, the end result and the process, when done for the right reasons, like creating practical and beautiful things to brighten and ease our days and to connect us to the objects we use and see everyday, has a lot of lessons to offer. Lately I've been thinking on how the color seeps into the fiber, transforms it, how some of it won't stick around without help, and how these are such powerful metaphors for so many other things in life. 

How does my creative process work?  With these dyes, I’m very dependent on Mother Nature and I'm rolling with the limitations, opportunities and lessons that come with that. While I do freeze and dry some materials for dyeing when it’s more convenient for me, I've found using fresh picked dye stuffs often yields the best and most rewarding results. That means things like time, rain, wind, climate, etc often dictate when and what I can dye. Because of this, when I hear walnuts plunking to the ground I realize now is the time to dye, regardless of whether or not it fits in my schedule or I'm prepared. My process is very experimental and spontaneous (which is really odd for me!) Like I said earlier, I approach this with an almost child-like way of playing and learning.

Thank you again, Inge for the opportunity to answer these questions. I've nominated 3 other creatives I greatly admire and you can expect to see their posts up in the next two weeks: Casey, Kristina and Ine.

3 Questions : Jacquie

3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.

This week I'm happy to feature a super talented jewelry designer from Australia. Her name is Jacquie. I've known her for many years now and loved seeing her grow as an artist and a businesswoman. Her work really adds the perfect amounts of charm and pops of vibrant color to any simple outfit. She has a passion for Japanese culture and design and I love the way she blends those inspirations seamlessly into her own creations. She is currently travelling in Japan (she sources some of her materials there!) and I'm enjoying vicariously travelling with her via all the updates on Instagram.

How do you think the world will end? Admittedly it's not something I think about a lot! My boys come home from school with all these theories about how the sun is going to explode in 3.5 million years and they find the whole concept quite frightening! Perhaps that is how the world will end however by then perhaps we have inhabited other planets and have created new worlds!

If you had to get a tattoo tomorrow, what would it be? I would get a red origami crane on my forearm. I love the intricacy and beauty of the design. I love Japanese culture and art and it is such a beautiful icon symbolising peace and hope. I have incorporated the origami crane in some of my jewellery designs and it is even part of my business logo. One day it will happen!

What is your favorite scent? I have been wearing Frankincense oil since my late teens. It has such a sweet exotic fragrance and although I don't wear perfume every day, when I do put it on I sometimes get flashbacks of fun times and freedom!

Be sure to check out Jacquie’s blog, shop, Facebook and Instagram. And be sure to vote for her in the Etsy design awards (as well as enter yourself in to win a Etsy gift card!)

Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.

Experimenting With Walnut Dye

It's a little odd to be calling this "experimenting" when I still consider most of my dyes experiments. Granted, I'm getting a better understanding of dyeing in general, what I can expect from various plants and methods, but I'm still learning (and oddly enough, enjoying the unpredictability of it all.) After my last dye with walnuts, I saved the exhaust bath for "experimenting." Since I was running out of bare yarn and was never really happy with the result of the fennel dye (on a merino/silk blend,) I threw it into the pot of rich walnut juice. I also grabbed some white-ish yarn from my stash (seen on the left in the above photos.) Normally you should always pre-wet your yarn before dyeing it to ensure a more even uptake but since I was experimenting with one lone skein, I skipped that step. Which also means I skipped any mordant (which was fine considering black walnuts have enough tannin in them that a mordant isn't necessary.) And instead of just dunking it in, I poured the dye over sections of the dry skein for a variegated affect. Until the yarn is rinsed, the walnut color is such a rich brown and I wondered for a brief moment if I'd end up with a stark contrast between the colors. But I just as quickly remembered a lot of the color bleeds out (especially if you don't mordant or pre-wet the yarn!) In the end, after the rinsing water ran clear, I was left with the a beautifully subtle cream and pale caramel yarn you see above.

I personally love a subtle, soft, muted color palette. I'd never spend money on a skein of yarn in that pokeberry color for myself (maybe if I were knitting for a friend who likes bolder colors.) But oddly enough when it comes to my dyeing, I've aimed for that punch of color. I guess visually it was more rewarding and impressive to see such a rich color after my hard work. But now that I know I can get rich colors, I'm content to create softer ones.

While I was outside, making a mess, I also dunked some old doilies and a shirt in the walnut dye bath, as well as played around with painting on fabric. The results of the latter weren't what I was expecting and I definitely need to learn more about that medium before I share any results here. But, such is experimenting!

Chicken Diary : The First Egg

Early last week we started a pool on when we'd see the first egg. The birds were officially over 20 weeks which meant they could start laying any time. Guesses ranged from as early as October 14th to as late as November 15th. Turns out Friday, October 10th was the magic date! Since then, there has been an egg a day. It is such a joy to see an itty bitty egg sitting in one of the nesting boxes, a feeling that will doubt take a while to get old.

3 Questions : Annie

3 Questions is an interview-style series featuring some of my favorite bloggers. Every week, I ask one inspirational person 3 completely random questions and ask them to share three photos that represent Who they are, What they do or make and Where they feel the happiest.

I don't want to jinx it but I may have finally gotten back into the swing of the 3Q series! There is no lack of inspiring individuals to feature, the trouble is how busy they all are on top of how busy and sidetracked I've become. But the next stretch of weeks should introduce (or re-introduce) you to some truly awesome people. First up, Annie! It's not hard to see why she is so busy. She has so much ambition and talent. I first came across her shop on Etsy when researching other natural dyers. Then when I got on Instagram I hit the follow button and have been so grateful for her photos in my feed. Not only for the natural dyes but the impressive knitting, love of nature, humor and grace, goat farming, wee babes, and general fiber-love. She has a new venture coming soon where she teams up with a fellow mother and wool lover that I'm really excited to see unfold.

Do you have a favorite mug? I do! It has the best shape, and not only keeps coffee warmer than other mugs but, of course, it has a little story. The first goat dairy I ever worked at sold these mugs, made by the most amazing woman who also became a good friend of mine. We used these mugs, and her plates and bowls, in the hayloft for farm dinners and events, which when set out along a 50ft table milled from the center of a White Pine is pretty darn spectacular. This farm is also the place at which I met my husband, who at the time was the farm manager. We no longer work at that farm, but it will always be the place from which our journey together began, as farmers, as partners, as a family; and it is amazing how much has changed yet stayed the same.

What is the last item you donated to a thrift store? Oh thrift stores! I love them. I so enjoy the search for that perfect find as well as to donate, especially when I'm in a massive clean out mood! I happen to live in an area where there are so many great thrift stores, supporting animal shelters to hospices. I became a Mama last year and it has taken my thrifting to a whole new level! Not only are baby clothes often SO cheap but you can find the most unique items from years past. I cannot say I'm a fan of the bold, bright kids wear available these days, and why by new when there are already so many clothes out there. So there are clothes, but there are also toys, and now I just cannot resist vintage doll bunk beds, and dated wooden kitchenettes, and if it gives me a project (I must get around to quilting two comforters and pillow cases!) then all the better! The arrival of our daughter also came with the largest amount of hand-me-downs, which I gratefully received, but inevitably came along with a handful of unwanted items. So my last item(s) I donated were a big bag of baby clothes. 

What is the best thing about being a woman? Wow, this is quite a question! And there are so, so many things I feel I could go on all day. But if I have to choose one it would definitely be the ability to carry, birth and care for a child. There is not one more magical thing.

Be sure to check out Annie's blog, shop, Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry and Instagram. And keep an eye on Little Woolens!

Click here to see all 3 Questions interviews.

Dyeing with Pokeberry

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a pile of black walnuts my cousins' kids had gathered while they were here. I figured that was a good enough sign to dye! Since I prefer to save energy (both my own and electric/water), I also did a marigold and pokeberry dye that day too. The two former dyes are nothing new here so I wont go into too much about them. Though I will say I am trying to get the color I got the first time I did a marigold bath. When I first posted the photo a handful of people asked how I got that color. I assumed that was the color you'd get from marigolds. Since then results have been more yellow-y hues with a tint of green or brown. The first time was just fresh picked petals. The second was frozen petals and heads. Assuming the heads were adding the green, I only used frozen petals for the third bath. Still I had the same yellow. Just a couple days ago I did another bath with fresh picked petals with the same result. The only other culprit I can think of is that my first skein was a superwash, which can pick up and brighten colors easier. Hopefully I can try again before the frost hits the flowers.

But enough on that, this post is about Pokeberries! I've been waiting all summer for the clusters of green berries to ripen to that rich purple. Before I go any further I have to get this out first: Pokeberry/Pokeweed is generally considered poisonous. I've read the plant and root are more poisonous than the berries and that the berries become less dangerous as they ripen. Some people are very lax about them and don't consider them that dangerous, while others are more cautious. Needless to say, please be smart about any foraging or dyeing you may do on your own! As a precautionary measure, all of the tools and equipment I use for dyeing are designated specifically for my dyeing and my dyeing alone. I also work outside for plenty of ventilation and less worry of staining things around me. 

One great thing about pokeberries is that you don't need many for a decent color. I only had a small handful by the time I removed the berries from the stems. Like most dyes, pokeberry results can vary with different fibers, mordants, modifiers, methods, etc. And, unfortunately, like most berry dyes, they aren't usually the most light-fast over time. The general consensus with pokeberry is to aim for a low pH bath, most commonly attained with vinegar. I had luck with my usual alum and cream of tartar mordant and then a vinegar modifier. (Though I see now that it being a superwash might have something to with it too!) I only heated the berries to an almost-boil since I'd read that boiling them can destroy the redness. Then strained out the solids, added a splash of white vinegar and let the yarn steep in that bath overnight. Then I removed the excess liquid and hung it up to dry. The following day I rinsed until the water was fairly clear and then let dry for a final time. 

The two skeins I have will sit in my stash for quite a while until I find the perfect project for them. It's definitely not my color but I'm impressed with the intense result from my labors and from the (rather small) cluster of berries I gathered from around here. What would YOU knit with this color?


Yarn Along - Knitting and Reading

I’m joining in Yarn Along this week hosted by Ginny of Small Things. It’s the chance for those of us who love knitting and reading to share what project is currently on our needles and which book we have our noses buried in. And I personally add what music I’ve been listening to as well.

Knitting: I'm making great progress on my October socks! The pattern is a free one called Kalajoki. I'm really excited to see so many of you joining me in this challenge. There will be a lot of toasty warm toes by the time we're done!

Reading: Flipping through Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals (particularly the section on goats as that might be the next step in my farm adventure) and The Spinner's Book of Fleece.

Listening: A mix of things but "Love's on Fire" by Nikki Lane, "Heaven Knows" by First Aid Kit and "Half as Much" by Marisa Nadler have been near the top of the list.

What are YOU knitting/crocheting, reading or listening to this week?