An attempt to document my creative pursuits and spew inspiration into the universe.

An attempt to document my creative pursuits and spew inspiration into the universe.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Good Morning

This is the view from the bed when I open my eyes in the morning.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Slippers

Well, my old slippers finally wore out. I suppose I could mend them, but I've been wanting to knit myself a pair of those felted clog slippers for awhile and this is the perfect excuse. I dug around in my stash, and found this yarn dyed with last year's natural dye experiments. At that time I was dyeing whatever fiber I could get my hands on; unraveling sweaters, buying inexpensive balls of Lion Brand wool or Paton's.I figured I'd take a chance and knit up the slippers with some of this yarn and hope they felted well. (Lazy me, didn't want to take the time to do a test run). Since the pattern calls for holding the yarn double, I chose to hold two differently colored strands together. I love the heathered effect; the colors seem richer and more interesting to me, blended this way. The colors I chose were dyed with indigo, hops, Oregon grape root, hemlock bark, logwood, and the red was dyed with koolaid. I used the classic Fibertrends Felted Clogs pattern. This is an interesting pattern to knit; never a dull moment; completely trusting the designer to deliver me through this series of mysterious stitches to a completed slipper.Then trusting that it will shrink to fit! Wah-La!I love them so much, I could barely bare to remove them for this photo-shoot. Of course, one turned out slightly larger than the other. I think that I knit the 2nd one rather tighter than the first.I can tell that even though they are double knit on the soles, they'll wear through fairly soon, so I want to sew on a sturdy piece of felted blanket to the bottom, and add a soft piece of felt to the inside. So far I haven't been able to take them off long enough to do so; I hope I don't wear them through before I get around to it!I've read that some folks paint the bottoms with a rubbery substance to make them slip-proof or even moisture resistant for quick trips outside. I may just have to make another pair to try that out. Hmmmm...hey Rick, need a new pair of slippers?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Machine Washing the Fleece

The last time I visited Eugene, I scored a couple of fleeces at an estate sale. There was a huge pile of them in the barn. The nice old guy in charge of selling barn stuff said I could have my pick
at $15.00 each. I was pretty excited. There were no clues as to when they were sheared or what type of sheep they were from. Some of them had won prizes at a county fair. I chose the two cleanest-looking ones. I was trying to be realistic as to whether or not I'd actually get around to processing the wool; I figured two fleeces would be do-able. (I'm still a newbie when it comes to raw fleece). So this week has become fleece-washing week. Luckily they've been skirted already. When I dumped the first one out, it had rather more vegetable matter than I'd first thought. I think that in the world of VM, it's not so much, but to someone used to working with pristine, store-bought rovings, any vegetable matter seems like a lot! It took me awhile to sort out the wool into piles of cleaner and less clean. (The idea being that I'd wash them separately) I'd done some research, and figured that washing the wool in the washing machine was the way to go. I used Dawn dish soap, hot water, and a series of 15 minute soaks, spinning out the water in between each. No agitation!I was amazed at how white the wool became! You can see the difference here, between the yellowish unwashed wool, and the whiter, washed stuff.I spread it out to dry on a sheet on the deck. I had to keep going out and fluffing & turning it, just to feel it's soft squooshiness! Now I have bags and bags of clean wool ready to play with. Just in time for dyeing season...I'll be able to try out as many dye plants as I'm able too! And I can try some wet felting, too. It seems like an infinite amount of wool, but I have a feeling that I'll go through it pretty quickly. I wasn't sure how great it would be for spinning, as the staple length is only a couple of inches. But a quickie trial at the wheel proved it to be quite nice to spin; I think that if I spend more time prepping it, it will spin up pretty well.For now, this thick-n-lumpy single is perfect for my current project. Crocheting these creatures, which will be felted and stuffed. The lumpier the better! All in all, I'm pretty happy about this new wool. I'm still not so crazy about the little bits of organic material in it. What do folks do about that? I can't imagine picking it all out! I look forward to obtaining more raw wool, now that I know how easy it is to wash it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Snarflie had a Baby

Hmmm, methinks going-ons are happening in the studio behind my back whilst I'm napping....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hats and More Hats

I've been playing around with hat designs (here modeled by the lovely and talented Luna).
Hats are so fun to sell in person that I haven't put any in my shop, yet.I'm building up inventory for a couple of events this summer: the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium, in May, and the Oregon Country Fair, in July. I love selling my hats; it's so fun watching folks try them on; some people really get into it and try them all! Each of my hats is one-of-a-kind, and there's always a perfect person for each hat. I can see it the moment they put it on their head. Perfect.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Day in the Studio

Sunday was a good day for finishing up odds-n-ends in the studio.
Sewing in labels:
Sewing on eyes:
Sewing in a hat band:
Swatching: Waiting in line: And drying dandylion root. At dusk, Rick and I fired up the newly scrubbed clean sauna for our first sweat of the spring. Ahhhhhh.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Felted and Stuffed: Snarflie

I'm so inspired!I made this crazy creature by crocheting some handspun yarn into a lumpy skin, felting it in the washing machine, and then stuffing it.I'm in love! I was very happy to stuff it full of tiny bits of fabric scraps. I don't know which was more exciting; watching Snarflie's body take shape, or finding a use for the tiniest of scraps.As you can see, the eyes and ears are just pinned on, but I think they look pretty good, and I'll sew them on where they are.The inspiration for this technique came from Lexi Boeger's book Intertwined. She has a great description of creating what she calls Nozzlers. Here is the first one I made. Random crocheting with random yarns created an evocative, somewhat abstract form. I wanted to try for something a bit more recognizable, but still having random elements. Most of it is made from fat, lumpy singles I quickly spun up and crocheted with right off the bobbin, plus some random bits of handspun from the stash. What fun! I have ideas for many more...I hope they hatch soon.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

spring woad

I've only been seriously experimenting with natural dyes for one year, so I haven't yet had a chance to grow too many of my own plants. One dye plant I do have in the garden that I'm really digging, is woad. Last spring some seeds were gifted to me; I got them started, and found space at the end of the veggie plot to tuck in about 15 plants. I did two harvests, the first giving me 6 1/2 lbs. of leaves, and the second 2 1/2 lbs. That was plenty of material to play around with and get to know Woad a bit. I left the plants to overwinter, hoping to get some seed this year. Well, I was amazed at how these little plants fared during our "coldest-ever-winter"! They stayed green and perky all winter, when all around, the ground was covered with frozen ice for weeks on end; all the winter kales died, our three eucalyptus trees died, and, oh, so much other damage to plants. And here's Woad, ready to meet the new year without so much as a withered leaf. Seeing that the leaves are moving towards an upright position, getting ready to send up that flower stalk, I cut all the leaves except for two plants, which will flower and give me seed for next year. Not having time to fiddle with doing a blue dye bath, I merely boiled up the leaves, added alum-mordanted roving, and simmered for 45 minutes. You can see the lovely red of the liquid; hard to believe that color comes from those green leaves! The wool comes out a salmony-tan color. It will be interesting to over-dye some of it. That nice yellow is from fresh, unopened, spring catkins of birch and alder trees. They smell heavenly when being boiled; like balsam incense. This is a photo of one of our gardens. The woad is at the far end (you can't really see it). The walking onions are coming up in the foreground; the straw-mulched area has shallots and garlic, and on the right are peas (not up yet). I'll leave you with a picture of something from the studio. Happy pollinating!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Tastiest Nettles Ever

I harvested my first batch of nettles for drying yesterday. I picked about one large paper shopping bag full. This time I used gloves for picking. In the past, I've enjoyed picking nettles bare-handed. Picking nettles by hand with no gloves is a very meditative process. Each pinching of leaves must be done with precision, intension, and breath. Sure, at the end of the picking session, the finger-tips are stained green for several days; tingles & numbness do occur, but very little painful stinging goes on. I figure that the tingles & numbness (urtication), are healing in some way. Yesterday, though, I was intent on gathering many nettles fairly quickly, so I wore gloves. Nettle still got my attention, though, even through the gloves! She is a very sociable weed; "Notice Me! Notice Me!" she says. I did notice her, and followed her beckoning, green trail down the hill, through the woods, and into the dappled sun-light on a gentle slope next to Beaver's creek, where the largest, strongest nettles were growing. I'll dry this harvest for using all year. We love adding dried nettles to our soups, or sprinkling the powdered, dried greens over food. Especially good is a sprinkle made with equal parts dried, powdered nettle, and dried, toasted, powdered nori seaweed. Yumm. Nettle is a green super-food, free for the taking. She's very high in calcium, magnesium, trace minerals, and chlorophyll, as well as a host of other minerals and vitamins, including the B's; high in protein, vitamins C and D, and is good for nearly whatever ails you. She's famous for nourishing hair and skin, and I've noticed this spring, just since I've been eating nettles several times a week, that my nails have become quite hard. Nettles taste rich and wild, and can be used in any recipe that you'd use greens (such as kale or spinach) in. Once cooked, they loose their sting. If you'd prefer them raw, they make a fine pesto, ground up in the food processor with the usual pesto ingredients. I use wooden tongs to handle nettles in the kitchen. They work splendidly, and I can trim, chop, and move about heaps of nettles with no worries to getting stung.One of my favorite farm lunches (quick, tasty, and satisfying), is Greens on Toast. Here's how I made it this week; Roughly chop a mix of currently growing greens. I used beet-green thinnings, dandylion greens, and nettles. Saute some sliced leek. When it's soft, add a bit of garlic, salt or tamari, and generous pinch of smoked paprika (get the good's so worth it! a little goes a long way). Then add your greens. My 8" skillet packed full will cook down to enough to cover one piece of toast. Use more than you think you'll need; they reduce a lot. Stir it all up, add a splash of stock or water, and cover. Let it simmer on med-low while you prepare the toast. I use rye bread. This time I made it fancy by melting some goat cheese on the toast and adding some sliced avocado, but it's still darn good with just greens on toast & no extras. When the greens are all cooked down, dark green, and soft, remove the lid and let any extra liquid boil off. Using tongs, place the greens on the toast. Drizzle with just a few drips of balsamic vinegar. Oh my. When I cooked up my greens this way, they were butter-soft, umptious,, really delicious. Especially after a winter of eating greens and veggies imported from California. This concoction is also good with a fried or poached egg (fresh from the duck, of course!) slipped in between the toast and the greens. Writing this makes me want to go whip up some greens on toast for breakfast!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Handmade Yarn

I am so excited to share this with you; I can't believe it, but I just finished dyeing and spinning this huge pile of yarn. It's a generous three pounds, about 2,000 yards! I figure that's enough to knit just about anything I want to. It all started with the natural dyeing. I began to explore it about a year ago. Now that I'm living out in the country, there are sooo many sources of natural dyes, free for the gathering or growing. At first I was unraveling thrift-store sweaters to supply yarn for my ever expanding dyeing habit. Then I got turned on to spinning, and my muses danced for joy at the endless possibilities of color-making. Oh my! On thing lead to another, and last summer found me dyeing up pounds of BFL and Corriedale roving, along with some silk fiber. I found many shades of yellow, brown, and beige, experimenting with plants found around the farm. Then I got an indigo vat going, and over-dyed it all, to create all these shades of blue, green, and teal. To make the yarn, I combined three strands of drafted fiber, two of different colored wool, and one of silk. Drafted some more, and spun it all up. I love how the skeins look similar, but are extremely variegated. It reminds me of sun-light reflecting off of a forest creek. One thing I learned, is to handle the fiber oh-so-carefully when dyeing. I had some minor felting in my rovings, and it's not so fun to spin slightly felted fiber! I think the indigo vat was partially the culprit; placing the fiber in and out of the vat, which is quite warm, requires a certain amount of handling. Then it required a lot of rinsing, (more handling). Anyway, this year, I'm figuring out ways to reduce the handling of wet fiber while I'm dyeing and rinsing. I'm going to obsess over keeping the fiber felt-free.I'm planning on knitting up a poncho out of this flickering sun-dappled creek yarn. I've been so excited about this project, that I've continued to move forward with it, all these months. I'm still excited about it, so I think the knitting will happen soon!