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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Morning of Dreams

Morning from deck at Coupeville, WA
Well, it is still morning in my part of the world and I am still in my pjs and bathrobe.  Today I am dividing useable parts of the day between this computer and the dye kitchen in the basement (studio B).  All of the year's teaching has been finished with manifestos to be written and changes to be wrought.  Two more sales shows remain - The Famous 14th Voorhees Family Art Show to be held on November 18-20th here in Asheville, and maybe a small second show at my studio in December. So I am happy and anxious to continue working with my natural dyes.

I have a dozen bushels of peeled walnut hulls festering away on the back porch. I have never read in my pile of dye books about peeling the walnuts after they start to rot, but the resulting liquid after a few days of steeping is fabulous.  The slimey black goo and the fly maggots are a visual deterrant so I left the last couple of bushels for the squirrels to peel and a wonderful job they did of it too! All I had to do was sweep up the peelings each morning.

Here are my friends Helen and Steve helping with the peeling.  Helen got all the walnuts from her backyard tree and swears by the color they produce. I think the sitting in the October sun on my back porch smelling those walnut hulls is why I am so smitten with them.

This is one of probably 30 pots of walnut hulls a brewing.  Some containers were getting moldy so I took off the lids.  The water just evaporates so I top up every once in a while.  True to my own squirrelish behavior, I feel that I need a LOT of hulls to last me through the winter dye days. Sure wish I knew everything about walnut dyeing!
my first felted wool scarf walnut dye experiment
A few weeks ago I followed through on my written thoughts and got rid of my clothes dryer.  I needed the space for a "real" stove in the dye kitchen.  My favorite Habitat for Humanity had a wonderful and very cheap electric range that needed to be with me.
Now that I don't have a clothes dryer I am finding that I pay attention to the weather - what days are good for hanging clothes outside, how humidity extends the drying time, and the beauty of clothing waving in the breeze.  I bought a fabulous indoor wooden drying rack from the good folks over in Missouri - BestDryingRack.com and now have more fun than one could imagine hanging my clothes on the rotating rack. 

 I also am experimenting with Madder, a wonderful, ancient dyestuff which should give me some wonderful yellows through reds.  Helen gifted me with about 6 oz of the roots, themselves rather ancient purchase from Earth Guild several years ago.

I have done a few dyebaths with pieces of my felt hoping to recreate the resist dyeing surfaces that I have been doing using Lanaset dyes.  But there is something so different with the natural madder and walnut.  Their smell is rich and earthy and as far as I know, not bad for the body. The time it takes to mordant the felts, rinse and then put them in the dye liquor and carefully watch the temperature so it doesn't go over 160 degrees is time nicely spent.  The after-mordants of citric acid and ammonia that change the pH to give either pinks or yellows is truly pure magic.  I like spending that time with the pots as these feel as if they are alive.  Years ago when I taught a semester of indigo dyeing at the University of Minnesota - St. Paul, those pots were alive and needed careful tending.  We had a partnership, those pots and I.  And here again I have partners in my Studio B dye kitchen as well as squirrel partners on the dye porch.

Putting a previously felted and dyed in light madder (with ammonia after mordant) scarf, stitched and tied in Mokume resist pattern into a darker Madder bath.
The finished washed and dried scarf.  A whole pile of ummmms for that one.  Today I get to go back to the kitchen and think and play and learn some more.

I will be listing 2012 workshops on the next page of this blog.  Check under the title for the button.  I am starting to reduce the number of away-workshops for 2012 and 2013.  There are a few places I will continue to teach as I love the areas and people connected to the venues - Lopez Island, Sievers School up in Washington Island, WI,  and several other places. And I will start to hold more classes here in my studio.


  1. Hi there, I love to see you brewing your different pots in the dye kitchen I'm quite envious as I see this ! I know you were in Holland (last year?) and I watched since then if that might ever happen again....!!! Would LOVE to learn from you. Your books are so gorgeous!

  2. I once left a pot of pokeweed berries out all winter and they festered into a beautiful mahogany that was light and wash fast. Festering is fun. Try some lichens, too.

    I have a present for you that I keep forgetting to send but I will now so I can get my 10 million.

  3. Chad--It's lovely to see what you're up to lately!! Your eco-dyeing experiments are very exciting...do I detect a new book in the works?!?! XXO--

  4. Really happy you are having such a good time Chad. also happy to read you are not going to teach as much in '12 and '13 as you have been. looking forward to reading more about your plans and unstopable energy.
    ..not sure if 'looking' forward and 'reading' in once sentence is proper English but you'll understand won't you? :) hug!