dye run - spring 2008

After preparing & organizing all last week -- choosing & weighing dyestuffs from the 33 I have on hand, most that I gathered myself, weighing & labeling the skeins, readying all of my dye worksheets & sample cards --I was finally able to start the dye run last Thursday! This was the largest since the one I did in spring of '06 & it was fun, but after 4 days I am happy it is finished. I decided to give Burnham's tapestry weight wool a try this time & also changed from using natural white to bleached white. I also always overdye grey skeins along with the white, they are so wonderful to use for shading & blending.

In the middle of the dyeing, I received good news... John Jenkins the wood artisan who creates fabulous tapestry forks (along with other beautifully crafted wood items) now has a website...

Magpie Woodworks, LLC

Everyone who sees my tapestry forks wants to know where they can get them, just as I was struck with fork lust the first time I saw one, so here it is.

And more good news, Jan Austin has joined the world of tapestry weaver blogs! Bravo, Jan, I think you'll be a natural. As far as I'm concerned, the more tapestry blogs, the better. It is so wonderful & inspiring to see an artist's work from planning stages to cutting off, so much more enlightening than looking at a photos of a finished piece in a book! Visit Jan's blog-- http://austintapestry.blogspot.com/

Every dye run has its surprises & this one was no exception...

The cutch given to me by Kathy Perkins produced a beautiful coppery brown & smelled of slightly burned cooked carmel. After dyeing my skeins I even threw a white washable linen skirt in that I love the feel of but don't wear much because of the color in the cooling dyebath to soak overnight. The "cutch skirt" has come out a beautiful light coppery brown.

However, the lichens were a complete failure, producing absolutely no color in the dyebath after simmering for an hour & no color on the one skein I threw in the dyepot! I had good directions to follow from a source that reported using New Mexico lichens. Hmmm. Well, that skein was rinsed & joined the skirt to soak overnight in the cooling cutch exhaust. Don't think I'll be one of the lichen dye junkies as I now have no desire to harvest any more, even though what I collected was from deadfall on our NM mountain property. Too many other plants out there are easier to harvest, more predictable in the colors that they produce, & less precious.

As far as the avocado, the results were a little disappointing. Even at 200% wog, the colors were very subtle, barely beige from the peels & a light apricot from the pits. I did an ammonia assist with one pit skein with no change. I did follow the instructions very carefully, including heating them once during their soak time to prevent mold growth. My feeling is that I did not let them soak long enough, just 7 days. The author of the recipe goes on at length about the longer they are soaked the deeper the colors, but she is quite vague on just how long is long enough! If I were to attempt it again, I think I would just collect the pits since they seem the most promising. You would have to be quite attentive & diligent about heating the soaking dyebath every few days to keep mold from growing, so I'm not sure how happy I'd be having to do that for a long period of time!

The eucalyptus did not give me the hoped for oranges, but instead a green tinged gold. No matter, it smelled quite heavenly. I was quite happy with all of the other dyestuffs I used as well those I've already mentioned... mountain mahogany roots, elderberry leaves, nettle, & brasil wood.

Now I am looking forward to a Bisbee trip with Dennis to celebrate our 15th, then soon after that a trip up to Janie Hoffman's place on the Blue River for a tapestry retreat with several other weavers!

Live to dye another day; respect our Earth; live, love, weave!


livin' la vida moka

Life has been taking the fast track lately & I feel like I've been holding onto the ragged edge by my fingertips! But, it has all been good, if a bit hectic...

Spring seems to have come & gone, since we've had temps in the mid-90s already! Fold up that fuzzy sweater & pop on that bikini, would ya? The change in season has brought a quick succession of flowers bursting forth as is wont in the desert-- the heady perfume of the waxy blooms of citrus trees; the dark, rich scent of jasmine; the bright scattered spots of color from desert marigolds, mallows, & lupines; and now the cactus & palo verdes are starting to join the floral chorus as mesquites & acacias don their millions of tiny green leaves. Dennis barely had time to get outside to attend to his "yard chores" before the high temps hit! We are hoping this is not the harbinger of a very dry & hot summer.

Spring also brought us... Moka! She is our newest dog, another rescue, born on & rescued from the reservation, adopted as a puppy & then returned to the rescue organization by her first owners. She is about a year old & was very shy & skittish when we first got her, owing to whatever kind of treatment her first owners did or didn't give her. She lived with foster owners Lisa & Kurt for three weeks before we got her & they did wonders to help her become adoptable. The name came with her, although it was originally "Moca" (which I didn't like because it is way too close to a Spanish word for a bodily fluid I am not fond of), then became "Mocha", which I decided to change to "Moka" because she is way too hip for such a common name & she isn't brown! Good thing dogs can't spell. She has now been with us for just over two weeks & has completely made herself at home. She still has some skittishness at times, but she is quickly learning she can trust us & she absolutely loves Roger, who is a bit of a stick in the mud about playing, but who allows her to steal the cushiest bed & fling toys around & on him without much grumbling. All of the old stuffed animal toys have all had very precise sqeakectomies performed on them, Moka is quite the little surgeon. Both dogs love the daily 3 mile walks, are getting in good shape, & have learned to drink from the water bottle when we are walking. Bunnies went out of fashion after Easter, now their latest obsessions are ground squirrel holes & lizards. Needless to say, one must have a tight hold on the leashes or find oneself going for an unplanned flight into the cactus!

I finished pinacate shuffle just in time to get the loom warped up & a header woven for the Hernmarck method workshop I took during Arizona Federation of Weavers & Spinners Fibers Through Time 2008 convention. Here it is while in progress & the cropped shot I took of it for the Tohono Chul exhibit it was woven & accepted for--

Burnham's Two Grey Hills & Native Brown were perfect for the sand!

Dennis also had one of his works accepted into Artful Insects, it will be his first exhibit! He works in watercolor pencil and pen & ink. Here is his Butterfly Magic before framing.

The Fibers Through Time convention was 3 1/2 days of fiber, fiber, fiber & it was held here in Tucson. The first day was registration & tours; I took the AZ Historical Society & Arizona State Museum tours which were fabulous since we were allowed to go "behind the scenes" to see textiles that were not currently on display. At the Historical Society we saw many items of hand stitched clothing from the early 1900s worn by people who were living here then, & at ASM, known for its textile collection, we saw breathtaking pre-Columbian textiles undergoing restoration & exquisitely old Navajo weavings. That evening instead of going to the wine & cheese event I decided to go home, partly because I was very tired & partly because I have learned to trust my premonitions & instincts when they come on strongly... something in Dennis' voice when I called to see how the dogs had done after being left alone during the afternoon was not reassuring when he told me that someone (Moka!) had gotten into my yarns & he wasn't sure what color they were. I arrived home to find that Moka must have had quite the soccer match with not just any yarn, but the special yarn I had just bought & carefully packed for the workshop. I was winding what I could out of the mess for 2 1/2 hours just to get enough to use! It is somewhat humorous now, but wasn't at the time! While I was winding & thinking bad thoughts, Roger made sure he came into the studio & told me he had absolutely nothing to do with it, honest!

The workshop was taught by Diane Wolf, who has studied with Helena Hernmarck, worked as her assistant during convergence, & was encouraged by Hernmarck to teach the class. Here is our workshop space, a shot of my loom with my piece in progress (it's a silver U.S. Navy pitcher, the photo was taken by Diane), & a detail of the weaving. It is a very intriguing & time consuming method, requiring much consideration... I still have most of it left to weave!

I entered 3 of my works into the exhibit that coincided with the convention... I was quite honored to have recuerdos de georgia selected to receive the Juror's Recognition Award For Tapestry.

My friend Janie Hoffman taught the natural dyeing workshop during the convention & after the convention's end, she came to stay for a couple days before heading back to Alpine. We had a field trip day, driving up into the Santa Rita Mountains on a very narrow single lane dirt road that switchbacked up close to the peak of Mt. Hopkins before we reached the security gate for the Whipple Observatory at around 8000' elevation. It was a slow going, sweaty palm drive up with very steep drop offs, most with no guardrails, & spectacular views-- thank goodness the road was very well maintained! The reason for our trek was for Janie to get some photos of the Tumacacori Mountains across the basin from the Santa Ritas for her Sky Islands tapestry that she is working on. She got some great shots & so did I, along with having most of the day to enjoy each other's company, the mountains, & the desert.

Now I am in the midst of preparing for a dye run that is overdue... I also want to get the dyeing done before it gets any hotter! I will be dyeing with 8 dyestuffs, most which I have not tried before & most from my own collecting efforts. The most unusual of them all will be the avocado peels & pits-- these photos were taken immediately after I covered them with boiling water to begin a week long soaking process, wow!

I hope to be able to post the results of the dyeing session before Dennis & I take a mini-trip to spend a couple days in Bisbee to celebrate our 15th anniversary. It will be the first time Roger & Moka will be left with our trusted pet sitters, so we are hoping all goes well so that we will be able to enjoy future trips together occasionally in non-dog venues!