Wednesday, December 14, 2011

New Web Site coming soon!

My brain and everything that goes with it is consumed with the formation of a brand new web site that will allow me the luxury of adding and subtracting my own products. My current site was built in 1999 and is flat out-archaic. Fossilic if that is a word which "spell check" says it is not. Having to learn how to do all this is mind boggling. I am learning a foreign language. My head hurts. I will let you know when it is ready to look at and when you can order stuff. Until then, the old site stays put.
Merry Christmas. The new year will be a welcome relief. I'm done with this one.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Dyer's Garden gets blogged!

As you know from the posting below- I am plotting out a dyer's garden for the spring. The lumber and "M Brace" at each corner was donated by one of my best friends who invented the marvelous gizmo. Here is her blog-

Fabulous product, fabulous friend, fabulous fun. Can't wait to start. I will blog (I promise) about the garden's progress and end results.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Zinnias as natural dyes on wool

I have to tell you about a wonderful thing that makes me think more highly of humanity. I forgot to plant zinnias in my garden this year. Zinnias are one of my all time favorite flowers because they are easy to grow, are awesome colors, make nice cut flowers that last a long time and did I mention they are easy to grow? So I forgot to plant them and then sometime around late spring I remembered, as I had wanted to try dyeing with them. I mentioned this to my pal Laurie the "Biker Babe" and she said- did you read in the paper where Farmer So and So planted tons of them and they are free to the public? What?! She then gave me directions to get there and my daughter and I took a drive. There they were! Not just a few, but acres of them. There is one photo of me in the middle of the mass of flowers on my Facebook page somewhere. I can't find the photo now. Anyway- we chatted with Farmer So and So and he said he just did it for the fun of it and for the public to enjoy. Amazing. We did enjoy it and we told him we were going to use them to dye wool and he was only mildly interested. Go figure! I think it is the most fascinating thing ever but I digress.....
Here the heads of the flowers are simmering away extracting what looks like a tea colored base. These flowers were red and orange only so we were fairly disappointed.
Add the yarn to one pot full- no mordant added.
Add roving to another pot- also no mordant. We did use vinegar after everything was said and done.
As happens so often with natural dyes, the end results are tea stain colored. Oh well. It certainly would have been easier to flip some Lipton's in the water rather than get shoes muddy and spend the time snipping and then picking off the heads BUT the experience was a good one and another to chalk up to experience. For a truly outrageous color- see below where we used Pokeberries. Now that color rocks and rolls.

Thanks for looking!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Acupuncture, Shearing and Spinning, Pokeberries, and my Dyer's Garden

Lots has happened in the month plus since I blogged last so I will make up for it with lots of pictures, okay?

The first thing to say is that for the last 7 months I have been in considerable pain from some mysterious thing happening to both my wrists and at times my thumbs. No, it is not carpel tunnel. No, I have not gone to a "real" doctor. Some may think this is foolish. I think it is wise at this point in time. I have my beloved Jerra who is way smarter than any "doctor". She is my compounding pharmacist. She has concocted a salve that only partially helps. I have concocted the other stuff that is just now starting to kick in to help a lot. It's herbal. It has an awful name that sounds like I am up to some sort of witchcraft- Cat's Claw or Una de Gato. It works. So for now, I do what I know to do which is herbs plus this, pictured above... and slow down on tennis and things that make my wrist and thumbs hurt.

Notice all the people flat out on their backs? This was a free clinic I went to to get in an extra session. I need to go and get into a routine until the inflammation and pain are completely gone. Needles are not just put into my wrists- they go in the tops of my feet, in the sides of my calves, and in both ears. It actually feels fabulous. No really. Try it sometime.

Okay- moving on.

Earlier this month was the annual "Hoes Down" celebration at Full Belly Farms in Esparto. The Yolo Wool Mill had a tent set up for teaching purposes and to show off their beautiful wool products. Here is my daughter on the right teaching an interested young woman how to spin.
At the beginning of the teaching loop, there was a shearing demonstration which I always love watching. The sheep think the shearers are predators so they go totally limp which is a good thing, eh?
Here are the results of about a minute or a minute and a half's shearing.

The kids or adults then take handfuls of the wool to the washing station where they get to do the first step in taking the wool from "Sheep to Shawl". After washing, they get to card the wool. Then from the carding station, they bring it to the spinning station where they are invited to try a drop spindle or the wheel.
I had to include a picture of this goat. I kept coming back to it to marvel at how bizarre this is! This is, to me, God's act of hilarity. It is The Triune Goat. Three in One. Holy, holy, holy! Brown, spotted, black. Different sections. Different functions. Different and yet all still goat. Glory to God.
Next, I want to show you the highlight of the magnificent new adventure I am on surrounding the glorious fun involving natural dyes. In our yard, a mysterious plant sprung up two seasons ago. At first we were horrified. It was something we had never seen before but that's not surprising really. It grew and grew and grew and soon made bright red berries that the mockingbirds devoured and then pooped out everywhere. My botanist brother did not know what it was and took a sample back to UC Berkeley where he teaches. I never heard back from him about "the mystery bush" as we named it.

The bush died back that winter only to reappear the next spring...along with about 20 friends. Yikes. It was getting totally out of control.

This spring after we did almost everything except set it on fire, it came back as did 100 of its pals.

One day, Marcail came running to me with her newest natural dye book- mystery solved! It's called POKEBERRY! Not only was the mystery solved, but we saw that it makes the most luscious berry colored dye EVER! Not brown, not beige, not yellow- RED! Where on earth did it come from and how can we get it to not be pissed off at us for the abuse we threw its way? Why did it chose OUR yard and how blessed we are to have it land here!

Now to the problem of apologizing to the bush and seeing how we can encourage it to get back to the enormous height and width it once was. Sorry pokeberry.
Here is what the berries looks like.Dyeing with the berries is tricky. Almost daunting actually but we decided to try it. The wool needs to be pre-mordanted which we did using vinegar and heat. Then the berries were squished up with our hands. It's okay to do that. It washes off skin. The book says its okay to do this but in the future I may use gloves just because.

Pokeberry has a very interesting history. The early Americans and colonists ate the "spring greens" but after some time the leaves become poisonous. The leaves actually could be bought canned in stores until the 50's when it fell out of fashion. Don't know about the berries. Don't want to try.
The last step was to fire up the BBQ and to heat the wool to the magical temperature of about 115 F. Lower than the usual simmer. This apparently is critical as the color can be temperamental with heat.
Here are the glorious results. We unfortunately did not have the requisite 25 to 1 ratio of berries to fiber. Next year we will. The color is lovely, don't you agree? There is enough left over for another run or two. Will post more results as they come in.
The last thing I want to show you is my backyard garden. This spring we rototilled up all the Bermuda grass and planted veggies. Huge success. One section pictured above is now being prepared for a Dyer's Garden.

My dear friend, Jill Plumb has invented a fantastic product called an "M Brace". You can see more of this on her web site: She has graciously given me sets to play with in my yard along with the lumber in exchange for photos of my progress.
Here is how it looks today with the plots in place waiting for the compost and dirt. Fabulous.

To be planted in the boxes will be Japanese indigo, yellow cosmos, dyer's coreopsis, purple basil, black eyed Susan, marjoram, orange cosmos, bronze fennel.

Outside of the boxes will be sunflowers, and hollyhocks.

I'm dreaming of spring already and it's not even fall yet!

Wish me blessings. I do for you.

Thanks for looking.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wool Dyed in wine

Marcail and I are combining our efforts this year for the Art Farm exhibit to benefit the Yolo Arts and Ag Project and the Yolo Land Trust. The exhibit will run from October 7-November 30.

I dyed the malabrigo yarn in local wine from the Bogle Vineyard. (See the process below). Marcail invented a new stitch and made the cowl and beret above.

The beret was dyed in the second run of the wine since there was still come color tannin left after the first run was completed.

We are happy with the results. Hopefully it will bag some bucks for the affair.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More on Dying and Dyeing, naturally, and about finishing things-.

So now that some of the dust has settled, I was asked by one of my followers if I had any pics of some of these projects completed. While it is true that I do move at an alarmingly fast speed, often I do not post the final results of things because I never finished whatever it was because it is always the next thing that interests me more, OR because I simply forgot about the posting made and the project. There are a number of things that come to mind that I will show you soon- projects started and blogged about but never shown as a finished piece.

Dad died. I feel the loss. We scatter his ashes this weekend.

My husband's brother died 5 years ago. We scattered the ashes last weekend. Talk about not finishing things!

My dear friend JoDean still has the ashes of her son who died 25 years ago. I invited her to leave him in my garden this weekend.

Max, my tennis friend died a few days after Dad. He is being scattered this weekend as well.

I have had enough of dying....But...that leads me to dyeing.

Coming up soon is the Yolo County Arts Council Art Farms show. I need to enter something as it has been a wonderful link in Woodland. I have so enjoyed touring the farms with the best of intentions to do something this year for the show. Do you see a theme developing here?

Above, you will see some wine on my stove from one of our many local wineries. Bogle Vineyards opened their acreage for artists to tour and become inspired. I dyed two passes of Malabrigo yarn.

Excellent color. Here you can see how the yarn looks before dyeing and then the first round of dyeing.

Take either my Tea and Spice Dyeing class at or the Wool Dyeing course to learn how to do this.

The ball on the left is from the first run. There was some color left after 1 3/4 hours so I added a second skein for a 1 hour uptake session. It is lighter and will be the perfect accent for the wearable art my daughter will be creating for the show.

I do promise to show you how the projects came out and who ends up bidding on and buying the set of items.

Next time I post, I will show you the yarn that was spun from the oxalis grass dyeing we blogged about earlier this summer. I promise.

Thanks for looking! I have no idea how this underlining font came into being or how to get rid of it. Certainly makes this look emphatic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On death and dyeing

One of my favorite things in the world to do it to dye silk and just about any other fiber there is. One of my least favorite things to do is experience dying, no "e".

I haven't posted in a long time because I have been dyeing a lot of silk lately and walking through a dying experience with my dad.

Both experiences-dying and dyeing change things. Both are complicated. Both forever change what they touch. Both start out one way and end up another way. Both can be a beautiful thing. Both can bring tears to my eyes. Both are mysterious. Both can be spiritual. Both involve chemistry. Both teach me about myself. Both are transforming. Both make me introspective. Both make me cry and both have such potential for commentary.

I'll be back to blog later. For now I need to think and pray and regroup.

Dye on.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Belly dancing veils and more silk dyeing-

I have been busy dyeing and inventing and dyeing some more. Are you surprised?

Many of you know that I have an alliance and friendship with Jes (see above) of A'Kai Silks based in Hawaii. She is keeping me waist deep in dye and silk which is no better place for me to be. So here's a look at what I have been doing lately- the above half circle veils went to Singapore (48 of them) and now we are working on 30 that go out to Japan.

Here is the silk.

Here it is all cut up and ready to go.

Dyes are ready....

Dyed and rinsed and drying in the California sun.

One problem that I had been having is the Turquoise dye makes streaks on the silk if any portion of it is exposed to the air and dries. There is such low humidity here that this is a real and constant battle with this particular color. Even when I have it mixed with another color, it can and will do this at about the 20 hour mark. If I am diligent and remove the dye at the 15-17 hour mark, I can sometimes fend off the marks. If I am persistent in pressing down the plastic to keep air out then drying out is not a possibility and time is not a factor.

I do not dye these silks the way I teach at Quilt University, but I use Jes' procedures and techniques exclusively which is why such a long amount of time is dedicated to the curing process.

As far as inventing goes, the two of us have come up with something new and wonderful soon to hit the markets. It's called a "Scarcho". Will post a picture when Jes says I can....until then, I will let you try to imagine what this thing looks like.

Until then- thank you for being patient with me- the nonblogger!

Friday, June 10, 2011

YouTube video about Procion Dyeing Problems

It took me all day long to shoot, edit, and then post this 5 minute YouTube video.'s true....ALLLLLLLL day! The next one will be easier I am sure because the hardest part was trying to figure out how to edit the thing using some 12 year old boy's TERRIBLE video on the subject which may be what I tackle next- how to do this if you are 58 years old and clueless.

Anyway- here is the link:

This problem of poor results when dyeing comes up again and again in my Quilt University classes and total strangers, out of the blue, from all over the world, find me on the internet and ask what they are doing wrong so I thought I would run the video to help people over the first hurdles as well as do some advertising for Fabric Designs and QU as well.

The out takes were great. Someday I will show you a few of them. My favorite is when I didn't know the camera was still going and I was thinking about what I should say and how I should say it.....whoooohahha. It's "Crazy San Francisco Person" good, if you know what I mean.

Love you all. Anyone dyeing out there? I have about 80 belly dancing veils in need of dyeing coming my way. Wanna see? I'll take you along on the journey if you want to watch.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Huge dyeing messes-

Back to synthetic dyes this week.

I posted a challenge to my Quilter's Palette class to see who has the biggest mess to contend with and while I always have huge amounts of awfulness all around me, I am sure that I am not alone in my crapulence.

My dye studio looks like I slaughtered a pig or did some sort of ritual sacrifice. It's gruesome if you don't know the truth of the matter.

I also have a large fabric painting I am working on that you cannot see in the photo.

It seems to me that the worse the mess, the higher the level of creativity and glee. Is this true for you as well?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Olives as natural dyes

In our quest to find even more local resources for natural dyes, my daughter and I headed out a few miles from town to an olive orchard.

Our Yolo Arts Council has an Art/Farm program that is fabulous. A number of times each year, opportunities for artists to visit the farms with easels and cameras and paints are opened up allowing us to spend the day puttering or painting or pondering. The really sweet deal is that they reward our participation with a stipend for supplies with the hopes that in the fall, our creations will be a part of the Art/Farm art show.

Now I ask you, isn't this something you would participate in if afforded the opportunity? You can spend the morning in the fresh air, in peace and serenity, walking among fields and flowers and trees; occasionally chatting with another artist you come upon...drinking it all into your soul. Then you go home inspired and ready to make art having been paid to do what you would pay them to do? Win-win.

Above are the results of last month's flower dyeing of wool roving on the far left. Merino wool yarn is next to it that had a weak baking soda mordant added. Next to that are two examples of wool dyed in an olive brew that was made from olives that weren't quite ripe yet. We did not want to pick the olives so only allowed ourselves to gather fruit that were already on the ground. They were still pink or dark red- not black yet which certainly affected the final color.
Here is a photograph of the rows of fairly young trees where we gathered the fruit.

This is the wool in the dye bath. It made a nice medium brown.

Finished wool yarn with baking soda rinse.

Beautiful results.

We have yet to use the leaves we collected which also will yield color.

This was easy to do and we intend on trying again now that we know what we are doing and once the olives are ripe around town. There are zillions of trees available where we can gather what we want without guilt that we are taking a farmer's lively hood away from them. Sometimes you have to try a process to know if it is worthwhile or worthy of further investigation, yes?

Next time I will show you what I did with left over fabric and my garden umbrella. Cool.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Oxalis (sour grass) as a natural dye

Yesterday, my daughter was inspired by our small terra cotta fire pit. How can we use this as an outdoor stove to dye some wool? We thought about it and tried some of our ideas that involved ways to set the pot on it without trapping too much smoke. My idea to take the burner rack off the grill and set it on top of the chimney worked perfectly.
The substance she wanted to try was oxalis which is prolific in our yard in the spring and the fall. Should we do just the leaves or just the flowers? Let's do both. Let's do an equal ratio of dye stuff to wool. Here it is in the pot on top of the chimney. After 30 minutes, there was a fantastic yellow brew!
The wood brought the water temperature up quite quickly and it stayed at 185 for 30 minutes. We had to only once pull out a log to let the heat come down a bit.

She had a meeting to go to so we decided to let the whole thing sit there until she came home which was about 3 hours later. It did not seem to darken up much over that extra long time in the brew.

One thing- I did call my neighbor who lives across the street and can see into my back yard. She is also an artist so when things a bit out of the ordinary happen, I let her know so that she doesn't panic or so she can come over and watch. Last week she called the fire department because flames were leaping from behind my hedge and it didn't seem like I was home. I was home, but didn't see that our neighbors had a BBQ flare up but everything was under control. That was exciting what with the police cars and fire trucks and ambulances and all but she panics fairly easily so anything a bit "different" needs to be discussed. This was going to be "different" but the good news is that there was very little smoke and flame.

Fun, eh?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hand dyed wool yarn, felt, flannel and roving-

I am back from the land of the zombies. 12 hour days over a span of several weeks do not make for a stable life or brain. Above, however, you can see the lovely fruit of my labor which makes it all worthwhile.
Over the last three weeks, I have dyed miles of roving; zillions of yards of yarn; fields of felt; and flanks of flannel.
My not so perfect colors are being over dyed or bagged up for my felting friends and samples saved of each and every dye run which is then documented in four huge binders.
I took over 750 digital photos of the above samples. I edited about 170 of them and sent them off to my web master.
Fabric Designs ( will soon feature 28 colors of each item with three kinds of wool yarn- Prime Alpaca, 100% Merino Wool, and Malabrigo Wool so you can knit yourselves into heavenly bliss. Spinners will love the Romney wool roving also in 28 colors and felters and rug hookers will at long last be able to get their materials in the color and value they want and need. All wool can be dyed solid OR mottled. The possibilities are endless.
I love what I do. I love what you do with what I love to do. I love fiber and I love dyeing. If you were to stack everything I have ever dyed in my 40+ year career, it would form a line from here to Saturn and back.
I'll let you know when it is ready to see and the stuff is available for sale.
Happy dyeing and wooly booly to you.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Silk Vest

I'm making slow progress on the silk vest. Here is a picture of it almost finished- unpressed. All that needs to be done is the collar. It looks good. This is the back, of course.

I have not been blogging, or much of anything except dyeing wool yarn (three kinds), felt, and flannel for publication on my blog as new products. Next posting will be all about this addition to the Fabric Designs line of art fibers.
Thanks for looking everyone!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cut and sew

The large waterfall of silk (see posting below) was not enough fabric for a kimono but I did have enough for a long vest. This would be a good starting place anyway since it has been a long time since I used the techniques from "Make Your Own Japanese Clothes" by John Marshall. It is a wonderful book. I do not believe it is still in print.

The Japanese way to take measurements and then create the patterns is fascinating. Putting the thing together is a mental fete at first. Quite a bit like origami actually. One wonders how the heck this thing is ever going to come together and then all of a sudden- bam!- there it is.

Above is a picture of the paper laid out to start drawing the pattern.

One other reason for making the smaller, less complicated vest is that most kimono have a seam up the back. Japanese fabrics in days of old were 36" wide or less, necessitating the seam. Also- it was thought that if there wasn't a seam, evil spirits could come "get" you. With this intermediate vest making step, I hope to see if there is a way to side step the back seam when I get to the bigger and more ambitious kimono. I see that I can do it now without a seam so that answers that question....Plus...I learned about Semori which literally means "back protectors". They keep the wearer from evil influences, not that I would need one, right? I like the thought that they would "have my back" but I have a Higher Power already doing that for me- can I get an amen, anybody?

All the pieces plus lining fabric cut. Now the sewing begins. It went fast and smoothly with only one seam needing ripping out and redoing. Not bad.
Last thing to do is sew on the collar and I'm done. More pictures later.
Until then- I got your semori!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Waterfall of silk

I thought you might like to see how I dyed a 3 yard run of Crepe Backed Silk Satin that I will eventually turn into a kimono.
First, I hung up a large sheet of plastic and then put the silk on top of that and secured it all with some patio candles. It's very important that you use patio candles for this, by the way. It adds a certain- I don't know- excitement to the process because you don't really know if a great gust of wind will come up and take the whole thing down at any moment. You could use push pins but that would eliminate the element of surprise.

Next I poured blue dye from top to bottom.

Then some Turquoise and a bit of Cayman Island Blue came next.
Finished it off with some Fuchsia Red poured VERY conservatively here and there. The dyes were allowed to pool at the bottom. The silk then sat for 2 days. The top part dried within 2 hours and the bottom part never dried.
At this point, a big gust of wind DID blow down the top but I left it sitting in the very old dye on the bottom for another half a day before rinsing.
I'll show you how it looks next week. It really is lovely with just the effect I was looking for- long streaks for the front and bunched up color for the back.
The plan is to start cutting and sewing Friday. Wish me luck.

The other things I have going are three very large orders via Fabric consisting of two wedding dresses made of hand dyed silks, and an order for every color I make in raw silk. You can see the progress on that order in the picture above. 21 more pieces to go and I'm there! Fun stuff but time consuming.
So what are YOU doing these days?

Monday, January 31, 2011

One more time-redye!

The silk came out nicely but there was too much white left undyed on either side. I decided to dye it again. Here it is laid out in the bathtub with dyes applied.
I only applied a small amount of dye this time- probably 1/4 of what was used in the first round

Finished, the interplay of colors is smashing.

Here's a detail of the subtle colors on this silk.
Next step is to do the same thing on a much larger scale. I will have to rig up a sheet of plastic outside on the ground as the tub won't hold the length of silk I want to use. Stay tuned.

About Me

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Woodland, California, United States
I am a fiber artist. I am a teacher. I am a Reverend. I teach, I create, I counsel, I listen.

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