Seeds and Life and Death

The fiber and dye plants at my plot at Bramble Hill have done a brilliant job of setting seed this fall. It’s very exciting. Since it is nearly All Hallows Eve, or Samhain, or El Dia de los Muertos, depending on your tradition, I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between the dead and the living.

Harvest and abundance, frosts and death. Seeds carry us through from one season to the next, from the death of fall to the life of spring.

Orange cosmos are usually prolific, but this year seemed especially so. Here are some images of the cosmos plants back on October 19th when I harvested the Japanese indigo. A chaotic tangle of flowers, stalks, and seeds. Death and rebirth.

orange cosmos chaos Continue reading “Seeds and Life and Death”

Exhausting the Orange Cosmos

These last two posts are very belated, so a reader may have totally forgotten that the weld and cosmos baths I’m talking about were left over from my workshop at the annual spring conference of Mass.Ag. in the Classroom back on March 8th.

Compared to the questions raised by the weld exhaust process, the exhaustion of the orange cosmos bath was relatively straightforward. I only dyed woolen yarns, mordanted with aluminum sulfate. Below you can see the first exhaust skein in the dyebath:

skein in cosmos exhaust dyebath

Here are the colors of yarns once they were rinsed and dried! Continue reading “Exhausting the Orange Cosmos”

Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom

On March 8th I presented two workshops at the annual conference of Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom. You can check out their website here. One workshop was on growing and processing flax, and on ways to incorporate flax into the school curriculum. The other was on growing a dye plant garden at school and using dye plants with kids.

Based on an idea from Joan Morris, shibori artist extraordinaire, I decided to make two swatch books for the dyeing workshop. Each book had five small cloth samples sewn together. The dimensions were 3 inches by 1.5 inches. One swatch book was made up of cellulose (i.e., plant-based) cloth samples, including three kinds of cotton cloth, a linen-rayon blend, and a 100% linen piece. The other was made of protein (animal-derived) cloth, including silk satin, raw silk, and three weights of wool. I mordanted the cellulose swatch books with aluminum acetate at 5% WOG (weight of the goods, or fiber). I mordanted the protein swatch books with aluminum sulfate, at 1 tablespoon per 4 ounces. The protein booklets weighed about 6oz. altogether, and interestingly the cellulose booklets weighed almost the same. Continue reading “Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom”

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

The time is drawing near! Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Work by Michelle Parrish and Amanda Quinby will go up on Tuesday at the Shelburne Arts Co-op, and will be open to the public from Wednesday October 2nd until Monday October 28th. Fall hours at the co-op are Sunday, Monday and Wednesday 11-5; Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11-8. The co-op is closed on Tuesdays. Here is a sneak peek of the ryas that will compose my portion of the show. The other portion of the show will be Amanda’s enchanting gilded panels, which have been on display at KW Home in Easthampton this month. Continue reading “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral”

Deciding on Colors for a New Rya

The other day I was trying to decide on colors for my next rya. My show at the Shelburne Arts Co-op goes up on October 1st, so the time is growing short. Plus, school is starting soon, which means much less time for weaving. I felt the need to get a sense of the work that I’d made thus far, so I spread the ryas out on the bed. Then I stood on a chair to get a good look. And here they are!

ryas on the bed more ryas on the bed

Then of course I had to dump a ton of yarns onto the bed and see what resonated with the collection as a whole. I ended up choosing another combination of oranges with greens at the center, this time, rather than the brown and blue combo I did before. Continue reading “Deciding on Colors for a New Rya”

Orange Cosmos Rya

I finally finished this rya that I’ve had to un-weave and re-weave four times due to various problems and mistakes. The oranges and yellow-orange are dyed with orange cosmos. The brown is black walnut, and the blue at the center is dyed with woad. What looks like a solid orange block around the outside is actually two shades of orange, the darker blending into the lighter. Continue reading “Orange Cosmos Rya”

Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair

This post falls into the category of better late than never. Over a month ago, now, I did a natural dyeing demo at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in Cummington, MA. It was a very rainy, windy and cold weekend. The high on Saturday was about 40. They were forecasting snow flurries for the hilltowns that night. Sunday was a bit better, with a high around 50, but still very rainy. Nevertheless, intrepid visitors showed up, and I had some great conversations with people about their favorite dyeplants (jewelweed and dahlias, which I have never tried) and their favorite ways of storing valuable dyebaths (in the freezer, which alas our freezer isn’t big enough to do).

I focused on dyeplants that can be found or grown here in Massachusetts. Here are the baskets with my samples of wool yarns.

naturally dyed wool yarnsThe one on the right shows yarns dyed with cultivated plants (cosmos, woad, madder, weld, etc.). The basket on the left shows wildflowers (Queen Anne’s Lace, tansy, black walnut, umbilicate lichen, purple loosestrife, etc.). Continue reading “Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair”

Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)

At this time of year there are a lot of things to harvest, including dye plants. Some things can be strung up to dry, such as marigold blossoms. Other things, such as orange cosmos flowers, I store in the freezer. When the first cosmos were ready to pick a few weeks ago, I realized that our freezer was still full of bags of cosmos I froze last summer! So on September 1st I decided I’d better make some room. Cosmos are easy to distinguish from pesto, ginger, and the other non-commercial items in our freezer, which is lucky because I had re-used zip-lock bags last summer and you can see that the labels weren’t helpful.

bad label 2bad label 1

 

 

 

 

This is not good practice. Label your bags accurately! It is probably also not good practice to store food and non-food things in the same freezer, but we only have one freezer so that’s how it is.

I made a very strong dyebath using 5 lb. of frozen orange cosmos flowers. Since my pots are pretty small, I divided the quantity between two 2-gallon pots, and ran two baths simultaneously.

cosmos simmering

Orange cosmos are pH sensitive, and you get much redder colors if the pH is high. After straining out the flowers, I used ammonia to increase the pH. I have run out of pH test strips at the moment so I can’t tell you exactly what it was. In the initial dyebaths I added 4 Tbs. ammonia per pot (about one and a half gallons of liquid) before adding the yarn. For each subsequent exhaust bath I added 2 Tbs. ammonia. The yarn is 4 ply rug wool (Helsingin Villakehraamo from Finland, bought at the Hill Institute a few years ago), premordanted with aluminum sulfate.

Continue reading “Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)”