Category Archives: dyeing

Mixing Colors

While mixing colors is fun and often quite a revelation, getting the colors  in my mind might take years of practice…..might, actually, never happen.  I did make a rather good burnt orange, but my cool deep red was a disappointment.  It is more burgundy than I would like…too similar in value to the orange.  So I needed a change of plan for the deep violet I’d wanted.  All three would have been far too similar.  So I’ve made a medium blue/teal.  It is not a true teal, but leaning that direction from medium blue.

My mixtures are:
Burnt Orange: 3/8 tsp. sun yellow, ‘spot’ of scarlet, ‘spot’ of new black
Burgundy: 3/8 tsp. fuschia, ‘spot’ of lemon yellow, ‘spot’ of black
Blue:  1/4 tsp. blue 401, 1/8 tsp. lemon yellow
Black:  3/4 tsp. new black

While mixing these colors (and tweaking!) at my kitchen sink, I watched three hummingbirds vie for the feeder….and the nusturiums….and the passion flowers….and the mille fleur petunias. They really do not like to share, and time is short before they head south.  Have you ever seen hummingbirds buzz each other?  While they are standing off, hovering, they really do look like fairies in the air!  Then they buzz by each other at lightening speed, too fast to see, and dart all about before hovering again.  It was quite a show!

This is not my photo although it is very similar to what was going on outside my kitchen window!

Project Hiatus…

Life, again.  You never know when life is going to take over and make all your plans seem positively ridiculous… impermanent as a shadow in fading light.

So Bob and I have been at a standstill for the past few weeks.  He’s behind on getting Pandora ready for its next season of long distance sailing, and I’m behind in using my precious land time to fulfill my own projects.

In honor of Labor Day we are having a quiet day at home (it’s raining so there is no pressure to be out at a picnic or parade this year).  I am returning to my silk warp from the NEWS conference.  I have prepared my folding table and loom with drop cloths to protect everything from dye, and I have been looking at my MX dye charts from decades ago…  Unfortunately, today is not serving up the best light for choosing colors.  Hence, I’m taking a break here to document this project!

What is left of my warp is not long enough for a scarf.  I would have bet money on this being the case, so all along I’ve imagined this last piece being a narrow wall hanging.  My design choices are limited by the threading I’ve already established which is an advancing twill.  I can weave it in sharp advancing points or in undulating advancing hills.  I want to try separating out an inch of warp at each side for an ikat-effect black and white block design to frame the main design in the center.

Now I will begin mixing colors.  I am considering several reds, from a cool cherry red to burgundy to a plum type of red/purple and a deep dull orange in the pumpkin range.  I also want black, and I’ve got the ‘new’ black….hoping it is deep and true as advertised!

And here is a gift from my not so friendly weaving cohort that greeted me on my morning walk.  She also waited out the onslaught of life (in the form of a violent thunderstorm and heavy rains last night) before creating her glorious web sometime early this morning.  I hope I will be as successful!

Putting Inspiration to Use

Today I am working on the warping assignment for my upcoming class at NEWS (New England Weavers’ Seminar).  The class is called “Freedom of Expression,” and it will be taught by Sarah Saulson from Syracuse, NY.

Here is the class description from the NEWS catalogue:
In this dyeing and weaving workshop, we will have lots of spontaneous fun painting warps with fiber reactive dyes, after the loom is warped. This wonderful technique allows weavers to work with color and pattern in a loose, free, expressive way, creating large-scale abstract forms and opens the door to a variety of surface pattern techniques, including stamping and stenciling. We will paint enough warp to explore the possibilities of the technique, and for a scarf. We will learn how to mix our own colors working from primary colors/hues.”

The class materials include bringing an image to serve as the cartoon, or at least as the inspiration, for our warp painting.  I am having trouble narrowing down my images to one or two.

I have been taking lots of photos of my garden recently, but I would NEVER think roses should be my design inspiration.  All that pink and green would surely set my teeth on edge….far too cloyingly sweet for a  handwoven fabric! Then I happened to see this fabric on Cally Booker’s blog.  Just goes to show that I should never say ‘never.’

Here are some of the images that I may try to explore in dyeing a warp.

A Kasuri dyed panel that I’ve had for years

A large painted plate

Several wood block prints, including the nasturtiums I’ve been playing around with for a tapestry design

It might be quite nice to have bright blue and dull blue/green mixed with saturated oranges and golds.  But what would I use for weft??

The purples, greens and golds in this image really appeal to me.

Clearly, I’m intrigued with the possibility of combining blues with a range of orange/golds.

My warp is a natural colored silk from my stash.  It is has a beautiful sheen and a slight slub, and it is somewhat finer that 20/2 silk.  I am hoping that 30 epi will be a good sett for it.  If not, well….. I may have an unfortunate experience. There is not time to sample!….and I realize that is a BIG risk.

I was not able to get good lighting in my studio when I took this photo.  The silk is not this golden.

I am taking a break at the half way point in making the warp.  Now I can get back to it.

Perfect May

This wisteria vine is growing along the walk I take most days.  This and the azaleas and the spring green of unfurling ferns are what lures me outside each day.

I will enjoy playing with these two images for a tapestry cartoon, even if I never actually weave them.  Back at home I discovered a few mushrooms from the recent damp weather.  I’ve cut them and brought them in for identification.

I think they are Agaricus arvensis which are very common gilled mushrooms.  Part of identifying a mushroom involves getting a gill print on white paper (or black paper if the gill print is white). This gill print is a deep grey tinged with purple, very similar to the color of the gills themselves as you can see in the photo above.

This mushroom mostly gives tan, beige and grey in the dyebath; not too exciting since wool naturally comes in those colors.  But if I mordant with tin (and yes, I do have that) I might get a golden brown.  I’ve got 12 oz. of mushrooms, so it is a bit tempting…. and I actually remember where my dye pots are!

And there is news of Bob today.  The wind continues quite favorable for sailing, and he is now in the Gulf Stream so that current is pushing Pandora to speeds over 10 knots.  He is WAY offshore, but roughly the same latitude as the southern part of Georgia.  That’s a lot of ground covered in 48 hours.

Summer is for Workshops

Getting ready for my first summer workshop!  A trip to New Hampshire for a day of indigo dyeing.  Luckily no mordant is needed for indigo dyeing, but my yarns must be clean and free of sizing and dirt, so I gave them a good soak in Eucalan and hung them out to dry!

Harrisville Designs

I started the weekend with a trip to Harrisville Designs.  What a scenic spot!  The building further in the distance houses the retail shop and the workshop studios.  Other buildings house the spinning operation for the yarns and the woodworking shop for building the looms.

Harrisville Public Library

This was the first sweltering hot day of the summer, so it was lovely to be in a town so full of water.  The library sits just a short walk from the Harrisville Design buildings and is on a large body of water called Harrisville Pond.  Such still water here funnels into a stream that rushes past the mill buildings in the previous photo.

A delightful place to have lunch, overlooking the Harrisville Design buildings, the rushing stream and the distant mountains!  What an idyllic spot!

The dyeing workshop took place at Long Ridge Farm in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, owned by Nancy Zeller.  The studio is on the right and includes a beautiful balcony on the back where we had lunch in the canopy of the surrounding trees. The barn is on the left.

Nancy Zeller (center) instructs us on making an indigo vat

The next morning was the workshop at Long Ridge Farm in Westmoreland, New Hampshire.  Another idyllic spot, with beautiful views of mountains, gardens, and sheep!  Nancy Zeller owns this bit of heaven and runs various workshops from her studio and barn.  We started the day in the studio, pictured here, but moved outside when the going got messy, and then moved into the barn when a thunderstorm passed by!  Through out it all, Nancy remained calm and organized!  She is a terrific teacher!

Mixing the stock solution from powdered indigo from India.

The color change: blue on top where the stock has oxygen, and yellow/green beneath where there is no oxygen.

Ready to Dye!

After the addition of Thiourea Dioxide and Lye (both of which get mixed separately with water in their own container before being added to the vat) we checked the color of our new indigo vat.  Yellow/Green color along with a Ph between 9 and 10 meant we were ready to dye!

My friend Susan standing near the growing skeins of indigo dyed yarns.

Look at all our gorgeous skeins of blue!  My friend Susan joined me for this workshop and she brought lots of cotton skeins which turned purply blues.  My skeins of merino and mohair and mohair/merino blends turned various shades of French blue!  It was so exciting!

The Artist Loft B&B in Brattleboro

During the weekend my friend Susan and I stayed at the Artist Loft just over the border in Brattleboro, Vermont.  What a lovely spot.  The large picture window overlooks the Connecticut River and the scenic bridge that crosses it. (You can tell I did not take this photo since there was no snow during our visit.)

View from the Artist Loft

Our stay was enhanced by a bit off shopping in Brattleboro.  The fabric shop Delectable Mountain Cloth is a must!  It is full of beautiful textiles, and I believe they are all natural fibers.  The food in Brattleboro was also a high point of the weekend!  Dinner at Fireworks and breakfast at Elliot Street Cafe were both great. The ultimate dining experience occurred at Burdick’s Restaurant in Walpole, New Hampshire!  That is a destination in itself!

Back home with my newly dyed skeins drying in the birch tree.  It was a great workshop, and I highly recommend Nancy Zeller as an instructor!  Her farm is a wonderful destination and she is a thorough and organized teacher.  What a terrific weekend!

Precious Materials

Last week a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join her for the monthly meeting of the Westchester (NY) weaving guild.  They were having a guest speaker; she couldn’t remember whom.  She thought he was a tapestry weaver and a member of the “New York study group.”  I wracked my brain!  I should who this man is!…..but I didn’t!

So I went.  And of course I knew him when he arrived to speak.  It was Stanley Bulbach, who also happens to be a member of the Textile Study Group of New York. I’m so glad I took advantage of the opportunity to hear Stanley speak and to see a few of his rugs in person.

Stanley Bulbach

As many people may know, Stanley spins his own yarn.  I did not know that he does this on a homemade spinning wheel that is based on a bicycle wheel he upcycled for the purpose!  He spins yarn from Lincoln fleece, which is long and lustrous, and when he wants something other than the natural colors of this fleece he turns to natural dyes for additional color.  His rugs really glow, something you cannot imagine from a photograph  They are beautiful!

I know you can’t see his rugs well in these photos, and I’m sorry about that.  Trust me that my photographic ability wouldn’t do them justice anyway.

What I want to say about his rugs is that they have a presence.  Even if I didn’t know that he’d done all the fiber preparation by hand, that he’d created the yarns by hand, that he’d woven the rug entirely by hand…. I know I would still feel the presence of something extraordinary about them. …which leads me to the title I gave this post: there is something precious in the quality of work done by hand with precious materials.
 It shows.

He also spent a good deal of his presentation on the need for textile artists to better advocate for our chosen field.  Of course we do!  I am a perfect example of someone who has not recognized this facet of working in textiles, and since I am so ill equipped to cover this subject I’ll just pass you along to Stanley’s website.

(His photographs don’t do justice to his rugs either)…


Natural dyeing is still gathering steam throughout the US.  
When we leave here I hope to take some weld and madder with me to start a new dye garden in Essex.

Photo from NYTimes of Sasha Duerr's dye liquors

At the end of summer,  I hope to find some local plums to make Damson gin! (Can you guess I’ve been watching Masterpiece Theatre’s “Marple” while knitting?…the one with Geraldine McEwan!)

And a visit to the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx yielded a day of intense color and a rise in my own creative sap by seeing the glories of spring!


I have an armillary sphere in my garden, and now I want to display it like this, on a pedestal, and grow a vine through it!  This was my ‘take away’ gem of the day!

Ending the trip with a Bang!

My last few days in Maine will be spent riding out what remains of hurricane Irene when she hits these shores.  Hopefully she will be spent by the time she arrives, but everyone has to be prepared for the worst!

We are in a small island harbor called Pulpit Rock in Penobscot Bay. There is a big rock formation at the mouth of this natural harbor that does look a bit like a pulpit.  More than looking like a podium this rock is famous for having a 200+ year old osprey nest at the pinnacle of the pulpit.

Our preparations for the storm are almost complete.  We have two anchors out to keep us from swinging when the winds increase, all the sails are furled and lashed down, loose items have all been stored below.  The larder is well stocked so I intend to cook some comfort food today, perhaps an egg/veggie/cheese timbale, onion soup, and warm homemade chocolate pudding!

Chocolate Pudding from Cook's Illustrated

Thank heave there is a good internet signal because I got the chocolate pudding recipe from this month’s Cook’s Illustrated!



Also on my agenda after we have finished our storm preparations, is watching a couple of good spinning DVDs I have on board while doing some spinning! I have Margaret Stove’s “Spinning for Lace” and Judith McKenzie’s “A Spinner’s Toolbox,” both from Interweave Press!

Handpainted cotton roving "Phoenix Garden"

And in my large bin of toys I have some handpainted cotton roving from Girl Meets Spindle in a colorway called “Phoenix Garden.”  Now doesn’t this sound like a good plan for riding out a tropical storm?

So I’m hoping that wherever you are you are safe and dry, and doing something fibery on this stormy weekend.



Greenhouse Tank finished!

Camden Harbor and Mt. Battie through the stern of Pandora


Schooner "Appledore" with Camden's iconic steeple in background


pedestrian bridge of flowers in Camden


Camden Harbor from the top of Mt. Battie. "Pandora" is at the bottom of photo, closest to shore in second row from left of moored boats.

Camden Harbor and beyond from Mt. Battie

Seals on the beach...on our way to Buck's Harbor

sailing to Buck's Harbor with schooner "Mercantile"

Sailing with Herreschoff New York 30'. This is the boat I used in my tapestry of the Palisades on the Hudson River.

Friendship Sloop with schooner in background

>Maine Fiber Artists’ Open Studios


Well, it’s another beautiful summer in Maine, and I’m so lucky to visit other amazing fiber farmers and fiber artists’ studios!

This year’s plan was a bit more involved than previous years, and it was a fun adventure!  My husband wanted to attend a rendevous for the Seven Seas Cruising Association on Islesboro so we worked out a plan to take the ferry to Lincolnville on two of the weekend mornings.  The first morning we hitchhiked partway and got a cab partway to get back to our car in Rockland.  Then, at the end of the day, I left the car at the ferry terminal so it would be handy for our second day of sightseeing.

This is the eating area of the snack bar at the ferry terminal on Islesboro.  It’s about 7am, and the fog bank is rolling away to reveal the Camden Hills and the beautiful day ahead!Maine 8.7.10 002 It took two hours from the time the ferry left ‘til we had our car, although the ferry ride was only 20 minutes!  We also got picked up hitchhiking a lot faster than when we waited for the cab in downtown Camden!

Day one of fiber sightseeing included Eolian Farm where no one was home, too bad for me!

These photos were taken outside Swans Island Blankets on Rte. 1, just outside of Lincolnville.  What a stunning 18th century farmhouse they use for their showroom! Maine 8.7.10 003We saw the looms as well as the dyeing room.

Maine 8.7.10 005

Two Sons Alpaca Farm in Damariscotta was the farm highlight of the weekend for me!  Owner Ricki Waltz was very happy to talk about her animals to us, a fascinating blend of alpaca husbandry and tales of the various personalities in her herd.  The babies were adorable and had quite distinct personalities right from the start!

Timberdoodle 2 (alas! no website!) is a lovely studio overlooking the water near Cushing.  It’s a tiny, perfectly appointed showcase of Kathryn Woodstock-Lynn’s lace spinning and knitting!  Using traditional Shetland techniques, learned from such venerated knitters as Gladys Almedro, Sharon Miller and others, she knits lace shawls and wraps of her own design.  Her spinning is exquisite and so is her dyeing!  There were two large hatboxes of yarns for sale, each with enough to make either a shawl or a scarf.  One box held natural colored yarn, the other was full of her hand dyed creations.  She blends acid dyes into a stunning array of colors.  I dearly wanted a ‘red’ but did not have the pocketbook for it this summer.  I did buy a Shetland/Oxford mix dyed an indescribable mix of pink/lavender/tan ….just a small ball that will make a lovely scarf.

Katharine CobeyWhen I entered this studio I instinctively knew that I was in the presence of an artist, and that her studio was probably going to be the highlight of all our travels this summer!  Her studio and its setting along the water is as artistic as Katharine herself.  The wall of glass that faces the water must provide an ever changing inspiration to her spinning and knitting. When I entered Katharine was reclining in an overstuffed chair with ottoman, knitting away on a current project. Her large Rio Grande ‘sitting great wheel’ was nearby, and one of the first things she did was give me a demonstration on how it works!  I’ve always wondered how one could sit and spin at a great wheel, and after seeing Rachel Brown’s simple technique which Katherine does so well, I am awestruck by what a simple feat it is to change from spinning off the spindle to winding on without stopping the wheel.  Thank heaven for Rachel Brown! Katharine made it look utterly simple, but when she encouraged me to try it I quickly learned that I’d need several hours (or days!) to get the hang of it!Maine 8.7.10 033







Part of Katharine’s studio is a showcase for some of her work.  There was a display of knitted mantles arranged in a circle and exquisitely lighted called Ritual against Homelessness.  They were beautifully moving.  There was also a wire-knitted form on the wall that was wonderful. The form itself was interesting and was greatly enhanced by its shadow.  The combination of real form and shadow were terrific together.

On leaving, Katharine handed me one of her postcards which is when I realized I knew of her!  I had seen Boat with Four Figures at the Portland Museum a few years back, but didn’t realize she was the artist!  I’m thrilled to have met her!