Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A most natural friendship

I spent an extended weekend in Rhode Island with my best friend, Joei Bassett. I now have her permission to share with mutual friends that she has breast cancer. She had surgery and I went to 'help' with her recovery. I think that mainly I am a distraction and sounding board for her. She is like a sister to me and going through this with her has been profound. I think I learned a lot about myself as well as what our relationship really means to me. She shows me often how to enjoy life, to be able to acknowledge the parts of life that are less than wonderful, and yet always remember that life is precious and limited and not to waste it stuck in the yuck. Happily she found out only good news on Friday when she got the pathology report. As she said if had to have breast cancer, hers was about the best you could hope for. So we were able to really enjoy the time together doing lots of natural dyeing and playing with silk and wool, and of course talking. We got a lot done, even with her napping each day, she does not let much stop her! Here she is a few days after surgery taking a ride to get ice cream with her husband....at least she did not try to ride her own bike!

 I had been brewing up a few kinds of natural dye solutions that I had not had time to use so I brought them with me. I also brought some pokeweed berries. Here is what the jewel weed looked like.

  Before we could use that crock pot we had to empty it of Joei's avocado skin dye that had been stewing for quite a while...that is a nice deep color under that...um...stuff.

 I decided that if you can deal with the smells and look of some of these 'solutions' then you are a 'real' natural dyer.
Here is a photo of the wool roving that we dyed in the pokeberries and the jewel weed after it was dry. Some of the color still washes out so they will be paler after felting. We used citric acid as a mordant for the poke.
The second roving from the left is jewel weed overdyed with pokeberry.

 We did a pot with black beans and carrot tops as well. Here is a photo of the my newest collection of naturally dyed colors on fabrics and threads and ribbon.

Before going to Joei's I had done a pot with Rose of Sharon flowers and a few dark hibiscus flowers.
Here is that pot with fabric before simmering.

 I can not remember what I did after that...my best guess is that I didn't like the color after simmering so I dipped it in either baking soda solution or vinegar. I sort of recall splashing a bit of one those as well. The fabric on the top of the pile in the photo of the collection shows the yellow marks of that splashing. Either way I ended up with a kind of sage green as you can see in this photo.

Our pot with the carrot tops was less than successful. The dye solution was old and had ..um...fermented a bit too much. It was really smelly.  The silk turned a pretty ivory color. The small piece I put in Joei's tannin solution from acorns also turned a warm vanilla color...not quite as dark as it appears in this photo. (As a color reference I will tell you that the background in these photos is a bright white tablecloth.)

After I got home I experimented with dipping the cloth in three different solutions to see how the color changed. The most dramatic change was the black bean in the acid solution...in this case vinegar.

                                             I want to make an iron solution and try that next.
While we were waiting for things to simmer I washed part of a fleece that I had been given the weekend before by a family friend, Ann Lewis. Her daughter raised Tunis sheep while in school and I wanted to try felting with it. However, the fleeces she gave me are from one of her polled Dorsets, not Tunis so I still want to get my hands on some of that. The bit of fleece I washed felted up really nicely and has a great crimp that gives a small pebbly texture that is different from most of my felts. This wonderfully giving woman also loaned me her drum carder to process the fleece! Look at these tiny curls.

And on my last day in R.I. we took Joei's dogs for a nice long walk in the woods while we gathered plant material for some eco dyeing. Joei purchased a new pressure cooker just for doing this type of dyeing and we wanted to try it out. 

And last but by no means least I want to show you a project that Joei has been working on. A rug based on Tibetan tiger rug.

I know I was tired the next day after all of this...I hope Joei did not get too over tired.
I am so thankful for my friends.

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