Blizzard of Seeds

I’m excited about making another fabric concertina. I had cut some squares of gold fabric and mull quite awhile ago for no particular reason. They were just sitting around on the shelf where I keep my sewing notions and some scraps. I got the idea of putting them together with the last set of patches I got from Jude Hill’s threadcrumbs shop, entitled “Blizzard of Seeds.” It made a beautiful match. I supplemented the six squares of gold with some dyed fabric from my stash, enough for a six panel concertina.

Impatient to see this vision realized! But I’m trying to pace myself. I need to take reasonable care laying this one out and measuring squares so everything turns out well.

Also planted the first seeds of the season today! Starting alliums indoors: leeks, shallots, and Cippollini borretana onions.

Black walnut dyeing

I collected black walnuts last fall from a park in Danbury, Connecticut. I stored them in a plastic shopping bag and did not make any progress in processing them. Recently I was reorganizing my dye materials and opened the bag to a moist, rotting, buggy mess — ugh!

I poured the nuts into a tote and stored it outside in the freezing weather for a few days. A squirrel got interested but only chewed on a few nuts. I eventually dumped most of them onto the ground in a barren patch behind the shop to avoid shocking any plants with juglone. Not wanting to miss out on the dyeing opportunity completely, I reserved about 10 of the nuts that were only minorly deteriorated.

I put the nuts whole into a pot (reserved for dyeing!), covered with water, and set on the woodstove. Over a few days, I took the pot on and off the stove, not really monitoring any boiling or simmering activity. I strained out the liquid and took the nuts out to the dumping area. The liquid was deep dark brown.

Prepared five fabrics chosen from my stash: white and ivory cottons, a linen napkin, and a white and a peach duppioni silk. I scoured them first with hot water, washing soda, and a little dish detergent. I bundled some of the fabrics using shibori techniques with rubber bands and clothespins. Some fabric went in loose. The fabrics stayed in the pot on the woodstove for several hours and off the stove overnight.

Results of fabric dyeing:

Before ironing

After ironing

A few days later, I chose some papers from my stash, bundled them between tiles and can lids, and lowered them into the walnut bath. Also threw in some threads wound onto spools. These also stayed in the hot bath for several hours and the cooling bath overnight.

Results of paper dyeing:

The whole group

Two signatures

Four accordion strips

Assortment of small single sheet scraps

I really like the walnut brown color and the clouds and marks from the dyeing bundles. The darker edges on the papers look great. I’m not sure how I’ll use these materials, but for now I’m just enjoying them. And happy to get the walnut mess out of the house. Next time, I’ll dye with them fresh like you’re supposed to!

Next up: dyeing with my collected acorns, which thankfully are in better shape than the walnuts.

The polyozellus multiplex

We found an unusual mushroom a few weeks ago on a hike up Caribou Mountain. Tim spotted it and I can’t leave well enough alone, so I pressured Sam to pluck it and carry it home.

Identification was made with the help of the Facebook Maine Mushrooms group: polyozellus multiplex.

We made good use of it. Cooked some, dried some for later, dyed with it on both silk and paper. The dyed fibers still smell strongly of mushroom.

Polyozellus on the forest floor

At home – beautiful texture!

Cooked in broth – strong flavor, pleasant texture

Laid out on silk strip to dye, with some due flowers

Laid out on paper to dye with goldenrod, raspberry leaf, chrysanthemum petals, fern, safflower petals and a cosmos flower

Results on silk premordanted with iron

Results on paper

Plant portraits

Sixteen plant portraits on Hahnemühle Ingres paper

I made these in preparation for Margo Klass’s concertina class tomorrow. I will need to use 8 to 12 of them for glueing into the album.

When I first took them out of the steamer yesterday, I was very disappointed. It looked like nothing had happened! Just the palest wash of colors, the slightest suggestion of leaf forms. And brown edges that looked like the paper had been burnt. Maybe something was wrong with my steamer? I gave up for the day, figuring I’d have to try again after class was over to make contents suitable for the album.

Today I had some time and energy to try again. I thought I’d have to overdye with new plant material, in other words start from scratch. I made a much stronger solution of iron-vinegar potion and dropped a piece in. I know this, but I had forgotten that an iron-vinegar dip can “develop” a pale print. I was shocked to find deep shadowy tones and shapes emerging! So I went ahead and developed all the rest. In the end, I only overdyed the chrysanthemum (leftmost, second row from top) because it didn’t have enough definition.

I feel good about using these for my album content. They portray my most familiar, most local plants and my current skill level. I don’t have the patience to get detailed prints showcasing single plants. Everything kind of mashes together in a great purple wateriness because I stacked four sheets into my plant sandwiches. And I don’t have the knowledge to control what dye oozes out of which plant to influence the whole stack. Still, forms are identifiable in most of these and there is most definitely a magic going on. I’d like to repeat in a second album someday so I can view progress.

The pastel talisman

My friend suggested I create a white talisman book. She really liked the purity of the white papers with the white thread and white scraps, monochromatic, colorfree.

I just couldn’t do it though. I’m helplessly drawn to getting colors from plants. Also, I realized I like the flatness and edge colorations from come from boiling bundled books! So I compromised and did not use any iron-vinegar potion, which has a darkening effect. I would get only the subtle colors from leaves and stems, boiled in nothing but water.

So here’s the latest work in progress:

Five book bundles (forgot to take before pictures!)

Still wet after a half hour simmer and an overnight of resting in water

Closeup of some pages after drying, resting on the creamy white damask napkin that will become the cover. Clockwise from top: tansy, iris, blueberry.

The plants all came from the yard. Some notes:

  • Blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry all print well. Sometimes with dots, which I love.
  • Oxalis does not print any colors but made a pretty heart-shaped resist on one page.
  • Tansy reliably gives a greenish yellow print.
  • Sweetfern is probably my favorite dye plant. It grows rampantly here and gives a rich dark print, even without iron.
  • Purple iris gave a lovely strong blue that spread subtly through several pages.
  • Yarrow is inconsistent. I got a great print from it once and have been trying to recreate it ever since. This time all I got was subtle grays.
  • I used some baby rhubarb leaves and stems. I think they yielded a light print, nothing impressive.
  • Milkweed – a very faint green. Leaving it for any monarch caterpillars that come by.

Talisman book

I stitched my four winds books into a dyed and embroidered cloth cover. The cover was made from an old damask napkin, folded in half. The pages were attached with a three-hole pamphlet stitch. I added an extra stitch (with French knot) at the top and bottom of each to hold them more securely.

I had fun stitching beads onto the spine, although it was very finicky. Bead sourcing:

  • Packet purchased at Gina’s store in Muizenberg, Cape Town
  • Felt bead made by Nicola, a gift from my Cape Town visit
  • Two Czech glass flower beads from India Flint, a gift to the class members of “a clearing in the woods”
  • Bird and silver leaves purchased at the books arts bazaar in Portland

I just love how things accumulate and come together.

Speaking of accumulating, here is a partial view of the interior. That glowing pink cane from begonia blossoms on top of old blueprint paper.

Closure: an old hair elastic and an abalone shell button.

Here’s a view of the opened book showing the nice fan effect.

Photo of cover before pages were stitched in:

This project is part of India Flint’s School of Nomad Arts class being (t)here 2019.

Little blue books

This is a work in progress. A long road. Step 1 happened months ago when I cut a batch of these mostly blue section covers, but never used them. I found the batch recently and then saw Rosemary’s woven spine book at Chapter Two. Put 2 and Two together, if I can say that, and the little blue book idea was born.

Next step: dye a quantity of text pages with blue butterfly pea tea. I used up all the Mohawk Superfine 70lb Text Weight paper that I bought from Vintage Page Designs. I cut first, then dyed to get some edge coloration. The paper became slightly fragile when submerged in tea, but I only tore a few pieces. I crumbled butterfly pea flowers directly into the wet pages, then laid down plastic and stepped on them to generate some contact. This all took some time, especially since I had to brush tea leaf fragments off each sheet individually as they dried. But as a bonus I got a nice-looking drip sheet (last photo).

Now to start assembling the sections (signatures). Limiting factors were the number of good text pages I had and the need for a wide enough spine to show off the weaving. After some calculating and recalculating the optimal numbers, I settled on two books, eleven sections each, three text pages per section.

Next step was to sew the pages into each section, 22 total. A five-hole pamphlet stitch allows for weaving two patches on the spine. Starting stitching from the outside allows some long tails for beads and other embellishments. I used up almost all of my waxed linen thread in cool colors.

Then I needed to make covers – four total. Found some paste paper from a long-ago workshop with Abbie Read that would work well. For stiffness, I used card stock inside from some old political mailers. Then stitched, then glued. I think I glued too soon because now I’ll have to figure out another way to hide my weaving thread ends! Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the covers in process.

Now I’m working on the weaving. Had to unweave several times before I finally got a decent patch. It’s mesmerizing. I first tried an indigo sashiko thread, but found it too subdued to show up well. I switched to variegated embroidery floss dyed by Deb Lacativa. Finished one patch … to be continued.