Friday, May 22, 2015

Salad Days

This last week has been dedicated to the garden. While we planted a lot of vegetables and eagerly await the Summer months to help them grow, but right now we are up to our elbows in lettuce. This is a good thing, fresh salad nearly every night is a very good thing.

Next the Swiss Chard will be ready to harvest, The potatoes are starting to poke their leaves above the surface. I love growing potatoes. Later in the Summer we'll go treasure hunting for golden and ruby treasure buried in the soil.

A barrel full of mint is close to the kitchen door. it smells so lovely.

It is a lot of work and the weeds are always mocking us by spreading faster and growing taller than would seem possible, but at the end of a full day in the garden, it is absolutely worth it. To see our future dinners growing in our own back yard is pretty cool.

Oh and check out this handsome fellow, he and his friend came to visit after the fountain received a good cleaning. The first time we've had a Western Tanager in our garden. Hooray!

Happy weekend all!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The New Brood

Well, let's all cross our fingers that the sickness has left the building. I swear, this has been the ill-est school year in history, for the whole family. I am well and truly Over It! Ah, but let's talk of more pleasant things shall we?

It occurred to me that you were not formerly introduced to the new Brood in the coop. Last November we lost our other beloved chooks to some vicious critter, so a couple of months ago we began again with 3 wee baby chicks.

Pictured up above is Starr, a Leghorn, and so far seems to rule the roost.

This here is Loretta, an Australorp. She follows Starr around constantly, though she seems quite good at scratching up worms.

This is Van Zandt (named after the late singer/songwriter Townes), a Silver Laced Wyandott. She is independent and wiley.

Now this particular group of little hens is nothing like any other brood we have had. They are far more skittery than past chickens, even though we had the same routine as the others and handled them often. They are also contrary, they do not do what we expect them to do, what others have done. We shall see how it all works out. Meanwhile we are all happy to have chickens again. I am looking very forward to September when we may start getting fresh eggs again!

Oh and check out this video of The Engineer's brilliant automatic coop door opener that he created to keep the little ones safe.

Monday, May 4, 2015

More Adventures in Natural Dyeing

Yes, I've been at it again, I just can't stop! The most amazing results and surprises have come about, a few disappointments as well, but that is all part of the learning process.

The biggest "Wow" moment came from dyeing with black turtle beans. Depending on the fabric I used, I got deep blues to bright purple. My neighbors must have though I was a bit crazy when I was exclaiming over the results. Oh let's just face it, the neighbors thought that already.

I also tried dyeing with some Madder root and played with folding and clipping techniques. This is really fun and creates the most interesting designs.

The Blueberries on vintage kimono silk was another surprise, I didn't think that the color would be so saturated and delicious looking!

An experiment in over-dyeing created the loveliest green.

I'm even dyeing embroidery floss and loving the results.

Now, if I could just stop dyeing everything I can get my hands on and actually make something from my experiments! All in good time.

Happy Monday everyone!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The last jar of jam

What a beautiful morning it is here in my little patch of the Pacific Northwest! Had my morning coffee and toast out in the garden and watched the crazy starlings splash in the fountain. The only cloud over this sunny scene is that we are on the very final jar of strawberry jam from last year. Oh, still so delicious. It wont be long though, well not too  terribly long, until this year's strawberries come on and we make the 2015 batch. Still, any length of time without homemade jam seems hard to bear. 

We shall have to find some way to carry on.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Natural Plant Dyes

from left to right: 1. Birch Bark. 2-3. Turmeric. 4-5. Beet Root. 6-7. Hibiscus Flowers. 8. Combo of 2-7.

Birch Bark

Welcome to my new addiction. Dyeing with plant and food dyes has taken over my mind and body, not to mention my kitchen. Last week I decided it was finally time to just jump in and do some dyeing as it's been on my to-do list for ages. Well, down the rabbit hole I fell!


This process is akin to mixing potions, conjuring spells and concocting surprises. Each batch of dye is unpredictable, at least for the first time for me. You never know exactly what you are going to get once you rinse the fabric after you pull it from the dye bath. It really is quite amazing!

Hibiscus Flowers

Nothing was a disappointment because it was all so interesting and exciting. With each experiment I gained more knowledge and appreciation for the art. Now I'm looking at plants and food in a whole new way. I have started a dye journal to keep track of my work; in it is a growing list of dye stuffs that I can't wait to try out. As I go for walks in my neighborhood, I'm searching out plants that I might be able to glean for my experiments.

Beet Root

For my first foray into the art of natural dyeing I kept it very simple. I used a lightweight unbleached cotton muslin for all of the dyes. I used what is considered the safest mordant (what helps fix the dye to the fiber/fabric) of Alum and Cream of Tartar in water. I simmered the fabric in the mordant for an hour. 

For the dye baths I went with some research along with some intuition. Some were simmered in water for an hour, others simmered for less time. I did feel that I should have soaked the Birch Bark for a couple of days, but I was just a little impatient. Then I left the fabric in the dye baths for different amounts of time to see what would happen.

I am so looking forward to gaining more knowledge and dyeing more stuff. It really is such a joyous (if time consuming) process. I do suspect the household chores might suffer quite a bit. That's alright, it's all for art and science!

I want to thank Annie Cholewa for her encouragement and cheering me on to give this a go!

So, what have y'all been up to?

Friday, April 17, 2015

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

Oh I know I said there was going to be a tutorial today...

However, there was a little problem with the photos (operator error I'm afraid). 

And it's an absolutely gorgeous day outside and I ended up at the garden store and these little beauties came home with me. Time to plant!

Tutorial will follow at some other date, indeed it will!

Happy Weekend all!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

No Pattern, No Problem: The making of a T-shirt

I have a frightful confession. I don't sew with knits. Oh I do hope you didn't bump your noggin when you fainted from the shock of it. Now that you've recovered I can tell you that I can happily revise that confession to: For years I did not sew with knits. 

It was not always so. When I was a teen I sewed knits with impunity, I had no fear and I couldn't for the life of me understand why people were hesitant to sew with knit fabrics. Ok, I do admit a slight aversion to pure polyester knits, but that's a story for another day.

Somewhere along the way I stopped sewing with knits, and with this lack of knit sewing I too began to have doubts, fears even. Silly me.

On the practical side, one of my excuses was that good quality knit fabrics are expensive. Well, the other day I was taking a long overdue peruse through my local thrift shop, and though I did not find the perfect v neck sweater I was searching for, I did find a few very large men's T-shirts in white. The perfect lead in to playing around with knits without breaking the bank while at the same time upcycling some formerly unloved clothing.

I didn't have a pattern so I made one. This is true of some knits, they can be forgiving of the hastily self drafted pattern. I created a Dolman sleeve t-shirt, one of the easiest things to sew, really! I then went about making a couple with various sleeve lengths. In the photos above I used some gorgeous knit that my friend Nancy sent me ages ago and added the contrasting bands from another shirt that happened to be the perfect shade of green.

This one was made using one of the white thrift store t-shirts, dyed black and stenciled with a horse of course.

There are some tricky things about sewing with knits, but honestly it's just like anything else... it takes practice and there is no reason to fear sewing with knits. Not that you're afraid, of course not, you are very brave and have no idea what I'm talking about. It was probably just me. Silly me.

I also whipped up a pair of yoga pants made from t-shirts that suffered from an unfortunate dye job. (Note to self: Order some good quality fiber reactive dyes!)

Well, I'm so glad I now sew with knits. 

Oh! And coming up on Friday I will be posting a quick tutorial on how to make a Dolman Sleeve T-Shirt of your very own! Hooray!