Post #3251: Summer Textile School Week 4

Week four and I’ve finally started dyeing things!

Cutch dye, fibre and fabric in the dye pot.

While I find the preparation process highly meditative, I was eager to get to the dye pot.
Being able to eventually make garments from ethically sourced fibre and fabric, dyed using methods that are gentler on our ecosystem is hugely motivating to my learning process and so I’m taking care with each step to be careful with water, reuse materials when possible, and ensure I’m disposing of things appropriately.

I also plan to start harvesting dyestuff from around our place this summer – dhalia and tansy are both poking up right now – and a friend brought me a huge bag of Lobaria pulmonara that she collected in the fall. I am excited to use the extracts I purchased from Maiwa as well as the whole stuff available to me. 

Having never done any dyeing except a single indigo workshop last spring, this exploration feels very potent and like it’s coming at the right time in my life of textile-making terms of time/access to materials and the fact that I’m able to approach it from a place of inquiry as opposed expectation or end result. 

Dyeing Activities


  • Watched the third section of caitlin ffrench’s Natural Dyes course at the School of Sweet Georgia. 
  • Read the study notes of other participants in the Natural Study group and wrote my own notes
  • Started dye sample pages in my design notebook

Materials prep

  • Made a tannin bucket, an alum acetate bucket, and a chalk bucket for plant-based fibre mordanting
  • Scoured and mordanted cotton fabric for dye experiments – 12 napkins, a cotton shawl, and some random linens.
  • Scoured and mordanted 2 yards of hemp/cotton yardage that I plan to dye with Lac to make a shirt from.


  • Made a dye plan for yellows and browns. Plans to dye samples with Lobaria pulmonaria, Fustic, Osage, Myrobalan and Cutch. Other than the Myrobalan and Cutch, these are whole dyestuffs. I will overdye many of them with madder or indigo since I’m most interested in yellow as a base for other colours.
  • Starting with Cutch extract from Maiwa I finally got my dye pot going! Dyed 1 small ball of yarn (100 yards), 1 napkin and a fat 8th of cotton fabric. Total weight 139.76 grams. Used 30% WOF – 41.91 grams of extract. Cooked for an hour at temperature and then left in the dye pot overnight. I shifted a piece of the dyed fabric with iron afterwards as well.
  • Did a run of Myrobalan same as the Cutch – 2 small balls of yarn, 1 napkin and a fat 8th of cotton fabric. Shifted some of the cotton post-dye with iron (result: dark grey) and some with a soda ash rinse (result: more golden). I will likely overdye the yarn for my reds project, and some of the fabric I will overdye with a single dip of indigo to produce some teal.
  • Completed a run of Osage Orange dye (derived from sawdust) this morning and articles are rinsed and drying now.
  • Featured image at the head of the page shows articles dyed with Myrobalan and colour shifted with iron or soda ash.

Weaving Activities

  • Finished setting up the 20+ system. It’s ready to go whenever I find time to warp that loom.
  • Warp for JST Episode 2 sample (Asymmetry) threaded. It’s taking me forever to get this on the loom, but I’m beaming the warp this weekend for sure. I’m going to be working through the JST material slower than I initially planned, which means I’m going to be doing that course into the fall – which is fine with me!

Next week I start getting extra days from work for the summer so that will help me advance on the weaving. 

Post #3250: Heat Wave

Apparently we are heading into some of the hottest temperatures on record over the next few days which terrifies me a little bit because I don’t like heat much, and I’ve already lost one freezer this week. On the other hand, we have wind and lots of it, coming right off the ocean so where we are is going to be much less exhausting than many other parts of the coast and interior.

I’ve become more productive at work this week, after a long slow spell of recovery from a hectic spring. I have developed a research plan, an inventory, followed up on project approvals and finally feel like I’m waking up intellectually again. I think part of my issue was a lack of B12 since I stopped taking my supplement and that pretty much gums everything up after a few months. I never used to have to worry about it, but something changed a couple of years ago and I started testing dangerously low on the B12. It makes me feel like I have some form of dementia, and that my brain has stopped working. It’s gradual so I don’t notice it until I’m deep in the fog and then it takes me some time to figure out why my brain isn’t working right. By then I’ve been losing brain productivity for some weeks or months. At least it only takes a couple weeks of supplement to start feeling more normal again. The shots work immediately, but since I can get along with the sublingual tabs, it’s just as well I do that.

Anyhow, feeling a bit sharper means I get more done, and its relieving because I hate the feeling of falling behind, even if it’s just in my writing or textile studio, the non-paid labour I feel called to. I managed to get Issue #21 of Comfort for the Apocalypse out the door this morning, with a poem instead of an essay this morning. A poem! This feels much more vulnerable than my usual offering because I haven’t written a poem in a long time and it seems much more interior to me. I had forgotten how poetry makes you reflect on language differently, and how difficult it is to get it right.

I’m going to put up a full Summer Textile School post tomorrow with pictures, so I’ll save the craft chit-chat for that except to say that I am fully into the dye stage of things and it’s exciting! Pictured at the head of this post is some Osage orange sawdust being strained after making dye with it. I am learning so much these last few weeks, and the idea of getting to weave, sew or stitch with what I’ve dyed over the summer is ridiculously compelling at the moment. More compelling than almost anything else (I am side-eyeing my untidy studio as I say this).

At Birdsong this weekend we have our first outdoor house concert since last September – and then a whole series of them coming up in July and August. We have a lot of RSVPs for the show (but not too many for the current health restrictions) and I’m looking forward to seeing many faces I haven’t seen for awhile. When we first booked this show months ago I wasn’t sure if Covid or the weather would allow it – but at the moment we seem to be good for both (unless the heat tomorrow fells people) and there is really no better place to be on a hot summer night than outdoors with a beer listening to music.

We’re also starting to book shows for the fall, with fingers crossed that we will be able to have indoor shows by then. Everything still feels so tentative even though second shots are happening and case numbers are way down. I look at the rise of the Delta variant and think – who knows what fall will bring. But for now we can meet outside and the warm weather will facilitate that nicely.

Post #3249: Would Rather Be Swimming

I’m sure I had something to say today, but then we discovered the outdoor chest freezer had failed last night and I had to run to rescue the thawing meat and the extra grains and flour stored in paper bags, quickly becoming wet from the dripping. I was successful at getting it organized, though I’m left with 6 pounds of bones that didn’t fit in the other freezer. I’ll be roasting and turning them into bone broth over the next two days despite the heat. Serves me right for procrastinating on that task.

All of that ate up the work break in which I would have written this post, so I am left with no time to reflect today. There has been bedlam in my house for other reasons these last few weeks (a 2 and 4 year old have been temporarily here with their mum) and there has been a lot of distraction. I am looking forward to the family moving on next week, and the return of my quiet house. I am also looking forward to the delivery of a new freezer which I ordered as soon as I cleaned up the mess from the old one.

So instead of something brilliant, I am sharing a picture of one of my favourite places to swim. It is right across from my house and down the beach about fifty feet, the only patch of sand in our little bay with a big shady maple to sit under on a hot day. When the tide is high, I love to swim to the reef and climb on top to watch the seals. I hope to get there this afternoon, but it’s not looking likely at the moment. Fortunately, early evening high tides and warm weather are predicted through the week so there will be other opportunities.

Post #3248: Fridays in Summertime

Working Fridays in the summertime should be optional really. It’s so hard to care about spreadsheets and data analysis when I’m looking out the window at the sun glinting off the ocean. My peek-a-boo view is enough to make me want to retire early and get on with a swim (though it’s a little windy at the moment).

Today marks the very end of the hiring process I started last September, with the final person from the process starting their job today (start was delayed due to a lapsed security clearance that needed redoing). Ten months is light speed where these things are concerned – but even so, I’m glad that it’s all wrapped up now. I’m onto other projects, which are pretty nerdy (user feedback, surveys, user data, interaction modeling) and focused on creating a continuous improvement cycle for our website. It’s pretty important work, but I’m having a hard time getting excited about it because I’ve been down this road before and disappointed by a lack of digital maturity in my organization time and time again.

As I noted yesterday, things have been pretty quiet around here most of the week with Brian in the city and the small family away. It gave me a chance to relax into my studio work and catch up on my sleep. I even took a couple of days off weight workouts to give my body some deep rest which felt necessary. I did get back to the weights yesterday though because the longer I stay away, the more arthritis creeps in. The only thing keeping aches and pains away is a regular workout routine, so as much as I would love to skip it many days, it’s really not in my best interest to do so at this stage of my life.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve managed to visit family for the first time in months. Everyone in our lives is at least one vaccination in (some have had both shots now), which has relaxed interactions all round. After such a quiet winter and spring, it’s more than a little welcome. Last Sunday we saw Brian’s family (and meet the newest addition who is only 7 weeks old), the weekend before it was mine. I’m looking forward to more regular visits with our families over the next little while.

We’re hosting our first house concert at Birdsong next weekend – which is now allowed under the provincial guidelines of 50 people outdoors. We won’t have had our second shot by then, but with good practices and distancing, I’m not too worried about covid exposure. Our second shot is coming up at the end of the month, which I’ve allowed some recovery time from before we host our next concert in July (I’ve heard the second shot can be a real doozy).

As of yesterday’s post, I have finished tying up the 20+ system on my loom and now it is ready to have a warp put on. At the moment I am warping one of the other looms, so I won’t be getting to this right away, but I am confident I have the cords on and in the right order. That’s 160 cords threaded and pegged – with the promise that I will never have to tie up my treadles again (just adjust them from the back). Sometimes it seems like half of weaving is equipment maintenance!

But that is a big job done, and a lot of dyeing prep is also done – which means more weaving and actual fibre dyeing are on their way soon, as are my additional days off which start on July 2nd. I’m looking forward to having more time in the summer for textile exploration as well as just unwinding after weekends of hosting concerts. It might not be Fridays off work all summer, but Mondays are better because I’ll actually use them in the studio (as opposed to in the house, preparing for weekend hosting).

So let the summer begin! Textiles and swimming and visits and dinners and friends and a cabin on another island – it’s all just around the corner šŸ™‚

Post #3247: Summer Textile School, Week 3

Things were really quiet around the house this week with Brian away for work and the family that has been living with us (until the end of the month due to a housing crisis) away. It was glorious and I spent every extra minute in the studio getting things done. I’m still really in prep stage – so I don’t have much in the way of pretty pictures this week. The most exciting thing that happened was the installation of the 20+ system on my loom which is close to being complete (see picture above). This is going to make my weaving life a whole lot easier.

Dyeing Activities


  • Tested Ph levels of my tap water (well) and cistern (rainwater)
  • Got organized around hauling and filtering cistern water so I can be sure my water is iron-free.

Dye space and materials

  • Found a working electric roasting pan at the recycling center. It’s never been used. Years ago, someone told me that these roasting pans are great for dyeing in as they hold temperatures steady over long periods of time which is required in scouring, mordanting and dyeing stages.

Materials prep

  • Scoured, mordanted wool/silk for weaving project (colour gamp in reds).Did half in alum and half in oxalic acid to experiment with colour differences. Used all cistern water for wash and mordant.  Currently winding hanks into 100-yard skeins for dyeing.
  • Scoured and mordanted 300 grams of cotswold/romney yarn from Gabriola. Not sure what I’m using this for. Oxalic acid mordant. 
  • Scoured and mordanted some cotton yardage, used alum instead of alum acetate (in error), but read up on it and apparently it’s okay.

Weaving Activities

  • Installed all the hardware and the peg box for the 20+ system on my Berga Savonia loom. Got the cords on all the lamms and now I’m just tying the whole thing up. I made video segments for each part of the install so that I can put something together to help others who are planning on buying/building and installing a 20+ on their countermarch loom. It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but step by step it came together!
  • Weaving on J-made loom – thinking I’m going to turn the fabric into a couple of sewn cowls.Ā 
  • Watching Season 2, Episode 2 of JST Guild materials and working through exercises
  • Warp forĀ Episode 2 sampleĀ (Asymmetry) beamed and sleyed. Threading next.Ā 
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