A Quick Update


Remember what it was like when you were waiting for Christmas to come?  Or your birthday?  I can remember counting down the days.  Biding my time trying to figure out what the big day would hold.  What kind of cake would my mom make?  (After all that is the most important).

I feel a little like that right now.  I want to count down the days until the garden will be in full bloom.  The problem with that is, no one can predict the future.  I can’t say that by July 14th, there will be a raised garden bed full of flowers waiting for me to throw them in water and simmer them until I can drain the dye from their petals.

But I am just SO very excited!!!!  The three boxes are built and filled with lovely dirt bought from Mill Pond.  I actually had to wait to get the garden soil from Mill Pond because they hadn’t mixed the garden blend for this year yet.  I think the guy I spoke to on the phone could tell I was getting anxious!

I have four trays of seedlings that are sprouting like the little champions they were all meant to be.  I even have gypsywort and indigo sprouting.  Not that these plants are difficult to grow, but I am worried that I am going to bank all of my hopes on dyes from my own seedlings.

Well, I am not going to.  I have a little insurance at hand.  I ordered a few plants from Companion Plants in Ohio.  I couldn’t resist.  They have potted plants that will ship in mid-May.  I can cross my fingers that if my seedlings fail, at least the plants I get from Companion Plants will survive.

The hardest part of this  journey is the fact that Minnesota has had to endure some beautiful weather over the past month and a half.  It’s been really hard to keep myself from going out and planting a few things.  I think it’s been hard for several people from going out to plant a few things.  Luckily I have restrained myself.  I have another month to wait, let my beauties indoors develop and grow into strong vibrant plants.

Wish me luck!  Cross your fingers and all that jazz.  I guess it’s best to leave it in God’s hands.  He knows what’s best after all.


All Boxed In

All Boxed In

Have I mentioned that my husband is amazing?  Not only has he taught all of us so much about the world around us, but he was willing to give up his day off to help me build my garden boxes.  In all reality, if he wouldn’t have helped me, I would have ended up with boards strewn across the lawn.  Our yard would have been a HUGE mess!  There are reasons that I really enjoy dyeing, rug hooking and doing punch needle–it is done without instruction and ends up with differing results.

Anyway, we went to work last Friday buying pressure treated lumber from Menards.  We actually fit it all in the Pacifica.  (While we were loading the lumber, I just had to mention how I have always wanted a truck).  We brought everything back and went to work.  We were cutting sod, digging up masses of clay, several sand bar willow roots (doing a silent cheer) and quite a few worms.

Here stands our lone obstacle in creating our boxes, an evergreen tree we got from the Minnesota State Fair two years ago!


This is our first completed box!!!  I can’t wait to fill it up with some soil!  And then it will be time to fill ‘er up with flowers and other plants!!!!  Hopefully my excitement for this project will be part of the food that nourishes all of these plants and flowers!






We were onto the final two boxes.  Mitch, (my wonderful hubby) and I were concerned about cutting into the roots of the Pin Oak.  I really didn’t want my project to kill the oak tree, especially since the Pin Oak is Mitch’s favorite tree in the backyard.



I convinced Mitch to stop for the night and have some  pizza.  We could finish tomorrow!



And that we did.  Well, he did most of the work as I am just not adept at these sort of things.  I often believe that I can do things by myself without help, but this was one project there is NO WAY I was going to be able to do on my own.

Here they are!  Our completed projects all level and squared!  Now, I have to wait until I can have some garden soil delivered from Mill Pond(I found out this morning that day will be Wednesday).  Then I can fill up the boxes with some soil.  I cannot wait to see the results!!!!

Let the Games Begin!

Let the Games Begin!

Today is the start of something beautiful.  I am going to start planting my seeds with the help of my wonderful assistants, Emily, Jason and Lanie.  We’ll see how long they help out, but they sound really excited to help!  I have decided to do a few experiments while creating my dye garden.  I am using two different seed starting mediums, made by two different companiesMiracleGro and Schultz, both bought at Menards.  I am also going to try out peat pots in different sizes as well as more traditional plastic black pots.  I think it will be interesting to see if the more expensive MiracleGro helps seeds have a better start then the less expensive Schultz seed starter.  It will also be interesting to see how the plants do with peat pots as opposed to plastic pots.  How much can I actually control all of the variables that go into this?  This isn’t a serious experiment, but more of a casual interpretation of how I used variety to obtain different results.

One of my first purchases with my Kickstarter project was seeds from the Woolery.  I purchased gipsywort (black), henna (red), dyer’s woodruff, indigo (blue), safflower/false saffron (red to yellow), amaranthe (red), bugloss/alkanet (red), lady’s bedstraw (red).   I bought the rest of my seeds from Menards.  Many of these I have researched on various sites and in books about natural dyeing, but some will be experiments.  We’ll see what colors they make and if they are a dye that will stick.  My list of seeds include carrots kaleidoscope mix, true lavender, red giant mustard, spearmint, common sage, rosemary, detroit dark beet, purple coneflower, foxglove, hollyhock, butterfly weed, scabiosa, zinnia, sunflower, sweet pea and envy zinnia.  The seeds all come from Burpee, bought from Menards.

I will be including an update after my helpers come inside from our gorgeous Minnesota, March 18th weather at 70 degree plus!

Stained Glass Punch Needle Tulips

Stained Glass Punch Needle Tulips

I have to admit, I love stain glass windows.  They rule.  I love the different colors in the glass that create the pictures in them.  I really wanted to recreate one in a punchneedle design, but my first attempt turned out looking, well, bad.  That is putting it lightly.  My major goal was to replicate a stain glass window scene that is in my church, St. Francis Xavier Catholic church in Buffalo, MN.  It is an old church with beautiful designs inside.  I have yet to have done humans in rug hooking or punch needle.  I don’t think I am ready.

Instead, I decided to take inspiration from a rug I have seen on London-Wul Fibre Arts website.  It is a store located in Moncton, New Brunswick (Canada).  Anyway, her blog address is http://thewoolworks.blogspot.com/.  This address is a great forum to discuss different things about fibres, working on projects, etc.

Anyway, my completed project is inspired by London-Wul Fibre Arts and stained glass.  I took pictures throughout the making of the piece of art just to get an idea of how things come together.

Here is the outline-or where the lead would go in stain glass windows.  I used three strands of floss to create this picture.

The flowers were finished next along with the butterfly.  I initially wanted to do a monarch butterfly, but in the end I went with a 70s mushroom looking butterfly.  And the following picture is a close up of the picture above.Finally, I took pictures of the completed artwork.  Well, everything has been punched, but not everything has been given a proper trim.  There are a few loose threads, odd little loops that wound up solo, but that is all minor details.  There is a full view and close up of the completed project below:

I really like the way this one turned out.  I used floss that I received from my husband’s grandma’s house after she passed away last year.  A lot of it was very old, and I don’t think I would have been able to find a match to today’s colors if I wanted to.  So a little piece of her is in this artwork as well!

Using Avocado Skins to Dye Wool


I have to admit, I have had the itch.  I have been itching to dye with plants, and yet I must wait until my dye garden begins to grow-outside.  And that is not happening any time soon.  After all it is February.  Although you wouldn’t know it since we have little to no snow and the temperature has yet to dip below zero for days in a row.  Not that I am complaining.  I don’t mind it.  But I still have the itch.

So I decided to take some avocados and use the skins to dye wool fabric.  This was my first time using both avocado skins and fabric to dye with.  I think I made out okay.  I used 100% wool suiting and four avocados.  Avocados were on sale at the local Cub foods store, so I figured, why not?

My method:  I let the skins soak/fester in water for a week.  I was going to try to take the pH of the water throughout the week, but it didn’t change much.  I was kind of hoping that I would have gotten a drastically different pH by the end of the week, but the pH stayed between 7 to 8.  I simmered the avocado skins for 45 minutes and then put in alum mordanted wool fabric.  I simmered the dye pot for 40 minutes the first time and ended up with a surprising color.  Here is a picture of the fabric from the first round of dyeing.

I was pretty amazed to see a pinkish brown color come out of the dye pot.  Here you have blackish green avocado skins that resulted in a dyed piece of fabric that is pinkish brown.  When the fabric initially came out of the dye pot, the fabric looked purple, but after rinsing out the excess dye, the fabric turned out this color!  Amazing!  Eventually I will learn the chemistry of natural dyeing.

I took another piece of wool to use the dye pot again with a different style of wool.  This wool had lines in it and is a bit softer than the first piece of wool fabric I used.  Here is the second dye pot batch:

The second dye batch turned out a bit lighter, but is still a nice pinkish tan color.

And finally, I did a little experiment and used the remaining dye liquid and let the fabric sit in the dye for 8 hours without simmering it.  I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but the dye turned the fabric a fleshy color.  Here is the picture of the final dye batch:

I also put all three pieces of fabric together to show the differences between the three batches.  I wanted to show that even though you have used dye liquid, other colors can be created from the remaining dye liquid. Aren’t they beautiful?  I think I might have to change from dyeing yarn to fabric!  My main problem with dyeing fabric was controlling the bubbles created in the dye pot and ending up with uneven colors.  However, I think that this creates interesting aspects to the fabric.  It may be nice to have an even dye, but it is also great to have an uneven color that creates the kind of art that I make.  My art is neither perfect, nor is it done to a pattern.  I generally have an outline and use it as guidelines-kind of like the pirate code in Pirates of the Caribbean!

I really enjoyed dyeing fabric and cannot wait to dye more!  I might have to use the skins of the many Cuties that have come into our house recently.  Orange skins might create a beautiful color and I am guessing that it will smell really good too!

Scratching the surface


I know I have mentioned this before, but I think once I have achieved some sort of mastery of an idea, I quickly find out I have only scratched the surface.  Thus is natural dyeing.  I thought it would be so simple to go about planting the correct plants, many with the latin tinctoria attached to it’s scientific name.  But this is not so.  Those plants may be “dyer’s” plants, but they are not the only source of dye.  Not to get all confusing, but I wasn’t under the impression that only tinctoria plants would produce viable dyes.

I was under the impression that naturally dyeing was a little known phenomenon, one that is only stumbled upon once in a while.  I feel like I am making myself look more and more stupid as I progress.  I am not sure exactly what I mean to say, but what I want to get out is that natural dyeing is a vast and expansive subject, one that can only be tackled with the understanding that there is no way you will ever know about half of the information about it.

First there are the plants involved.  Not all plants produce good dyes, or sustainable dyes.  Then there is the use or nonuse of mordants.  Is using mordants really natural dyeing?  I guess that might be a philosophical discussion for those in the know.  Next, what are you going to dye?  I was intially under the impression that wool was the best suited for natural dyeing, but you can find so many other materials that people have dyed from cotton to hemp, ribbons to yarn.  The list is quite extensive and I am not about to put it all here.  Then there is the process of dyeing.  You can use heat or you can steep plants in water over a certain amount of time to achieve dye greatness.

And then there is the different methods to dyeing in general:  tie-dye, batik, etc……You would think dyeing with plants would be relatively simple.  But it’s not.

And then  you can go even further and go into the realm of chemistry.  You can figure out how dyes bond with materials depending on their (meaning the plants carbohydrates, proteins, etc) chemical composition and what mordants you use to “attach” the dye.

And this just scratches the surface.  Barely scratches the surface.  There is no diamond scratching the surface of glass, but a finger nail scratching the surface of a mirror.  A faint line that can be quickly erased with some Windex and newspaper.

I once took a class with this amazing professor in Colorado.  So many things that he said made so much sense.  Of course many of the things that ended up sticking with me are probably really attributed to someone else, but one thing I remember him saying was that there are no experts.  There is no way that any one person can be an expert in one thing.  How can we ever pretend to know EVERYTHING about a subject?

My Next Punchneedle Design


I have this super-duper aunt and uncle who have been gracious enough to allow us to go to their cabin in northern Minnesota in the summer.  It is a wonderful place to get a way with our kids because you can literally not see any one if you don’t want to.

My son, Jason, spends hours, well he actually spends all of his time either on the dock or in a boat fishing.  The rest of the time he is either eating or sleeping.  He has even been known to sit on the dock in the pitch black with a light up bobber while the other kids are toasting marshmallows.  Needless to say, he really LOVES fishing!

My next idea came from him and from this wonderful cabin.  We’ll see how it turns out, but this is the drawing I created.

As you can see, it is in need of a good ironing job.  I actually drew this several months ago and have been trying desperately to finish other projects before starting on this one.

I do have to say that I have rarely seen Jason sitting at the end of the dock, but I kind of liked the boy sitting at the end of the dock rather than standing.  Plus, then I don’t have to do his legs!

This is also the first design that I have tried to attach DMC floss to the colors that I wanted to use with the project rather than going at it haphazardly.  We’ll see.  I really like doing punchneedle because it is so imperfect and that there can be such variations in colors, unlike cross stitch.

I am really excited to start this project!  I love making these because I typically will draw and color the pictures and when I am finished, my husband will look at the completed punch needle design and the picture I drew and say surprised “It really looks like your drawing.”  I think I might actually be impressing him!  I am hoping to take pictures of this project while I am doing it to show the progression I have made throughout the process.  I have done this with another project (that I ended up not being all that excited about) and it was pretty neat to watch the slide show.