Sunday, October 30, 2016

Celebrating Diwali

Diwali, the Feast of Lights celebrated by Indian neighbors, triggers huge displays of colored lights on houses and trees, and this morning being the day, the little boy next door and his mom have made this traditional Diwali artwork. covering their front steps like this

All made of live flowers, mostly marigolds, and chalk.  Very cool.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

New Arrivals in the Clan

Today great excitement around here. Two boxes arrived, and two brave Dollivers helped get into them to welcome two new arrivals to what is a growing family of dolls.  

These are gifts from the estate of a lady who died a while back at a very great age, and her daughter gave me custody. These were her mother's dolls, and the outfit on the bisque doll she made herself, very nice work indeed.  

She needs a little work, but I have a bag with the eyes in it, maybe need replacing, not sure, but I have friends to consult about this.  And if you can help me identify it beyond knowing it's bisque, with a sort of leather like body, Japanese made in German style, please do!  No idea about date. 

Here's the mark on the back of her neck.  You can see that the wig might have been cut by a little girl playing with her doll.  This doll was played with, no staying in the box for her, I'm guessing.
The Nippon collectors' site gave a similar mark but said they didn't have information.

The other is what I think might be called a bed doll?  big sweeping skirts, flirty hat, highly colored face.  Mrs Slocum would love her. And so do I in fact.

The Dollivers were a little intimidated by the size of these newcomers, but soon made their peace when they realized the newcomers already had their own outfits and wouldn't fit into D clothes anyway, so they were safe.  I must remember to ask my friend if they had names, if she knows them.

Meanwhile, I really love this addition to the dollerie.  Now I have to see about how to display all the various sizes and kinds of dolls. I'm not really a collector, but they just sort of show up and ask to be mine.  Not unlike the way all my pets have come to me.  I did make the Dollivers on purpose, with a career in mind for them, but all the tiny ones made from buttons and cotton reels and pipe cleaners just sort of found their way in.  And now this great new branch of the family.

Entirely possible they may have a role in the Land of Blog, too, come to think of it.  But for now they have homes

 one surveying the whole place

the other ensconced in her position as matriarch of the Dolliver clan. Thanks so much, Sue!  they fit in already.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dyeing and spinning results, and Duncan sits in judgment

I noted earlier that Duncan has to be removed from the vicinity of the Spanish merino roving, since he loses his mind around it, and I don't want kitty drool all over it.  Oddly enough, the Coopworth doesn't have the same effect.  Maybe Spanish sheep are more hotblooded than Kiwi ones?

Anyway, he's safe around the Coopworth, and aside from Marigold dying to help with the spindle, things are pretty calm.  He did take a bit out of the bag, though, to test his theory, but it didn't seem to have that kick for him.

So here's the current spinning and dyeing output.

The spinning is improving as I go, and the dyeing is always a surprise.

Here you see left  a ball of natural colored Coopworth, lovely creamy color, and a ball (I have forgotten again to measure lengths, must get into the habit) of merino in green, top right, which was the result of beet and red cabbage, go figure.  And the merino dyed with turmeric, unmistakably, top left, plus the latest, bottom right, black walnut on Coopworth. The yarn on the spindle is natural Coopworth.

These are all very delicate, really pleasing colors,with a lot of variation, unlike the flat color of synthetic dye, which has its place, but not right now. And I'm glad to say I remembered to label them. 
I have dyed using Koolaid in the past and got some vibrant colors, for different purposes. 

I'm thinking since I'm still a spinning novice, that I will try reversing hands and see how that works for me, before I get too used to a single method.  I do have mixed dominance anyway, and it might equalize the wear and tear on my shoulders if I can spin with either hand at will.  

It will also mean that I'll probably be spinning the opposite twist to now, which I'll have to note in case I ever get to plying, when it Will Matter.  Currently I spin counterclockwise, which is an s twist, if I've got it right.  Clockwise would be a z twist.  There are technical reasons for using one or the other which I haven't found out about yet, but I bet it's all in my Respect the Spindle book.

Next I plan to haul out the giant bag of iris cut up leaves from the freezer and see what color that gives me in the dyebath.  I also might use the iris pulp to make paper, and I think I can probably use it in the dyebath with the yarn, and then blend it in small batches to make a vat of paper pulp.  I need to get out my natural dyeing book and see what she says about the color from iris, but there are so many variables in natural materials that it's only a general sort of indicator.

I'll let you know how that goes. This output of homespun might go for knitting things to use, or it might be knitted into a wallhanging or two.  All the Things to Do!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Multitasking in the studio, on the one hand, spindles, on the other, dyeing, on the third, transparencies

Before I make a pot of tea and thankfully sit down with an Emma Lathen to read, I thought you might like to see the latest doings around here, in the studio, that is.  

Many doings on the renovation and on Neighbors' Great Ideas Complicating It, and kitty Duncan's downturn in health, and incessant callers at the door trying to get me to switch my utility provider, and well, never mind, the studio is always there.

So I did take a shot at making a few spindles, just for the halibut, and learned a ton about why they do or don't work. And learned to appreciate  my Schacht ones better, too.

I recycled a couple of ancient CDs with material on them no modern program will display, so no loss, and cut a length of dowel, dug out O rings from my Dorset Button Caper, and tried it out. The combo of CDs and O rings fit the dowel snugly, with a bit of help from duct tape, and all it needs is a cup hook in the top.

I tested this by doing larks head knots in place of a hook, and was not impressed by my expertise. Also the spinning action was okay, but too soon over.

And another knitting needle, with two thingies from the kit I got when we learned the braiding from Charlene, they fit well, but are too light in weight to work well, need more ballast.

Then the ancient  knitting needle and the metal thingie I found in the kitchen drawer, again, lovely snug fit, and the needle willing to spin evenly, but again too short, the metal thingie needing more width to work well physically. That's a WIP.  No knitting needles were harmed in the course of this experiment, no glue got on them, and they can go back to being needles when needed.

As you see I did test them all, using Coopworth roving, and they all made a pretty nice yarn, but it would be labor intensive to use them for long.  But a great experiment, one which caused me to run up and down many flights to corral all the ideas and pieces in one place at one time.  Never knew building spindles was aerobic.

Then on to the yarn I'd finished and hanked and soaked overnight to dye today.  I squeezed it out till damp, then put it in the dye, brought to the simmer, one hour at that temp, gradual cooling, and now it's hanging to dry.  And here's where natural dyes have it all over the synthetic ones when it comes to surprise results.  You know how a synthetic dye gives you the color you expect, based on the dye color?  Enter the world of nature.

Here I used a deep purple mixture of red cabbage, and beet with a mordant (probably alum, forget and the notes are across the room), and what a surprise when I lifted out the hank and rinsed it, to find it is a lovely shade of sort of green. 

And more surprise still, where it's draining, the dye draining out of it is the original dark red.  Hm. In bright daylight, more green shows, then in artificial light, more pinkish green.

This is where it's good to have the artist's rather than the artisan's temperament, I suppose.  I don't mind the surprise, but if I had my heart set on that dye color I'd be really irritated.

Interestingly, the other pink, the red maple and red onionskin one, came out pretty true, and the turmeric was unmistakably true to color.  So it's an interesting mystery. 

But the world of technology tends to run truer to expectations, and here are the latest images to be printed on silk, originally watercolors, one a Tyvek mixed media over dyed fabric.

I still need to overlay and combine these with other transparencies I already printed out, so that's still to come.  These can all be reproduced at will, so they will be on sale at very fair prices.  I have the original artworks, and you can still have an artwork, overlaid, printed on silk, and not duplicating the original.  The combinations will vary, so this will be fun.  Get in touch if you want to know more.  I can ship matted, unframed.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Before I move gently on from spinning, here's a great book

The spinning is going on apace, and one thing that's great about being a beginner is that you can see your improvement on a single cop -- that's the yarn on the spindle.  Yesterday's output was clearly better by the end of the cop than it had been at the beginning where it was lumpy and bumpy and not too yarny. By the end it was much more even and fine, and generally yarn like.

I will go on spinning just won't bore you with it any further!  this happens with all my artwork -- it all goes on apace, even when I don't write about it.  A lot of things go on in my life that don't make it into here, in fact, despite the innocents who tell me this is my journal....nooo.

Anyway, before I go on to write of other things, here's my entire spinning library, arrived today, and I stopped everything and went out on the patio, lovely mild day, to read and drink lemonade.

Respect the Spindle by Abby Franquemont, respected by many spinners as a great teaching book on history, culture, spinning techniques and why they evolved where they did, and the physics of spindle spinning. Also why it's an end in itself, not just the gateway to using a wheel..

The pix in the book are simply great, you have to see them.  And Abby Franquemont is an excellent spinner and teacher -- her videos on youtube full of encouraging sounds and that's nooooooormal interjected into the various stage of spinning she demonstrates.  

So though I'll be spinning and dyeing -- I now have a nice hank of Coopworth waiting to be dyed, as well as the cop you see on my spindle -- I'll be getting on with other plans, such as framing the transparencies. And with building a few spindles.  I wonder if a knitting needle and a small rubber wheel of some kind would work...must look around and see what I can press into service.  Toy wheels are used, too, and CDs, but that doesn't interest me so much.

Also kicking myself for ending the plein air season last week, because of a series of cold Mondays.  Today was wonderful, and I hope some of the artists ignored me and went out anyway.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Coopworth arrived, dyeing continued, and learning goes on apace

While I was waiting for the exciting Coopworth roving to arrive, from New Zealand sheep via Louet and Dharma Trading, I thought about including spinning into my meditation practice.  I had got pretty calm learning with the merino, and started even making better yarn. Ambitious thoughts about mindful spinning, creative sugar plums..

So the Coopworth arrived, smelling wonderfully clean-sheepy, and all the meditation went out the window. It's different. Despite all the places where I was assured it was easy to spin, that did not prove to be my experience.  

After breaking the fiber umpteen times, hardly ever happened with merino, and getting very annoyed with everything, I checked it out.  After I decided I was no good at spinning, that I had the wrong fiber, wrong house, holding my mouth wrong, all that. Turns out that I was probably using the wrong weight spindle. It just wasn't spinning long enough to draft and move the twist up the yarn, hence the breakages.  

I have three of these spindles, Schacht, if you're interested, maple, 4, 3 and 2.5 inches, forget the weights.  I was using the lightest, which had worked fine with the merino, as had the medium. I'd used the biggest with my own fleece.  But now I had to switch.  

Here are the experiments, and though the yarn is beginnerish, you see it's fluffier than the merino, so better for a less fine yarn. On the left you see older spun yarn, including the ball of newly dyed merino and the red mixture one is random dyed with Koolaid, using the fleece I processed, proud of having done that.

So I tried all three spindles with the Coopworth, and the larger ones are definitely more the ticket.  I also found that I can't spin it as fine as the merino, so this is for sturdier yarn.  At least in the hands of this spinner.  

I think there's a lot of personal variation in how spindles and yarns work, despite the assurances of expert spinners who can do all this on their heads with their eyes shut.

So now thoughts of the meditative aspect are beginning to return. Like knitting, it's very calming once you are adept at it, but in the beginner mind stage it can be a quick route to a stiff drink.

And the yarn I already had spun, from the fleece I processed years ago, and spun years ago, has had its turn in the dye, turmeric this time, and do admire this wonderful gold result. It looks as if there's a light behind it, just wonderful. On the right is a ball which I unraveled to let it dry,but the other bits are random stuff from the bag, which will probably end up in weavings.

Oh, and I measured the length of the yarn I dyed with the red maple and red onionskins, and it turns out I spun about 30 yards, amazing, really. Now I believe people who say they spin miles of yarn.

Natural dyes don't keep the smell of their original materials long, in case you wondered, so you don't have to be concerned that your yarn will smell of onions or turmeric or whatever you used to dye with. I've been asked this a number of times when people have seen me stuffing bags of onionskins into the water to cook for dye. Same with using vinegar as a mordant. The smell dissipates pretty fast.

Unlike the lovely sheepy smell of good yarn. Or llama smell, or alpaca, or whatever it is.  That seems to be hardwired into the fleece.  And the urge to acquire more roving of different kinds, and many more spindles, seems to be coming over me..But I think I have to resist.  I still have to buy groceries.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Dyeing continues, with natural dyes

When I originally made the natural dyes from local plant material and put the output in the freezer, quite a few people asked me if it would work. Not knowing, I had to say, well, let's find out later.  

So here I took out two containers of red natural dye, from Japanese red maple and from red onionskins, and tried out my experiment. Two parts to the experiment, though, testing how my homespun yarn would take up dye, and testing whether the dye would still retain its nature after freezing.  The containers have been in the bottom of a chest freezer for about a year and a bit.

I think the answer to both is: yes, fine!

I took out the frozen chunks, and after resoaking the yarn which had dried on the doorknob nicely, figured why not add it in to the thawing dye, which I was bringing to the simmer, just as you do with yarn dyeing anyway.  

So I did that, and at the simmer, turned off the heat, and left the pot with yarn overnight.  This morning the first thing I thought of when I woke, after cursing the cats for shouting at me to get their breakfast, was to lift out the yarn and see how it had worked. 

And before anyone asks anxiously if those are cooking utensils, no, they are dyeing things, dedicated pots and spoons and tongs, and all that, strictly for dyeing and put away on a special shelf between uses.

And I now have a skein of a lovely soft peach pink yarn, hanging up to dry.  In the top picture you can see the original color soaking in that small container. I must measure it to see how many yards, before I figure out what I can use it for.  It might be enough for a phone purse.  

Next turmeric is out of the freezer and ready to see if that worked, or if it separated in any way.  This doesn't have to be a great big operation.  Easy to do a small amount at a time.  A bit like making jam, come to think of it:  you see large operations in books for both natural dyeing and for jam making, using huge quantities and making enough for the foreseeable future.  But you don't actually have to do this.  

This is a throwback to the days before freezers were common, so you had to use the output when you had it, from your garden or fields.  But we can freeze small quantities, and thaw and use for both dyeing and jam.  Different pots and pans...

And on the spinning front, I want to learn to spin on the fold -- this is the way you see people on videos spinning with what looks like a fistful of roving.  I've been spinning the other way, with a pre-separated, by me, length of roving crossing my hand and ready to feed to the spun thread.  Either way is fine, but it's good to know how to do both.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Spinning continues, with dyeing in the offing

So I spun some more, then wound the product, a length of merino spun into a single, that's one ply,  onto my DIY niddy noddy, to make a hank. You can vary the size of hank by using different lengths of pvc piping, easy to add, since this whole thing comes apart without tools. You can cut lengths with a hacksaw.

In the course of winding onto the niddy noddy, which took all my powers of concentration and colorful language to get it all in the right direction and not crossing over, I noticed the bag of roving heaving up and down, and snorting and snoofling sounds coming from it.  

Duncan in there, tripping out on the roving, which has the same effect on him as catnip.  I hauled him out, drooling and glassy eyed, Duncan, not me, whereupon he staggered over to punch out Marigold.  She drew herself up to her full six pounds, half his size, and snarled you talkin to me??  and he discreetly withdrew and wove away to take a nap.

I did run into a beginner's problem in the winding in that in one place the yarn snapped, but I just put the end on the spindle, and spun  the broken ends together, and now you'd never know.
Close up to see the yarn a bit better

This yarn thickness and consistency is far from expert, but it's also far from where I was a while back, so I'm okay with it. That red bit is the leader yarn I used to start it on the spindle.

Washed it in fabric detergent meant for this sort of thing (Dharma Trading's version of Synthropol).  Rinsed, then had fun whacking it about.  You take the hank, now wet and tied here and there to keep it together, and whack it loudly on the floor a time or two, moving around it so it all gets hit.  This has something to do with setting the twist, forget exactly what. It's fun, though.

Then you hang the damp skein on a doorknob with a handy weight to hold it down, important to keep some tension there, otherwise it will all curl round on itself and be intractable.  The weight in this case is a large conch shell, which is working a treat.

When this is dry, giving it a day or two, I fancy using some of my natural dyes in the freezer to paint on and dye them with. I need to get them out to thaw, come to think of it.  I'll keep you updated on that as it goes.  I also plan to learn to ply using this yarn, which is now at least fine enough to try two ply, and see how that goes.

I will have to ply in the opposite direction from the way I spun, in order for it to work.  So since I usually spin counterclockwise, holding the roving in my left hand, and using right finger and thumb to spin the spindle, I will just switch hands, hold the threads in my right hand,  and use the left finger and thumb to spin the spindle, which will send it clockwise.  This is where mixed dominance comes in very handy.

At least, as always, that's the plan! And I got some interesting ideas on other kinds of roving, so now I'm awaiting a little shipment of Coopworth, which I'm told is easy to spin, which I will be glad of. Merino actually is okay, but it will be interesting to see how Coopworth compares.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Spinning again

The change of season always triggers a need to change artforms.  Or rather to add in seasonal ones to what is already happening in the studio. 

Spring into summer is about plein air drawing and painting, and papermaking. Fall is more about indoors and different textures. Winter might bring more book making.  Or possibly knitting my spun yarn.

So I decided to pick up my spindle again today and see if my shoulder and wrist are recovered enough to work with the spindle and the roving, and all the sustained and continuous movements they need.  And the other goal is to improve the fineness and consistency of my yarn, an ongoing push.

I found that I was able to spin for quite a while, see the output on the spindle, ready to be added to before moving it to the niddynoddy for twist setting.  I was so grateful that I was able to just do this without thinking about anything that might hurt, and think only about creating the yarn and improving my skills. And I see that my yarn is definitely improving over the last time I worked with it. But I stopped before overdoing it, thereby improving my skill in doing that, too.

Spinning is meditative and wonderful, grounds you in the universe as you create your spiral, the unit of the universe, in your hands. And it's a great antidote to anxious times, political and otherwise.

It's also great to wander about YouTube in search of videos about spinning using early spindles and other methods of working with roving other than tossing it over the back of your hand! Some wonderful yarn comes from extremely simple tools, such as a stone for a spindle.  But they rely on terrific skill in the spinner, far in the future for this one. 

And some videos show a spinner so skilled that you can't really see what she's doing, so it's good to see, but hard to learn from.  This is one time when a less skilled, but still good, spinner is the best teacher, at least on video where you can't get different views and ask questions in real time. When I did the residency last spring, one session I demonstrated spindle spinning, not too badly, and my consolation was that at least I knew more than my audience, who were thrilled and amazed to see how it happened.

I like to spin in a neutral color because I can go on to dye it later. Well, dyeing is really a spring and summer activity, but I expect I could do it with the dyes I have already in the freezer from last spring.

And here's where I ask blogistas who know about these things, what roving do you suggest I try next? I'm using Spanish Merino, pretty good for spinning, but not as lofty and fluffy as some.  I have been given little quantities of alpaca roving, and that's very good to work with.  I think I can get that locally, too.  But does anyone have any good notions about this?  all suggestions happily received.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

More silk imagery

A few more experiments in silk overlay imagery.  I'm using my drawings or stitching or other artworks, printing the image on silk and layering it.  This is the greatest fun.  It's very much like my early days of computer assisted art, waaaaay back in the 80s, when I overlaid images, drawing directly into the system, using my photographs, too, and paintings,  and made some interesting work.  

That was on a Rube Goldberg setup at the local community college, where they obligingly let me use the computer lab for many hours in addition to official class time.  

Two complete large old computers, linked together, with a stylus for drawing, and a keyboard for commands, and you had to learn the commands for the somewhat primitive program, though wonderful for its time.  

And if you wanted to make pix of your work, there being only one printer in the country at that time capable of such multicolored demanding images, and it was in California, well, as I say, you stuck your film cartridge into the intestines of the setup in order to film images, which you then got developed like normal pix. And each image filled an entire floppy disk.  Not called scanning then, called image grab.

Great adventure, and I thought I was really cutting edge!  It was certainly a workout for all parts of the brain, figuring out commands while drawing and collaging artworks and photography electronically.

I did get into some good places with that art, in real life and on the internet, so it was rewarded. Got my first corporate show from it, too, with computer assisted image prints and monotypes, extreme ends of the printmaking spectrum, from high tech to all handmade.

But back to the present, these silk printed images are  great to work with because you can change the permutations, use the same image printed out on separate silk gauze sheets to create different finished works, and just endlessly experiment.  And the great advantage over computer assist is that you physically handle them, so you use more than just visual perception.

Cicadas reaching for the stars!

Evening Primrose at the Canal

Goldwork oakleaf and acorns over orchids

Tree ink drawing over tree painting

Mallow leaning over canal stocked with trout, ink drawing over painting on canvas

Lichen over orchid watercolor painting

Flowers seen from the cicada's viewpoint, ink drawings layered

Most of these are two layers, and I'll use a smear of fabric glue to adhere them to one another and to the backing before I frame them. These are all 8x11 inches or thereabouts.  This is probably going to be the start of a solo exhibit somewhere.  But I'm in several group shows where I can give a couple of them a trial run.

Interesting to see that the depth of these images shows up in rl much more than on the screen.  Not a problem, since they'll be shown mostly in real life settings.  As always, all my work is for sale, just inquire within!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Plein Air, near the end of the season

Plein air is getting near the end of the season, but still some lovely days to enjoy outside, and the falling leaves are exposing the trees more each week.  Some fallen bark pieces, too, and lichen everywhere, like natural jewelry.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Stars aside, printing on silk continues

This is possibly one of the most interesting ideas I ever had.  Like image transfer only better, like making artworks one at a time only better, like endless chances for inventing and recombining, it's all that.

I mean printing your own artwork out on silk organza, transparent, and wonderful when you peel the silk off the backing and this amazing transparent image floats about in front of you. Then you overlay it with other artworks and new works appear that never existed before in the separate artworks.  And you can switch the overlay to see what happens next.  

This kind of play is a wonderful place to be in, just visual excitement and enjoyment going on all at once.  Later comes the issue of framing and presentation, but this doesn't need to be considered at this point.

Here is what happened today, anyway, and a throwback to an earlier trial

 Lichen overlaid over flower drawing

Fish monotyped on canvas, (a tote bag, full disclosure!) printed on silk with silk underlay

Red Orchid watercolor over cicada ink drawings

Cicada over stitched goldwork on linen printed on silk

Goldwork stitching on linen over cicada drawings, printed on silk

And the cartridge is running out of color, so I seize the opportunity to get broken and patchy color while I can get it.  I have new cartridges on order, and then the colors will be more literal.  But for now, the pink and blue ranges are working fine.

These are all 8 x 11 inches, though the original artworks vary a lot from that.  The cicadas blew up into massive size, and I still like them.  The other works were much larger and the reduction still works okay.  

So the silk overlay adventure is definitely on track.