Friday, August 21, 2015

My reading life

(Autumn is definitely on the horizon)
Though I haven't mentioned it, I have been reading and listening to some books as I go about my chores and while I'm sewing or knitting. I really enjoy my Audible membership and have used up credits faster than I can earn them lately. Actual sitting down and reading hasn't happened a lot, but as part of my goal to not be scrolling through Pinterest until the wee hours, I have managed to read a little at bedtime before drifting off. I pre-ordered The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks back in the spring and when it finally came, I didn't get around to reading it for a while. Too bad I didn't jump right into it because it probably would have lifted my spirits while I was convalescing. It's a lovely book about a way of life foreign to most people, but with which I can totally identify. Having finished it, I have somehow managed to get Mike to start reading it and I am now listening to it just because I love hearing it read in a Lake District accent.

I recently read Grandma Gatewood's Walk and then just after I finished, saw it mentioned on Facebook in A Mighty Girl post, which in turn led to this article in the Washington Post. What an amazing and inspiring woman! Following her example would mean I'm not quite ready to turn in my barn boots. And, all those women and girls posted about on A Mighty Girl .....  how I wish I'd had regular infusions of that kind of reading material when I was growing up.

Audible enables me to put books on my iPhone, which I can slip into my pocket and listen to anywhere, and that works perfectly when I want to be on the move. Nothing makes dirty work go faster than having a good book read to you, coming through loud and clear with your ear buds. First, I listened to The Girl on the Train, which was very well written, but in the end, I felt no sympathy for any of the characters. None of them were likeable. I was left wishing I hadn't spent a credit on it. All the Light We Cannot See was a really good book. Also, I found The Nightengale quite good. I've noticed a spate of books based on World War II appearing recently. My father was a tank commander during the war. I had no idea that he'd been in North Africa and Italy, until I found his discharge papers recently. He was only seventeen when he enlisted and what he experienced had a devastating effect on the rest of his life.  It's very thought-provoking to read how it might have affected others. I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't thought much about how it was for the people of France and Italy to be occupied by Nazi troops and the cruelty that was inflicted upon them. Another Audible gem was The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. Though late to the party, I finally got around to Cutting for Stone and then The Snow Child. Lastly, I want to mention Our Souls at Night by Ken Haruf. I thought it was such a sweet little story and holds lessons for those of us with aging parents or are aging ourselves (that would be me).

Mike and I went to see Shaun the Sheep Movie a few weeks ago and found it to be so fun and clever. I'm a huge Wallace and Gromit fan and have collected many of the DVD's to watch with the grandchildren. (And, often by myself.  :-) I'm pretty sure I enjoy them more than the kids do). I can highly recommend it, with or without kids along!

Lastly, a few friends and I went to Louisville recently to check out the new Dyescape dye garden and learn about their program. I so admire the work these young women are doing and hope they are able to accomplish all they've set out to do.

Blessedly, fall is in the air here in central Kentucky. The sheep and I are loving the cooler temperatures and clear (not muggy) days. I'm sure summer heat and humidity are not through with us, but relief is clearly on the way.

Friday, July 31, 2015

All the colors

(storm clouds rolling in)
Oh, these summer days ... they creep and speed by at the same time. It's been hot here and we all were feeling the lethargy that sets in with the heat and humidity of Kentucky summers. There were days after days of thunderstorms, bringing plenty of Great Pyrenees (poor Aslan) scaring lightning and pouring rain. Our part of Kentucky is about 12 inches above normal rainfall for this time of year. How I wish we could send some of that moisture out to the folks on the west coast. The good part of all this rain is that the grass is unusually lush for the end of July, which is great for grazing (maybe not so great for staying caught up with the mowing). Thankfully, the last few days have brought a little respite and we're all feeling better for it.

I've been doing a little sewing. When in Nashville at Craft South, I ask Anna Michelle about a tunic Pierette's mother, Michelle, was wearing (she also works at Craft South). It turned out to be a pattern she had designed and, yes, they did have it for sale (you can also order straight from Green Bee). It has some wonderful details, like hem and sleeve facings that are really nice. I've made two tops so far, and after making some adjustments, the second one turned out just the way I like it. Next I plan to make a few tunics to wear in cooler weather over jeans or leggings. My fabric stash has grown to epic proportions and I really need to get busy making.                                                                             

On the knitting front, I've cast on a Uniform by Carrie Bostick Hoge.  I'm using Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the Cast Iron colorway. If I can stick with it, I know it will become a wardrobe staple. Take a moment to look at Brooklyn Tweed's website. Gorgeous! I love all the colors, even ones I might not normally wear and the color stories for each shade are perfection. I find their whole aesthetic so appealing, it makes me want to buy-all-the-yarn. (Which is crazy when you consider that I go to all the work of growing my own yarn!)

And, speaking of colors, I've also done a little dyeing. Logwood was the first one I attempted after my return from Shakerag and the Maiwa workshop. Once again, I suffered from heavy-handedness (that just might be a theme in my life). The logwood from Maiwa is quite potent (and I remembered Charllotte telling me that after I had made the dyepot. It worked out just fine in the end. I ended up with 30 skeins dyed, in increments of 10, each bundle a few shades lighter than the previous one. Last week a friend invited a few of us over for an indigo dyeing session and that was great fun. I'm totally hooked on indigo now and understand the compulsion to give everything in the house a dip in the indigo vat.

(left-indigo over gray yarn / right-indigo overdye on gray yarn previously dyed with marigold)
(samples from mycopigments dye workshop - all mushroom and lichen dyed)
Several weekends ago Lindy, Marlene and I made a quick trip to Knoxville for a one day mycopigment dye workshop taught by Alissa Allen.  I've long had an interest in mushroom and lichen dyeing, but had not been to any workshops. It was a fun and rewarding day with good friends that brought us all back home to our respective farms, ready to tramp the woods looking for mushrooms. We produced an amazing palette of colors from a few mushrooms and one lichen. It's surprising how many mushrooms have been right under my feet for years and I just hadn't noticed them. While it's not really practical for me to try producing enough mushroom dyed yarn to sell, I'm looking forward to producing some small batches for personal use. I'm also hoping to host Alissa for a workshop here at the farm next year. How great would it be to go out foraging on my own farm with an expert?

Many years ago, when I first began to spin and raise sheep, I was firmly into only the natural colors from my own sheep and truth be told, I probably still love those colors best. Lately I seem to have drifted to being into all colors, though drifted might not be the most accurate of terms. More accurately I have evolved into a lover of all colors. Nature presents us with an unlimited palette and why shouldn't we partake of it all? My recent workshops in natural dyeing have opened my eyes to the beauty of color obtainable from natural sources and while I still have so much to learn, I'm firmly on the path of working with color often.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


(beautiful shibori textiles from India)
(naturally dyed textiles from India)
As I wrote in my last post, I've been on a bit of a workshop bender. Three workshops in four weeks is a lot to take in, but I wanted to learn everything, so my motto became "Do All the Workshops!"

I heard about Shakerag last year when Cal Patch blogged about teaching there. I was surprised to learn that it was in Tennessee, which for me is close to home, as workshop destinations go. For the last two years I've attended workshops at Anna Maria Horner's Craft South in Nashville and have been pleasantly surprised that it is only three hours away and a very easy drive. Shakerag is an hour and a half from Nashville, located outside Sewanee on the campus of an Episcopal boarding school. It's a beautiful campus. The accommodations are in the school dorms, so are fairly basic, but staying in your room is not what you go to Shakerag for anyway. Meals are fabulous and are a great time for getting to know participants in other classes or chatting more with your classmates. The food was simply wonderful. It's mostly local, organic and beautifully prepared. Even the way the food was presented was gorgeous. At every meal the long buffet table was filled with so much goodness, it was hard to choose, so mostly, we just ate all of it!

(a wonderful group of women at Shakerag 2015)
I signed up for the Natural Dyeing class, taught by Charllotte Kwon and her daughter, Sophena Kwon, of Maiwa Handprints, because I'm still trying to get over my fear of dyeing. I've hosted several dye workshops over the years, but what I've discovered is that hosting prohibits being able to fully participate. I just didn't have the confidence to tackle the 350+ skeins of Tanglewood Farm yarn waiting on me. I felt my usual inhibition about going off on my own, where I didn't know anyone, but felt, if nothing else, it would force me to concentrate more seriously on the workshop. That first evening as we went around the room, introducing ourselves, I was feeling seriously intimidated by the number of women in the class who were already teaching natural dyeing, I was ready to put on the dunce cap right then and there. The next morning, when we were given partners for our dyeing assignments, sure enough, I was paired with Carla, who has been teaching at John C. Campbell Folk School for many years. Bless her, Carla was great! Though I made mistakes (being a little heavy-handed when I made our indigo vat), she didn't make me feel bad about it and was encouraging the whole week. This was a class full of the loveliest of women and I feel as though I've made new friends I'll stay in touch with in the future.

(only some of the many samples we dyed)

(pages from my very own finished notebook - I'm very proud of it)
 I honestly don't feel I can do justice to describing Charllotte and Sophena Kwon. The knowledge shared, the organization of class supplies and the amount of information we were given was astounding. These are two women who have a passion for what they do and their enthusiasm is contagious. It was a very hands-on experience and everything was presented in a manner to build confidence. Each person was given a beautiful notebook (full of all the class information) so while we did have informal lecture times each day, we didn't have to be stressed about writing everything down. (By the way, much of the information we were given is available for free on the Maiwa Handprints website.) We dyed samples of various fibers to place with the coordinating information and dye formulas in our notebooks. Upon returning home, I completed my notebook and now have a handy reference to use. In fact, the dye pot has been going for several days now. I'm actually practicing what I learned and it's thrilling to feel so empowered. If you ever have the opportunity to take one of their workshops, don't hesitate .... it was simply a wonderful experience. I'm honestly not sure how I was lucky enough to land there. I had seen the workshop list for Shakerag some time ago and the class was filled. Then I happened to see on a social media site that there was one opening in the class and I immediately sent an email to Claire Reishman, the amazing woman who is director of the Shakerag program. Even though she was vacationing in Italy (I know!), she emailed immediately to tell me the spot was mine. After spending a week at Shakerag, I am even more impressed with her attention to detail. Here's a little example - when I signed in, I was given an information packet that contained my name tag. As is often the case, my name was misspelled on the tag (Diane, rather than Dianne). I'm used to it. When I saw Claire the next day, I thanked her for her quick response to my email and while we were talking, she commented on my misspelled name tag, which was hanging around my neck. I assured her it happened all the time and that was the end of our conversation. I returned from lunch to find a new, correctly spelled name tag on my table! As someone who has gone through my whole life with people not noticing how my name is spelled, I was completely amazed!

(first batch of roving dyed with logwood)
The workshop was a life changing experience for me. I finally feel as though I have a grasp of the steps to achieving the colors I want from natural dyes. There are 350 skeins from previous year's wool clips, that are ready for the dye pot and more than 100 pounds of wool that I'll be taking to the mill soon, to be spun into more yarn. My goal has been to present my yarn to knitters in the most eco-friendly manner possible and I believe I'm going to succeed now.

(and then there's these two, Judith and Lisa - who kept me laughing all week - miss you two and Amy Lou so much!)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Living it up

(Meanwhile, back at the homeplace, Aslan and Peegee contemplate nature)
 I've been absent from this space so long, you might be justified in wondering if I've had a relapse or become incapacitated, when in fact, it has been just the opposite.  If there is anything this past year has taught me, it's that I want to seize opportunities when they present themselves. So, I've been living it up. Sometimes that means stepping outside my comfort zone, pushing on through some discomfort and extending myself beyond what I think I'm capable of at the moment. That's exactly what has been happening this past month and I believe I'm better for it. I've been participating in a workshop extravaganza! Three workshops in four weeks!

(Nicola demonstrates lay-out for eco-dyeing)

First, I took a two day eco-dyeing and felting workshop with fabulous Irish felter, Nicola Brown. Nicola is not just a wonderful teacher, but someone who is a friend and I'll seize any opportunity to spend some time with her. (Mike and I spent four days at Clasheen, her beautiful farm in Ireland, last September, on our way to Scotland, and hope to go back in the future.) The first day of the workshop was spent felting a vessel or purse and the second day was eco-dyeing our felted items along with silk scarves. Eco-dyeing is so much fun because you can never quite predict the results. Nicola encouraged us to bring different plants and leaves to press onto our felted items. I gathered leaves from our Catalpa tree, some sprigs of crown vetch growing on the roadside, ferns and rose leaves. We dipped the leaves in iron water before arranging them on our items, then rolled them into tight bundles and steamed them. The results were fantastic - all different, all equally beautiful.

(the "hinge" is the secret to the bust adjustment)
Next up was a trip to Nashville to Anna Maria Horner's new shop, Craft South, for a workshop on pattern fitting with Liesl Gibson. If you ever have the opportunity to take this workshop, do it! Don't even hesitate to sign up if you are at all interested in making garments that actually fit you correctly. I've complained here often enough so that most of you know, fitting has been my downfall in sewing endeavors. Now I know why and believe I have the knowledge to prevent my mistakes. (Ever heard of a full-bust adjustment?) Liesl also has some great classes on Creativebug that should keep me from forgetting everything I've learned. I can hardly wait to get back to my sewing machine (and I might have made a few fabric purchases in Anna Maria's beautiful shop). Oh, the fabric ... beautiful Liberty, Nani Iro, Cotton and Steel!  It was too much good stuff to resist.

(And here we are, proudly displaying our perfectly fitted muslins)
(a little detail on my muslin)
The workshop was filled with the usual mix of beginning to very experienced sewers. I would guess I fell somewhere in the middle and I tried not to be intimidated. I met some really nice women (Hi Karen!) and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience. One of the bonuses in spending time with a group of like-minded women is the generous sharing of information and sources. It was also a joy to spend time with Anna Maria, Liesl, and the young women who work for Anna Maria (Pierrette and Anna Michelle).

(here's a hint)
As soon as the Nashville workshop was over on Sunday afternoon, I loaded my car and drove straight to Sewanee, Tennessee. Until recently, I had never even heard of Shakerag. Cal Patch taught there last year and it was her blogging about it that got my attention. Here was an incredible workshop resource within 4 1/2 hours of home!  I'll save the details on my week-long natural dye workshop for next time and I promise it will appear in this space within the next week. (I promise!)

I have been overwhelmed with catch-up work since my return. Of course, Mike kept all the animals alive while I was gone, but this is an extremely busy time of year for him, so not much else was done. I spent all day Monday mowing. The garden has a glorious assortment of healthy weeds. (Have I mentioned how much I hate wild morning glories?) and I'm not at all sure I will ever catch up with the laundry and ironing, not to mention filing all those patient records. It is taking all the discipline I possess to stay away from the sewing machine and the dye room until I can bring some semblance of order to the rest of my responsibilities.

(Then there's Midgie, always looking for a little attention)