Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Day Tomorrow

First day of school for my kindergartner is tomorrow. It's a full day of school, and I'm going to miss her like crazy. Oona, on the other hand, was born ready to go! I couldn't send her off without something Mama-made to begin her journey, so I had to use some wizardry to finish up this fox trot dress this evening. Thank goodness Daddy did dinner, bath, and bedtime stories, or it never would have come together. She was asleep before I finished, so I laid it on her bed to surprise her in the morning. She had actually told me that it was okay if it wasn't done on time... bless her socks... she'd just wear it another day. What a big girl for saying that! Still, I'm happy to give her some Mama magic to start off her kindergarten days. Elsa starts preschool on Thursday, and I've got to get busy finishing the next fox trot dress. I predict that I will be an emotional ball of goo for the next few weeks, but also quite happy for some new found time on my own. I only hope the road is much smoother for my little ones.

Joining in with KCCO over at Frontier Dreams .

Monday, August 29, 2016

In the Garden: Sunflower and Morning Glory Stor

I must remember to keep bringing in fresh bouquets while they are still to be had!

Giant sunflowers have been planted in all directions throughout the yard... I can't help but give them human-like qualities when I see them.

That mess of wild in the center of the yard is the garden! It sure is lovely to sit and watch a bonfire with the garden a stones throw away.

Oona in the birch structure covered in morning glories.

The Fairy Thrown adorned in morning glories

My garden gnome, Elsa, resting on the Fairy Thrown.

Nasturtiums at the base of the Fairy Thrown

I love these pale blue morning glories... I love them all, really!

Our faithful sunflowers reaching for the sky so proudly as they do this time of year. I love to see the chickadees feasting every morning.

Oona Vision: close up of a morning glory

Oona Vision: Close up of a sunflower... I love how they are made up of so many little star shapes!

Oona Vision: Inside of a squash flower

Oona Vision: Elsa on the see-saw... You can see our birch structure in the background

Oona Vision: Mama trying to save the tomatoes
Oona Vision: Elsa on the loose
Oona Vision: Red Roses
Jack-o-lantern growing on the hillside

Black beans

Border flower garden
Border flower garden from the roadside and goldenrod

Acorn Squash

A look down at our jungle from on our hill
Oona Vision: Mama lost in the jungle
Squash, pumpkins, elderberries, and kale seed pods... Fall must be on it's way!

The garden in late August here is a bit like a lost world. I've certainly given up on some things, and though I love being out there, part of me dreams of lazier days in late Fall and winter. I'm excited to see the jack-o-lantern pumpkins begin to orange-up. I've become a lazy canner this year and will probably only can tomatillos as salsa because there's just so many of them. I only grew enough to cucumbers this year to eat fresh, as I was not feeling up to the task of pickle making this year, especially since I'm now the only one in the house that eats them. I still haven't been able to outsmart the critters who steal our corn. I thought they'd near forgotten it, but then, a few nights ago, when it was down pouring rain, they appear to have had quite the party in our little patch. I use to blame the raccoons, but discovered a small hole in the hillside near where they grow that suggests possibly groundhogs. Jake also thinks it could be skunks! I just imagine this crazy crew of foxes, raccoons, skunks, groundhogs and moles having a feast and laughing all the while at the silly humans who made it so easy for them to take it! Oh well. We have enjoyed some corn this year, which hasn't always been the case in previous years. I won't go on about my tomato and sadly, pumpkin, frustrations... I'll just say that too much wetness has led to some heart breaking losses. Trudge on... there is still much to do, much to harvest... how is your gardening doing this time of year?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Dyeing with Beets and Beans

Beets harvested from the garden.
They look like beautiful gemstones inside.

After simmering the beets in water for a couple hours, I strained them out.
Yarn simmering in alum mordant. Elsa promptly asked why I was making pasta.
Beet brownies made from the left over beets. I also pickled some of the beets.
Beet brownie being eaten without complaint or question...
Preparing more yarn for dying. I made a loop around a book and then tied it to secure the yarn.
Then I wound the yarn until it was wrapped around the book, tying a loop with the end of the yarn around the yarn with a knot.
Before pulling my yarn off the book, I loosely secured it with three more rings of yarn to keep it from tangling in the water.

It makes a wonderful yarn crown! And now it's ready for the dye bath.
Fresh beet butterfly as a garnish for a "kid salad." (sneaky mom trick to get them to eat beets and salad)
First yarn in the dye bath.
Cold water bean dye (heating wrecks the color) and heated beet dye.
Yarn drying
Fall slippers for little feet, dye samples from solar experiment, and my inspiration for all this, "A Garden to Dye For" by Chris McLaughlin.

So, as promised, I'm finally sharing my first attempt at dyeing with natural materials. I did two experiments within a couple days time with beet and black bean dyes. I chose to grow beets purely for dyeing because of their gorgeous color. Truth be told, when I planted the seeds, I was not that big a fan of beets as an edible. In fact, when I planted them, I was pretty sure I couldn't stand beets. However, after my one row of planting turned out to be much more than needed for my little experiment, I decided to give them a second try. I found that I could tolerate them shredded and mixed onto my daily lunch time veggie wrap, and after a month of eating them, I might even go so far as to say that I like them!

Dyeing with beets, on the other hand, was easy to love! Each step offers a small thrill, from harvesting these large round roots from the garden to the moment you cut into them and you see their beautiful geode-like interior, to creating the dye and finally seeing the beautiful new color created through the dyeing process. They have a deep and almost shocking fuschia color when you slice into them that miraculously came out a soft peachy salmon through natural dyeing . The dyeing process ended up taking about four days (aside from planting and growing time!)... pre-soaking the material and then heating and soaking it in alum mordant over night and then heating it in the dye bath after letting the dye bath simmer with the beets for a couple hours, letting the material soak up the dye for two days, and finally, washing it out and hanging it to dry. My dye bath must have been a little too hot when I placed the wool in it because it did felt together a little, but not so much that it was unusable. So, note to self: make sure dye is perfectly cool before adding the yarn. The bonus of growing beets for dyeing is that the beets were still usable after creating the dye. I made a jar of refrigerator pickled beets and made some beet brownies (which tasted a bit more like chocolate cake, then brownies, but still good). Oh, the kids gobbled it down, never once suspecting that I put a root vegetable in their treat.

Food was also the benefit of using black beans to dye. In order to make black beans from scratch, you  usually soak them in water overnight and then rinse them and cook them in a new pot of water. So, instead of throwing the old water down the drain, you can use it as a cold water dye bath. This means you never heat the dye up to extract color. I added the yarn the next morning. I reused the alum to pre-soak the yarn while the beans were soaking. I think you can get away with reusing the alum once before you need a new batch. In order to get the almost denim blue color that you see in the pictures, I had to add a bit of baking soda to the dye bath. I just added it until it seemed an appealing color. Black beans are considered a fugitive dye... which means they fade over time and don't stand up well to repeated washing and sunlight. My original plan for the bean dye was to use it for some small baskets.... something that would stay inside, needed minimal washing, and could be placed out of the sunlight. However, when I saw the beet yarn and bean yarn side by side, I knew that I need to combine the two somehow.

We've had some crisp mornings whispering of Fall, so I knew warm woolly slippers for little feet might be just the thing. I am currently working on a pair for Oona. I thought Elsa would like matching ones, but she has requested purple ones, and wants me to make some purple dye next. Hmm... I'll have to think about that one. The thing with dyeing is that the results are not always what you expect, especially for an amateur. For the beets, I thought for sure they would come out a soft ballerina pink from pictures I had seen, but no, the color is more like a cantaloupe melon. I think my next dye experiment will be with amaranth, as it's in abundance in the garden, and I'm hopeful for a beautiful color, though I haven't found many examples. Anyone else have any fun experiments going on? Dyeing is definitely addicting. You start to see new potential in every plant. But I'll have to put that on hold to get some new fox dresses ready for back to school. I can't believe summer vacation is coming to an end! Ah! Why does life go so fast?!


Joining in with KCCO over at Frontier Dreams .

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Solar Dyeing


 We've been experimenting around here! Oona was very interested in my indoor dyeing experiments with beets and black beans (which I'll share soon!) so I decided to give her a project of her own. We gathered some jars and plant material and filled them with water and set them on the porch for a couple days to soak up the color. Unfortunately, one of the those days it rained, so we didn't get the maximum sun power that the project could use. Ideally, it's better to use giant mason jars and cram them with material, but we used what we had. We also discovered some kitchen ingredients... coffee grounds, carrot peels and frozen blueberries that seemed good candidates. The experiment is still in progress. I soaked material in mordant to fix the dye to the material before rinsing and adding the fabric to the jars. I did simmer the mordant and simmer the fabric to give it the full effect. Some of the dyes soaked up color well in the sun, and we strained the plant material and added the fabric. For the ones that hadn't soaked up the color well, we just added the fabric in with  plant materials. They need another day or so on the porch before they can be removed and rinsed and finally dried. The next exciting adventure will be deciding what to make with the remnants. 

Joining in with KCCO over at Frontier Dreams .