My garden is bursting with French marigolds and I've always wanted to try my hand at dyeing with the blossoms so yesterday I gathered up enough to line the bottom of my stainless steel dye pot. Earlier in the morning I had mordanted a few skeins of wool yarn with alum and so I set about making the dye. I covered the marigolds with hot water and set it outside on a burner to come to a boil. I allowed it to boil for an hour or so and ended up with a lovely ruby colored brew.
I took my wetted skein and immersed it in the dye and set about simmering it for an hour or so. It was amazing to see the color transition on the yarn as morphed from a dull pale yellow to an amazing chartreuse.
There was still a little red dye left in the pot after I finished this skein so I added some cutch powder to it. Cutch comes from the heartwood of a tree that grows throughout Asia and creates beautiful warm browns.
After I was done dyeing with cutch I added some cochineal dye. Cochineal comes from scale insects that live on prickly pear cactus in South America and the dye has been used for hundreds of years to dye fabrics, cosmetics and food products. It's a very intense color and the half tablespoon I put in my dye pot yielded enough for three skeins of yarn to be dyed in a gradation of color with a little dye left over.
I've only done a few natural dye pots here and there so this was a fun adventure. I think I'd like to get into this a bit more. Here's a photo of my results with the three cochineal skeins on the left, followed by the marigold chartreuse and ending with the brown cutch skein.
I'm slipping! I managed to let a month go by without a post. A quick recap of my month:
I'm continuing to do yoga daily, 30 to 50 minutes each afternoon.Once or twice a week I'm lifting 5 pound weights to a 15 minute online video.In addition, I've been cutting back on carbs and meat, upping the veggies, limiting sugar, and trying (but not always succeeding) in cutting beer consumption down to one a week. I'm losing pounds, inches, and gaining flexibility and strength. I think I've finally found what works for me. I don't have to spend any money or leave the house to do my yoga practice and I'm feeling amazing!
I went to York recently to visit my mom in the nursing home and to stay overnight with my brother and his wife. My mom was celebrating her 87th birthday and everytime we mentioned it to her it was news! I don't know how many times she said, "What? It's my birthday?" She was in a very good humor, which was good to see. I never know what to expect. I've just learned to go with the flow when it comes to interacting with her. She still thinks my dad is alive (he died in 2009) and I've found that it's best to go along with her version and humor her and then divert the subject. Anyway, it was a very nice visit though every time I leave I wonder if it is the last time I'll see her.
I had a good visit with my brother and sister-in-law and got to meet their two new cats. They lost three elderly cats in the course of a year, which was very hard on them and it was nice to see these two three-year-old female siblings settling into the family.
I also got together for breakfast with a friend that I'd not seen in 36 years. Sheldon went to highschool and college with me and we were both fine art majors so had a number of classes together over the years. He went on to get his MFA in sculpture. He ended up in York 28 years ago after several career moves as a sculptor. He had no idea I'd spent 6 years of my childhood there and the internet helped us connect again about a decade ago. It was great to see him in person - our two hours together flew by as we caught up on things and it didn't feel as though 36 years had gotten in the way. I love when you can pick right up with someone after such a long time.
I was only gone overnight on my trip to York and came back on a Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday my dear old cat Zip, whom I've had since 1999, told me in no uncertain terms that it was time to go. He suffered some kind of neurologic event. I had been nursing him along since spring when he developed problems with walking and was diagnosed with severe arthritis. During the summer I watched him lose muscle and grow gaunt and bony, even though his appetite was fairly good. He remained his loving and devoted self and I began to question how one decides end of life for an elderly pet.I'd been discussing it with my brother since they'd had lots of geriatric cat experience and he said, "He'll let you know." I'd been wishing for some direct signal for months now. I'm so grateful I was back from my overnighter and was there for Zip when he finally made it known that he was ready to go. I took him to the vets and they offered heroic measures but fully supported my decision. Kevin managed to get home from work and we were with him as he made the peaceful journey. I don't think I've ever adored or been adored by a cat the way I was by him. He was my Buddy Boy. The past ten days have been tough as Kevin and I come to grips with the fact that he's no longer with us. We're both hearing and seeing him in all the old places and I'm missing that warm presence on my lap.
Oh Life. You're all about the relationships, the connections, the love, the reconnecting, and the letting go.
A few weeks ago I joined the squirrels in my yard and began to gather acorns.My yard has huge old pin oaks, some so large that Kevin and I can't join our arms around the base of the trunk. With oaks come acorns every few years. It surprised me that oaks don't produce them yearly, but when they do, they rain down on our house and yard with surprising intensity. I've even joked about wearing a hard hat to go outside!
Anyway, my intentions were to dye some of my handspun yarn with acorns so I started filling a couple of mason jars with acorns and water and left it to sit a couple of weeks. I also put a small piece of steel wool in a couple of cups of vinegar in another mason jar to create a little rusty natural dye magic.
Today I decided to try my luck with what I had. I put the acorns and liquid in a stainless steel pan on my stovetop and brougnt it to a boil for an hour or so. I'd heard that acorns smell acrid but the smell that filled my house was sweet like the forest floor.
While the acorns were steeping I washed a skein of two-ply handspun Falkland along with a skein of commercial superwash Corriedale. Once the acorn dye pot had achieved a deep color I put the two wetted skeins of yarn into the dye pot and let it simmer for an hour or so.
The yarn took on a medium tan color. I was hoping to get something a bit deeper but this is a nice warm natural shade and I like it. I pulled part of the dyed tan yarn out and let it hang over the pot so as not to lose the tan color. I then began the magic part of the process - I added the rusty water from the dissolved steel wool into the dye pot. It instantly turned the tan acorn dye black!
I allowed my wool to simmer for another hour until I liked the intensity of the color and then I removed it, allowed it to cool a bit and then rinsed.
The finished yarn is now drying outdoors and it smells amazing. I love the colors I was able to achieve.Here's a shot of the yarns drying in front of one of the oaks.
I'm not quite sure if I'm done with the dyeing yet. There are marigolds and tansy to collect in the garden yet and another layer may be applied. I haven't decided on that. I'm thinking I'm going to use the handspun to knit myself a cowl.
This was a pleasant way to spend a September Saturday afternoon.
I'm feeling pretty pumped! A few days ago I finished up my 30 day yoga challenge and have started the next 30 day challenge. Me!! Someone who buys gym memberships, goes for two weeks and never returns!
I took yoga classes a few years ago with Rachel for something to help us decompress during her illness. We went once a week for two hours and always slept so well that night, nursing sore muscles for the next few days. But I never continued the practice outside of class other than the occasional pose, which really cheated me out of the experience.
Anyway, I found after I'd done a week of yoga that I was really enjoying the experience. For one thing, I was working on a mat in my office from a video series on youtube, Yoga with Adriene. No one saw me have less than perfect form, no one knew when I fell over. I could look like hell in my cat hair-covered yoga pants and my hair sticking up and no one was the wiser! Adriene is a lovely instructor, always telling you to find play in your yoga practice and what feels right for you. After a week I felt more limber and after two weeks a few of my poses were spot on and I was beginning to see improvement in my posture; my spine felt long and flexible.And, for the first time in my life, I actually looked forward to an exercise routine!
I also began adding a 15 minute light weight-lifting routine to my schedule every other day. This was also on youtube.
About two weeks ago I had a physical and my blood glucose came back slightly elevated as it had two years ago. Type II diabetes is in my family, affecting both my parents and sibling. I don't want that to happen to me. So, in addition to the yoga, I went on a low-carb diet and eliminated or reduced sugar. And to really change things up, I cut out my afternoon cuppa coffee (caffeine is not good for small-boned people), and reduced my beer consumption to one a week! We live in a very foodie area with tons of great craft breweries and when we first moved in I put on a quick 20 pounds. At the time of the move I was very underweight (stress), but suddenly found myself about 10 pounds over where I wanted to be.
Two days ago after finishing my 30th day of yoga I got on the scale for the first time in a while and I was down 6 pounds from the day I started the yoga challenge! I wasn't sure where my weight was going to fall as I'd been building muscle, so it certainly could have gone the other direction. My belly is now almost flat and when I put my hands on my waist there is a noticeable difference. I am so excited to see this much progress and this quickly. I'm thrilled to have found something I can do all year round from the comfort of my own home. Once the weather gets cold, I no longer go biking with Kevin (he bikes all year round), and I tend to quit walking. I now have no excuses! I CAN DO THIS!!
Got a few new batts plus some wool top in the shop.
Over the weekend we stained, finished, and installed a Little Free Library on our property. I've always admired and wanted one and asked Kevin to buy me one for my birthday. If was loads of fun seeing the neighbor kids discover it. There have already been books borrowed and donated. It makes for a lovely sense of community in a time when neighbors often don't know each other well. I've already had a few nice conversations with people I'd only waved to before.
We were racing the clock to get it installed before the weather turns and the walkers head indoors. I'm hoping to add some art work to it at some point - a fun project for over the winter, perhaps.
I made a trip to the thrift store yesterday and picked up a number of hardbacks for $1.50 each and paperbacks for $0.50, shaking my head the whole while as I'd donated over 300 books to the library and thrift store when we moved from New York to Pennsylvania. I wish I had books I can part with in my possession, but I don't! Little Free Library sent me $200 worth of children's books but they're mostly Disney and not really the quality I'm looking for, but it's a start. I'm stocking the library with books for all ages from early childhood through young adult and adult. I'm taking any and all suggestions on great books for kids and young adults since I'm a bit out of the loop on that these days.
I apparently don't have the discipline to keep a blog anymore! But I guess checking in every few weeks is better than nothing.
August has been horribly hot and humid. My garden is in shambles. My tomatoes have gotten diseased this year and the crop is very minimal. I've got lots and lots of cucumbers, Swiss chard, and multiple kinds of peppers however.
Poison ivy has taken over in our yard this year and I actually broke down and bought chemicals to deal with it and I'm an organic gardener! I wasn't sure what else to do. It's at the back of the yard by the barn and we needed to get it nipped in the bud as it was really starting to cover a large area. I think there've been bumper crops of poison ivy all over this year - might be the heat.
I'm ready for September and hopefully some cooler,drier air. I haven't been on my bike in several weeks because the humidity has been killing me. Kevin continues to bike through it all. I stayed home yesterday while he put in 17 miles of hilly riding in 93 degrees. Meanwhile, at home, I was dividing my irises and planting a new Ninebark shrub and melting. I could not have done what he did!
I've started a 30 day yoga challenge online this month. Today will mark the halfway point! I'm proud that I'm keeping with it and feeling so much more flexible. This really works for me - I set up in my office with my yoga mat and laptop and can do the practice whenever it works for me and no one gets to see me fall over! In addition, I've added in light weights every other day for 15 minutes - also online via youtube. Very nice!
I set up my wheel outside yesterday (seriously, what was I thinking?) - I haven't spun in months due to back issues and a splinted wrist for much of the summer but was missing it. I spun from one of my batts that hadn't sold and it felt good to get back to it. Here's a peek. I'm calling it Cactus Flower.
My buddy boy Zip was a New Year's baby in 1999 and is now seventeen and a half years old. That makes him a very old man in cat years. The last few months have been pretty rough. In May or early June he came upstairs from the basement where he sleeps at night (don't feel bad for him - he sleeps on a velvet West Elm couch in the media room!) and was dragging his hind legs and barely able to walk. I immediately thought he'd had a stroke and got him into the vets. After bloodwork and x-rays he was diagnosed with severe arthritis. His hips are completely shot and his spine where the tail attaches is completely abnormal. The vet thought he'd taken a spill that may have contributed to his sudden loss of mobility. I had been noticing for several months how carefully he lowered himself down to rest so that made sense. We got him on a daily dose of Cosequin and a baby aspirin every other day. He had also lost a tremendous amount of weight - over 4 pounds in the past year and a half. His back end is nothing but skin and bones and that's such a contrast to the giant 16 pounder he was at a year and a half.
For the past couple of months the aspirin and Cosequin seemed to be helping. When Alex and Justin visited a few weeks ago they were stunned by the change in Zip's appearance. They hadn't seen him in two years. Since they were here I've managed to get Zip to put on a little bit of weight - his appetite picked up recently and I felt like he was filling out a bit.
Yesterday Zip took a fall from my bamboo chest. He still tries to jump but his abilities are not what they once were and he often misses. I was a bit afraid that he may have hurt himself. He's also thrown up a number of times this week and when that happens it weakens him in a way that wouldn't have affected him at all as a young cat.
This morning when Zip came up from the basement he could barely walk and his back legs were sliding all over the tile floor. It's been a very rough day. We got his aspirin in though I realized that due to his tummy upset he may not have gotten it in him very regularly this past week. I'm hoping that with a few more doses he'll start to move better, but I'm not very optimistic.
I feel like we're nearing the end of the road for our old boy and it breaks my heart. He has been such a wonderful, sweet companion, and I am his person, for which I'm most honored. I would do anything for him but I can't handle the thought of having to make that very hard decision. I keep hoping he'll go in his sleep but things never seem to work out that way with our furry friends. I'm trying to be okay with that and I'm hoping I will recognize when it is time to let go. Think a good thought for my sweet boy.
Got a few new things up in the shop.
I've also started dyeing up superwash merino/lurex and corriedale fingering weight yarn.
Now to motivate and fire up the dye pots on this very muggy day!