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56 Happenings

Looking up, at cherry blossom, oak flowers, elm seeds, and other such sylvan wonders.

Hearing the dawn chorus a tad too often lately. The birds are so noisy they wake me up.

Smelling stinky Liver of Sulfur gel, a necessary evil when blackening copper wire. One day soon I'll show you what I was doing.

Tasting Oak Smoked (on Anglesey) Hummus from Moorish, and most definitely wanting more.

Holding my adorable two day old grandson (and struggling a little with the mix of emotions that becoming a grandmother for the first time has unleashed).

Hugging the same. And his mama. My darling girl and her darling boy.

Talking with new friends about art that challenges thinking and art that soothes the soul.

Making marks. I'm drawing again. It's been too long.

Giving away an old sewing machine that was accumulating dust.

Gathering more gorse flowers for the dye pot.

Finding a favourite book of poems by Wislawa Szymborska that I mislaid long ago.

Losing our coir hanging basket liners to nesting birds. The blackbirds are the principle culprits, they're tugging out great beakfuls of the fibres.

Sitting up late writing this blog post.

Standing in a shower of petals while photographing apple trees. I'm still finding bits of blossom in my hair a day later.

Walking by a tumbling brook and spotting a grey wagtail, a more colourful bird than its name suggests and one I'd never seen before.

Waiting to hear our resident cuckoo for the first time this year. He's late.

Listening to I Am Oak, particularly the album Nowhere Or Tammensaari.

What has been occupying you lately?

Join me, why don't you? Put together your own 'Happenings' list and let me know where to find it.

As always, the links in this post are NOT sponsored, I'm simply sharing things I like.

Thank you all so much for your encouraging comments on my last post. I can't promise to reply to everyone individually in the comments threads just now - grandbaby cuddles take precedence - but I will always answer questions and respond to those I have no other way of reaching, and the change is only temporary.


62 Waysides: One Tree

A favourite among our many books on trees and woodlands is OneTree, which chronicles the original 'one tree' project. A 170 year old oak, felled on 27th November 1998 at Tatton Park (Cheshire, UK) - was broken up into its constituent parts - sawn timber, sawdust, branches, twigs, bark, leaves - and distributed among over seventy artists, designers, and makers. Two years later the things that they made from the tree were brought together for a touring exhibition ... wood ash glazed pots, woodcut prints, oak charcoal drawings, a rosary of oak wood beads, leather tanned with oak tannins, oak smoked hams, a book, a basket, a yurt frame, a ladder, a foetal stethoscope, carved birds, automata, bowls and spoons, tables and chairs, cupboards and chests and boxes ... it truly was a spectacular collective achievement. But it failed to include anything that exploited the oak tree as a dye plant.

If the good folk at Tatton had chosen a cherry tree for their project the outcome would no doubt have been both similar and different ... cherry can also be used for ash glazes, woodcuts, smoking meats, turning, carving, and cabinet making. And its spring leaves and its bark - just a couple of handfuls of each - yield the colours you see here.

1, 3 & 6 cherry bark on pure wool, 7 & 11 Cherry bark on pure wool, modified with iron, 2 & 10 Cherry bark on alpaca/silk, 4 & 5 cherry leaf on pure wool, 8 & 9 cherry leaf on alpaca/silk.
1, 3 & 6 Cherry bark on pure wool, time in dye one, thirteen, and five hours respectively; 7 & 11 Cherry bark on pure wool, time in dye five hours and one hour respectively, modified with iron; 2 & 10 Cherry bark on 80/20 alpaca/silk blend, time in dye five hours and one hour respectively; 4 & 5 Cherry leaf on pure wool, time in dye eight hours and one hour respectively; 8 & 9 Cherry leaf on 80/20 alpaca/silk blend, time in dye eight hours and one hour respectively. All skeins were premordanted in alum.

Pretty huh? And I've still got little idea what to do with them. (See last para.)

Waysides was conceived as a way of seeing. It was also intended as a mapping project. But inevitably the map is, and will remain, most decidedly incomplete. In truth, with such an abundance of dye plants available to me locally it can only be a sampling project. And an aid to the development of a home ground colour palette reflective of my personal aesthetic that I will no doubt return to again and again ... a palette which now includes cherry-bark orange and cherry-bark (and iron) lime green.

True to my original intention I'm treading the earth lightly in pursuit of these hues, and so I only have a short length of each ... best suited to making small things then? My thoughts are turning to amulets and such, made mostly from the pocket filling miscellanea my Waysides walks yield and from scraps of my 'local colour' textiles. Ooh ... must dash ... head's now fizzing with ideas that I need to get down on paper ...

To catch up with the progress of my collaborator in all this, Rebecca, or to read my previous Waysides posts, just follow the links.


74 Not today

This isn't the first time I've shared a photograph of this glorious maple tree with you, but I simply couldn't resist sharing another ... a reminder of spring on an afternoon that looks and feels like winter. Grey skies, heavy rain, and a blackbird bravely singing somewhere, that's today.

Not writing the Waysides update that I'd planned, that's today too*. As is not dealing with a backlog of emails that need answering. I've also ignored the dirty laundry and felt glad of weather far too wet for whippets to go out in. I guess I'm low on spoons**.

I did leave the sofa for long enough to rescue a bunch of my tulips from the deluge that's flattening the garden - Cairo and Black Parrot and Queen of Night ... they're in a vase on the mantle now - but mostly I've been snuggled up under a quilt and a hound, forward planning for this blog and working on fixes for its malfunctioning bits.

Thank you again for the feedback re. commenting and captchas. The simple 'always type in your details before you publish your thoughts' system that I described is Squarespace's. It's good to know that if moving my bloggy home turns out to be the only viable option there's something out there that might work for everyone.

It's also good to know - in my current dodgy-shouldered knitting-happens-rarely state - that you're interested in hearing more about natural dyeing. The evergreen content on this blog has always been the knitting - it accounts for about a third of the 1.5 million pageviews - and I'm painfully aware that I've added little of knitterly interest in some time. Dyeing wool and silk and cotton and linen with botanical dyes though, that I can still do sometimes and share with you, I just need to get better at remembering to photograph the process.

Sometimes I get caught up in the excitement of what I'm doing when I dye and become oblivious to all else. Other times I leave stuff steeping and forget about it entirely for days together. Neither approach is conducive to good photographic record keeping. I keep copious written notes - only truly necessary if I hope to repeat a colour exactly - and yet I don't ensure that my camera's close at hand ... daft, huh? I've given myself a good talking to!

In addition to the above I really can't be trusted to check pockets when I'm loading the washing machine, and it seems I imagine that library books renew themselves. What do you always forget? Do tell. And what didn't you get done today?

* For the impatient ... my latest naturally dyed samples

** For those not in the know ... in my thirties I was diagnosed with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, and in my forties with rheumatoid arthritis. Now in my early fities I've learnt to take each day as it comes.

Edited to add, a Happy Mother's Day to all those in countries where it is celebrated in May rather than in March as it is here.
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