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60 Cusp

An old garden bench scattered with a few autumn leaves.

Autumn came by yesterday. She wouldn't stop, she'd business to attend to further north, but we're to look for her again quite soon. She left a fallen leaf on the garden bench and starling heralds on the chimney tops, to remind us it won't be long before she returns.

In other news ...

We have a rather poorly hound in residence. He has a non-bacterial, non-viral form of meningitis, an auto-immune condition that thankfully responds well to steroids. We're taking it in turns to sleep on the sofa with him - it's where he seems comfiest - until he's properly on the mend. Our sofa is not a comfy place for a non-hound to sleep ... just saying.

The mister emptied the garden shed prior to moving it. Surveying the entirety of its contents heaped about the courtyard we could only conclude that it's bigger on the inside. (Should you be wondering, no, he doesn't look at all like Peter Capaldi, although they do share a birthday.)

I wrote a blog post about plant dyes and the difference between fixing the colour - using mordants to strengthen the bond between dye molecules and fibre - and colour fastness - the dye's resistance to fading and/or shifts in hue. Then I ditched it because it read like a chemistry lesson. I've popped a précis in the footnotes though, in case a chemistry lesson should actually appeal to anyone.

I went panning for gold in the shamefully overgrown dye garden and filled an old enamel bowl with self-seeded marigolds, dandelions, and Herb Robert. So that will be gold, lemon-gold, and old-gold ... the yarn to be dyed is mordanting as I type.

Cusp, I have discovered, means not only 'a beginning' (astrology, obviously) but also 'a stationary point' (geometry ... I was always hopeless at geometry). It's the perfect word for where I'm at right now ... wanting to start something but not quite ready to get going with it. I'll give you a clue ... I've bought a new tapestry weaving frame. Watch this space!

So, what's been happening with you lately?

✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤ ✤

* In a nutshell ... substantive dyes will bond without benefit of chemical mordants - salts that alter the pH and so assist the dye's 'bite' - but adjective dyes will not and so a mordant is required. Fugitive dyes - those that are neither truly lightfast nor washfast - may be adjective or substantive. A few examples: indigo is substantive yet fades significantly over time; the (currently popular) blues obtainable from red cabbage are adjective and - regardless of the mordant used - will fade to almost nothing practically overnight (that may be a slight exaggeration); blackberry dye is substantive but fugitive, treat it as if adjective and the colour lasts longer; hawthorn flower dye is adjective but gives a decent colourfast yellow. Bottom line ... most natural dyes, substantive and adjective alike, are fugitive to some degree, don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

weedy gleanings from the dye garden, in a large enamel bowl


49 Faces at an exhibition ...

The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition
The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition
The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition
The 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibitionThe 'face of a vintage tractor at a ploughing exhibition

... a ploughing exhibition. (Just click on the tractors' 'faces' to see a larger image.)

The mister has been saving up his holiday days and starting today - he's grabbing his chance while in a lull between projects - has three whole weeks off work. Yippee! Sadly though the situation with the aged Ps is such that anything other than a staycation won't be possible. So we kicked things off on Friday night with a fish and chip supper, eaten in the car, parked up on the moors, watching it rain ... torrentially! And a list making session: things we absolutely must do (gardening ... it's a jungle out there!), things we probably ought to do, and things we really want to do. Needless to say it's unlikely everything will be ticked off before the 21st.

First up on the want-to-do list was attend the annual exhibition ploughing match. I'm never particularly comfortable pointing my camera at random people, which is a pity as there were some real characters there, but I have no such qualms when it comes to vintage tractors, as you can see. Some were red, some blue, some cream, some grey, and in consequence it looked like a bit of a dog's dinner when I put all the pics together, hence the black and whites. I've got a soft spot for '75', which seemed to be held together by little more than hope and string, and for the worried looking Ferguson (second down on the left) with its O of a mouth* (I know, I know, it's the hole for the crank handle ... humour me, will ya). Actually, if I'm honest, I think they're all quite cute. Please tell me I'm not the only one!

R.S. Thomas's poem Cynddylan on a Tractor, although playful in tone, hints at regret for an older and humbler way of life now lost. Reading it more than sixty years after it was written I can't help but feel a similar nostalgia for tractors like Cynddylan's.

Cynddylan on a Tractor

Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
The clutch curses, but the gears obey
His least bidding, and lo, he's away
Out of the farmyard, scattering hens.
Riding to work now as a great man should,
He is the knight at arms breaking the fields'
Mirror of silence, emptying the wood
Of foxes and squirrels and bright jays.
The sun comes over the tall trees
Kindling all the hedges, but not for him
Who runs his engine on a different fuel.
And all the birds are singing, bills wide in vain,
As Cynddylan passes proudly up the lane.

R.S. Thomas

* Or maybe he's whistling?


45 The Colour Collaborative: August: Collection

I've never been much of a collector. I may own an inordinate number of books but my library is best described as an accretion, and the same could be said for my knitting yarn stash and my cupboard full of old jugs and gravy boats. Finding it impossible to part with old copies of Country Living magazine - there are boxes and boxes of them in the attic - is frankly an aberration. And having more hounds than most folk surely doesn't count. This was not a great topic choice for me.

So I wrote a list of things collected because of their colour - amber, jade, Whitby jet, Delftware - but nothing on it appealed as a peg to hang this post on. And then I thought of Boro ...

What do you know about sumptuary laws? Laws that regulate consumption and by so doing reinforce social hierarchies. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Japan's sumptuary laws were so strict that those in its poorest northern communities had access to only homespun hemp or ramie and discarded remnants of cotton for making household textiles and clothing. The cottons had been woven in the warmer south, where cotton grew, but were only available as scraps - in the permitted indigo blues, greys, browns and black* - which arrived baled and needed scouring before use. The best of them were then pieced together to make kimono, the worst torn into the narrowest possible strips and woven into a coarse, nubby cloth, saki-ori. Fisherman's jackets, futon covers, wrapping cloths, even mosquito 'nets', all were fabricated and re-fabricated from collections of wealthier people's cast-off oddments. Worn items were patched, and then the patches were patched ... making ends meet, literally.

Boro means tattered rags. But these utilitarian textiles, with their lines of reinforcing sashiko stitches and darned patches, although not intended to be decorative are beautiful. And now very collectible. Cloth frugally repaired over generations, by woman snatching time from chores or stitching while their families slept, cloth once reviled by the majority of the Japanese as the very embodiment of poverty, is now appreciated globally for its aesthetic charm and humble origins. I would love to own a few authentic boro pieces, but to collect them would be way beyond my pocket and probably beyond yours. I'm left with the Pinterest option, the way so many of us collect things now.

* The more opulent colours were the reserve of the Japanese aristocracy.

Afterword. From Boro: Rags and Tatters from the North of Japan.
Tanaka showed me the contents of an old lady's furoshiki wrap-cloth: hundreds of irregular cotton scraps, each washed, color sorted and ironed, all carefully saved up to be used who-knows-when ... [A collection of] this many swatches, he said, made her a rich woman! Poor folk were those who had to beg their relations for bits of cloth.

Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ...

Sandra at Cherry Heart       Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

CJ at Above the River       Jennifer at Thistlebear     

And July's guest poster ...
Caroline at Scraps of Us

What is The Colour Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

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