elements of elders

after the elation of dyeing the cloth for what i had envisioned as my elder cloth background, i've hit another wall. i can't get past the need to have an overall design before i start stitching. but i don't think i want to do it that way. i want it to evolve slowly, a bit at a time.

i've been planning to position the old quilt in the center, like a saddle blanket, and then have an equine shape coming out from above and beneath it, stretched out something like a bear rug. this shape would be of woven pieces collaged together, and the background would be the leaf-dyed cloth patched together but without the raggedy edges. so that it would be her laying peacefully on a bed of leaves.

then after looking at second skin, i was thinking of using the handwoven wool blanket i showed you awhile ago (pics toward the bottom of that post) as a foundation and batting, but could also be dyed and exposed in places. it would also be great for needle-felting some knit pieces. but it is only as wide as a double bed, plus i want to limit the thickness, which means i need to disassemble it along that central seam and position it on either side of the saddle blanket. and then i would need a different background above and below the saddle blanket.

i think this is all begging the question of whether i'm going to take apart the saddle blanket, or just build around it. extending it on each side without taking it apart seems interesting to me. it would be a blanket within a blanket, and reversible. and in looking at all the elements, i'm not sure i want this sort of large, literal equine image, mostly because then i can't build it slowly. each piece would have to be part of a larger plan. but i also don't just want a hoof here, a tail there, dismembered. how do i move back and forth between details and the larger design?

i am longing to start stitching. and see where it leads. but i've rarely been happy with the results when i've stitched that way. i like experimental stitching but within a larger overall plan. there is a lot of pressure with this elder cloth concept. i need to lighten this burden somehow. she only worked the grand canyon as a young mule, not when i knew her. i guess heaviness and lightness are part of her story too.


sweet jungle

vintage runner bundled with elderberry leaves and sitting in cast iron for the last week.

i love how it's turned out and will be stitching on it after it dries.


ghosts are converging

elderberry and rust-dyed yarns. i just love the odd shades of these. i do have a grey sheep, so maybe they are not all that incredible, but still, it's different.

the yarns contain the ghost of the sheep and also of the elderberry bush (both happily living down the road, but the sheep is elderly). and the ghost of the horse-shoe that one skein was wrapped around in the dyebath. or no, actually this one was wrapped around a rusty car part. well, maybe a less romantic ghost. but that brings up this question about plant and animal fibers that i'm working through... are these ghosts, traces, remnants - are they works of imagination? or is the fact that the sheep or plant or horseshoe or car part was really There, how much does that matter?

the fiber is There, and it is marked. it has qualities specific to its ghosts. so even though someone who ends up with this yarn (or the yarn made into mittens) may not see the ghosts, they were, are There.

everyone is talking about ghosts. or i'm just noticing the ones talking about ghosts. jude's concept of ghosting from magic diaries. also this chapter by carla freccero on queer spectrality. and last night, sarah seeing in my eco-prints their ghostly potential for quilting. working through how these are related.. this is my task.


elderberry on muslin

well, i didn't have quite the success that grace did with just leaving elderberry bundles out in pots for a week, the results then were really light. but the time in the pots pre-mordanted them for hot-bundling on the stove. yesterday i let the fabric and leaf roll-ups steam on a rack in a pot of boiling water for about an hour.

all of these were sitting in the copper pot all week, and then hot bundled on the stove:

these were sitting in the cast iron pot, and then hot bundled on the stove.
the striations are from the twine. i think this one's my fave.

this one had some pokeberry leaves in it too.

this one had no pre-mordant, but a soak in an elderberry bath that was sitting in the crock pot after i dyed some yarn (which made the background much pink-er), and then hot-bundled with elderberry leaves and some pokeberry leaves.

what i'm imagining now is using these to create blocks to surround the saddle blanket, as if elderberry's resting in a bed of leaves. i've got some muslin soaking in ash water, and i'll see how the same leaves print a second time. i'll also try some dahlia and purple basil leaves from the garden.


everything is better with dinosaurs

i was paging through a vintage knitting magazine the other night ... this was from a collection inspired by the new york state fair!



i spent a nice afternoon cuddling the kitty and devouring india's new book (long awaited and even better than imagined... i'll probably be obsessively huddled with it for a few days). and in other news..

one of the feathers from my flock floated off to jude today...

it seems our last show at the Hadley made the Greensboro paper!

dear miss hadley is showing off her lovely figure..

and here's a block i stitched for the elder cloth with the paperless piecing method..

i have a general design plan now using the old quilt as a center, and i was planning to use this fabric from a thrifted dress for part of it. i like the pattern in this fabric, but now after stitching it, i'm not sure how it'll work with the other fabrics. i thought it was all linen but there's some rayon lurking in there skewing things. it's just so bendy. anyone have thoughts on rayon??

and i am actually, finally working on my proposal for school with an actual plan. and yes, it involves cloth making. it's gobbledygook right now but it is coming along, which is a relief. hope with me that i can persuade them!


bubble bubble

so much is percolating these days..

the elderberry leaves are bundled tightly inside the muslin... but now that i've added yarn, do i need more leaves floating?

the dye garden is flourishing.

and back indoors.


meeting the elders

my good friend laura told me via facebook that there had been an elderberry sighting in the area. she said her friend said to turn down toward the old place from the highway and there would be elderberry in a ditch on the right. it took me a bit to decipher the directions, not being familiar at first with the "old place" (it reminded me of an old southern expression about pig paths, but apparently i can't remember that either), but it turned out to be a landmark country buffet and less than a mile from my house!

so yesterday we went to find her... and there she was...

she and others, at least three huge bushes! also, we had a delicious meal at the old place... candied yams, turnip greens, blackberry cobbler and other faves. i always love places where we are the youngest folks there. and how silly that it took facebook to connect us with our own neighborhood... (we really are hermits!)

i asked mother elder's permission and she seemed okay with being part of my cloth. i was careful not to take too much. she had a few berries but most of them had been eaten. and now my muslin elderbundles are stewing in the sun in copper, iron and enamel pots (i couldn't find an aluminum). and today i will toss some yarn in there too. it will be hard to wait a whole week, but magic takes time.


who needs low-lights in their hair when feathers abound? you knew i would follow this trend.


tea and bleach

trying some solar dyeing with natural dyes from blue castle fiber arts. i've never tried the powdered stuff, and it even comes with an herbal mordant! so i'm enjoying the experimenting... and putting this blazing sun to some good use..

feathers gathered just from this afternoon.. the birds are moulting. lots of tail feathers this time of year too, on the ground, not on the birds. i wonder if they know about jude's magic feather project.. i think they might send her some real feathers along with the stitched ones.

a little experiment with bleach and tea, tea and bleach. staining and removing stain, like remembering and forgetting, over and over. the splotchiness of this block may be overdone 80s, but it does remind me of elderberry's colours. her horse mom was an appaloosa. i was thinking a lot about elderberry being sterile and how i think that's part of what makes me want to honor her. i worry about mules, maiden aunties, spinsters, and crones without offspring... who will remember us? i am working on expanding my outworn ideas of family and fertility.

the heat has inhibited exploring and gathering, but i still need to look for an elderberry bush nearby. there was a lovely mother elder at our old house, sprung right at the site of the blanched, fallen oak, but i never dyed with her. i'm so grateful to have found some elderberry partners.


well, crap. or, possibly a plan.

alrighty, so. i think many of you know i've been struggling with grad school for ages. i imagine that some friends are really so, so tired of me talking about it, talking about quitting, talking about topics, blah blah. i finished everything except my dissertation, so i've been ABD since 2008. then i went on a leave of absence, but came back and have had a series of false starts. the program is interdisciplinary but something like cultural studies. my advisor is a visual anthropologist.. she makes ethnographic films. my interests have centered on folklife, usually in the u.s. south, and usually related to rural skills, and especially animal husbandry and related practices. at one time, i wanted to be a professor, but i'm an artist at heart, or at least a wannabe. so that's one reason i haven't been motivated to finish - because i don't think a ph.d will help me be an artist. but i haven't been able to quit, either.

but so recently i've learned that my school will accept a dissertation that consists at least partly of an art work. it's not an MFA program, but since it is interdisciplinary, they have been talking about nontraditional dissertation forms for ages, and apparently they are now starting to accept them. so i'm told that i could do an art work and then write about it. presumably the art would fulfill a chapter, and then there would be a chapter contextualizing it, and maybe a chapter analyzing it... or something. did i already tell you all this? i feel like i have.

so what about having this elder cloth be part of my dissertation? the subject of it, i mean. i have a glimmer of how this could work. everything from the materials to the process to the story. and situated ... somewhere. historically, and within stitching (and perhaps spinning, weaving or farming) communities and now online art communities. within the slow cloth movement. among women who are also making.

there are some parameters. it has to fit within my previous areas of study. otherwise i will have to re-do my comprehensive exams. then it has to fit within my advisors' areas of expertise. and then it has to fit with what the graduate committee has already approved for me. it's possible to change or shift some of these, but not ideal. i think all this means that i need to conversate with academic work in visual anthropology, memory studies and animal studies. so that it's consistent with what i've done before, it's important that it be related to animals, not just that the cloth is 'for' elderberry, but probably that some of the materials derive from animals. i *think* it could fit... but maybe not, i'm still reaching.

if i could do this in the context of my current program, i think it would be great. i'd be motivated to work on it, because it's work i want to be doing anyway. i'm inspired, of course, by jude. not that i should try to do what she does, i couldn't possibly, but i can imagine some sort of a slow cloth journey being documented and all of that forming the basis of a dissertation. why not?

so now i need to brainstorm, refine, and convince.

i've been tasked to map out my plan by August 31 and so i am overdue on the getting-with-it. here are the questions i need to answer:
Describe your research question/hypothesis or research objective? What will the focus of your investigation be?

How does your research build on your existing dissertation research and what fields/disciplines will it draw upon?

What evidence/materials do you need to collect to answer your research question and how will you go about collecting it?

What skills and training are required for this work and what has prepared you to do this research?

What is the significance of your project? What fields/disciplines will it contribute to and how?

so i'm going to take some time and think on these questions and brainstorm. this is all very early, draft-y and provisional. i don't want to self-edit too much here or be embarrassed for trying. i don't feel like i can do this alone.