Saturday, June 29, 2013

Studio Yurt Is Coming Together

Well, I could focus on the negative if I chose to - the man who was building me a 20' yurt has not been able to complete it or give me a timeframe by which he would complete it, so I'm forced to make other arrangements and ask for a refund of the deposit that I paid him. Yuck.

But I'm here to focus on the positive. The "other arrangements" are looking awesome! I found an authentic Mongolian yurt frame for a great price. The only catch is that I need to drive 12 hours one way to pick it up.

The other catch is that I need to obtain a cover for it. I've got some great leads on covers from Mongolia. They're as gorgeous as the frame. I wonder how I'll get any work done in such a beautiful space. I'll just want to lay on the floor and look up at that beautiful woodwork.

Needless to say, I will not be moving the studio into the yurt on July 1 like I had hoped, but it does look like I'll have it in place and weatherproofed before Winter. Saving six months of studio rent goes a really long way toward paying for this beautiful yurt.

Friday, June 28, 2013


When I started my weaving business it was a secondary goal to incorporate shibori into my work. In fact, some of the pieces I produced and sold to raise money for a production loom were handwoven hemp and linen dyed with loom-controlled shibori. Back then I was in a city and didn't think much about using chemical dyes. Out here, though, I want my actions to enhance the natural world, not harm it.

Well, in the way that I "just knew" that weaving was the right choice for a career, I "just know" that incorporating indigo and shibori are good ideas.

A flat of Japanese Indigo seedlings.

Half of them are transplanted. I need more pots.

I'm reading a stunning book with an unexciting title, "Natural Dyes" by Dominique Cardon. It is a mind-blowing tome. I'm learning about the history of indigo in various parts of the world and the historic classification of the shades of blue that can be dyed from it. Every shade is beautiful, in my opinion.

And simultaneously with the passion for indigo catching fire in my brain, I'm winding the new blue beam in shades from almost black to almost white. It will be exciting when I'm able to do this with yarn that I've dyed myself from plants that I grew myself.

I am not sure that Japanese Indigo is the right indigo plant for this climate, but that's what I'll learn with the experimental crop this year.

I just learned that Woad is an invasive non-native species in parts of California. This means two things: it would probably grow very well here and I can't bring it here with a clear conscience. I really don't want my legacy to be that I introduced a destructive weed to our bio region. I can, however, make contact with people who are beset upon by it and go down during the "green growth but no seeds" season, help them to remove it, and bring home the "waste" to compost and dye with.

Aaaand, these are all dreams for the future. For today I'm moving soil and carrying water to tend my little agricultural experiment.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Blue Is Ready To Wind

After a number of very long days, the blue thread is all plied and ready to start winding.

This is the new high capacity beam, all set up and ready to go. This beam should save me quite a bit of time by taking the design/setup time and spreading it out over twice as much weaving. This means more of the fun part and less of the mind-numbingly tedious part for each yard of cloth that's woven.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Twilight Sky Blue Is Coming

The next batch of cloth will be another in the series of wide gradients. It will span from almost black to almost white through a range of rich, royal blues.

This will be the first of the long warps on the new high-capacity beam. This means it will take longer to set up, but that I'll get much more weaving time and much more cloth once it's ready. I'm aiming to have the first pieces woven and sewn in time for the Oregon Country Fair in (eek!) three weeks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Easy Come, Easy Go!

Well, that isn't exactly the right turn of phrase since no part of production weaving and craft show sales is easy, but I think you get the idea.

Two of the four shows that I just finished were successful, bringing in significantly more money than I spent to do them. So I paid my taxes, paid off many of my debts, paid the rest of the show fees for the year, and spent a bunch of money on much-needed supplies.

Pictured here are a shipment of yarn and a new, high capacity beam for my loom. This will allow me to warp roughly twice as much thread at once. I still need to order a new reed to go with it, but once it is folded into the production, the hours that I spend on design and warping will net me twice as much cloth. I'm going to inaugurate it with blue, my absolute, hands-down, most popular color. Guess what's in the yarn boxes...

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Floral Diversion

Last winter I decided that it was time to follow through with another dream that I've held for years, to create a space that's surrounded dahlias of all shapes and colors. Well, one of the shows that I did provided too much temptation to resist. I was directly across from a woman who is as passionate and driven to raise dahlias as I am to weave. I picked out about 30 varieties.

Well, they have waited just as long as they can to go into soil. I've put them into pots until I can get planters or raised beds finished. This should buy me a few weeks at least.

Here's the overview of the pots right now. Bear in mind that each plant will grow to 4' tall once they're in the ground.

Some of them are already going gangbusters.

And then, on another front, I'm experimenting with a potential business. I've started a bunch of Japanese indigo seeds. Again, they are way later than they should have been started, but I'm hopeful that I can at least bring them to seed, even if I don't get much in the way of leaves this first year.

The idea behind this crop is simple: production weaving is very hard on my body. I won't be able to do it forever, so I'm testing the waters of a completely different business that meets many of the same requirements. It can be done with no electricity in a way that's sustainable on a small plot of land. It will allow me to continue treating my craft work as an act of meditation. And, most importantly, I think I can make a decent living by selling dyestuff, teaching workshops, and selling my hand-dyed cloth at craft shows.

Bear in mind that this is all years away. But, if I'm going to gain the skills that I would need, I should start soon. The business will take a few years to become profitable, even after I have gained the skills that allow me to offer something worthwhile to the world.

But at this point it's all about planting seeds...