A red hibiscus flower in bloom indoors.

We had a few lovely days last week in which this red hibiscus shrub, inherited last month from a neighbour who has sold their home to move out of province, flowered in our dining room for the first time. They’re fleeting but oh, so lovely.

Yes, the fallen blossoms are now in my freezer, waiting to become a dye bath.

the things i do for money

A white woman's forearm wearing a stack of hair scrunchies in blue, bronze, and orange tones, in front of a blue backdrop.

I delivered this witchy, moody collection of luxurious silk scrunchies to asil yesterday (link: asil gallery and studio). They’re hand printed with some of my lino blocks, and dyed with indigo, coreopsis, avocado pits, comfrey, and iron. I’ve been using them to wrap up my bedtime topknot and the silk is so gentle on my hellaciously unruly curls and I feel like an old-timey movie star going to bed wearing such elegant accessories even though I’m usually also wearing a stretched-out tank top with ceiling paint on it.

Silk hair scrunchies in blue, bronze, and orange tones, on a blue backdrop.

swamp hag

a white woman with brown hair and tattoos, viewed from the neck down, wearing a sleeveless olive drab dress and standing in front of three mannequins draped in philodendron fronds.

I made some alterations this week on this dress that I call my swamp hag gown, which has been through a few different iterations already. I originally made it for my 50th birthday, out of a thrifted gray cotton curtain ecoprinted with leaves from my garden, using the Woolfork dress pattern by Jacqueline Cieslak (pattern link: Woolfork pattern). It’s a gorgeous pattern but I felt like I had too much coverage around the shoulders for my wild hot flashing perimenopause lifestyle, so I chopped it off just below the bust dart and added a new bodice using the lining pieces from the Ogden Cami by True Bias (pattern link: Ogden Cami pattern). Then after a while I bundled the dress back into the dirty pot and ecoprinted it again with leaves off our cherry tree, to ramp up the swampiness.

I had to cut the front of that new bodice just slightly off grain due to fabric constraints and of course that caused the whole dress to shift slightly to my left, which I lived with for a while but my sternum tattoo made the off-centredness very obvious so finally, a couple of weeks ago, I made another new bodice. In the meantime I had found a huge piece of the original fabric (there’s enough for a whole second dress) so was able to cut it luxuriously straight. That’s when I had to accept that the Ogden bodice doesn’t work all that well for my body and you’re not even going to see that version because it pushed my breasts down too uncomfortably to even pose for a photo. Meanwhile I had overdyed the whole thing to an olive green much richer than what shows up in the photo, using goldenrod flowers from the alley and a dip in ferrous sulfate.

Fourth time’s the charm for this dress as I’ve now gotten it pretty close to perfect, using the bodice from Caramiya Maui’s Yesterday Dress (pattern link: Yesterday Dress pattern), which is quickly becoming my go-to pattern. I did a simple narrow shoulder adjustment by shifting about 7mm from the centre fold to the side seam, as my earlier dresses made from this pattern tend to slip off my shoulders. It’s much better but still a little slippy so next time I’ll angle the straps inward a smidge and maybe also shorten them just a little.

close up of the chest and upper arms of a white woman with brown curly hair and tattoos wearing a sleeveless dress in brown and olive green.

The new bodice is a handkerchief weight linen that I dyed with black walnut hulls; not quite the same shade as the new colour of the dress but this walnut fabric has already faded a bit in another dress so I know it’ll be closer one day. Probably just in time for another trip through the dye pot.

Here’s a peek at the lining, indigo dyed cotton from the Bleachery in Aurura, IL, and the hand finishing stitches on the bias binding. I love me a sweet hand finish. I even found a brown thread in my Gramma’s sewing stuff that’s an exact match for the walnut dyed linen.

close up of a needle and thread stitching a hem of brown linen down over blue cotton.

And these are the earlier versions of the dress. Left, an ecoprinted Woolfork on my 50th birthday. Middle, with a new skimpier bodice more appropriate for the heat of middle age. Right, overprinted with rusty cans and cherry leaves.

a side to side comparison of three different versions of a gray sleeveless dress, modeled by a white woman with long hair and tattoos viewed from the neck down.

wip wednesday

close up of the texture of knitted green wool.

Last winter I made a few aborted attempts at knitting Norah Gaughan’s Ginsberg shrug/cardigan from Brooklyn Tweed (pattern link: Ginsberg Cardigan by Norah Gaughan), trying to find the right mix of different yarns held double because I don’t like buying materials and never have enough yarn for anything. Every attempt fell short and I gave up when spring came.

For the past fifteen years or more I’ve only worn cardigans, but I woke up one day and realised they weren’t really working for me the way they used to and I started unraveling all of my hand knitted cardigans and reknitting them into big sloppy pullovers with lots of ease. I still get violently hot at the drop of a hat, and being able to strip off in seconds was a real benefit with cardigans, but I like my belly swaddled and having a cardigan done up makes it actually slower to strip off than a huge sweatshirt. Right now the slatternly huge pullover falling off the shoulders suits me better.

I had knit up this green handspun merino/silk blend, Peppercorns colourway from The Fibre Garden (shop link: The Fibre Garden) along with a coordinating handspun of blended olive, navy, turquoise, and white) into a gorgeous Isabel Kramer cardigan that you’ll probably hate to hear I’ve unraveled, because it was really very lovely. But I never wore it and it was too fancy for me and came too close to my throat. Fast forward a few years and this glorious green yarn is finally about to live its best life as this big squishy cardigan I hope never to want to unravel (but you never know; life is long). Yes, I know, I just said I don’t like cardigans anymore but this one is huge enough to keep my belly cozy and also, has no fastenings. Perfect for those cold day hot flashes!

The merino/silk is held double with some truly terrible merino I accidentally fulled in the mordant bath and then went ahead and dyed and spun anyway even though the spinning was torture, and it’s clumpy, uneven and has zero sheen. It was all shades of gold and tan dyed from things in my garden and I overdyed it with indigo and held double with this nicer yarn you can’t tell at all how awful it is. I ran out of that just 20 rows from the end of the front panels and switched to holding the merino/silk with that colour blend it had been paired with in the original cardigan, which I’d intended to do for the ribbed borders anyway and the change is subtle enough that I doubt anyone will ever notice the colour changes a few inches higher on the front. Not that it’s any big deal if they do.

You don’t get pictures of any of this because the lighting in my sewing room is dim and unworkable. This sweater is mere days from the finish line, right in time for the return of sweater weather.

the cozy wozy

A nine-patch quilt square of blue and gray hand printed fabrics.

This past month I’ve been working on my first ever full size quilt, made from cotton muslin fabric I printed and dyed over the past few years while learning about indigo. It’s a snowball style, inspired by a beautiful orange and black quilt that I love made by Sarah Gagnon (link: Pelican Quilts). I like the simple square block with its tiny counterchanged corners. My gray fabrics are printed with leaf tannins and with rusty objects, and dyed with different combinations of tannins (walnut, myrobalan, gallnut) and iron water made by slowly dissolving a cast iron skillet in diluted vinegar. The blues are all of those things overdyed with indigo, plus some of my screenprints overdyed with indigo (some straight and some in combination with red iron oxide).

After weeks of making the squares with the tiny corners, and after soliciting advice from my quilt artist friend Lisa (link: asil) for how to start putting them together, the blocks came together fairly quickly and the final assembly of 4×5 nine-patch blocks took only a day. Here it is all laid out ready to be basted.

A blue and gray checkerboard quilt laid out on a floor.

And here’s the back, cobbled together from whatever pieces of the same fabric I had left. I got lucky and still had pieces of every major colour from the front: screenprint, printed walnut and maple leaves, rust marks, and pale indigo on top of a piece I had used as a screenprinting dropsheet.

The back of a quilt, composed of large blocks of blue and gray fabrics, laid out on a floor.

Good news: it already meets the approval of our household’s most discerning seeker of coziness.

A tortoiseshell cat lying on a blue and gray quilt laid out on a floor, with a cone of white thread and a tiny pair of red embroidery scissors in the foreground.

Here’s the part that’s going to take forever. I’m quilting this with a fairly large stitch and sashiko thread so it really shows, half a centimetre in from the edge of each large square, in order to really accentuate those counterchanged diamonds at the corners. You’ll notice that I took absolutely no care in making the corners consistent, and I love how janky some of them are. Precision isn’t really all that important to me in quilting, and as long as the 90° corners of the little triangles line up well (most are bang on, and those that aren’t are very close) then I don’t really care how out of whack the other corners are. A good thing, because some of them are extremely out of whack.

I’ve started quilting in the centre with navy blue thread. As it moves outward it’ll shift to a lighter blue dyed with walnut and indigo, then to a paler one dyed just with walnut, for what I hope will be a subtle pixelated sunburst effect.

Closeup of a blue and gray quilt, with quilting in progress and a pair of red embroidery scissors.

goldenrod dye

This is the goldenrod that grows behind our neighbour’s garage, overhanging our driveway. I didn’t ask before I took it but I freed up a whole parking space by cutting it down.


The yellow it yields is as intense as its flowers (wool roving with alum mordant):


I’m not confident about its fastness on cotton but it looks good for now:


a surprise in the dye pot

I didn’t even intend to make dye this time, but I can’t help myself. This week was time to trim down the leaves from our irises, and as they were cooking down in soda ash, a step in hand papermaking that separates organic matter from the cellulose fibres that form the paper, I noticed that the water had turned a beautiful strong green colour. A bell went off when I realized that soda ash is also used to set dyes. Once the cellulose pulp was drying on a screen, I strained the remaining liquor and threw in some cotton fabrics, some premordanted with aluminum acetate and some with soy milk, and this glorious spring green was the result.


from the dye pot


Cotton and cotton blend handkerchiefs dyed with turmeric, using a soy milk mordant. After I boiled up a handful of dried turmeric root pieces, which didn’t seem to let much of their colour out into the water, I put the softened bits and the water into the Vitamix and made a slurry. Except for staining the Vitamix jar yellow and getting gobs of root bits all over the fabric (hi I don’t strain things enough) the result is a pretty good gold.