Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Harvested || Dye From Red Bud Blossoms



Back in April, I did some solar dyeing demonstrations for Earthfest at Martin Park Nature Center, in conjunction with my outdoor exhibition, Niche.  Oklahoma's state tree is eastern red bud, and they are abundant here.  Funny enough, our climate tends to be a little hard on these little trees in the summer - they often have sunscald, splits in the trunk and decay, especially when growing in full sun.  The 'Oklahoma' variety has a thicker cuticle on its leaves and tends to be a little more tolerant of heat and drought.  In any case, red bud puts on quite a show in the spring with the small purple blooms lining its branches.  We have a few fairly mature specimens in the back yard, and I decided to try a little experiment this spring.  I collected a bagful of blossoms to use in one of my demonstration jars, unsure of what the outcome would be.  Flowers can be deceptive when it comes to dyeing - I learned that when I got a lovely sage green from prairie coneflower last summer.  While I would have been delighted with a purple hue, I went into this experiment without expectations, and I was wowed by the result.  After two and a half months in the dye jar, I finished with incredibly vibrant, golden yarn.  It's beautiful!  Next year I will definitely make more, and try it out with different mordants to see the variation.  

This yarn was dyed using red bud blossoms with an alum mordant and a splash of vinegar.  I boiled half of my blooms to extract color before putting water in the jar with the yarn, and added a handful of fresh flowers to the jar as well.








Friday, July 18, 2014

On My Needles || Ruckle



With each passing season, I tend to do some serious reorganization on my Ravelry queue.  The length of it is massive.  While I know I'll never actually knit EVERYTHING on my list, it's nice to have a place to record those "things I'd like to make" whether it's because of unique construction or texture, striking color combos or just because it's the perfect garment for that season.  Ruckle has been on this list for quite a while and though it never really hovered near the top, summertime hit, the desire to knit a garment made with plant fibers that would be breezy yet interesting overcame me, and I wanted to start something new while on vacation.  I decided to cast aside my concerns that the fit of the tunic would hug a little too tightly in certain places and just go for it… it has openings on the lower sides, after all. 

Ruckle is a design by Norah Gaughan, one of my favorite knitwear designers.  This pattern is actually free, if you decide to make one for yourself!  It's knit with Berroco Lago yarn, a worsted weight rayon/linen blend.  I decided to go with the Deep End colorway, after the rich, blue shade stood out to me.  Does anyone else find it difficult to choose colors for a new garment?  I try to go with hues that I haven't used very much or at all on other projects, but somehow it's hard to go with something that unique from my usual color choices.  I'm just really drawn to bold, cool tones.  Alas…

This design has a very unique construction.  You start with panels that make up the top of the shoulders, wrapping around the neck.  The stitches for the body are picked up from these panels and knit top-down from there.  That large garter stitch section that spans from sleeve tip to sleeve tip seems to take forever, but the body goes relatively quickly after that.  At the bottom, short row shaping forms the lower part of the tunic.  I'm still working on the garter section of the 2nd side, so it will likely be another week or two before I have finished photos for this one.  Finishing up some designs of my own has been taking away from recreational knitting, but the good news is that I should have a new pattern available very soon, and another to follow shortly after that!  I hope you're having a great Friday, and enjoy your weekend!



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lichen Collaboration for START Norman




Back in April, I made mention of a collaboration that I worked on with Sarah Hearn for the threshold: the promised land exhibition, part of START Norman.  Sarah is a visual artist who also showed work in Rare Earth at Plug Projects in Kansas City last year.  A kindred nature-inspired artist, much of her work involves lichen -- a group of organisms that has strongly grasped my attention as of late.  I've been in awe of Sarah's beautiful macrophotography of these intriguing life forms, intricate paper cutting, and thought provoking installation since I first saw it.  Clearly, I was all about working on a piece together for our site specific installations in Norman.  

I'm excited to share the photos of our collaboration with you now, which Sarah so kindly captured for us.  This work is a colony of two lichen interpretations: Parmotrema perforatum (perforated ruffle lichen) and Peltigera canina (dog-lichen).  My contribution included the moss growing among the dog-lichen, and apothecia and ruffles throughout the perforated ruffle lichen.  

In addition to the collaboration, Sarah placed several mini-installations of lichen throughout the site, and designed a scavenger hunt for visitors to use in finding them all!  They blended in quite well to their surroundings.  She added my two Succession installations to the hunt as well.  I loved this engaging concept, and hope it was a fun way for visitors to learn about and connect with nature.

After this project, I've found that I can't stop observing lichen whenever I see it.  I'm captivated by it!  This is a subject matter that you will likely see more of in the future.






Monday, July 14, 2014

Fungi



I'm always on the lookout for different types of fungi when I'm out in the yard or on a hike.  Here are a few that I've spotted recently!







Friday, July 11, 2014

Black Swallowtail Larvae



I'm growing dill this year mainly to use in pickling, so I don't mind so much that the little patch of fragrant herbs are being consumed by these beautiful black swallowtail caterpillars.  At least, I won't mind until I go to make pickles, in which case… bummer.  So many of these little guys are hanging out that I'm thinking another round of seed sowing is in order so they won't run out of food-- I would love to see some black swallowtail chrysalises in the garden!  Now to figure out where that seed packet went...



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

52 Forms of Fungi || #31



I've always loved looking at photos of this type of fungi - the brightness of the colors and stacked/fanned out growth habit are very beautiful.  Sulfur shelf, or chicken of the woods mushroom, grows on living or dead trees, often on the main trunk.  Its presence on a living tree indicates extensive decay and increased potential for tree failure.  

This is another piece which Berroco so kindly provided yarn for me to create.  Made with Ultra Alpaca, the color ways shown are Masa and Grove Mix.  I still have a few more phases left involving the lovely Berroco yarns!

This structure was knitted as part of my 52 Forms of Fungi project. Check out more of the forms from this project.





Monday, July 7, 2014

Harvested || Golden Currant Scones

This spring was a joy, uncovering all of the unique flora growing in our new yard.  A horticulture professor previously owned our property, so there are many unusual and exciting things planted on our half acre lot.  I intend to add to that as well!  I've recently become more interested in wildcrafting - harvesting plants for various uses from food to medicinal properties and home use.  Last summer I started doing this for dyeing, but its becoming something that I would like to learn more and more about with our local plant life here in Oklahoma.  I decided to start this column on my blog, to document the plants that I harvest from, the ways that I use them and their outcomes.  For now I would like to stick to things harvested from my own yard, but I imagine that I will expand to general wildcrafting.  The first installment revolves around the golden currant shrubs growing at the back of our property.



I posted about these earlier in the spring, after I first found them.  Unfamiliar with this particular plant, I had to seek out some ID help and have been monitoring them ever since to make sure I got to try some of these mysterious currants.  Last week they started to ripen, so I gradually collected them throughout the week to make some kind of treat with!





I ended up settling on a paleo version of a lemon blueberry scone, replacing the berries with currants.  The recipe uses almond flour, and this is my first try at baking something paleo compatible (the first time I've baked anything in forever, really).  This is the recipe that I used.







They were delicious!  The almond flour gives them a nutty flavor, and honey is a very subtle sugar substitute that toned down the sweetness a bit.  The currants themselves are a little tart to eat raw - my husband actually didn't like them very much when we tried them off the bush, but baking made them much more enjoyable to eat.  I would definitely try these again!  The currants are still ripening, so if I have enough I want to try using them for ice cream soon.  If you have any suggestions for other uses of currants, let me know!  I'd love to give them a try.







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