Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dying to dye

With the crisp fall air I am encouraged to work on projects and dye wool that I have obtained during the summer. I am usually kind enough to wait until the hubby is off hunting so he doesn't have to smell that lovely aroma of wet sheep and vinegar...and try for a day when I can open the windows. Today was my day. I have finished planning out my rug for the upcoming Vermont Rug Hooking Guild show in two weeks. I will be taking a class with Jule Marie Smith, and I hope to learn a lot. Her rugs inspire me, not only the wonderful borders but the colors. We had to design a rug, which has been a huge challenge for me. The theme of the class is "Once Upon a Time" so the rug had to tell about something or someone. It should be a fun class. I realized that I have a nice collection of dye books, and just aquired a new one. It is by Cathy Meyer..."A Rustic Pallette". I wanted a dark reddish brown background so I though I would give one of her recipes a try. They use Cushings dye, which is what I have on hand.
I should probably start out with some sort of disclaimer saying that when it comes to dying wool, I don't really know what I am doing. I just play. I know the basics, but I dye wool the way I cook...a pinch of this and a dash of that. Somehow it always works out, and if not I can always dye over it again, right? I start out with recipes but almost always end up changing them. I seldom have an exact color in mind, and always do "one pot dying" with multiple textures and colors all in the same dye pot. This summer I scored bolts of fabric at a yard sale, and pulled out our smoker, took the top off and used a big garden tub to dye yards of wool at a time outside. I used purchased dye, but also tried some dried plants from the fields and got some great soft colors. It was great fun! This time I was inside due to the cold, and was dying smaller amounts. I am using some of the bolt wool from the summer, as well as some tan plaids and a bit of white. I figured out the selvedge of the wool and tore the wool into pieces that would fit into my pot well. This is the selvedge edge in the next picture. The following picture shows the torn edge. I still never know if I am tearing the wool properly but I always snip the selvedge edge (either 18" or 9")and tear down. Then I tear that piece in half which results in pieces about 18" by 30".
I used Kathy's recipe and was quite pleased with the results. I then dyed some greens, and then one of Kathy's colors called "Aged barn wood". It's a great color. Here are some pictures of the greens with the background red, although several of the pictures show the greens much brighter than they actually are. The red is Kathy's "dark red cool". Some of the "Aged barn wood" is to the right of the red.I dyed the greens over gray, white and pale yellow in two strong and one weak. The pale yellow with the old barn wood recipe came out the darkest (surprise...darker than tan!) and has a wonderful primitive look.After that I did two more batches of colors. I did some rose colors using straight "wood rose" dye from Cushings over a variety of wool. Then I did some blues and came out with a good sampling to choose from. Jule Marie had told us to bring wool that had a wide variety of shades that we liked and she would show us how to shade and blend colors to bring the viewer's eye from one area of the rug to another. Next weekend I'll do some golden browns and pale soft yellows. I already have some lavenders and other colors that I will go through and make my final color selections just before the class. I will bring twice as much wool as I need...but there's nothing wrong with that. I also have to cut and zig zag edge of my linen, and transfer the paper pattern that I drew onto the linen. Something else I have very little experience with! I think I'll buy some of that red dot tracer paper that ruggers speak of. I've never tried it, but it might make the pattern transfer a lot easier! Thanks for sharing my relaxing dye day with me!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Columbus Day weekend

The air in Maine is starting to become crisp, but the colors of the landscape are glorious. My lifetime friend Laura and I decided to escape to the White Mountains for the weekend and have some fun. Laura and I have been friends for over thirty years and closer than most sisters. We began by going to my favorite auction house (I'm not telling where it is!). Laura had never been to an auction before and enjoyed it so much that she wants to go again. I found some things that will find nice spots in my home, including some old niddy noddys.We stayed overnight in a small motel, and started out early Sunday morning for our busy day. We had a bite to eat at Peaches in Conway, NH. Their fresh peach coffeecake was a wonderful was to start our day. After breakfast we meandered on our way enjoying the magnificent foliage and scenery of the mountains.
The weather was spectacular. We had an early reservation on the Cog Railway, which has operated continuously up the side of Mount Washington since 1869. The coal fired steam engines are antiques, but are quite adept at making the steep climb to the top of the highest mountain in the North East US.
Our locomotive had three trainmen working on it...the engineer, the fireman and the brakeman. We liked the brakeman a LOT because it was a steep grade and he kept us from rolling backwards. The fireman had to shovel the coal to keep the steam up, and the engine uses over a ton of coal and 1,000 gallons of water just on the ascent. Halfway up we came to the water tank where we refilled our tanks. It reminded me of Petticoat Junction. The guy in the doorway is our brakeman and best friend on this trip.
Because this railroad is so remote it does not have any of the modern ameties that railroads have, nor do they have the ability to make repairs as easily as most railroads due to the steep incline and the harsh weather. There were 5 track switches, and each switch has to be set by hand. They allow one train to move off of the main track so that another can pass either up or down. We pulled off to let another train pass.Many trails go up the mountain, and due to the harsh weather most of the year several series of cairns have been set on the trails. Cairns are piles of rocks that will guide hikers when visibility is poor, such as in a thick fog or blizzard. Just keep following the piles of rocks! There is a small colony of year round scientists who live at the top of the mountain and operate the weather station. The weather here is considered to be the harshest on the North American continent. The highest wind speed recorded was here...231 mph in 1934. Hurricane wind velocity (over 75 mph) is recorded on over half of the days during the winter months here. The highest temperature? Only 74 degrees. We were lucky as it was in the 40's on the morning we arrived at the summit. The few buildings are either made on concrete pilings imbedded in the ground or chained down. One year the summit house blew right off the mountain so they decided to chain everything to the ground. And yes, that's a shot of me enjoying the day. Laura wouldn't let me take a shot of her for fear it would end up on my blog!

That was fun! After we came off the mountain in the afternoon we had a bit to eat, then headed over to hill and dale to Brownfield for a concert. We saw some wonderful fuzzy cows along the way and this guy posed for a picture:The Stone Mountain Arts Center is a hidden gem in the boonies. It was the dream of local woman/ entertainer who wanted to turn her barn into a performing arts center. It is the most charming venue, and the acoustics are amazing. We went to see Kathy Mattea perform and as usual got seats next to the small stage. Laura and I have been to so many of her performances that she has gotten to know us. One of the local farmers was giving carriage rides before the show, and Kathy came out to say hello to Donner the Belgian horse.

If the air had been warmer she would have come along for the ride, but of course she had to protect her vocal chords. She put on a wonderful show as usual and agreed that this area is very special in many ways. It was a great ending to a terrific weekend shared with a wonderful friend.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Barbara Carroll Class

I recently headed up to Searsport Maine for a one day class with Barbara Carroll. Since I haven't made many hooked rugs and mats, I need both practice and someone to teach me what I haven't learned in books. Upon entering the class I recognized many familiar faces from the rug hooking cruise last year, so I felt as though I had joined my friends for the day.

I really admire the antique look of Barbara's rugs. She tends to use a lot of "as is" wools. The pattern for the class was the Rainbow Log Cabin mat. It is a sweet mat, but not one I would have chosen. Our challenge was to use "as is" wools that Barb had brought. She brought groups of students to the table and instructed us to choose the log and chinking colors from the wools she had on the table. They were lovely wools, but I wanted a red cabin (I'm strange). That was not an I went with the selections I was given. Similar situation with the background and flower wools. We were surrounded by many colors and textures of wool, but we had to choose from within the options that Barbara gave us. I think I was looking to find more contrast, but Barbara said not to worry about it because I would get the antique look I was seeking. We were able to choose freely from numerous scraps for our rainbow wools. It was fun for me to experience the way plaids hook up because I haven't used them in hooking projects. I had an enjoyable day, and Barbara is a sweetheart. The mat is turning out nicely, but I must say that I don't feel that I selected the wools. Here are some pictures from that day, from a penny rug that was on the floor to Julie's pup on the wonderful hooked footstool. The shelves of wool are from the Searsport Shop where the class was held. I just loved the old tub on the stand that was used to corral scraps of wool for the class.