Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Grandma Clancy aka Bridget Rogers-Clancy




I couldn't find any photos of my grandma with her fox stole but it was so fun looking through the old family photos and re-seeing my grandma. She died in 1980 (I think), right after I had left Michigan to live in Santa Cruz, California. We are a very large, unsentimental family and I didn't go back for her funeral. That was the way we did things but now that I am my own person with a larger view of the world, I would definitely go and I know that I should have gone.

I loved and respected my grandma. I knew she was cranky sometimes and I knew she was a little bit comical with her blue-grey hair and her terrible baking skills (she would give us muffins that we would use as ammunition in play wars), and the way she would stay in the kitchen long after a meal, eating the leftovers while she cleaned up. But I felt very close to her and intrigued by her.

The grandchildren would get to stay over in sets of two or three for weeks sometimes. I stayed with my cousins Maureen and Kathleen who were twins. We stayed in the backroom in a big bed with a white chenille bedspread. My grandma taught me the proper way to puff a pillow and make a bed. There was a crucifix over the bed that opened up and there was a small "relic" inside a little compartment and some "holy water". We were not supposed to touch it but we could not resist. At bedtime my grandpa would come in and tell us a story about leprechauns. he would say not to get out of bed or they would bite our feet. We were terrified but thrilled by the magic.

They gave us oatmeal or cornflakes every morning and my grandpa would always try to trick us into drinking butter milk - we never fell for it because we could smell it a mile away. They always had coffee percolating in a stainless coffee pot on the table and we had orange juice. The sun would shine in on the little kitchen table and onto the little shelves filled with my grandma's extremely cool salt and pepper shaker collection. It seemed like a little piece of heaven. To this day, I only like oatmeal the way my grandpa prepared it - thick but unstirred, a little salty, a dab of butter in the middle, a sprinkle of brown sugar, and milk floating on top.

My grandma taught me how to knit. We played with her button box, and her fox. She washed our hair in her sink in the basement. We visited the two bachelor brothers and their poodles who lived next door. We walked to the Kresge's dime store and she would let us each pick out some little thing. I would find some toy for literally about a dime. We were always well behaved but we had so much fun in what seemed to us an adventure away from our parents.

As I look at these pictures, I realize how much I am like my grandma, how much I was influenced by her. She was an individual, a strong woman, with dreams and aspirations. She left her home in Ireland to start a life in "the New World". She always cared about her appearance even when she was old. She had taste and style even if we didn't always understand or appreciate it. She loved her family. She loved to have a crowd together to eat and talk and laugh.

I miss her. Time and distance give one perspective but it is important to think about the whole story even when you are in the drudgery of some of the immediate moments.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Textile Tuesdays : #11 Furry Fashion






When I was little, my grandmother had a fox stole. She was a stout, no-nonsense Irish immigrant woman who raised 5 children in a working class neighborhood in Detroit and this was one of her little bits of luxury and glamour.

We used to play with the string of foxes when we went to their house to visit or to spend the night. It had two foxes with heads, tails and feet. The mouth of one opened and closed to attach to the other one when you wore it. It could be considered cruel fashion, creepy or disgusting, but as a child, I just thought it was beautiful.

Nowadays I prefer "faux" fur. I am not sure how eco-friendly it is. It's not natural and it may be more polluting, but nothing is killed in it's production. I would normally prefer wool - but there is something fun and cozy about a big furry stole, hat, or vest. Big furry coats and boots remind me of glam-rock or the 70's and 80's. There is also something a little exotic about it like it is from Russia or Mongolia.

I am completely opposed to the idea of fur coats. I can't begin to write about the bloody industry of fur, especially wild and endangered animals. So, it is sort of an ironic, playful statement to wear an outrageous fake fur item - the more obviously fake, the better.

The neck warmer is from Karmology. The giraffe hat is from Brown Bunny by Iris. The blankets are by Urban Mutt. The Roses Are Red is modeling her necklace with her fake fur hat.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas and Boxing Day



Last night, after all the festivities and visiting, we got in our PJs and got into bed. It was the old routine and that made it seem like just another night. The excitement of the holiday seemed to fade so fast. I was left thinking: what now? what do we have to get excited about in the next several months of winter? I was a little sad as I fell asleep. We had another vacation type day today. We read our new books and ate more cookies and chocolate. We went to a friend's house for a little visit. I worked on my sock some more - I am at the toe now. Then I suggested we go out for pizza. Normally, I would have made another big meal for Boxing Day - just an excuse to get through more fancy food and indulgence. In the past, we might have had more friends over to keep the excitement up. But I just don't seem to have the energy or motivation to do that right now. Maybe it is the aging thing, or maybe it is just a phase. I enjoyed the way things went but I do wonder if I am getting old, lazy, and boring, or if I am slightly depressed or in a slump.

We had a great day on Christmas. The morning was exciting, cozy and sentimental. We got up at 6:30, had freshly made Stollen and coffee, and opened presents slowly, savoring each thing. After lounging for a while, we got dressed and drove 50 minutes to my sister's house where we had lunch/dinner, went for a short hike, lounged some more, then came home. Simple and sweet.

It is traditional for us to have a small scale, family oriented Christmas. The girls love the routine and predictability of all the things we do all December: get the tree all together, decorate it, advent calendar, Christmas cards, shopping, making presents, baking cookies, setting up Sylvanian scenes, listening to Christmas music, getting home made flannel PJs, reading The Night Before Christmas, and getting up on Christmas morning while it is still dark out.

These rituals mark the passing of time. Even though a lot stays the same, things do change. Sometimes we are in different places, like London or Australia. We all look a little bit older each year and are at different places in our lives. We can't help looking back nostalgically and looking forward with expectation.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

seeing spots

I like watching the t.v. show "Monk". It just wrapped up its final season and ended the story. At one point, Monk was poisoned by someone who wanted to kill him. He knew something was wrong when he started seeing spot.

I am just seeing them since I wrote my recent post on polka dots. Now I am noticing them all over the place. I went with my husband to a matinee today to see "Up in the Air", the new George Clooney movie. It was really wonderful - sad, sweet, humorous, insightful. I really enjoyed myself and would have been totally absorbed in the story except I kept noticing the polka dots on his tie, then I started noticing all the tie patterns and all the fabrics, textures, patterns. I know I'm not poisoned but I guess I am just obsessed with textiles and pattern. I liked the small pink polka dot on a navy tie.


More Dots, More Snow, More Cookies




I found these photos in my archives. The green bag is one I made a year or so ago. The other things are just items I favored. I think the rose and dot bag might be Kath Kitson.

It snowed again yesterday so the old piles of black, melting snow have a new layer of fluffy white frosting for Christmas.

I stayed in my PJ's all day yesterday but I will take a shower and get dressed today. I guess I'll wear my brown skirt since it is the most lounge-worthy. My big accomplishment yesterday was making more Christmas cookies. I made my mom's traditional Snow Balls with walnuts, butter sugar and flour - they are like a short bread. But I added cardamom and finely chopped fresh rosemary. I had been wanting to try something in this new strange spice combo trend.

They are delicious.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Textile Tuesdays : #10 Polka Dots






I won't go into a long essay on the history of the design or the name. I wasn't able to find an exact answer, but you can go to this link and get an unofficial summary: The Word Detective. This has more to do with the name and not the design. My guess is that uniform dots in a uniform pattern is too generic to assign it to any one source; kind of like the stripe. I bet there were polka dot type patterns in Babylonia.

Anyway, what I do want to say, is that I love polka dots. I love the combination of the fun, cosmic, round dot arranged in an even, organized, respectable order. Usually it is printed in fun colors with white dots. But it is equally fabulous in black, pale pink, or even tan, and the dots can be colored on a white or different colored ground. The dots can be tiny, pin dots or gigantic, one inch dots.

I am thinking here of fabric and clothing but the polka dot pattern has been used on pillow, curtains, dishes, and toys. It is typically playful but has recently been used in post-modern design as an ironic, nostalgic backdrop.

I like the big dots that are in style now, but I have to say that my favorite is dotted swiss. Does anyone besides me remember what that is. My friend recently showed me a photo of a cactus and I said it looked like dotted swiss. She had no idea what I was talking about. I am planning on making a stuffed cactus sculpture out of dotted swiss (if I can get my hands on some). I will post a picture of it when it is done.

I guess it might not technically be a polka dot since the dots are not completely round. The kind I like best is round because the dots are printed on and flocked with some cheap polyester fuzz. Maybe that is not technically a dotted swiss. I like to make up my own rules in these and other matters so, I am sticking to this story. I wonder if I could make my own flocked dots out of natural fuzz on organic cotton. That would be really cool.

The pictures at the top are by: , Jesse Mosher, Apron Anatomy, and LA Drama Queen. The collection is from an etsy treasury made up by Retro Labs. All of these people are on etsy.com.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Daily Life in a Southwestern Town


Yesterday was a typical day here in Flagstaff. It was a Sunday and the girls are on break from school so we all slept in till about nine. I love sleeping in, especially when the days are short and the sky is grey. We all lazed around the house all morning, drinking coffee or tea, eating toast and cookies. The house is so full of sweets right now that we have to spread the eating of them throughout the day. I worked out and I made the girls work out to my bollywood video - just to get them moving a little to burn off some of that sugar and restless energy. We talked on the phone, plans were made, and the obligatory straightening and cleaning of the house occurred.

The girls worked on a craft project with a friend who came over. They made hair clips out of bottle caps, buttons, etc. While they were doing that in the kitchen, I was making their pajamas in the workroom. I make them flannel p.j.s every Christmas. I have done so since they were about 1 year old. I ignore and resent the "warning" on the flannel. We have photos of them every year in their new p.j.s on Christmas eve. I like this tradition but the girls like it even more. I plan to do it till they leave home. My mom did the same for us and there were 7 of us girls!

In the afternoon, both girls got separate invitations to sleep over at their respective friend's house. (I don't normally allow this as a rule, but these were both families that I am close friends with so that is the exception). So we unloaded them at their various destinations, gave them the reminders of the usual rules... and said good night.

David and I were happy to be able to have a date night to do whatever we wanted without any responsibilities. We did have some errands to run - get detergent and blank CDs from Target, fill the gas tank, get some videos; it was crowded and yucky with tired people and crying children - then we headed downtown to go out to dinner.

We heard about a new restaurant and wanted to check it out. Since this is somewhat of a tourist town, there are loads of restaurants, but there are very few that we actually like and frequent. I am a good cook so I am picky about taste and quality. I also like a nice but casual, fun but not too loud, friendly and warm atmosphere. We were excited to find that this new place could be added to our list.

We had a delicious dinner and came home for dessert, a nightcap, and a video. It may sound like old-stodgy people entertainment, but we loved it. We did watch "The Hangover" which was surprisingly funny and well done.

Upon reflection, I considered this a very successful day here. Mundane, yes, but nothing bad happened. No one got in a fight. Little things just seemed to fall into place and small tasks were accomplished. Nothing earth-shattering or transformative, but when you re-focus your expectations and slow down to the pace of a small town, you find entertainment and satisfaction in smaller, simpler things. Is this called "settling"? I don't know.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Business


I haven't been writing as consistently as I would like to. It has been six days and that is not good. This blog is supposed to help me get used to working in a routine and to develop my writing and creative thought processes. I don't know how much it is working but I must say that I have enjoyed just going a little easier on myself since my Japanese class ended. I am feeling pretty sane and relaxed as I go into Christmas.

This should be one of the busiest times of year for my bag sales and I should be frantically sewing more and more bags to keep my shop full. But, I guess I was lucky that my October sales were low. I have been selling, not a huge amount, but steadily since Thanksgiving. Now my inventory is low on my ETSY store so I am going to try to put up a few more things.

There was an article on the front page of NY times on-line last night about sellers on ETSY. They were saying that some make over $100,000/year. To me, that is no longer a hobby or a novelty. Either they have employees or they are working 16 hour days, or both. I would like to consider my business a real job, but I also want to do it so that I can have balance in my life between my family, my friends, my work and my own self-maintenance.

I know it sounds corny, but at this point, I am just persevering, putting my faith in the universe, and trying to be happy in the moment. I am off to sew. I'll write more after Christmas - I promise.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Generosity





Last night I couldn't get to sleep. I had coffee during the day and whiskey before bed which made me groggy but wound up. I was thinking about my blog, my writing, my life in story form. The last few days I haven't written because the girls were home on snow days and I didn't have the space I needed to write. I was thinking though, about how to describe life in this southwestern mountain town. I felt like it was much easier to write about my world when I was living abroad. Here, I feel like I can't separate myself out so my writing seems more like just reporting. I want to be genuine but also somewhat transcendent of the mundane.
So, I was lying in bed thinking about how I could do this. I didn't really come up with a solution except that I should try as hard as I can to express the details and the feelings that go with the story.

This snow storm was quite a story. Apparently, it was the biggest dumping in 29 years. We do get deep snow every winter but this was fast and the winds were up to 60 mph. It sounded like the blizzard scene from Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. The power went out temporarily but came back on, thank God! I would not have wanted to feel the chill of cold walls, floors, and furniture and our meager wood pile is buried under a drift in the backyard. I suppose we could have dug it out and sat under blankets all day. But we would have had no tea! Anyway, we were able to stay warm inside.

It snowed heavily all day Monday and through the night. By Tuesday the skies were blue but it was about 20 degrees and the driveway and doors were covered in drifts. Snow had gotten embedded in the screens. Around 10 o'clock we started the big dig out. I made the girls go out first because I knew they would be restless by the middle of the day and I wanted them to get some fresh air and exercise. Also, I feel they need to share in the responsibilities especially when it seems there is more than even the four of us can handle. They whined and objected but finally went out and made a good shovel wide path down to the street.
Then David and I went out and started moving mountains of snow. One of the problems was the wind blowing it in our faces as we threw it. The other problem was that there was nowhere to throw it. Everywhere was at least waist deep. Everyone was outside with shovels and snow blowers. The plows had gone by on the main street and there were a few cars going by tentatively.

We were at it for about half an hour when this man came up with his snow blower. He plowed through the sidewalk and then started in on our berm. (When the city plows the streets, they push all the frozen, compacted snow to the side, blocking the ends of the driveways and creating a large, semi-solid embankment). He had a heavy-duty bright green and yellow machine. Any machine buffs will know that means a John Deer! (John Deer actually has a copy write on that color of green.)

I have to say I felt like it was a little bit of a super hero coming to rescue us and the man was a bit of a saint. He didn't have a beard, but it still seemed like proof of the spirit of Santa to me. It would have taken us all day to make a path just big enough for one car and we would have been sore and possibly injured for days following. Instead, he cleared the entire driveway with clean edges in about 20 minutes. I didn't even know who he was! I asked his name and where he lived so I could bring him some cookies later or some small token of appreciation. He was going on to help other people after he left us! It was cold out and plow or no plow, moving the snow was still work!

Was this a lesson in civic duty? No. Was it an example of kindness and caring? Maybe. Mostly, it struck me as an act of generosity. So often we encounter meanness, or we react to situations with a mean spirit. Especially in tough economic times, everyone is trying to figure out how to tighten their belts. Well, maybe the philosophy of openness is the right one - creating a positive flow, allowing the space for good things to happen. Personally, I am going to try to keep the chain reaction of generosity going. It could be a smile to someone who seems down, a kind word to my kids because I am not exhausted, a more positive attitude about where I live, or just saying yes to something I might have otherwise said no to.

The girls are back at school today and Christmas is coming up fast. I am really looking forward to this festive, happy time of year. I am thankful. I am feeling like it is good to be where I am right now. I feel like the story is unfolding and it's not too bad. The next chapter might be Europe, Seattle, or Japan, but this Arizona chapter has its own meaning and its own charm.


Monday, December 7, 2009

SNOW DAY


David is outside sweeping snow off the roof in the hopes that it won't start leaking into the ceiling and walls. It has been snowing big wet flakes all morning since about six. The girls had a snow day from school and are still in their pajamas. We have about a foot so far and it is expected to be 2 feet by tomorrow. The cat came in with little snow pompoms stuck all over her tummy! Still she begs to go out! She is an adventurer!

I had my final final in Japanese today. I will get my grade via e-mail and I will not have any more contact with that class. I feel a sense of accomplishment and relief, but also a little bit of sadness that it is all over. I probably will never see any of those people again except the teacher. I plan to take 102 next year.

I was nervous about my final this morning and wanted to get it over with. But, I was also nervous about the snow!! I really did not want to drive in it. So, I decided to get bundled up and walk. It is about 2 miles which is not that bad except that it was blizzarding and the deep snow requires trudging! Anyway, I bundled up and walked. I actually wish I had my camera because it was so beautiful to see the dried weeds sticking out of the white snow. The way home was harder because it was up hill. I felt elated when I got home. The endorphins and the excitement of having finished my class left me feeling good and I have just relaxed the rest of the day.

I treated myself to a shortbread cookie from Scotland and a shot of whiskey at three o'clock. There doesn't seem to be much else to do but look out the window. The snow really is so beautiful when you are warm inside the house.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hibernating

We are expecting the first big storm of the season tomorrow - 1 to 2 feet of snow with high winds. I have my written final in Japanese at 10 a.m. but other than that, I would be happy to be stuck in the house for a few days. We got loaded up on groceries and we got some extra DVDs. I have some good books and I still have my socks to finish knitting. I got my latest orders out to the post office so anything else that comes in can wait a few days. The girls would love a snow day and we could sure use the moisture.

The only thing I need to do is some Christmas shopping and I can do that on line. I plan to buy a lot from ETSY. The girls gave us their lists today and they were small and sweet. It is nice that we all feel that we don't want or need a lot of things this year. I always make the girls pajamas. I have done it since they were born. Now that my class is over, I can concentrate on doing more sewing and getting ready for the holidays. We usually celebrate Christmas and Hannuka because my husband is Jewish. The more cozy festivities the better. When the girls were little I read them a great book called "Light the Lights" about a mixed family and how both of these holidays bring warmth and light in the dark of winter.

Since we lived in London, we also celebrate on Boxing Day. We were amazed at how much the English celebrate. I always thought Americans were known for overdoing it at the holidays, but the Brits add a party element to it that really takes it to another level. We absolutely loved it! All the food and drink, parties, decorations and theatrical performances, all steeped in traditions. I'm not sure how old a tradition the balloons and disco lights at the children's party was, but people seemed to expect it and we went along with it happily and with an open heart.

I'll write more about our holiday traditions later but for now I will just say that my mind is on the preparations and I am glad that the snow is going to help make it seem more immediate and exciting.

In times like this though, I am very thankful for what I have. A warm house, a healthy family, relative security and modern conveniences. I also have low-tech conveniences like blankets, candles, boots, mittens, snow shovel, fireplace, etc. I don't know how well my skirts are going to hold up if I have to walk two miles in a blizzard to my final. I hope it doesn't come to that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

I DID IT!!


O.k. All the hemming and hawing seems like a strange false memory now. I took my oral exam in Japanese!!! I practiced a lot, I memorized as much as I could, I gave myself positive self-talk, I kept my expectations in check, and I think I did pretty well! It was a 10 minute conversation with another student in an empty classroom with the teacher. We had basically scripted it out but tried to pretend that we were having a spontaneous meeting. The teacher was nice and said we did a good job when it was over. Now the written final on Monday seems minor and I am not worried at all because I am pretty sure I will be getting a B no matter what.

When I think about why I wanted to just quit, it was because I was afraid that I would completely blow it and have to deal with a humiliating experience where the teacher would think I was a fuck up and the other student would be pissed at me for ruining their conversation. I also thought that I had gotten what I needed out of the class and that doing the final couldn't possibly accomplish anything except stress and an empty sense of accomplishment.

The good thing that I really did learn is that there was something else that I could get out of it. Yes, I finished. I didn't quit. Socially, that is considered a better outcome. But, personally, I learned something much more important. That is - it wasn't that hard. The task was definitely doable and the stress was mostly internal, not external. If I had just assumed that there was no way I could quit, then I could have focused on doing the work and that would have made it even easier.

It all reminds me of two different situations where I (and I think most people are the same) got to a crucial point and said "I changed my mind! I am not going ahead with this! Get me out of here!" Can you guess what I am referring to? One case was at the top of a roller-coaster just before it dropped. The other was during child birth when labor reached transition. Obviously, there is no backing out from either situation. This is probably a good thing or no one would ever be born.

I don't know why I am prone to stepping back from the finish line. I certainly like to take on challenges and adventures. Maybe I could find out the answer if I went through psycho-analysis. (Dr. Freud, do you think I equate success with death?) I have no problem putting a book down without finishing it. I have loads of beautiful needlework projects sitting in boxes 90% done. I always leave the last bite on a plate.

Well, I am finishing this Japanese class and I am still sticking to my 4 skirts. I wore my brown skirt today with a black top so I could project calm. The photo at the top is of a Japanese inspired bag that I sold a little while ago.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's Up?


I feel like all of my creativity has frozen up under the stress of my oral exam in Japanese. I am just holding my breath. I am studying hard and trying to stay focused, positive, and calm. I met with my study group yesterday. The teacher assigned us and we will be randomly paired to have a 5-10 minute conversation in Japanese. They are all so young and seemingly unruffled. I think a few of them are happy to get by with a passing C or maybe they don't mind cramming at the last minute. They act so confident but don't know any more than I do. Their behavior is a bit of a puzzle to me and I wonder if it is just a happy facade. The fact is, I am older and wiser and I should focus on my strengths and experience. I do have a master's degree and have had natural child birth twice, after all.

We are studying again today and I really hope that my brain doesn't overload or have a senior moment. I also hope I don't get self-conscious with stage fright. This is, after all, for me. I am glad that I didn't give into my fear and quit last week. It really isn't as bad as I imagined it would be and it is good that I found that out.

I almost couldn't fall asleep Sunday night worrying about it. I am trying to work out to relieve some of the stress. I want to get a new dance video from the series of the Masala Bhangra Workout. I loaned out my old one so I did a yoga video that I have. I was so sore in my shoulders the next day from doing the Downward Dog that I felt like someone punched me all over my abdomen. I do 2 miles on my treadmill about 4 days a week but that doesn't help my upper body and I am getting pretty bored with being in the garage.

I am trying to stay pleasant and positive at home because I don't want to create more stress and because my family are all being pretty great right now and I want to do my bit to continue that. I am trying to create domestic bliss by doing the laundry, making the beds, driving people where they want to go, and cooking nice meals. It is nice to sit down to a yummy, nutritious meal. Being vegetarian requires creativity to avoid boredom and to get a balanced diet. My latest favorite thing is Lundberg mixed wild rice cooked with veggie bouillon or Za'atar spice.

My younger daughter was doing a project on Denmark and we baked little fancy apple cider cakes. I was so worried about them sticking that I sprayed too much spray oil in the pans and almost set the oven on fire! Now I have to clean baking soda out of the oven. I was proud of myself for remembering that baking soda is the thing to stop or put out an oven fire. I must have learned that in 7th grade home economics. I actually learned so many things in that class that I still think of. One thing is - always make sure there is nothing in the oven before you turn it on. Another thing is - if you find something in your food when you are eating with other people, quietly set it aside so you don't ruin everyone else's meal. I try to teach this to my family but they still want to shriek "eeeuuwww... look what I found in my food! gross!! etc."

It will sink in eventually and I will love them either way. They will really have to practice their manners if we go live in Japan. My daughter said, yesterday, "did you see how the Japanese student held her fork so formally?" At least they are noticing. I have a lot of sympathy for them working so hard in school now that I have been through just one class. Being a student is tanoshi (fun) but also very muzukashi (difficult).

I love this little bag that I made out of fabric that I got in Tokyo. It is sweet and perfect for winter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Textile Tuesdays : #9 Silk







Once upon a time, there was a Chinese princess sitting under a Mulberry bush, drinking tea, when a cocoon fell into her cup. As she pulled it out, she noticed a long, thin thread spiraling off of it...

The story of the history of silk is as amazing as the fiber itself. I don't know if this legend is accurate (It comes from a children's book), but it is true that silk comes from the cocoon of a moth caterpillar called The Silk Worm. It is also true that it was originally produced only in China and its source and production was highly secretive. Somehow (legends vary) it was smuggled out of china. If you have read the book Middlesex, you will know about the Mediterranean history with silk. It seems women are always smuggling worms and cocoons for the sake of luxury and commerce.

The Silk Road (the route of commerce between the Mediterranean, Middle East, India and Asia) was responsible for the growth and interchange of the great, ancient cultures. The production of silk is intriguing and novel. While the worm is usually killed before it can become a moth and chew through the threads, there is a type of silk called Peace Silk where the moths are allowed to live. There is some debate about whether it is worth it to let the moths emerge into an unhealthy and short life. The blog True Up has a nice little post about it.

I was never very interested in silk. I thought of it as something that was used in fancy gowns, a luxury only for the wealthy. When I learned more about it, I became very enamored with it. It reminds me of porcelain, another material that I love, in that it is fine and delicate yet stronger, more beautiful, and more enduring than its rougher equivalents.

A thin piece of silk can keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It can be washed (if you don't mind loosing some of the sheen) and is quick drying. This, along with it being very light weight, makes it great for traveling. And, it feels fantastic against one's skin.

From an artist's perspective, it is also wonderful. It absorbs dyes easily, comes in a huge range of formats - from thin fabric to thick yarn for knitting or weaving. Even the cocoons can be dyed, cut and worked into textile artworks.

Silk fabric is most noted for its drape, its feel, and its shimmer. So many great designers and artists use it. From a Chiffon cut on the bias to a thick Dupioni cinched up, it has stood the test of time. Kimonos, saris, evening gowns, and underwear, these are just the beginnings of the things you can make with silk.

The pictures at the top are of my bags made of Dupioni silk, a silk wrist cuff from The Roses are Red, a silk baby carrier from Lil' Peeper Keepers, a punk/goth wedding dress from KM Kostumes, a chic silk top from artlab, and some dyed cocoons from Larkspur Funny Farm.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Big Picture


Little by little I am ticking away at all the responsibilities I have. If I try to do a million things (or even ten things) at once, I feel like I am drowning, so I just take it slowly and get it done slowly, but I eventually get most of it done. Something about my psyche doesn't want me to take on and achieve huge things. I can succeed at small things or big things stretched out over time, but I would usually rather quit than dive into a huge challenge wondering if I will make it out with my ego in tact.

Maybe that is why I am a big picture girl. I remember one time when I was a teen ager. I was telling my younger sister about all the plans I had for my future. They were very grand and she said I would never do all those things because I was not ambitious and didn't follow through. Part of me thought she was right. But, years later after ups and downs and round and rounds in my life path, I realized that amid all the days and years, I had actually accomplished everything that I had said I would.

Why do I take indirect, less splashy routes? I don't know. Is it less efficient? I don't know. But, I have come to accept and live by a couple of cliches: slow and steady wins the race, and I yam what I yam. It is good to live in the present but I have to be careful not to be impatient or narrow focused. Hope, faith, big picture - whatever I call it, I have to keep believing that my life is an amazing story with a solid plot line, amazing details and a good moral.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving


Well, I am sorry that I have not been making entries! It seems the more I have going on and the more I could be filled with writing inspiration, the less time I have to write. Today is Thanksgiving. We had a lovely day and I have a lot to be thankful for. We had dinner at our house with my sister and her husband, and my Japanese exchange student friend. There was a ton of food, drink, lively conversation, and just plain relaxation. We watched a little of the Macy's parade and went for a walk. I think our foreign friend enjoyed the traditional foods and our zany family.

I wore my brown skirt with a cream silk top. The day went by fast but we will have a clean house and leftovers for a while.

Peace on Earth and welcome winter!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday With My Cat


I did not want to get out of bed this morning. I had to fight against all those ideas of just quitting. The best one is where I tell myself that quitting is actually an act of rebellion, that no one can force me to do anything and I can make my own choices and I choose to stay in bed - ha! Yeah, that's a good one. It is, of course, born of sleepy, laziness and is just a clever ploy erupting from some deep-seated fear of completion that needs to be psychoanalyzed.

Anyway, the grown-up in me is winning out. I am writing in my blog. I am going to study for my Japanese quiz tomorrow. I am going to go grocery shopping for the food I need to make Thanksgiving dinner. I am going to wear one of my 4 skirts.

I look at my cat lying next to me, curled up in a tight knot. She only needs the comfort of knowing I am there to rest peacefully. She is like a dog in the way she follows me around. She caught and ate a small bird last week and then threw it up in our hallway! It was worse than most horror movies. I made my husband clean it up. It is not the grossness of the barf, but the sadness of that poor dead bird that really bothers me. What can I do though? It is natural for animals to hunt.

Speaking of animals, I waited in line for an hour with my daughter on Friday so we could get good seats at New Moon. I did not think the movie was as good as the first one but I must say that we are both on Team Jacob. I wish they would have focused on and developed the wolf story more. I will never wait in line like that again but actually the time goes by fast when you accept that that amount of time is going to be spent there and you are just in the moment.

After Thanksgiving, I plan to get motivated in my Shecological business. It has been hard lately with everything else I have to take care of with school and family. But, hopefully the holidays will be a good time for sales and I will need to keep refilling my store. I am excited to do some of the new styles I have been dreaming up.

Bye for now kitty. I'm off to class.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Skirts on Friday con't.



I really do think that my skirts project is helping me be less consumeristic. I think it is also helping me be more focused. I feel my inner vision being directed more narrowly, clearly, deeply and less frenetically. I think it is helping me with the stress and volume of things in my life right now. It is also having a positive effect on the way I am viewing my creativity and my business.

With my bags, I want to do more with less. It sounds a little cliche but that is my feeling in a nutshell. I have great hopes for the results when they finally materialize.

With my personal fashion, it doesn't even seem strange to me anymore to be wearing the same skirts every day. I make sure that my outfits are comfortable, warm (or cool if I am going down to the desert), coordinated and interesting. I pay more attention to my accessories and have fun with those sometimes. I am wearing tall knee socks or leggings every day so I don't have to shave my legs or polish my toes.

I have stopped wearing my Michelle skirt because it doesn't keep me warm enough and it is basically white. So now I have 3 skirts and I am afraid they are getting worn out. The brown hemp Mary Jane skirt and the flowered Zara are definitely the two favorites.

I don't know if I will be able to stick to these 4 for the whole year. I may have to switch in a new one for the white one. I hope the other one's don't get thread bare because I am not sure I can be dedicated enough to patch or wear holes!

In the picture at the top, I am wearing my Mary Jane skirt, a sweater that I got last year on clearance at Banana Republic, and a necklace from Polarity on etsy. She has great things and is a super nice person with a very entertaining blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Textile Tuesdays : #8 Wednesday Rock and Roll



Textiles can show up all over the place, in unexpected moments - even on a wednesday, in any place from ancient artifacts to modern technology and music.

Last week I went with my Japanese friend to the Museum of Northern Arizona. I wanted to show her a little bit of the art and culture we have here. I think she liked it. It is hard to know if she was just being polite. Anyway, I showed her my favorite sections - the textiles. There are ancient baskets, sandals woven from yucca, bags knitted from human hair, made with bone needles. There are also more modern works such as Navajo blankets and articles of traditional clothing.

Back at home, I was on ETSY with my daughters and we went to the Virtual Lab to see a live chat with the Australian singer - Lenka. She is one of my new favorites. her lyrics are very poetic and clever. The music is fun with a slightly dark edge. Her videos are very creative with an artsy, handmade quality, and she is cute and stylish. It got me thinking of all sorts of fun, wild art projects like decorating the house in January to look like a giant garden with vines hanging from the lamps and ceilings. It made me want to be more daring in my own work and my own style. I love that kind of thing. I love courage in personal expression. It makes me think that the human race is vibrant and moving forward into exciting futures.

Isn't that after all what rock and roll is about - at least partly? It got me thinking of the influence that R&R has had on social change and cultural trends. Think of Elvis, the Beatles, The Supremes, The Sex Pistols, Madonna, Nirvana, on and on and on. I'm not saying that any one of these people or groups is responsible for a fashion and cultural wave, but they helped bring it to the youth and the masses. One of my favorite designers is Vivienne Westwood. I saw a fabulous, exciting exhibit of her works in San Francisco a few years ago. She was the punk rock designer (sounds like a contradiction but it's not).

Part of being a rock star is having a look. Usually, that look means some identifiable fashion. A lot of stars have designers that they work with and some even develop their own lines - like Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku Lovers. Sometimes, the fashion is anti-fashion like the Grunge movement, made famous by Nirvana and other Northwest Bands.

Nowadays, there seem to be many trends that anyone can follow (or not). But rather than mimicking one person or exact look, it would be nice if everyone got the subtler message of making a statement by being oneself; having the courage to look within and express ones creativity and personality. Maybe it is impossible to be truly original, but it is fun to try. Having access to alternative clothing and accessories, being able to make your own, to play around with fabrics and other materials, is certainly a start.

The photos are from Malam and I Heart Fink on ETSY.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Life in a Southwestern Mountain Town #5


Somehow, with all the small town nothing going on, we still manage to fill our days. Some of it is tedious, and some is sweet and wonderful. This weekend, I really felt like a mother/artist/housewife in a small southwestern mountain town. Maybe I am just being "meta" as my friend Lisa would say, but I felt a little like I was watching my life, like a movie, and it was kind of entertaining.
I have connected with a Japanese exchange student at the university. We are supposed to help each other with language and cultural understanding. Mostly, so far, I have been speaking English with her and trying to get to know her. I took her to the local museum on Tuesday. I think she liked it. Saturday, my younger daughter and I took her to our little historic downtown to go shopping. It snowed a little bit and was quite cold, but we stayed inside mostly. There were a lot of people out shopping and we ran into a few different friends. We even got free cobbler from the mayor who was trying to get people to sign a petition! I tried to point out different historic buildings and tell her about how this town operates. I think she had a good time. I hope so.
I spent a good deal of my week-end cleaning a house that has been neglected or barely cleaned by me for a while. The girls helped some and it felt good to get everything organized and presentable again. I even took another trip to the goodwill.

Today a friend came over and looked through my bags. She bought a bag for herself and one for a friend for her birthday. I was flattered and grateful for her vote of confidence.

I didn't get to do any sewing and no Japanese homework. Instead, I helped my older daughter do a photo shoot for her jewelry that she sells on ETSY. She wants to give her shop a makeover so we got her glammed up and did some dramatic photos. I think she got some good ones. Unfortunately it got dark and cold before we could get the full use of the hair and make-up.

My husband is on his way home from Edinburgh and should be here within the hour. I missed him and will be glad when he is home. Sometimes I worry and just feel better when everyone is together safe and sound.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Review


Another week has drifted by like an exhale. I don't seem to be able to get done everything that I want to but I feel a strange sense of calm and optimism.
(no, I'm not on mood stablizing drugs, unless you count fish oil).

I have actually ended a fairly crappy week feeling inspired and with a plan. I haven't decided anything definitely, but I think I am going to not sign up for Japanese 102 next semester. I was really stressed about my inability to perform in that class. I didn't like that some of the students were nasty to me (bitchy girl, you know who you are). But, mostly, I just want to be able to digest the material so I can actually use it. I don't care about meeting some curriculum goal or getting a good grade. I feel that if I keep covering new material, I will loose what I have already tackled. So, my plan is to do self-study for the rest of the year, go over 101 and venture into 102 on my own or maybe with a tutor. Then, next Spring, if I still want to, I can take 102 with a good solid foundation.
On the Shecological front, I have decided to focus back onto my original designs and my original plan to make natural more chic. I have been feeling really creative and want to get to the sewing and listing. The past year, I have made some fun and cool bags and I have played with lots of ideas, but I have gone off track from my true fashion aesthetic. I am proud of the work I have done and am excited to see the result of my self-redirect.

I love being able to sell my work on ETSY and I think it is a fabulous venue. But sometimes I get overwhelmed and frustrated trying to figure it out, trying to keep up with the ins and outs. Thankfully, one of the main reasons I love it is the people I have come to know through convos, treasuries, teams, etc. I really mean it. Last week, there were a few (or more than a few) days when I was about to cry, when I didn't want to get out of bed, and I got a convo from someone or a comment on my blog or treasury telling me something that was encouraging, supportive or just kind. I got notes saying that they could relate to my feelings, ideas or situation. Sometimes it was just a mutual interest or mutual appreciation for something. All these little things make me happy. They make me realize that people are what it is all about. They make me remember that I want to do what I can to make other people smile.
There are many, many wonderful people that I have crossed "virtual" paths with but this week I want to just say a special thanks to 4 people:

Rikkianne from Chakrapennywhistle
Cricket from Cricketapollo and Just 3 Things

You all reached through the blogosphere and gave me the pat on the back that I needed. So here is a big virtual hug and smile back at you.

I also wanted to talk about my skirts, about the birds in our yard, about the Japanese exchange student that I am befriending, about Lenka!, and about party planning. For now, I am done and want to go watch a DVD of Foyle's War. I will write more tomorrow.

The photo is one of my first bags from a couple of years ago.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maybe I Should Call It: What The @*#% Wednesday


I wanted to have Wednesdays be about my Japanese class and various details about this wonderful language. However, today I am feeling so discouraged, frustrated, and insecure that I am not going to try to say too much. It would just come off as pitiful. So I will think about it and try to have some intelligent reflection at a later date. For now I will just say that I am having to work harder than I normally would and the results are much less positive than they normally would be! Is it aging? Is Japanese just amazingly difficult? Am I trying to do too many things? Or maybe, this class is just unrealistically fast paced?

Today was a holiday - no class. I did have a nice time hanging out with my girls but we were all doing homework for a good part of it! At dinner, Valerie suggested we make a list of 100 things that make us happy. It was fun and I think we all did feel happier by the end of it.

I am really looking forward to Christmas! I made this nice little treasury on etsy to express the way I am feeling. I think it turned out pretty well.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Textile Tuesdays : #7 Plaid


Today I feel like writing about plaid. It is autumn and, because plaid is originally made of wool, it is a good fabric for the cooler weather. Also, my husband is off to Edinburgh for 5 days so my mind is wandering to Scotland.

Plaid is about textile history but it is also about style. I usually think that a person who wears plaid has got style, a sense of history, and the courage to be bold. One of my 4 skirts is a Pendelton wool plaid. I have been getting some good wear out of her lately. It does take some confidence and a sense of adventure to put it on but I get tons of compliments on it.

Tartan plaids have been a symbol of Scottish heritage for hundreds of years. Different patterns and colors signify clans, activities, or rank. The name of the plaid often comes from the family name such as Stuart or Macintosh. In any case, the pattern is woven into the fabric in a crisscross pattern of thick or thin lines. There are hundreds of different patterns. My favorites are the ones that have light green and aqua like the Davidson, Campbell or Blair. You can still find companies in Great Britain that make and sell traditional woolen yardage, kilts, shawls, etc. in a huge variety of colors and patterns. They are quite expensive and, I think you have to be committed to the cause to go this route. One store, Donaldson's, sells yardage at about $65/meter. Kilts cost about $500.

The plaid does not stop at kilts and wool though. It has infiltrated high and low fashion all over the world. Just think of a lumberjack, a Catholic school uniform or a pair of golfing trousers. From Vivienne Westwood, to Lulu Guiness, to Burberry to Dolce and Gabana, the runway models were wearing it last year which means it is a big trend this year. You can find it at Anthropologie, J Crew, Gap, or Target or Barneys. I have to say, I wish I could have had this Maclaren Stroller when my girls were small. I did have a Maclaren. It was a work horse, but it was plain blue with green trim. I would have loved the plaid.

Let's not forget that vintage is big and vintage is probably one of the best, most cost effective, most earth-friendly ways to get plaid. Those old wools, if they haven't been eaten by moths, last forever. I love my vintage plaid skirts, scarves and jackets. You can find great vintage plaids on etsy.com. Look at this lovely plaid suit from Sally Jane Vintage. How about this scarf from The Vintage Closet? Let's not forget the dogs!!

The photo at the top is from Hoverfly.etsy.com. Isn't it fabulous!?

I hope you explore more about plaid and try it out if you are not already a fan.
I will let you know if I get a plaid shawl or blanket from the land of Loch Ness. I am crossing my fingers.




Monday, November 9, 2009

Dreaming in Metaphors


I have been drinking coffee lately to try to get myself more reved up. It is working a little but I feel yucky and I can't get to sleep at night. So, I guess I will call that a failed experiment.

Last night I was lying in bed with my mental sound track going on and on, droning towards sleep but not quite getting there. I had lots of ideas but didn't want to turn on the light to right them down. I remember one idea for a bag that I will try to do today. It seemed like a good idea in my sleepy mind but we will see if it can translate to the light of day.

Anyway, I don't know if it is the coffee or just my life right now, but I have been having dreams that are like little messages to myself and I am really not quite sure what they mean.

"Calling Dr. Freud or Dr. Jung"...

First I had a dream that I was visiting with an old childhood friend of mine in her house in Michigan. It was completely empty and the walls were covered with plexiglass. We were sitting on the floor and she was being nice to me but then I noticed that she had 2 heads. I didn't want to say anything because I didn't want to be mean, and I was a little scared.

Next, I had a dream that I was teaching a textile arts class and a friend asked me to watch her pet monkey. So, while I was trying to do all this messy stuff I, literally, had a monkey on my back! When I tried to put it in its box, it bit my finger.

Last night, I dreamed that I was an exchange student in Japan but I was living in the house of a Chinese woman. I had to sleep in the living room and share with another student. I was trying to make a phone call on an old push button phone but I couldn't figure out how to do it. I was trying to figure out if I should go home.

I know that the symbolism is obvious but my friend Patty was never really two faced. She was always thoughtful and honest. But maybe she was hiding something.

I do feel like I have a lot of responsibilities, but I can't say any particular thing that feels like a monkey on my back. Maybe it is something in me that I have to work out.

I am obviously stressed about my Japanese class and my daughter is going to China for one week at spring break. Maybe I am worried about that.

I think all these things together make my life seem like some kind of surreal movie script. Well, I'm off to shower and go out into the real action.

The picture at the top is of (part of) my family at a summer picnic. I am in the red sweater. Everyone looks happy except my dad who is probably chewing on something and my little sister Peggy who looks a little pissed off about something. I look very concerned. I would have been about 6 there.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cleaning


If anyone out there has been reading this blog since the beginning, you will know that I was doing a deep cleaning of my house back in July. Well, I am still trying to deal with the dregs of that. I have several issues that cause my surroundings to be overly cluttered.

One is that I love little, cute things. I collect them even though they are pretty much useless. They are fun to look at but not when they are piled in a heap. They don't get used so they never get used up so it is hard to throw them away.

Two is that I don't like to "waste" things. This translates to never throw anything away. I have boxes of clothes, books, toys, art supplies, etc. that I don't want to even give to the goodwill because I am sure that one of my friends or family members could use. Or maybe we will need it then have to go buy more. Isn't it Murphy's Law that if you get rid of something you will need it the next day?

The other reason is that I am sentimental and I want to keep souvenirs and mementos. I have boxes of baby clothes, art projects, toys, photos, scraps of fabric, postcards, that have some historic significance to me.

At what point do I say, I can't house these things anymore! I have a life in the present that is getting bogged down by the stuff of the past! What is the limit on amount of things that can be stored and saved? I am sure I have exceeded it.

I am trying to go through it all reasonably. It is taking a long time because it is the last thing I ever want to do. I am making progress and the best thing is that I have really really cut back on intake. I only buy what we absolutely need and whenever something comes into the house, something has to go out.

Maybe when I have truly completed the purge, I will look forward and realize we have all moved into a new phase of our lives. I think that is kind of happening anyway.

Speaking of cleaning, look at this great thing that I found on etsy (the photo at the top). It is so much better than using those stinky paper ones and throwing them away. It is from a company in Tucson called Ollies Boutique.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Skirts on Friday


Well, I am still having to fight myself everyday to not give up on this skirts project. I realized something about myself that probably has a lot to do with my lack of glorious fame and success. I don't like routine. I strive for it, but when I get it I almost immediately feel like I am trapped. I am like a caged animal who wants to assert my freedom and when I get it I stand there wondering what to do next. I want to learn Japanese. I want to make and sell eco-conscious bags. I want to work out and be fit and healthy. I enjoy cooking. I want to write in my blog. I want to continue with my skirt experiment. Buuuuutttt..... when I feel that I have to, a little voice in my head says NO, let me do something else, let me do nothing. I have to go on arguing with myself or I just make my brain shut up and I get down to doing whatever it is I need to do.

Good thing I have 4 skirts and not just one! Once I am dressed, I am fine. Less thinking, more doing is actually a good thing in my case.

I was listening to Ekhart Tolle in my car on the way down to visit my sister in Sedona yesterday. It was a good reminder to focus on the present, to not be worrying about the past, to plan for the future but not get stuck in worrying about it. Change things that need changing (if you want them changed), try to realize how you can change your own perspective or attitude towards things that you can't change. It sounds like the 12 step program and my paraphrasing is pitiful but I know what I am trying to say and I recommend that anyone who is curious go here and read or listen to the actual text.

Anyway, I realize the above hang up of mine, but I am not going to worry about it.

In the present moment, it is Friday, tonight is first Friday art walk in downtown Flagstaff, the weather is still pretty mild, and I am in a pretty good mood. David and I are going out to dinner and the girls are busy with their friends. Dare I say, "Life is Good!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Behind My Self-imposed Schedule


Japanese Wednesday on a Thursday morning, at least I got poetic words on wednesday. Anyway, I have a quiz today (pronounced ku-ee-zoo). I have been studying a fair amount and really trying to bend my mind to it. I even drank a big cup of coffee to rev myself up. I made flash cards and studied them. I made up little stories for some of the things that I couldn't remember, and I wrote pages of practice. On Tuesday, I went to the teacher's office and whined to her about how I am struggling. She was very nice but basically told me that hard work is the only way to learn this and that I should be able to manage it.
here are my two favorite words this week:

The verb WAKARU, congugated into wakari, or more importantly, wakarimasen. Translation: to understand, I understand, I don't understand. Wakarimasen, somehow is easy for me to remember.

This simple word stands alone or with other words: DOE SHE TAY (spelled doushite) it means WHY? as in why am I trying to live up all these self-imposed structures and standards? or, why did I let myself fall in love with you? Watch this video and sing along:


The picture at the top is from an etsy seller called Dazey Chic. She has fantastic artwork and wise words for all of us! Check her out at this link.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Poetry



The other night, my younger daughter, who is 12, asked if we would read her a poem just before sleep. At first, my husband said it was too late. Then he let go of rigidity and thought about it with an open mind. Really, how can you say "no poetry for you young lady!" So he grabbed a collection that we have by Billy Collins and opened it randomly to a poem. It was a wonderful, sweet poem about taking notice of each day. I thought it was so appropriate to what we have been thinking about lately. I hope it is o.k. to copy it here for all of you to read. It is from a book called Sailing Alone Around the Room.

Days

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink.

I think it is somewhat sad and tense, but also so hopeful and confident. I imagine a Wednesday morning, like today, where I open my eyes and it is like Christmas. There is a little box at the foot of my bed and I open it and say "Oh my god! I can't believe it! I got another day! It's a Wednesday! I am going to take care of it and try not to break it." And I am so happy and excited, like I just won the lottery. Can you imagine if we started each day like this. I am going to try.

years go by - the pictures at the top are 4 years and 2 continents apart. I don't like the expression "it's all good" because some of it is not. But, most of it is.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Textile Tuesdays : #6 Indigo




When I was pregnant the first time, I had terrible "morning" sickness. It lasted all day for about 8 months. I also had a weird attraction to the color blue so I bought most of my maternity clothes in that color. I was a social worker in a hospital at the time and I got pretty good at ducking into the nearest bathroom to puke in between seeing patients or families. Anyway, after my daughter was born, any time I looked at those blue clothes or even thought of the color blue, it would bring back waves of nausea. It took me a long time to warm up to that color again. One of the things that helped me come around was the natural beauty of indigo.

Natural colors are almost always much more beautiful than synthetic ones. There is a whole theory of how natural colors resonate at a different frequency and how chemical colors are numbing our visual sensitivity - like the effect of too much sugar or salt on taste buds - but I don't have time to go into that now. But if you think about it, the yellow of a sunflower could never give you a headache, the blue of the sky could never make you sick!

Indigo is an amazing plant and the dye that comes from it has quite an illustrious history. The plant is called Indigofera tinctoria and it is a member of the pea family. Indigo is fermented (isn't that cool?) and has to be alkaline before it can do its magic. When the fabric comes out of the indigo dye bath it is yellowy green. When it hits the air, it transforms into a beautiful shade of blue from pale turquoise to almost black-blue.
Indigo blue is seen on some of the oldest pieces of fabric, it was in high demand for the production of military uniforms, and even now has worldwide popularity in blue jeans.

I took a workshop on natural dyes up in Portland, Oregon a few years ago. It was wonderful and I am so glad that I got to dye a big piece of muslin in the indigo vat. It was in a dark, cold garage, inside a vintage washing machine with stinky, natural fermentation smells wafting up. I felt a little bit like a witch stirring it with a big wooden stick. The woman was an old, true, hippie and very devoted to the gospel of natural dyes. Check her out at Aurora Silks.

Here are some other cool websites that will give you more information and inspiration.