Category Archives: Feature

My Foray into Natural Dyeing

After owning and ogling the book Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes by Jenny Dean for several years now–which, by the way, I highly recommend–I have finally decided to begin my own experiments.

I must tell you that I am in no way (for the time being) concerned about precision in my dyeing adventures; naturally, you MUST follow the safety rules!!  Some things can be toxic, and you should know what those are and how to deal with them.  However, when it comes to the rest of it, I’m a loose canon.  Everything I’ve done so far as concerns times, quantities, etc., has been guess work.  Dean advises the reader to take accurate notes, which is certainly something to do if you want to reproduce a certain result.  However, I’m not too concerned with that yet–my main objective has been to see if I can even get any color out of the process!

As a general rule, your dyestuff, when dry, should be equal in weight to the fibers you are dyeing.  In both cases, I used considerably less dyestuff than fiber.  This was partially intentional to see just how much you would have to have to get any color, and partially because I didn’t have much available to me.

Usually, you’ll want to use a mordant, which is something that helps the dye to sort of stick.  Common mordants are alum, copper, and iron.  (Again, please be sure to read Dean’s book, or another reliable resource, before setting out on your own!  This is really more of a brief account of my own experiences rather than a how-to.) 

So, I used some water (enough to soak all my pieces and give them some room to be stirred around), approximately two teaspoons of alum (the same used for pickling), and then roughly a handful (?!?) of dyestuff.  I threw it in all together at once, let it almost simmer outside (good ventilation is always recommended) for about 1 to 1.5 hours, then let it sit for an hour or so….I have rinsed these pieces fabrics, but have not properly laundered them with detergent, so I’m not sure if that will have much effect or not.

For my first trial, I used rose of sharon flowers…   

It was not what I expected, but the color turned out extremely lovely nonetheless…a very soft  celadon or mint.​ 

 

For the second, I used marigold flowers. 

The result was a very cheerful, bright yellow. 

A few of my observations: I really do need a lot more dyestuff, I think, if I want more color.  I already knew I wasn’t using enough, but next time, I will try to not skimp.  Also, the protein fibers like wool and silk seem to take on more color than the cellulose fibers, or the cotton and linen–but again, not a surprise, since alum is recommended as a mordant for protein fibers.

I’m looking forward to doing some more natural dyeing!

Gypsy Belle Jacket

This is just a little project/prototype I made for myself, and I wanted to share it…it was somewhat inspired by the lovely jacket Belle (Emma Watson) wears in the live action version of Beauty and the Beast.  (#nerdalert)

This was my first version of the jacket from the pattern I came up with.  There are quite a few things I will change when I make it in the future, most notably the style of peplum, but this particular garment is still special to me for a couple reasons.

As you can see, it has a super patchy, ragamuffin vibe, which, incidentally, is totally fine with me.  The yellow linen outside and the blue plaid lining are both repurposed fabrics taken from old garments.  The darker beige/green lustrous fabric you see in places on the outside are silk remnants.

I’m really pleased with the texture of the fabric and I’m glad I took the time to do some hand stitching around the edges…I always forget how much I love hand sewing like this.  I really love the buttons as well.  This was a fun exercise and inspired me to focus even more on repurposing/upcycling of garments and fabric in the future…

Interview with Jenny of Wichita Woolery

I’m excited today to bring you a fantastic interview with Jenny Brown, the artist behind Wichita Woolery.  I’ve been drooling over her gorgeous creations on her facebook page for some time, and she recently opened an Etsy shop where she offers hand dyed roving and handspun yarn for sale.  Check out the interview, then visit Jenny’s shop–you’ll be glad you did! 

M&R: How long have you been spinning and dyeing?
Jenny:  I started down the rabbit hole of spinning about five years ago after graduating with my Master’s degree.  I didn’t have a job lined up after graduation, and to be honest, wasn’t sure I wanted something in the industry that I just obtained my degree in.  I was already halfway through my program when I realized this, but toughed it out and just earned my degree anyway.  Knitting was always my comfort and self-care while in grad school, and I think it was then that I realized my true passion was the fiber arts.

I don’t recall how, but I came across a spinning class at City Arts. I really wanted to take it, but it was over $100 for the class, which was a lot of money for me to spend at the time. It just felt too self-indulgent to spend that kind of money especially when it could have been used for something else. My husband encouraged me to sign up for it though, and I’m SO glad he did! The class wasn’t offered for another few years because the instructor’s daughter had a baby, and she left Wichita to help take care of her new grandchild. It was during my classes at City Arts, where I was first introduced to dyeing. We had dyed fiber with Kool-Aid, and I loved the idea of being able to create any color yarn I wanted. Eventually, I started to dabble with dyeing at home for myself, and then more seriously dyeing for others in the last year and a half. 

What drew you to working with fiber?I think what continues to draw me to fiber and the needle arts in general, is the freedom to create whatever you want. I’m a Type A personality and like structure in nearly every other aspect of my life, but fiber and the needle arts has the capacity for me to be both structured and flexible in creating. It’s the perfect combination!

 

How did you learn your skills?
Growing up, there wasn’t anyone in my family who did anything related to fiber or the needle arts. One of my childhood best friends cross-stitched (she learned from her mother), and I remember thinking that it was so cool. I just loved how you could get a finished piece from the mosaic of multi-colored X’s. I begged her to teach me when I was in middle school, and it was my gateway drug into the needle arts. At 18, I taught myself to knit, which branched off into wanting to learn to spin, and spinning into dyeing, and the journey continues. 

What is the most satisfying part of working with wool (or other fibers)?
For me, the most satisfying thing of working with fiber is creating something from the source. Other than owning my own sheep and processing the fiber (maybe I will some day), I’m creating something from a raw state. I think in spinning there are two groups: process spinners and project spinners. I myself identify as a process spinner, meaning that I don’t spin my yarn with a project in mind, I just enjoy the process of creating yarn. It’s so satisfying starting with a blank slate,creating a color scheme for my roving, and making yarn, which the yarn can then be taken and made into a finished handmade item. Ever since I started spinning, it’s all I want to do in my free time when I’m not dyeing.

What are some of its challenges?
One of the biggest challenges of dyeing I’ve come to discover, is the learning curve. A lot of successful dyers out there aren’t really forthcoming with sharing their skillset with others, which saddens me. We all have something we could contribute to this industry, and rather than having a collective of like-minded individuals sharing passions, dyers hoard their skill set for their sole personal gain. It’s something I don’t really quite understand. Nevertheless, just figuring out my own working methods of dyeing from watching You Tube and reading the few books on dyeing that are out there has been a process.  One of the other challenges that I’ve had now that my Etsy store is open, is the same problem that every other shop on Etsy has… How does my shop get exposure? I’m at the point where I’d like to branch out a little bit and begin making fiber festival rounds to gain more exposure. Stay tuned on that…

Where do you find inspiration for your color combinations?
My inspiration comes from a variety of sources. I love looking at nature photos, which really is the best source if I feel blocked. My husband also helps me come up with colorways. He’s an artist himself, and has lots of color theory experience.  One of his favorite things to do is create pallets, and we’ll bounce ideas of each other. I also love looking at other artist’s work, including other fiber artists and indie dyers.

How do you hope your work will impact or influence others?
One of my hopes is that I can teach and inspire the next generation of fiber artists to continue on with this tradition that dates back thousands of years. I love sharing my knowledge and teaching others who are interested in the fiber arts, especially younger kids because I didn’t have anyone at that age who could have taught me. If I had, who knows where I would be now had I discovered my passion that early on.

Are you involved in any other types of craft?
Although 99.9% of my craft time is consumed by the fiber arts, I’m also interested in learning more about the crafty side of homesteading. Canning, raising chickens, making soap, candles, artisan breads and cheeses all sound like a lot of fun. Maybe one day I learn the skills for all of that, but for now I’m focused on what fulfills me the most, which is literally anything fiber. I feel like I still have yet to discover the end of the fiber rabbit hole.

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Thanks again to Jenny for sharing her time and insights with me and all of you.  It’s always a joy to connect with other creatives and learn from them!

The White Peacock: Interview with Tayla Mace, Owner & Artist

 

Today I am trilled to bring you an interview with Tayla Mace, artist, entrepreneur, and owner of The White Peacock Tea and Coffee Company in the lovely town of Lindsborg, KS.  I’ve been a fan of Tayla’s work for years and am truly excited about her latest venture.  Read more here, then visit for yourself!

M&R: Can you tell us a bit about your background and previous work?
Tayla:  Oh goodness, I have quite the varied background!  But when I think about it, I would say it has all focused around creative work and customer service.  I went to school for Web Design with the Art Institutes and fell in love with online branding and design.  My “big girl jobs” were mainly in retail management and marketing before I took the plunge and started my own business, WildFire Studio – where I made jewelry, in 2012.  It wasn’t until 2016 that I decided it was time to move on.

What made you decide to purchase a coffee shop? 
In May of 2016, I could feel WildFire winding down and wanted to move on to something else.  I knew I didn’t want the typical 9-5 but had no idea what direction I was headed.  So, I was lucky enough to pick up a part-time position at one of my favorite stops in Lindsborg, The White Peacock.  I had been using The Peacock as a mobile office for close to a year already so it was an easy decision to try and Fill the Gaps between projects there.  I became friends with the owner and found out the shop was for sale.  The rest was history!  I purchased the Peacock that July.

I know you have handmade items for sale; what kind of things do you currently carry?
We do have some handmade items!  I carry the penny jewelry I made during my WildFire days at the shop, along with some felt succulents that I’ve been playing around with.  We also carry embroidered tea towels, hand-dyed scarves, illustrated coffee mugs, and more!  The shop has a quirky, creative vibe, so we have a quirky and creative selection of handmade goods. 🙂  Each month, we also have a featured artist who often has their art work for sale.  From February 10th-March 9th, we’ll have our community sourced Heart Art up!  20+ artists have contributed so far.

What’s are your favorite drink and food offerings?
My personal favorite drink at the moment is our “Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberry Mocha.”  It is amazing!  We’re always coming up with new drink recipes though, and I’m always picking out new favorites.  We also offer breakfast and lunch, but I’ve always been partial to our cinnamon rolls that are made right down the street at The Courtyard Bakery.

What seems to be most popular with customers?
Hands down, the Black Forest Mocha.  Once you have it, you’ll never go back. ​

​What is the most satisfying part of running the shop?
I’m probably what you would call a serial entrepreneur.  I get excited about the big picture when it comes to organizing, managing, and promoting a business.  But if I were to pick one thing, it’s that The White Peacock attracts such an interesting and creative crowd.  I get to share my projects with my customers and they share theirs with me.  It’s this constant flow of creative energy in here that I love the most.

 What do you find the most challenging?
MONEY!  Oh, my…  I think that is a pretty typical answer, but managing our budget is the most challenging for me.  With WildFire, I was a one person show, meaning that if we were short one month, there was only myself to blame and myself to face the consequences.  Now I have employees and customers and we’ve got to stay stocked all the time…  I’m feeling much more comfortable compared to when I purchased the business in July, but I think it will always be the most challenging aspect.

I hope that The White Peacock provides a space where you can come in, get yourself a delicious treat (that you can feel good purchasing – we’re all fair trade and organic and we use local Hildebrand milk!), and become inspired to do whatever it is you love to do.  I try to keep the atmosphere bright and ever-changing and the community involved with small projects happening all the time.

How does your local community influence you?
I may be a little biased, but Lindsborg is the best small town out there.  The community is full of people who really care about their town and the people in it.  Each week, I get together with a group of business owners and residents to discuss what’s happening, how we can promote each other, and how we can provide a better experience to our visitors.  Everyone is so inclusive and helpful.

The White Peacock is located at 124 S Main Street in Lindsborg, KS.  You can follow them on Instagram and Facebook, and visit their website at whitepeacockcoffee.com  

Interview with Cynthia Sutcliffe of Cultivated Dreams & Designs

​I think there’s something truly enchanting about semi-precious jewels skillfully set against silver.  Cynthia Sutcliffe of Cultivated Dreams & Designs creates particularly charming pieces in her Halstead, KS, studio, and she has graciously agreed to do an interview with me!  Take a moment to learn a bit about this talented Kansan and her work…

 M&R: How long have you been creating jewelry?
Cynthia:  Nearly 7 years total. Silversmithing has been only the last couple of years.

 How did you become interested in this art? 
Creating has always been a necessity for me. I don’t do well if my life is filled with dull, repetitive work. There has to be some kind of outlet to break up the mundane, and this has been it for me.

Were you involved in any previous crafts?  Are you now involved in other crafts?
I began illustrating as a kid. Spent about a decade working in that outlet, going through high school and some college to pursue a career in some form of illustrative design. I quickly learned that in a professional sense, I could not be content going that route, at least not in rural Kansas. You hit a wall, and no one seems to understand that someone working in that field has to survive. I loved illustrating in many forms, but did not want to continue  without some form of progress. 

​What are some of the processes involved creating your pieces?
When I started out, I only used wire that I could hammer into simple forms to frame the stones that I wanted as a focal point. Now that I have started smithing, I am attempting to learn something new with every piece. Each piece has the same process of deciding on a stone, designing a setting, and soldering each detail. There sometimes are a lot of steps needed to polish a piece when it is done, including sanding out any fire stain or scratches, to deciding on the finish. I just make sure to push myself to do better in some way, even if it is the most minute detail at times.

  

How did you learn to do this?
I just picked up some beads one day, and it just kind of clicked for me… fast forward about 7 years, with a TON of trial and error… and you just kind of learn things. My lifestyle doesn’t really allow me to spend extra time going to school or paying for resources to learn from, so most every process has been self taught, along with the occasional knowledge of other smiths. 

​What is the most satisfying part of creating jewelry? 
Seeing someone wear a piece of mine at a show, in photos, or making someone feel good when I hand them their custom jewelry. Some folks will try to challenge you and say that you are perpetuating a materialistic society by selling merchandise like this… but I know that is wrong when I am able to make something that is meaningful for a client. There is a look that people get that can’t be recreated by mass produced items.

What are some of its challenges? 
I would say that is when I have to tell someone “No” on crafting something.

Where do you find inspiration? 
So many things in life that you see on a daily basis… it makes it difficult to sort through all your half-thought-out ideas without really sitting down to make a plan. It could be something another artist has done, and thinking, “wow, I gotta try that!” Or simple things, like music, old rpg’s, nature, or, my favorite, “happy accidents” when I am playing around with stones on my bench and something just “happens.”

How do you hope your work will impact others? 
I just want more people to understand that despite what life throws at you, how many rules you have to obey in your daily life, there is some room to say, “I will do what I want and I will succeed.” I am no major success when you look at the financial side of things. But, I am genuinely happy to be able to share what I do with the world. The rest will follow.