Category Archives: indigo dyeing

Challenges Come Along

Ready to pin under a goo light.
Ready to pin under a goo light.

A couple months ago, or more, I was trying to finish one of those never-ending warps, and I had what I hoped were two  scarves, Because I hadn’t made notes, and didn’t remember if I’d left warp for fringe at the beginning or not, I mistakenly didn’t on the second end, of both, Wrong!  I ended up with two cowls, which is fine, not everyone likes the longer scarves or fringe, even when nicely finished with hand-twisted fringe.   The almost-cowls have been waiting a long time so tonight, very late, I sat down and took care of the seams, my variation of a flat-fell seam.

Edges are off-set.
Edges are off-set.

After machine-stitching both edges, about 1/8″ from the edge,  to prevent raveling, and wrong sides together, I off-set the two, and machine stitch about 1/8″ from cut edge.  If they were lined up, I would have to trim the one down to 1/8″ inch, this way I don’t need to use scissors close to the handwoven. threads.

Fold over fabric and pin.
Fold over fabric and pin.

Now the fabric is folded over, enclosing the raw edge, and is stitched down.  Then I open the scarf, lay the seam down and machine stitch again (sorry, forgot to take a photo).  It makes a nice seam, three layers of fabric, not including the little bit of raw edge that is enclosed.  On these two, I did not give it a half-turn, mobius style.


Cowl, ready to be worn.
Cowl, ready to be worn.

I was going to add small beads to the edge of one of these two cowls, but my cataracts have gotten worse and threading a needle has gotten to be a challenge.  Beads will have to wait a few weeks.

The cataracts are one of the reasons I haven’t been doing much weaving recently.  My right eye is worse than the left.  I’ve had to enlarge print on my laptop screen again, and can’t really read print on the TV screen (Netflix program descriptions, for example). Because things are blurry, I was getting little loops on my formerly nice selvedges.  I couldn’t see those little loops unless I took my glasses off and looked closely, not easy to do while weaving.  Thankfully,  surgery has been scheduled in early February, and I’m hoping the second one will also be in February.  It will be nice to see more clearly again.  I’m told I will still need glasses since my right eye has a “wrinkle” on the back side, but I won’t complain about that.  I just want to see again to get back to my weaving, be able to read, thread a needle, and all the things we take for granted.

I know these photos are a bit blurry, too.  Between using my tablet to take them, a bit of shakiness, and the cataracts, I end up taking many photos of the same thing, then going through them and choosing what looks to be the clearest to my eyes.

Growing stack of indigo dyed swatches.
Growing stack of indigo dyed swatches.

Before immersing my handwoven scarves and cowls in the indigo vats, I “test” the color with small swatches of PFD cotton.  These (above) are what I have left after using several for sachets.

Shades of indigo.
Shades of indigo.

I try to get various shades of indigo, some solids, some mottled, by scrunching the fabric up in my gloved hand and immersing it once or twice, different lengths of time.  They are being used for smaller items.  When I have more specific ideas and plans, I’ll do some proper shibori.

I’m finishing  weaving a warp, hoping it is long enough for a scarf and fringe, so I can hand-stitch a design on, then indigo dye.  Hopefully I will get it completed before the cataract surgery and show it here.   If I do an overall free design instead of just on borders, it will take longer to stitch/gather/tie before dyeing.   I’d like to have a new warp on the Glimakra Standard before the surgery, too, so when I can see well enough, I can sit an weave again.  So that warp and ideas for the scarves are in the planning/sketching stage.

If you have followed my blog for three years or so, you know I have a lot of Coopworth roving that I was spinning during two Spinzilla’s. With that, I knit a cowl for myself.  About three weeks ago, I looked at a partial ball of that 2 ply yarn, wondering what I could do with it. A hat!  I’d o the same “pattern” from the cowl pattern but make a hat.  I started it, making it up as I went alone, and it was a little too small, so unraveled and started over.  Now, it might be a little too big. If that is the case, I’ll have the pleasure of knitting it twice.

Coopworth roving, spun into 2-ply, becoming a hat.
Coopworth roving, spun into 2-ply, becoming a hat.

I knit until I ran out of yarn, and need to search my studio to see if there is another skein of this 2 ply.  If not, I’ll be spinning more and plying more.  Yes, there is still more roving.  It was a big, clear, trash bag filled with beautifully coiled roving.  I’ve enjoyed working with it so much that I bought a Coopworth fleece a couple weeks ago.  Lighter in color, I need to wash it to find out exactly what it will be, and the staples are 3″ to 3.5″ in length so I’ll be able to hand card it before spinning.

Three weeks or so before that, I saw a Gotland fleece on a FB raw fleece sales group, silvery gray, and ordered it.  Before it arrived, another was listed, similar in color, by the same seller, an that was ordered, too.  I’ve never washed/carded/spun/knit with Gotland before so I’m looking forward to that.  There will be photos in future blog posts.

Tape Loom Weaving book.
“Handwoven Tape” by Susan Faulkner Weaver.

This book had been in my Amazon cart for months before publication and release near the end of December.  I wanted to learn about the history of tape looms, and because I’d bought a tape loom back in November because it was small and very portable.  It’s a lovely book, good history and photos of many different styles of tape looms, and I’m looking forward to reading it an putting it to use.

My Glimakra bandloom warp was finished about three weeks ago or so, and is in need of a new warp.  I recently added a warping trapeze to my weaving studio equipment so I will be able to warp my looms alone.  I recalled Becky Ashenden, at Vavstuga, had tied the uprights of her trapeze to the loom with handwoven bands.  I have one, now need another soon.   I know I can use clamps, or bungee cords, but prefer the idea of using handwoven bands.

Meanwhile, I am looking ahead to the weaving I want to accomplish in 2017, once I get past the cataract surgery, including a couple new (to me) directions to take my woven shibori in.  I’m very excited about the possibilities, and the learning curve!

Winter has also been keeping me busy, shoveling snow, clearing in front of my garage for doors that open out, not up, raking snow off the roof, and chopping inches of ice that has formed when it warms up.

I hope you are all doing well, wherever you are in the world, and are weaving up a storm!

Old and New Challenges

"Bamboo 2," woven shibori scarf. (Sold)
“Bamboo 2,” woven shibori scarf. (Sold)

It has been a couple weeks of challenges,… design, dyeing, time, energy, mechanical, and more.

After the circle/cowl scarves were finished and delivered to Artistree Gallery, along with the sachets, it was time to weave the custom scarf ordered by a woman in WI.  She had seen a different “bamboo” scarf during the fall art tour, and after looking at a number of scarves, decided she wanted one with a bamboo design on it.   The photo above, “Bamboo 2” was just completed and mailed this week.


A closer look at "Bamboo 2."
A closer look at “Bamboo 2.”

Weaving was begun, hemstitching, the border with a center area for the design to be hand-stitched on.  Then the center plain weave, and repeat the border.  It takes awhile to hand-stitch the design, and even longer to gather/tie all those stitched lines.  While working on this, I was also reviving the indigo vat by placing it (in a 5 gal. stainless steel pot) on the woodburning range in the kitchen to warm it up a bit, and added more indigo and Thiox, stirring it well a couple times that evening and letting it work overnight.  I’d forgotten how long, and it was a very long day and late evening, and finally ready to indigo dye the next morning.


Indigo dye vat ready to go (flower removed).
Indigo dye vat ready to go (flower removed).


"Flower," set aside in a bowl, and returned to the vat after dyeing done.
“Flower,” set aside in a bowl, and returned to the vat after dyeing done.

The dyeing was done, three dips in the vat, and after giving it plenty of time to oxidize, it was rinsed, water squeezed out, and draped over a wood drying rack in front of a fan turned on high.  By early evening, it was dry and I sat down with scissors and my new OttLite (LED with magnifier) which has been saving my eyesight, to very carefully snip the knots and pull the pattern threads out.  Then down to wash and rinse (multiple rinses), and let it dry overnight.  In the morning the scarf was pressed and I took it to the gallery to hand-twist fringe while I spent the day working there.  Mid-afternoon a lot of sleet came down, and after the rug hooking group left, I closed up and went home to finish the fringe.  Another pressing in the morning, and the scarf was mailed to the client.


Close-up of hand-stitched design.
Close-up of hand-stitched design.

I received an email from her, she is VERY happy with the scarf and will be wearing it over the upcoming holidays.   Enjoy wearing it, Jill!

I took a couple days off after the intensive hours on that scarf, and the other day set up the sock machine in the afternoon.  I had the machine ready, the lights focused down on the needles, the yarn standing by, the scrap yarn threaded, was about to turn the crank to start a sock, when,… the lights went out!  The timing was incredible.  It was all put away and I took a nap.

This morning I set it all up again, knowing I had to work on an issue with the tension knob,… the last time I made socks, the last two pairs ended up too big and were returned to me this fall (local guild member).  I’d made them the same number of rows, leg and foot, as I always do for her (repeat customer).  So I need to figure out if the whole knob had somehow been turned so the old setting wasn’t going to work?  If so, I’d need to figure out where it should be set to achieve the stitch size/rows for each size (S, M, L, X-L).  I wasn’t expecting the sock machine to have every problem it had ever had plus a new one.  The machine was taken apart three times today, cleaned, greased, reassembled, new needles swapped in for any that showed a problem.  But this new problem?  When I start the heel, the yarn doesn’t knit and all the needles for 3″ or so throw the stitches off, all in the blink of an eye.  I have no clue what is causing it and I can’t do heels/toes until it is resolved.  Tonight I described it on a sock machine list in hope someone might have an idea.  I’ll be back at the sock machine in the morning,… I think we need a little time away from each other tonight.

After those sock orders are finally completed and mailed/delivered, I’ll visit my father again for a few days.  We are hoping his two fractures will be healed by Jan. 4th, and he can leave the splint off, and return to his activities.


Glimakra Regina tapestry/rug loom in the studio.
Glimakra Regina tapestry/rug loom in the studio.

When I return home, I’ll be focusing first on the online tapestry weaving class I am participating in, taught by Rebecca Mezoff.  The next time you see a photo of this loom, my tapestry “homework” will be on it, something I am really looking forward to.  In winter, I like to stay home where it is warm and cozy, there are fewer distractions and outside deadlines, and it is a good time for me to delve into new areas of weaving or other fiber areas.

It will also be a good time to take woven shibori in new directions, and there are many ideas and plans for that.  And I’m not forgetting the Norwegian style weaving I need to get back to, including drawloom.  I have weaving to do for Shuttle Works Studio (on Big Cartel), Artistree Gallery, and for TAFA.  As part of the changes I expect to take place in 2016, I took myself off the Northwoods Art Tour, my participation in Art Gypsies and Artistree Gallery are undecided, and I am re-thinking my goals.  A couple days ago I went to one of those Facebook “game” pages where you type in your name and it gives a word for the coming year,… my word was CHANGE.  How fitting!

We are also going to be working on the house again,… kitchen cupboards and counters will be refinished, a new kitchen sink put in, and hopefully new lighting.  Upstairs, the floors will be taken up, planed, stained, and finished.  I turned 65 a few weeks ago (how did that happen!), and decided I need to simplify some areas of my life to lessen self-inflicted stress, make upcoming changes easier, and make my creative life more pleasant.

In late September I started sponsoring a 14 year old Tibetan nun through the Tibetan Nuns Project.  A couple weeks ago I began sponsoring a second Tibetan nun, this young woman is in her mid-20’s.  I am a firm believer in sharing blessings, and through TNP, these women and girls have safe housing, food, clothes, and are getting an education in an area of the world where very few females are provided that.  I am happy to give up a few extras each month to make this commitment to them and TNP, and I’m hoping we will be able to exchange an occasional letter.  For now, their photos and information hang on a bulletin board in my studio, where I see them daily.  They are a good reminder to be thankful for what I have, to give, and to stay focused on what is important in life.

There is much to look forward to in 2016!

New “Dye Studio”

When I first began indigo dyeing three years ago, I set up a 6′ table out on the lakeside porch.  It worked well, until a porcupine and a black bear started visiting.

At that point, the table, indigo vat, and supplies were moved to a workbench and vintage metal cupboard in the garage.  That didn’t work quite so well as Char had her woodworking shop in the garage. Things were usually covered with fine (saw)dust.  And though the garage gets a bit of heat in winter, subzero temps made it too cold to work out there.  So, when I needed to dye with the indigo, I’d bring it in to the kitchen near the wood burning range, about 24 hours in advance of dyeing, so things could warm up.

Newly refinished pine floor boards.
Newly refinished pine floor boards.

A few months ago, the idea of my using part of the entry/laundry room for a dye area, year around.  So a few days before the summer 2015 Northwoods Art Tour, Char finished the remainder of the floor and trim (above).

Also discussed were wood shelves and a movable table, but the good possibility of putting my home up for sale put those ideas on hold.

Tables, indigo vat, and supplies now inside!
Tables, indigo vat, and supplies now inside!

Instead, I added my 6′ well-used banquet-type table to the room, joining the oak mission table we use (shown above with sewing machine).  The washer and dryer are just visible on the right; a single utility sink is next to the washer, and next to that, a storage closet. Chemicals, etc., will be kept in 2 cupboards above the dryer.  And, a light was added over the 6′ table.

First indigo vat in new-to-me dye area.
First indigo vat in new-to-me dye area.

Is it my dream dye studio?  No!  But it is working fine for this weaver/indigo dyer.  For now.  I am thankful to have this space!  I put it to use a couple days before the art tour, dyeing four new scarves. One even sold, unfinished, during the art tour!  (Fringe was hand-twisted, the scarf was pressed, and mailed.)

New 15 yard warp of 16/2 cotton.
New 15 yard warp of 16/2 cotton.
Threading the new 16/2 cotton warp.
Threading the new 16/2 cotton warp.

About the same time all this was going on, a new 15 yard warp was made, beamed, and threaded, so I’ve be able to demonstrate and explain the woven shibori process to visitors.

As I write this and the next couple posts, I’m visiting my dad who just celebrated his 88th birthday two days ago.  I’m enjoying time with family, and also looking forward to getting back to my loom and weaving!

Before leaving home, I did finish the new scarves, managed to snap a few photos, and they were delivered to Artistree Gallery.   Photos will be in an upcoming post, so please check back!

December 2014

Most of December was spent cranking socks, successfully getting all but two pairs done and either mailed or delivered before Christmas.  I estimate between those socks, the ones tossed, and those sitting on a counter that have small issues where I won’t sell them, I made somewhere around 140 socks in November & December, a record for me!

In the midst of the sock machine problems (see the previous post), I had an email requesting a woven shibori scarf.  I had developed severe pain in my right wrist and hand from all the cranking, In December, and had to stop working on socks for four days, but by day 3 figured I could last on the warp, tie up the treadles, and see if I could weave without causing additional pain.  I could!  So I spent two days weaving the scarf, and doing the gather/tie preparation, and making up a new indigo vat.

New indigo dye vat, working in my kitchen near the woodburning range.
New indigo dye vat, working in my kitchen near the woodburning range.

The vat was ready quickly, lots of good “flower,” and the dyeing went smoothly, putting the scarf into the vat twice.  It was then rinsed and allowed to air-dry.  When nearly dry I started clipping the tight knots and opening it up.

Woven Shibori scarf, 100% cotton, indigo dyed.  (SOLD)
Woven Shibori scarf, 100% cotton, indigo dyed. (SOLD)

It was a beauty!!!  After washing it twice, rinsing well, air-dry, pressing, hand-twisting the fringe, and taking a few photos, I had to package it up and get it in the mail to hopefully arrive before Dec. 24th.

Woven Shibori scarf detail.  (SOLD)
Woven Shibori scarf detail. (SOLD)
Woven Shibori Scarf, SOLD.
Woven Shibori Scarf, SOLD.

Starting Christmas Day, I took five days off for family and rest. Now, it’s time to get back into the studio and create more.


Indigo and Shibori Workshop

Deb Ketchum-Jircik and Mary Hark, at Circle of Life Studio.
Deb Ketchum-Jircik and Mary Hark, at Circle of Life Studio.

Last weekend I was at a basic indigo and shibori workshop. Taught by Mary Hark, a professor in design studies at UW-Madison, WI, she is also a paper artist and proprietor of Hark! Handmade Paper Studio, also in Madison ( The workshop was held at Debra Ketchum-Jircik’s Circle of Life Studio outside Eagle River, WI (

Mary Hark (foreground) and artist Louise Engelbrecht (background).
Mary Hark (foreground) and artist Louise Engelbrecht (background).

There were five people participating in the workshop including Louise Engelbrecht, artist/painter/weaver; her friend Eugenie, a felter; Ann, a batik artist; Tim, a new UW-Stevens Point graduate and paper maker; and myself (weaver).

Deb and Tim.
Deb and Tim.
Indigo vat with arashi shibori.
Indigo vat with arashi shibori.
L to R, Eugenie, Ann, Deb. and Louise.
L to R, Eugenie, Ann, Deb. and Louise.
My samples drying at the fence.
My samples drying at the fence.
Arashi shibori silk scarf.
Arashi shibori silk scarf.
Linen, that was folded and clamped between pieces of wood.
Linen, that was folded and clamped between pieces of wood.
Cotton that was folded and clamped with pinch clamps.
Cotton that was folded and clamped with pinch clamps.
Examples of shibori, many from Ghana.
Examples of shibori, many from Ghana.


Mary Hark shared with us about her travels and living in Ghana and her work there.  The photo above and the next two are examples of shibori she brought with her most (or all) from Ghana.

Shibori from Ghana.
Shibori from Ghana.
More shibori from Ghana.
More shibori from Ghana.

The workshop ended with a powerpoint presentation of Mary Hark’s experiences in Ghana as well as her beautiful handmade paper art.  She may return next summer for another workshop.

The weather cooperated on Saturday and we had a beautiful day to work outside, exploring a few basic forms of shibori and indigo dyeing.  A nice workshop and a wonderful group of artists!

Always Magical

Woven shibori, with pattern threads in teal.
Woven shibori, with pattern threads in teal.

At last, I was nearing the end of this warp, threaded as an advancing twill on 8 shafts and using 8/4 teal rug warp for the pattern threads, and 16/2 Bockens cotton for the plain weave.  On these pieces, I was treadling in random order, and varying the number of plain weave rows.

The last of this warp, just removed from the loom.
The last of this warp, just removed from the loom.

The last of this warp consisted of two scarves, one sample, and a length that would be cut into four pieces and will be made into smaller items.

Soaking in water prior to indigo dyeing.
Soaking in water prior to indigo dyeing.

Later the next afternoon, I set up in the garage for indigo dyeing, setting the now gathered and tied pieces to soak in water while mixing up a new indigo vat.  I then measured indigo out into two more smaller buckets for “diluted” dyebaths for achieve a medium and bit lighter shades of indigo.

New indigo vat with "flower' forming on the surface.
New indigo vat with “flower’ forming on the surface.

The new indigo vat worked well, forming the “flower” on the surface, and after skimming it off (and setting it aside, to return to that vat when finished), the dyebath was the greenish color it needed to be.

A sample changing from greenish/blue to indigo blue when exposed to the air.
A sample changing from greenish/blue to indigo blue when exposed to the air.

It is still magical, watching the wovens change from a green/blue to the beautiful shades of indigo blue.

Designs in one section of the long length of fabric.
Designs in one section of the long length of fabric.

After the wovens have been exposed to air and turned indigo, I give them a good rinse in a bucket of water, squeeze the water out, and hang them on a wood rack to begin drying.  When they are dripping, I move the rack into the house and turn a box fan on to encourage them to dry a bit faster.  Why?  Because I am a bit impatient to snip the knots along one selvedge, begin easing the gathers out, and pull the pattern threads out the other side so I can see the designs achieved from that particular threading and treadling.  Keep notes!

Detail of a shorter piece.
Detail of a shorter piece.

I then take and wash them, by hand, one-at-a-time, in Seventh Generation soap, and then rinse repeatedly until the water is clear. They are placed in a lingerie bag and run through a spin only cycle to remove excess water, and again, hung on a wood rack to dry. Before they are totally dry, I press them with a steam iron, hang to dry, then press again, and again, hang to dry.

Three of four pieces cut from the long length of fabric.
Two of four pieces cut from the long length of fabric, on the left, and a sample, on the right (dyed slightly darker).

I have two scarves left to finish, both needing twisted fringe.  Though it is early April, we have a snowstorm due tomorrow evening and overnight, a good time for that project.

Now, it’s time to decide on the length of the next warp, do my calculations, move the warping mill out, and get it made.  I’m thinking this time it will have the “pattern threads” run warp-wise.

Indigo dyer extraordinaire, Glennis Dolce (Shibori Girl) had shared a sample of warp-wise indigo dyed fabric with me, perhaps a year ago when I first started this learning adventure, and asked when I would warp up my loom for it.  I believe the time has come!  I will be using 16/2 cotton again, not as fine as the sample she sent me, which was likely machine woven, but should be another good learning warp, and if it turns out I must send a sample to Glennis.

Summer Weaving and Eagle Evenings

Aug. 16, 2013, four scarves to indigo dye on a beautiful day.

Four new woven shibori scarves were woven this past week for a small five artist/artisan show.  Using 16/2 Swedish cotton, 30 epi, advancing twill threading, freeform tie-up, each scarf was treadled differently.  Friday was a beautiful mostly sunny day, warm and a bit humid.  I set up on a table on the lakeside porch, and opened the dyepots to see how they were after weeks of very little use.  The original vat looked great, green though there were blue specks.  The vat with the lightest shade did not look good at all, and the smaller vat with a medium shade looked hopeful. 

Four scarves, gathered and tied, soaking in water before dying.

I placed the four gathered and tied scarves in water and gave them time for the water to penetrate the folds.  Meanwhile, I got online to see what I would need to do to revive the vats.  Thiox was needed, so mixing a bit at a time, I added some to each.  Only the lightest vat didn’t seem to change no matter how much I added or how long I waited. 

Left, scarves hanging on rack to begin drying; right, fabric test pieces.

 tried fabric in each vat, to check how well it would dye as well as shade.  The original vat worked well, not as dark a color as the first time, but that was fine as I didn’t want that dark of a color.  Another vat gave a light shade by a bit uneven color, the medium vat was working better than the light.  Some fabric pieces were dipped a second time to give a bit darker shade.  Once I felt confident the dying would work, the scarves were dyed, a couple of them put in the dyebath a second time very briefly.  They were each rinsed in two large buckets of water, then left to dry on the porch, but because of the humidity weren’t drying.  Needing them finished the next day, I moved the rack to an upstairs bedroom, turned a box fan on and closed the door. 

Beginning to remove pattern threads from the lightest color scarf.

Needing the scarves for Saturday, I started removing pattern threads as soon as they were partly dry.  I began with the lightest scarf, leaving the others to continue drying.  Removing the threads involves clipping the knots along one edge, sometimes a challenge when tightly knotted as you do not want to clip a warp or weft thread in the process.  My fear was having used 16/2 cotton, I might either cut a thread with scissors, or break a thread when pulling the pattern threads from the other side.  By the time I got to the last scarf, I discovered the threads pull out easier when dry (or nearly dry). 

On one scarf, I had mistakenly used a shuttle with seine twine which I had used on previous cottolin scarves.  For the next three I used a beige rug warp which though strong, was also a bit more difficult to tie tightly and hold a tight knot.  After clipping all the knots on one edge, I  turned the scarf around and began smoothing out the gathers to my left while holding the pattern thread with my right hand, approximately half the gathers, then go back to the top and start pulling the threads out, gently. 

First, a crinkly look.

After the pattern threads are removed, the fabric is crinkly, really quite a nice effect, but they still needed pressing a couple of times, and twisting of fringe.

Were the first two rinses out on the porch enough?  NO!  There is indigo inside those folds that does not rinse out until the pieces are able to be opened.  So, downstairs to a sink where they were washed with mild soap, then rinsed repeatedly until the water was clear.  Then back up the drying rack and box fan to dry them again, prior to finishing.  They were pressed while still a bit damp, allowed to dry more, fringes twisted, and a final pressing.

New scarves on Saturday, three of the four new scarves went to new homes!

I’m very pleased with the new finer threads scarves.  Did I mention this is very time-consuming?  For me, they are well worth it, and just need to take that into account in the future.

My favorite of the four!

Indigo dyed a medium+ shade, this was my favorite, and is one-of-a-kind since I treadled it randomly, and used random numbers of rows of tabby between the pattern rows, anywhere from 6-14 rows (tabby).  It was also the first scarf sold on Saturday.

It was a beautiful and fun day, I had a great time chatting with people, and was quite tired at the end of the day.  Deciding it was best to go home and rest, that is what I did, for about an hour, and then the phone rang,…

It was Wild Instincts, could I go out on an eagle rescue?  No one else was available and I was closer than the rehabber.  The eagle’s foot was in a beaver trap and it was on the ground under a tree.  If I couldn’t open the trap, just put the eagle with trap into my container and get it to the facility.  I agreed to go, moved the table from the back of my car and put my eagle bin and supply bag back in, and called to get specific directions.

I was given the specific location, and told someone would meet me at the gate.  However, the eagle was now 35+ feet in the air, the chain on the trap caught on a tree branch and the eagle hanging upside down.  Now, I’ll do a lot to try to catch an eagle or other critter, but climbing trees is not something I’m willing to do.  I immediately called the rehabber and said he would have to come and that I was on my way.  This is what I saw when I arrived…

Bald eagle, hanging upside down, trap on its foot caught in a tree branch.

There were three or four men there, one up on a 24′ ladder trimming branches away so they could get a rope over and around the branch so it could be cut and the eagle lowered.  A fire chief also arrived to help provide advice and equipment.  The sun was setting and we were losing light.  The eagle was alert and watching, but also flapping whenever a branch was cut and dropping.  I said please don’t just drop the eagle because if it can fly, it will try to get away and with the trap still on will get tangled somewhere else and die because no one will know where it is. 

A bit blurry, but you can see he trap on its left leg, and chain going up that is tangled on a branch.

Mark arrived, provided another a small saw to use (instead of the long pruner).  I don’t know if the branch broke or or if it was cut and the rope didn’t hold it, but suddenly the eagle was dropping to the ground and it immediately headed for the lake which was a few feet away down a slope.  Mark Naniot was instantly down the slope and into the water with sheet and heavy gloves and came up with the eagle in his arms, its head covered.  I followed him to the road and heard “where’s Jan?”  “I’m coming,” as I pulled on my heavy gloves on so I could hold the eagles legs while Mark opened the trap.  He then took its legs, turned it over and placed it in the eagle bin, while I slowly slid the cover on so it couldn’t try to escape again.

I called this morning, Mark said the eagle is alive, though maggots were in the wound and they’ll know in a week or two if the toe that was caught in the trap will need to be amputated.  There were also lacerations on the wings from flapping against the tree branches, but none were serious.  Praying now the eagle will survive and be able to be released back into the wild.

Wild Instincts is a wildlife rehab facility about 4.5 miles outside of Rhinelander, WI.  Mark Naniot is a licensed wildlife rehabber, and he and his wife own and run the facility, with the assistance from late spring to fall by a number of interns who are learning and gaining experience with this work.  They have quite a number of transport drivers (willing to transport critters already contained), and rescue drivers, like myself, who will not only transport, but sometimes need to catch the wildlife before transporting.  I think this was the third evening this summer I was sent out for an eagle.

Wild Instincts has a high success rate and is a blessing to the WI Northwoods.  Check out their website,; their blog,; and their Facebook page, they often post photos and video.  They are supported entirely by memberships and donations.

Today I gave myself a day to rest, some computer time, time to read, a nap, lots of rest.  Tomorrow, I need to call and order more 16/2 Swedish cotton warp, there is a warp to finish weaving off, and it’s time to begin making socks again, and an evening guild meeting.  And you never know when the phone will ring, you look at it and see the words “Wild Instincts!”  

Learning Curve Continues

Woven Shibori scarf, dyed June 8, 2013.

In early June two more scarves on an 8 shaft Monk’s Belt threading were woven, along with a sample of each treadling.  This past Saturday, the scarves and samples were indigo dyed in “watered down” indigo vats, attempting to achieve lighter shades. 

The scarf above came out light/medium shade; the matching sample (below) was dipped in the vat twice to get a bit darker shade.  After dyeing, the scarves and samples were rinsed as well as can be done with gathering threads still in, put in lingerie bags so any remaining water was spun out in the washer (no rinse), and hung to dry on a wood rack outside on the porch.  That evening, I sat down and started clipping and removing the gathering threads, anxious to see the results.

A closer look at the border of this scarf.

Detail of the border, tracking visible.

After the gathering threads were removed, they were rinsed again several times until the water ran clear, and again, water was spun out so they would dry a bit faster.  Normally I would start pressing them while still a bit damp, but they had dried overnight so the next morning they were misted both sides; the iron was set on cotton with highest steam setting.  It takes more than one pressing to get the wrinkles out of cottolin. 

While pressing the first time I noticed what appears to be tracking, something I was not expecting.  I’ve had tracking happen twice, once with Harrisville wool singles, another time on a towel with cottolin warp and cotton weft (which gave a couple short diagonal lines.  I’ve woven many cottolin towels, plain weave and twill, and never had tracking occur.  A third steam pressing this afternoon helped a bit, but the tracking seems to be here to stay, and actually, I like the textured look it is giving to the borders.  The tracking is not on the plain weave hems and plain blue areas, only the woven shibori borders.

Additional note:  I just looked at the first scarf and samples.  Tracking does not appear on the samples woven on the twill threading, but there is tracking on the first Monk’s Belt warp, on the dark indigo scarf and the samples, just not as visible because they were dyed darker shades of indigo.

Unfortunately, the photos, taken outdoors in good light but not direct sunlight, appear in the photos as medium and light blue, but the borders are actually medium blue on bleached (white) Swedish cottolin.  Setting up a place and learning how to better photograph my work is fast moving up on my priority list.

Sample for notebook, dipped in dye bath two times.

Back of the above sample.

Another woven shibori scarf, also dyed June 8th.

This scarf above was dyed in a more diluted indigo dyebath, coming out quite a light blue, and unevenly dyed, exactly the effect I was going for.  I had done a little marketing research, showing the scarf in the previous post and a few samples to two women I know.  They liked them all, and asked if I would have any lighter color scarves, to wear with stonewashed jeans in summer.  

These two scarves were my first attempts to get the lighter, “stonewashed denim” look  in woven shibori scarves.  These two scarves were shown to the same women yesterday, and they wanted to know when I would bring some in for them to choose from.  I think I’m on the right track!

Border area of this second scarf.

In the border photo above, you can see how the tracking seems to add great texture to those areas of the scarf.

Detail, to show the “tracking.”
Sample for notebook, dipped in dye bath twice.

Back of this sample.

Because of how the gathers happen on this Monk’s Belt threading, the bolder color and design side is really the “back” side of the fabric as it is being woven.  The “back” side of the scarves and samples have lighter indigo color and more delicate design, and are actually the “right” side of the woven fabric. 

All were hand-hemmed, and I chose to have the bolder, brighter indigo sides to be the right side of the fabric, but could just as easily have had the more delicate design side by the “right” side. 

Now, I am thinking of other ways of finishing hems.  Hand-hem, hemstitched, knotted, and others.  What I am trying to keep in mind is how the particular thread looks after repeated washings, even hand washing.  Cottolin, after repeated washing can get a little ratty looking on the ends of the threads, something I want to avoid.  So now, I must delve into my weaving/fiber library and find options that will stand up to wear and care.

There is now a finer warp on the loom, 16/2 Swedish cotton, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next scarves turn out! 

And all this blue, I’m thinking I’d better warp up another loom with some color and different technique or structure for a little variety for all of us!

Sampling Becoming Routine

Woven shibori sample on Monk’s Belt threading.

In over 32 years of weaving, I’ve never been one to do much sampling, but oh, how that has changed with woven shibori.  Perhaps with a lot more experience, I’ll be able to take a weave structure and have an idea of how it might turn out when woven using this technique, but right now it is so new to me that samples are becoming a way of life.  They will also be a very useful record of threading/treadling/probable results, aware that the dyeing results are also a bit of an unknown.  As in the sample above, the samples are being hand-hemmed and placed with record sheets in a notebook.  In addition, I can do samples first, decide which results I like, then weave the full-size pieces using those threading/treadling/spacing notes.  The results won’t be exactly the same due to the dyeing process as well as minor differences when gathering and tying, but overall, you have a good idea of what the final result might be.

Another sample on Monk’s Belt threading.

Each sample was treadled differently and had varying numbers of rows of plain weave between pattern rows.  Pattern rows are gathered and tied, in this case Monk’s Belt, so the closer together those rows are, the less dye is able to get between the gathered folds or pleats.  Pattern rows further apart allow more dye in.  So by varying the number of plain weave rows between each pattern row, you can have a bit of control in how light or dark a piece is (also keeping in mind the strength of the indigo you are using). 

Another sample on Monk’s Belt threading.

The second time indigo dyeing, I wanted to try to obtain lighter shades, as in this sample.  The original vat results were very dark, so after watching a video clip by Glennis Dolce, in which she was taking measured amount(s) from the original vat and adding to water to obtain lighter shades, I followed those same directions.  Taking 250 ml. from the original vat and adding it to 1000 ml. gave a result not too different from the original dark vat.  I then took another container and added 250 ml. from the original vat to 2000 ml. of water, which gave me a lighter shade of indigo.  Experimenting with these ratios and keeping careful notes is an area I will be continuing to explore, so when I have a particular shade in mind for a particular piece, I will have a good idea of how to achieve it, keeping the many variables in mind.

Woven shibori on twill threading.

This twill sample was dipped into the lightest indigo vat.

Another twill threading sample.

Monk’s Belt threading.

This sample had a one inch or so “gap” between pattern thread areas, allowing more dye to be absorbed, giving a “stripe” across the middle. 

Border scarf on Monk’s Belt threading.

The scarf was on the Monk’s Belt threading, and dipped twice into the dark (original) vat, and like the samples, finishing included hand-hemming.

I am busy weaving more scarves, and a sample of the treadling for each, to add to the notebook.  This Friday, after beaming a new warp, a friend and I will be at the indigo dyepots, so results should be on this blog next week, after everything has had time to dry, be hemmed, pressed, and photographed.

(Note, these photographs were taken outdoors on the lakeside porch, late afternoon, and as soon as I started clouds rolled in, so colors in the photos are not as “bright” as they really are.)

Baby (left) and Mom (right) porcupines.

Yes, they continue to return most nights, some days.  Discouraging them has not been successful.  Using a hot pepper sauce was suggested, but I hate the idea of doing that to the young one especially. 

Porcupine damage.

 can live with their chewing on the old salt lick wood stand out on the red pine, but I do object when they are chewing on my home.  This doorsill at entry to my home will need to be replaced, but I’m waiting until they stop visiting.  For now, there is a piece of metal hardware screening laid over the board, a piece of landscape timber holding it in place, and a rock in place to keep them from dislodging it.  After the board is replaced, it will be well-stained in hopes they won’t like the “taste.”  Sometimes life in the WI Northwoods can have its challenges!

Indigo Days

Woven shibori samples, Monk’s Belt threading.

My second time indigo dyeing included 3+ PFD cotton swatches, nine woven shibori samples (Twill, and Monk’s Belt), and one woven shibori scarf (border area of Monk’s Belt).  I’m using the cotton swatches basically to test color before dipping the handwoven pieces.  

This was my first attempt at achieving shades of indigo (photo above), and had some success and look forward to trying for more (and keeping accurate notes).

Scarf with woven shibori borders.

The last piece dyed this day was my first woven shibori scarf, woven to have a border at each end, and solid blue in-between.  After the first dip, I could see a couple areas where the dye he not penetrated through the cottolin threads, so it was given a second dip, leaving it a very dark blue.  The samples and scarf were rinsed many, many times; after nearly dry they were pressed and hand-hemmed. 

I had hoped to have more scarves woven and be on the porch dyeing again, but have been sick the past four days.  While sitting here, thought perhaps tomorrow I could at least dye a bit more PFD cotton (I’ll do something with those swatches someday), but a check of weather revealed the high will be 44 F.  So, three or so days of weaving, then more indigo dyeing Friday through Monday when warmer and sunny.

My 5 gal. indigo vat is parked in my kitchen on my woodburning range (not in use at present), and even with a lid on, I can smell the contents.  Hoping to move it out to the porch soon, but need the nights to warm up more.  Now, I need to start gathering supplies and begin learning shibori techniques, as well as how to get various mottled, cracked, and other effects on the cotton (non-shibori).  There are 28 yards here to use for learning.   

After a last snow/sleet/ice storm late Mother’s Day night, spring has finally arrived in the WI Northwoods.  Forsythia are in bloom, the lilac has leaves, and my apple tree, too.  Perennial herbs are emerging.  And with windows open at night, I am treated to a symphony of spring peepers, the whippoorwill singing, an owl hooting, coyotes howling, and a couple other unknown nocturnal birds calling occasionally.  And of course, the loons on the lake call to each other during the night.

My yard has turned into a porcupine hangout!  A few nights ago, about midnight, through an open window, I heard a sound I’d heard before, and it suddenly dawned on me what it was,… porcupines chewing on wood.  On my wood sawhorses on the porch!  Last fall they had done this and I’d laid the sawhorses up on their sides up on a long table, but I’d set them down again so I could do my dyeing on the lakeside porch.  Well, what could I do but shout, stomp, and herd them toward the steps and off the porch, then moving buckets aside, hoist the sawhorses up out of their reach.  Sorry, no photo.  But,…

Baby porcupine on the ground, mom trying to climb.

On the afternoon I started to not feel well, I looked out to see a porcupine on the old salt lick (hasn’t had salt on it for perhaps 15 years).  I grabbed my phone/camera and went out, and discovered there was also a baby underneath it!  Mom, in an effort to distract me, immediately tried to climb, bumping her head on the “roof” of the structure, and quickly discovered she could get around it,…

Mama porcupine climbing high.

… and climb much higher.  I snapped a couple photos and went back inside.  Perhaps an hour later, I looked out again,…

Baby porcupine, turn its back to me and raising its quills.

… and the baby was on the empty salt lick, mom was still up the tree.   After a couple more photos, I left them alone.  

As I write this tonight, it is raining, and looking outside,… there is a porcupine on the salt lick.   

My nighttime reading, “A Different Kind of Luxury, Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance” by Andy Couturier (Stone Bridge Press).  The book profiles ten individuals living in old, mountainside homes, living simply, growing their food, practicing their arts, living intentional lives.