Category Archives: not so ordinaries

Moving Day

Soon this blog will run out of space for photos, so here’s the first post of 2016  on “albedo 2.0”. Long time readers of the original albedo will know i don’t believe that magic happens just because of the flip of a calendar page, but perhaps fresh starts will do the job.

I do hope you will follow me over there. This blog will remain, but like others who have filled up their pages, there’s always time for a new book!


Posted by on January 4, 2016 in not so ordinaries


still a little summer at Thanksgiving

I am grateful for so many things.



bee sleeping or tipsy

hoolyhock rebloom

sweet peas


bee and ziinia C

thanksgiving family arr



calendula 2

against a blue blue sky

fresh carrots

tall sunflowers

working bee


Posted by on October 12, 2015 in lessons to learn, not so ordinaries, ordinaries


The Pragmatic Prairie Woman’s Ecoprinting Companion

Having just returned on Monday from Regina Sask, where Karin and i taught another 3 day spin on the Stitch Combo Extreme workshop, i thought i’d share some of the results and the thoughts that came with this experience.

The title of this post *could* be one of those old treasured almanac style chapbooks! Of the 10 participants, only the organizer had any experience with ecoprinting (my half of this workshop), so it was wonderful to teach people who had no preconceptions, no expectations, no airyfairyness and were all open to whatever happened.  Pragmatic indeed, in deed, questions were logical and honest, note taking was detailed and precise, and the teacher held nothing back 🙂

We used local plant materials only: nothing from any flower shop was there. I myself had been tempted to bring silver dollar euc, being a floral designer in the “day job”, but with both a luggage space limit, and a desire to show and prove the results of geocentric flora, decided against it. Work with what you’ve got, because part of the eco-conscious mindset IS/SHOULD BE how much of the carbon footprint you are leaving. Yes, Karin and i flew there, so that counts against us if you’re a purist, (and i took the bus to and from the airport in Calgary!) but we kept that footprint small as possible with locally sourced materials. We do not, will not, should not fly all over the world and expect eucalyptus to be handy wherever we are, as beautiful and as predictable as the results are. Quite frankly, in MY opinion, euc has become rather boring; everyone uses it, most have to have it from a florist which means it’s more than likely imported, and because it is predictable, what are you really learning? I’m thankful the discovery was made and shared, but let’s adapt and move forward to what is around us.

AHEM. Lecture and politics over.

As suspected, certain plants being widespread over the Canadian Prairies, they give rather much the same ecoprinting results. (Saskatchewan, for those of you who are not familiar with Canadian geography, is Alberta’s right door neighbour.) And as i suspected, my nemesis tree, Acer negundo (Manitoba Maple is what we called it where i grew up), what i also call the “Weed Tree” due to its forceful nature, still does not print. So scratch it off the list–i made everyone throw it out. It’s not even useful as a resist leaf. No point in wasting time or energy.

What did work? Red (Osier) Dogwood, oak, maple, rose varieties, crane’s bill variants and geranium geranium types :), peony, lady’s mantle, russian sage. Most of these *are* garden plants. I would like someday to experiment more with “country” plants, native and indigenous, though the days of “pure native diversity” are probably over with seeds and roots spread readily by purpose or by accident. One can only be so geographically, ecologically, maker aware Politically Correct!

And OH MY, am i jealous! This group (Regina Stitchery Guild) has DEDICATED space at the Neil Balkwill Centre!  There are also setups in other rooms for jewellers, photographers, and it also hosts the Art Gallery of Regina. The building has showcases everywhere, white wall gallery space, and an inner courtyard. Just wonderful!!!

Below is the common area for the “wet crafts”–if you look at the doorway there, you can see down the hallway to a closed door that is actually their space alone with library and archives space also.


The kitchen is shared with the painters studio (behind Karin in the photo below).


We “built” the pot as we went. I’ve seen photos from workshops where all the results were *immediately* dramatic–it just ain’t so. That “soup” that gives the flavour to the ecoprints has to be added to and is every time you add bundles. Ours started with tap water, alum and some rusty water–and transparency dictates that i let the participants know EXACTLY what is in the pot to begin with and what gets added to with each subsequent use. (I’ve heard of workshops where the teacher was somewhat secretive about the contents. HOW can you learn then to make your own outside of the workshop? Some i suspect had a bit of gin or vodka thrown in…..) As the pot gets used, there are natural pigments leaching from plant materials, tannins, minerals, the alum added, the rusty water for iron, bacteria, and no doubt some insect poop too 😉







Corally pink colour imparted to background by using commercially dyed silk dupion as the second layer:


Coleus, geranium species, russian sage below:


Lucky lucky–cotinus grows in Regina!!!!

6regDependable rose leaves:


Below, from the first “rolling” photo above, look at the coleus imprint! We don’t know if it’s light or wash fast, but sometimes that’s the fun discovery part.


I myself got greener and “teal-ier” results from the red osier, below:



And a startling yellow from the local maple! Not sure which variety it was, i usually get only dark colours at home:


Interestingly enough with that yellow, one participant noted that her less expensive, lower thread count cotton worked better for that result than the higher priced, higher thread count cotton i gave her!


Pinks from a Prunus variety mixing into the osier :


The ubiquitous onion skin, combined with Amur maple and a squiggle of steel wool:



Onion skin does give predictable results, no matter where you are or what you do with it, but i am hesitant to use a lot of it due to its unpredictable fastness.


Below,, a little Body English to roll tightly 😉


We talked about mordants, when and where to use them, modifiers, adding natural dyes, deliberate design in layout, practicing Salvage Botany and responsible disposal of both plant materials and the pot itself (gawdz forbid i should ever throw mine out!).

Karin and i traded off time teaching our respective parts of the workshop so that as many bases were covered as possible! While bundles cooked, she led them through “abusing” their machines.( It was amusing that the lender of the machine didn’t quite understand WHY we would WANT to loosen the bobbin tension so much, as the machine would not “work properly” then……Karin educated him 🙂 )

st and eco 1

st and eco 2

st and eco 2b

st and eco 3

st and eco 4

We are both quite pleased with the response and the results from this class–all the participants were enthusiastic, involved and many are looking forward to continuing their explorations with both techniques taught. We had a delightful time: Regina is beautiful, the company was excellent and the memories will last a long time! Thanks to Leann for organizing this and bringing us in, and thanks to the Regina Stitchery Guild for hosting us!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by on September 16, 2015 in hand dyes and ecoprints, not so ordinaries, Workshops


day job :)

b wedding

lf weddingWe’ve done more weddings this summer at the fffFlower mines than ever before!

ah wedding bouquet

purp bouquet

purp bouquets

who brideThat last one was a “Dr Who” wedding–what you can’t see is the sonic screwdriver attached to the handle!


Posted by on September 1, 2015 in not so ordinaries


source materials

As i have mentioned before, sometimes i wing a design that comes out of my head, and sometimes they are “inspired” by something i’ve seen. Since i don’t have a microscope or camera that would capture the intricacy and beauty on the macroscopic level, i bookmark certain photos (screw pinhercrap and the like, which i do NOT believe in) and interpret from them. This photographer’s work is a godsend for Nature’s mysteries on a level we would never see otherwise. His personal website is Micronaut, and can be found here. I actually emailed Dr. Oeggerli to ask permission to share his photo here, sharing an image of my work, but was asked instead to have the links, and i am happy to comply.

Actually he kind of missed the point, and gave me permission to post *my* photo of *my* work on *my* blog, but whatever 😉

My original intent was to have the reasonable accuracy of both a Milkweed plant and a Monarch butterfly, and while not actually a Monarch butterfly egg, the design Mother Nature came up with is close to the Monarch structure, so i thought i’d interpret from it. That first link is what prompted me to try the design, having had the bookmark for almost a year and wondering how i was going to undertake the task, without making it strictly either embroidery, or a “copy” of the original. I keep ideas in the back of my head when i see things like this, not always sure what skill set would be needed to create the piece, or if i even HAVE the proper skill set!! Sometimes i need to learn new things to do it, or re-invent a wheel to get the effect.

first rondelle doneI have since taking this photo, added a few more bars to some sections. It’s now going to be covered with a piece of cloth to prevent snagging, while i work on the rest of the expanse. There’s a smaller section like this also, in process.

Milkweeds don’t have what we think of as pollen really, instead having strange little apparatus that attach to the pollinator’s legs—i stumbled across another blogger who perfectly illustrates this with some amazing photos. I wanted originally to use line “drawings” of the pollen in the background, but may have to use “real” pollen shapes instead–and some invented ones 🙂 —, as i don’t think these are going to “translate” or be recognizable to most!


pollen 1

pollen 2

On a side note, in some areas, Milkweeds are considered “invasive’, a point which i personally think is bloody ridiculous. The Monarchs need them, they were here before we were, and often “noxious” or invasive” labels are applied to plants for agricultural “purposes”–god forbid we should have them in the canola or wheat, or bothering the cows! (Check your local databases for these plants in your area: often the “reason” will be posted in the information there.) We have ONE in our yard, a brave little soul who sprouted i think from seeds sent by a friend a few years back. Many got loose when we moved, and this one managed to get a toe-hold in the side yard, where we have been nurturing it since. The only other places i have seen them is a very small section of rail track about a kilometre from my house, and in the Lethbridge area.

as of aug 9

The honeycombs of course relate to bees, another pollinator i hold dear. We constantly are rescuing bees when they come into the house, and i have fished them out of water barrels in the garden as well! These sections are going slower than i anticipated, because summer is about road trips and gardening, both of which are hard to stitch during! It also doesn’t help that i have bent three needles, require the use often of my trusty pliers to pull the needle through, and the arthritis in my left thumb is flaring dramatically these days. We do what we can and must though.

While in the mountains this weekend for our regular “decompress”, Greyman took some amaaaaazing photographs of bees and butterflies on flowers still blooming in the Canadian Rockies.

bee and aster

butterfly and beeThe Fritillary butterflies were everywhere!

butterflies and knapweed

My favourite photo below, with the photobombing by either a type of fly or ant:

bug and butterfly photobomb

I’m not sure what the deadline to finish this piece is, or if i even *do* have one, but i’m soldiering on, as this is another work i love, as difficult and time consuming as it is!


Posted by on August 10, 2015 in A Birth of Silence, not so ordinaries


Blogaversary 11th, wowzers

I started blogging privately way back in May of 2004, when a lot of blogs were private, or of questionable content and dubious authorship. I went “public” in June of that year on my now defunct SquareSpace blog—- there were 3257 entries over 4 years, many of which did not make the transition to this one–though there are many now i wish i HAD saved, for the photo memories. I would blog 2, 3, 4 even 5 times a day! I mostly worked on the machine, and a lot of my “art” was mixed media pile-it-on-crap, so a lot of it is not a loss 🙂 If ever i “need” to remember what i did there/then, i look at my Flickr account! In 2008, i started posting primarily here, as it was a free platform (SquareSpace is glitchy and VERY expensive now.) though there was short period i went back to it after a debacle with the admins of WP! That was fixed and here i remain.

I went from HappyHappy Manic Experimenter to Rantsypants McSnarker for the most part, in the last 2.5 years especially. Age? Cynical realist? Pah, whatever, there are still a few good words in me, though i generally reserve judgement now. I do miss my own old joie de vivre, but hey, that’s life.

I have less to say these days, sometimes just because it’s redundant, or doesn’t really need to be aired, or makes no sense to anyone else. I also kicked myself in the face too often as well, and so no more of that. I still have a private “work blog” where my ideas, plans, samplings and wonderings are stored. I find it most freeing there to get things actually done. For the record, there’s no snarliness about anyone or anything but myself there–criticism of others is counter productive in your own stoodio 🙂

I still follow a few from “the old days”, valuing them highly, for content, clear headedness, artistic vision, integrity and ethics. I dropped a lot too. I miss the “old days” though when it was all new and exciting, real art being made, new discoveries and mediums and methods; now it seems most are gushy DIY re-inventions of the wheel, sycophantic blindness and slapping everything into the same piece. Few are focused and serious! I know some who just gave up as well, some who lost interest, some i guess who realized they really were wasting time, some who stopped because life dealt them a serious blow. And those who stopped wasting time and just DID instead of writing about the Did…..Curmudgeonly and irascible i am, and few blow me away now, but i am loyal to those who put the effort in! I know a few of those still follow me as well, and i do thank you, you loyal friends and compadres in this increasingly cheapened world.

As i have said before too, with WP’s apparent “Follow Drive”, just because you follow me, doesn’t me i will reciprocate–most of what you do does not interest me, plainly put. Yep, i live in a narrow narrow world, but i know the space well, and trust it.

But yet i do blog, no? Habit is strong after 11 years. In the days before the WWW, i had a diary or what they artfully now call a “journal”. Mine’s not pretty very often, but it’s honest. It’s kept me honest too.

If you are one of those who till talk to me, or read, even without commenting, thanks. Appreciated.


natural dye and ecoprint anniversary

Some time this month,  i’ll be at the five year mark for the natural dyeing and ecoprints. Has it really been that long??? From my first forays into using what was around me, in my garden specifically, to what i could afford to buy online, then to learning about ecoprinting, and moving into having an online shop selling these fabrics, to concentrating on natural dyes, ecoprints and rust markings during a couple of residencies, and establishing a voice on those for my own art, it’s been a wonderful journey. (Whew, that took a long breath 😉 )

It celebrates my inner child, the one who in real life so so many years ago would mix mud, makeup and food stuffs into “potions”, bottle them and kindly return them to my mother’s make up shelf in the bathroom. It proclaims my love of the unique. It consecrates what i do by hand, by needle, by experimentation and research.

I still have so much to learn: it’s a never-ending, always changing subject and medium. It’s never predictable, repeatable, ordinary. It can be crap, it can be smashed asshole ugly, it can be sublime and weird and wonderful, everything becoming a lesson learned in patience, perseverance and time. I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but i do believe that what i have done is serious and consequential work, for me, if not for scholarly papers, academia and the true experts. Not often do i show the research though, so you’ll have to take that at whatever value pleases you 🙂 There are many sites online with kitchen scrap sensibilities that will never result in lasting work, and perhaps to combat the serious shudderjudders i get from those, i should have shown all along what i do, how i do and why i do what i do! (I’d REALLY like someone to write a clear well researched article about the difference between stains and dyes, miles apart in cloth work, and longevity, for example.)

I have my favourites of course. You learn what works and what doesn’t. If it really matters, you try to use what is local, indigenous, tried and true. Yes, i do bring home materials from the day job at thefffFlower Mines, but usually i get more pleasure out of the stuff in my backyard, neighbourhood, city, province. Though i have had plant matter sent to me across provinces and country borders, i won’t do that anymore. The regulations are there for a reason, and as a gardener and someone who loves nature, i now cringe at the thought of seeds, weeds and bugs being brought into my ecosystem! Most of my fabrics are sourced from local thrift shops, though i have to buy some natural fibre fabrics online, Calgary having a dearth of decent fabric shops of any sort……

I want especially at this time to thank my friend Wendy Feldberg, for the common sense, sharing, and general “bucking up” that she has given me during this part of my explorations. You are truly a generous treasure, Wendy.

My “go to” books are written by Jenny Dean, another fount of knowledge. If i have a really difficult question, i ask Kimberly Baxter Packwood, the Guru-ette With A Hard Science Background. When i need clear information and no breathy exclamations over Magik, there are two FB groups i drop in on, and an email dyer’s list. While it’s fun to re-invent the wheel, it isn’t always necessary 🙂 Do the research, experiment, read the more scientific explanations,  KEEP NOTES, and never take anything for granted.