The Blackberry Invader or Humble Bramble?

Along the narrow path, brambles had completely networked, crisscrossing in every direction, successfully blocking any entry through the path. The path barely identifiable. The first task was to open up this network and negotiate a compromise. Entering into a conversation, the boundaries between myself and their persistent invasion, became a much more civilised affair. Tackled with a pair of secateurs, (not a noisy, smelly, petrol strimmer, as indiscriminately tried and miserably failed in the past)and a resolution to not try to eradicate but to utilise the resource. What could I create from it?

Years previously I had made a successful yarn from the inner core of nettles by a process of drying, crushing stripping and so on. Alice Fox, whilst documenting her plot 105, has successfully been making cordage from bramble so this will be a possible experiment but first was to explore whether it yielded a dye successfully.

Natural bramble dye, from the leaves, stems and flowers no berries…yet, gave a lovely surprise…. Responding to different mordants and pH. Black ’berries’ as such offer a fugitive dye they are not lightfast, a stain more than offering a pigment. However, make interesting dyes and inks when you create a dialogue with the environment and something I am experimenting with in alternative processes for journalling this research. Tests will need to be done to assume whether this dyebath is lightfast but it is looking promising to use the resource within the colour scheme and definitely for this second module: sampling and testing. Trying not to repeat subjects, like Natural dyeing that can be readily obtained now through this World wide Web/digital library, I have wondered which way my practice is to go with regards to teaching. How to make a blackberry dyebath seems so easily learnt compared to when I started out over 15 years ago. The thoughtful musings of other journal writers such as Sarah Swett pondered the same it seems and came to a compromise that worked for them.

In order to make the switch from wide fashion cloth to narrow braids that can be interwoven and left outside to continue the narrative with the environment, the thickness of my yarns do need to be considered.

This year the aim of The Textile Farm, me, is to be self sufficient with the resources I use in my ’making’. With the exception of the art paper, a khadi rag paper, that has happened. Although I have made paper before,I think I succumbed to time limitations. Incidentally bramble and nettles and lots of resources I do use lend themselves so well to paper making.

Down into Alice in Wonderlands multi burrowed rabbit holes.

9th Feb 2021

Revolving Doors or lots of burrows to visit revealing so many ideas, I am finding it hard to keep track, essentially feeling like Alice; that I am being led, scooped up and hurried along. This hurried along feeling is my usual pace to be fair, but diagnosed with Polymyalgia in August 2020 and now Temporal Arteritis in Jan 2021, illness has made me acutely aware of my limitations to keep up and I will confess that I have experienced frustration at not being able to fully take advantage of every lead. Although I am pleased with what I have achieved.

Isn’t this rather missing the point, I ask myself. Am I not encouraged to be more discerning and take advantage of the opposite, time…. To reflect analyse and be critical of my choices. The why I make my choices. Well, one thing is obvious I am guided by my heart, intuition and my interaction with the world around me including those serendipitous moments, those coincidental leads.

Perhaps because more than ever I am aware of just how exploring craft and art through the world and medium of nature, self-sufficiency and sustainability is and has been therapy. It is much more than an environmental issue all though that has been an incredibly important part of me all my life and  I considered it to be my driving force. 

To be self-sufficient and sustainable is a statement and a giver of confidence. 

This confidence has allowed me to accept the elements that the initial research has presented as ideas and concepts to explore how ever difficult they may be for me personally. The how and in what context perhaps the focus of  the MA.

The Handspun Tale

uantity in a milli fraction of time. My own time and motion studies proved beyond a doubt that I could never earn the hours that the skeins take me to produce (and I am a relatively fast spinner!) Thoughts turned to my motivation. I realised the complexity of it…]

Sitting by the log burner, busily spinning and trying to negotiate the pricing of the yarn I am producing, I realise this is not just about the financial gain. I could never realistically compete with the mechanisation of the spinning industry.

IMG_5881Just consider the processes that the fibres go through  from field to yarn. The shearing, scouring, drying, combing, carding before the spinning even takes place. Then the process of multiple ‘single’ threads being created to then be plied. Then there is the dyeing process. It quickly becomes apparent, that The Industrial revolution quite literally revolutionised yarn production. Why would anybody wish to sit for hours on end spinning one 25 gram skein when machines can produce an enormous quantity in a milli fraction of time. My own time and motion studies proved beyond a doubt that I could never earn the hours that the skeins take me to produce (and I am a relatively fast spinner!) Thoughts turned to my motivation. I realised the complexity of it and of why I wish to create slow cloth.

A treasured bounty

Take home this ‘fluff’ however, small and tenderly yet once more bathe but this time add some magic of vegetable skins, flowers, seeds or pods; of bark or leaves and warm to colour it’s veins. Let nature colour your creativity and join me on this magical mystical tour!

simple to spin
simple to spin

Have you ever walked past a field where there are the tufts of fleece entwined baron on the fence. Almost cleansed by the rain and involuntarily ‘hanging’ out to dry! Much later, 38 kgs later and more to come I am hooked, obsessed by this ‘fluff’ It offers so much; transformation into the promise; Of fibre to clothe,keep us warm, to adorn and give way to so much creativity.

plant dyed wools
plant dyed wools

I have alway had this need to take a raw item and follow the processes to create. Wool or fibres in general are the ultimate travelling companion for this journey. However, my tentative walk began from a different lane. From the garden path. It was at these humble beginnings my connection was made. Colour. Natural colour. Colour that is not uniform and although nature can provide bold brash colours she is more renowned for her subtlety, of muted shades and very much a tonal creator.

Throughout the seasons she quietly sometimes loudly rocks our world with an orchestra of colour. Just when you feel you know her; she surprises. For me to be able to learn, tap into mother natures own larder, to explore her lessons in creativity it is a treasure trove. So to walk past that innocent ‘fluff’ I can no longer do without thinking of what it can become. Like Cinderella’s pumpkin to be transformed into magnificence by magic. Natural magic.

Take home this ‘fluff’ however, small and tenderly yet once more bathe but this time add some magic of vegetable skins, flowers, seeds or pods; of bark or leaves and warm to colour it’s veins. Let nature colour your creativity and join me on this magical mystical tour!