Cottonwood Garden

Since moving to Vancouver I've been dreaming about getting involved in a community garden. The most beautiful one in the city (in my opinion) is Cottonwood Garden - to me it feels like a fairy wonderland of flowers, vegetables, berries and fruit trees. About a month ago I was lucky enough to get a plot and have been slowly working in it, baby in tow.  

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First step was pulling up the three foot tall mess of lemon balm, buttercup, mint, fennel, and crab grass. There was a big pile of soil with lots of kale volunteers that I transplanted, along with a rhubarb root I hope will survive. 

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I've laid a brick path with help from my dad and Paul, and have a plan for what I can start growing mid-summer for fall and winter harvest. My plan is to grow some veggies, flowers, dye plants and herbs. 

Sointula Art Shed Residency: Dye Process

Week 2: June 8-14th
Dye Process: Creating colour

These are the dyes that I made during the second week of my residency. They were created from plants local to Sointula unless otherwise marked (although for those plants that are not local, but grow locally, results would be similar):

  1. Horsetail
  2. Bracken fern
  3. Foxglove flowers
  4. Carnation flowers
  5. Twinberry
  6. Salmon berry
  7. Asters (road-side yellow flower similar to dandelion)
  8. Spruce cones (both pollen and seed cones)
  9. Spruce Bark used as a tannin bath pre-dye
  10. Arbutus (leaves and twigs)
  11. Broom flowers
  12. Alder bark
  13. Onion Skin (from various sources) *Not local
  14. Rhubarb stems and leaves (from Vancouver & the grocery store) *Not local
  15. Dyers Polypore (mushroom collected in North Vancouver) *Not local
  16. Velvet Pax (mushroom collected in North Vancouver) *Not local
  17. Red Sandalwood (purchased as a powder - native to southern India) *Not local
  18. Logwood (purchased as a powder - native to Central and northern South America) *Not local
  19. Eucalyptus (from our wedding flowers) *Not local

Some other plants that may grow locally that can be used as dye:

  • Blackberry shoots and berries
  • Elderberry berries and leaves
  • Foxglove stems and leaves
  • Japanese knotweed
  • Marigold flowers
  • Plantain (leaves and roots)
  • Sorrel
  • Yarrow
  • Young fustic (smoke tree) bark and wood

Dye plants used by First Peoples in British Columbia, :

  • Alder bark and leaves (orange-red, brown-red and yellow) - Techniques include chewing the bark and boiling it with saliva, or using urine as a mordant
  • Antelope-brush fruit (reddish)
  • Birch bark and leaves
  • Black Huckleberry (purple)
  • Blueberries (purple)
  • Other berries such as Cranberry, Crowberry, and  Black Current
  • Cascara bark (green)
  • Douglas Fir needles (yellow)
  • Flowering Dogwood bark (deep brown) mixed with Grand Fir bark (black)
  • Green pond slime (green)
  • Lamb's Quarters, young shoots (green)
  • Montana Larkspur flowers (blue)
  • Nettle stems and leaves boiled in urine (ammonia would probably work) (red)
  • Northern bedstraw roots (red then yellow)
  • Oregon-grape stems and roots (yellow)
  • Salal  berries - mixed with Twinberry to intensify the stain (purple)
  • Strawberry Blite (red)
  • Western Hemlock bark (high tannin content) (reddish) - soaked in urine (black)
  • Willow bark (grey)
  • Wolf lichen (yellow)
  • Yellow owl-clover (reddish-tan)

Further reading on dyeing and plants:

Cannon, John and Margaret Cannon. Dye plants and dyeing (Portland: Timbre Press, 1994)

Flint, India. Eco colour: Botanical dyes for beautiful textiles (Millers Point, NSW : Murdoch Books, 2008)

Leechman, Douglas. Vegetable dyes from North American plants (Toronto: The Southern Ontario Unit of the Herb Society of North America, 1969)

Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon. Plants of coastal British Columbia including Washington, Oregon & Alaska (Vancouver: Lone Pine, 1994)

Turner, Nancy. Plant technology of First Peoples in British Columbia (Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 1998)

Vejar, Kristine. The modern natural dyer: A comprehensive guide to dyeing silk, wool, linen, and cotton at home ( New York: Abrams, 2015)

 

 

Sointula Art Shed Residency: Workshop

On June 25th I'll be hosting a workshop to show off some of the colours I've achieved from local plants (including lots of weeds!) and to offer a couple of dye pots to try out shibori-inspired resist techniques. It should be lots of fun! 

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Sointula Art Shed Residency: Stitching

Week 1: June 1st - 7th

While in Sointula I will continue my embroidery-a-day project, Idle Hands. One of the ideas I had to work on while I'm here is to create some larger scale art pieces incorporating embroidery with archival photographs of Malcolm Island and Sointula. Some of these photos I brought with me, printed on card stock, rag paper, and canvas. 

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I'm researching Finnish aesthetic for pattern inspiration, focussing on weaving patterns. The museum has a loom set up, but I couldn't find any information beyond the weaving of rag rugs. I will also be doing some drawing of local buildings and plants that might be incorporated into my embroidery in some way. At this point, I'm letting the time I'm here be determined by what I'm interested in doing, day by day. Although I have projects planned, I'm not forcing myself to complete anything specific over the next month. 

Sointula Art Shed Residency: Dye Process

Week 1: June 1st - 7th
Dye Process: Preparing
 

Sunday I participated in a beach cleanup organized by Living Oceans and my host, Kerri, then started preparing my dye baths and fabric. This process is time consuming, and I'm not even taking the amount of time I could to prepare my fabric with mordants such as soy milk (which is a multi-day process in itself).  It will take me about 4 days before I'm ready to even start dyeing my fabric or thread. I brought with me many different types of materials to dye in many different ways. I'm curious to try eco-dyeing bundles, solar dyeing, and more traditional dyeing processes. 

What the cottage kitchen has looked like all week.  

What the cottage kitchen has looked like all week.  

I brought three different kinds of thread to try embroidering with: 100% silk, 50/50 silk/merino wool blend, and a silk/linen blend. They're from the Silk Weaving Studio on Granville Island and I decided on silk blends because they're protein-based and will pick up dye colours more vividly than a cotton thread. I also have lots of cotton muslin, some wool jersey, vintage linen, and a handful of cotton baby onesies. 

Dividing the silk thread into smaller bunches. 

Dividing the silk thread into smaller bunches. 

All these different materials need to be prepped in different ways and each round of scouring (cleaning) and mordanting (applying minerals to help the dye colour stick and become colour fast) takes about 2 hours. This is what I did to get ready to dye:

  • The skeins of silk thread need to be divided into smaller skeins (10 m pieces)
  • Any new fabric needs to be scoured to remove any sizing - cotton and wool need to be treated differently in this process
  • Before dyeing, the material needs a mordant (especially the cotton and linen) 
  • Cellulose-based fibre like cotton and linen: Tannin and alum bath OR alum and washing soda (sodium carbonate)
  •  Protein-based fibre like silk or wool: Alum and cream of tartar
  • Soak any dye plants overnight, then simmer for an hour to release the colour

A post-dye bath of iron can also be used alter the dye colour to shift the colour into grey. Once I've done all the dyeing, I can decide whether things need to be over-dyed (put in another dye pot to change the colour) or dipped into an iron bath. I've been focussing on dye stuff and mordants that can be safely discarded of. This means that I'm avoiding using a mordants like tin or copper. I'm also aware that iron is difficult to dispose of, so I will likely bring home the iron bath that I make so I can dispose of it properly. 

Eucalyptus in the dye pot. These were from our wedding but I've been hanging onto them to make dye. Not local, but a good way to reuse expired flower arrangements! 

Eucalyptus in the dye pot. These were from our wedding but I've been hanging onto them to make dye. Not local, but a good way to reuse expired flower arrangements! 

Left to right: Horsetail, carnation flowers, and foxglove flowers. 

Left to right: Horsetail, carnation flowers, and foxglove flowers. 

Sointula Art Shed Residency: Alert Bay

Week 1: June 1st - 7th

On Saturday, Paul and I took the ferry back to Port McNeill, then over the Alert Bay - a 70 minute trip that is free regardless of whether you're in a car or on foot. We wished we had taken our bicycles over instead of the car, but perhaps I'll get back there during my month in Sointula. 

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We drove around the town, visited the 'Namgis burial grounds, and ate sandwiches at the Shoprite grocery store. We visited the Big House, which we were lucky to find open with a big fire going. There was a wellness weekend happening and inside the Big House they were demonstrating how to butterfly and barbecue salmon next to an open fire. The building itself was incredible, and all made of cedar, with enormous support beams, carved eagles flanking both doorways, and a big fire pit in the middle of the floor. We were welcomed warmly and watched the barbecuing process for a while. Outside the Big House is the tallest totem pole in the world - 173 feet! 

Billy stoking the fire and demonstrating barbecued salmon technique.

Billy stoking the fire and demonstrating barbecued salmon technique.

Entering the 'Namgis Traditional Big House.

Entering the 'Namgis Traditional Big House.

We also spent some time in the U'mista Cultural Centre learning about the Kwakwaka'wakw culture, the residential school, St. Michael's, that was taken down last year, and viewing the Potlatch collection. Items from the collection were confiscated by the RCMP in 1922 during a time when Potlatches and traditional celebrations were outlawed. Starting in the 1990's the community started efforts to repatriate these precious objects from the museums and private collections they ended up in. It was very moving to be in the same space as these meaningful objects and to watch the video footage of the dances that animate the masks and regalia.

Orca masks.  

Orca masks.  

Forest Spirits: "The dance of the Forest Spirits can include up to 40 masked dancers. This dance tells the story of a boy who runs away from his abusive father to kill himself. In the forest, he meets a supernatural mouse who takes him to another realm where he meets the Forest SPirits. He returns to his village and hares the stories and dances of the Forest Spirits with his people."

Forest Spirits: "The dance of the Forest Spirits can include up to 40 masked dancers. This dance tells the story of a boy who runs away from his abusive father to kill himself. In the forest, he meets a supernatural mouse who takes him to another realm where he meets the Forest SPirits. He returns to his village and hares the stories and dances of the Forest Spirits with his people."

Sointula Art Shed Residency: Foraging

Week 1: June 1st - 7th

I was thankful to have the company of my partner Paul for the first few days of my month in Sointula, especially to help me celebrate my birthday - the last one I'll have before becoming a mother in October. One of the things we did together was drive to the far side of the 24 km long island to do some plant foraging. A project I'm really excited to do during my residency is some local natural dye experiments, especially with weeds or plentiful, publicly available plants. 

Foxglove.  

Foxglove.  

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We drove to Bere Point and along the way found roadside foxglove, spruce trees for cones and bark, cedar boughs, and rosebuds (to dry for tea). Back towards town we picked horsetail and some yellow flowers that could be some kind of wild aster. A beach walk brought us some mysterious plants that we later identified as black twinberry, off cuts from an arbutus tree, and curled dock with a big root. For some of these plants, I was unsure as to whether they'd give a good colour, but once they were identified, I was able to do a little Internet research to figure out whether they've been used for dyeing before. 

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Horsetail, which is an invasive weed found all over the island.  

Horsetail, which is an invasive weed found all over the island.  

Some other plants I'd like to gather and try include broom flowers, salmon berries, seaweed, bracken fern, nettles, and red elderberry. I also brought some mushroom dyes that I made last autumn, since it's the wrong time of year to find mushrooms. 

266 days

At almost the exact same time I started my Idle Hands Project, my partner Paul and I found out we were also starting a very different kind of project together. I've decided that instead of trying to do an embroidery-a-day for a year, I will finish the Idle Hands Project when our *other* project is born into this world, making it approximately 9 months of little embroideries.

Idle Hands Project

It's a new year and I'm ready to come back to stitching after taking a year off to do important things like travelling, moving home, and getting married. I follow many creative people on Instagram and have been inspired over the past year by ambitious projects to create something new everyday for a length of time. Two of my favourites are the Tiny Blades Project, Annyen Lam's 365 days of paper cutouts, and Jen Lashek's watercolour pattern a day for a hundred days. Projects like this struck me as a great way to explore, sketch, and practice. 

One of my most productive times is coming out an illness. The day when you know you're starting to get better because you mend all your clothes, or tidy your sock drawer. This time around I started stitching again. I picked up half finished pieces and started finishing them. And I came up with an ambitious project that I want to do for the next year and crowned it: The Idle Hands Project: 365 days of little embroideries. 

Follow my progress on Instagram, or here on my website. Wish me luck!  

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Embroidery workshop

I'm pleased to announce that I will be teaching a beginners embroidery workshop at Nineteen Ten Home. We are also working together to create two new embroidery kits that will be for sale in their sweet Mount Pleasant shop. 

The workshop is Tuesday May 26th, 7 - 9pm

It will sell out QUICK so SIGN UP HERE!

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Upcoming!

It's been a spring and summer of growing food, tending to backyard chickens, and spending long sun drenched evenings on the beach. As the weather starts to get crisper and the rainy days start again, it's finally time to get cozy and make art for some exciting upcoming events. 

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November 22nd I have a new body of work being installed in Beehive Hair Lounge, 3904 Fraser Street. There will be a party to celebrate the opening! I'll share more details closer to the date! 

December 6th I'll be participating in Book and a Beer at the Regional Assembly of Text, 3934 Main Street, by making a small book. This is something that I've been wanting to do for a long time and what a perfect way to try my hand at book making. 

December 13/14th I'll once again have a table at ShinyFuzzyMuddy at Heritage Hall selling postcards, art prints, embroidery kits, greeting cards and original embroidery pieces. 

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Thank you!

This past weekend was my first ShinyFuzzyMuddy show and it was so great. I received amazing feedback from folks and made lots of new friends. There are a few pieces leftover and I will try and get everything posted over the Christmas holidays. I'm also hoping to get an Etsy shop up and running over the holidays as well to make it easier for long distance purchases! 

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Tin Can Studio: Meet Hillary Webb

This past week the Tin Can Studio published an interview with me on their blog to promote our collaborative DIY embroidery kits and the two workshops I'm teaching on November 26th and December 4th. 

Meet Hillary Webb!

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Though Hillary is a recent transplant to Vancouver, she already feels like an old friend and we're thrilled she'll be participating in our workshops this winter leading the Tattoo Inspired Embroidery Workshops.   

We are loving your illustrations for the kits… What inspires you about tattoo imagery?

I wanted to create a series of drawings that were playful and meaningful. I've always been a fan of tattoos, even when I was a kid. I now have a few and am drawn to some of the traditional designs. I see the shaking hands as a symbol of friendship and honesty, and the knot tied to the finger symbolizes the act remembering. The chicken was inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead illustrations and my two beautiful backyard hens. The 'hello' font was inspired by the fabulous typography books in the Emily Carr Library. Lettering is one of my favourite things to doodle and I thought it would be really fun to stitch.

For the full interview, visit the Tin Can Studio blog!

Pop quiz with Sewing School

An interview with Sewing School about my process and inspirations. Originally published on February 23rd, 2013. 

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Tell us about yourself and work!

I’m a native Torontonian and spent the last three years in Halifax studying to be a librarian. I fell in love with the ocean air and was fortunate enough to recently relocate to the other coast to start a librarian position at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. I’ve been making and selling hand embroidered art since completing my degree in textiles at the Ontario College of Art and Design in 2004. More recently I’ve been dabbling in ceramics, letterpress, and screen-printing. I can’t stop making things. When my hands aren’t busy I get restless. As far as I can tell, making things is in my blood.

For more, visit the Sewing School website! 

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