Archives for category: Self Improvement
Snap out of it

This Mary Englebright illustration hung over my kitchen sink for years, as a reminder!

If I was paying attention to my body, it would have whispered to me “You are holding a lot of tension – relax!” I would have also noticed impatience – not the floral kind.

It was a workshop on nature dyes at the Etobicoke Handweavers & Spinners Guild. I had already created a vision in my head of how things were going to unfold. Do you see where I’m going? The bigger the gap between what was happening in the moment and what I wanted, the more I felt my cranky, inner child.

I gave myself a time out and sat on the floor with some books from our guild library and this is where things turned around. The workshop leader joined me. We talked and she shared some insights into who she is, which most importantly helped me to understand and appreciate her ways. It reminded me to let my child play.

I laugh to think I was in a situation that, at best, has random and unpredictable results. That is part of the magic of natural dying. In addition to mordant and after bath, colours are affected by the ph of the water (Are you using tap water, well water, rain water?) and so much more.  If there is ever a time to relax and enjoy the process, just to see how things unfold… this is it! Once I allowed myself to do exactly that my day transformed… along with my attitude!

It amazes me to think of our ancestors dying fabric in much the same way thousands of years ago. The oldest known record of dyed flax fibres came from a cave in the Republic of Georgia dating back to 36,000 BC. Astounding! This simple act shared by humans over centuries gives me pause. More so that we let fibres swim in the dye pot on the Solstice!

Coreopsis, plant, tincture

If looking to plant a dye garden, you can buy Coreopsis at garden centres.

Coreopsis, dye pot

Coreopsis dye pot simmering away.

Which of the three dye pots captivated me the most? I would have expected to say indigo but that wasn’t the case. It was Brazilwood! My roving went into the pot as a soft grey and came out  the colour of a pecan shell. Our delightful leader surprised me at the end of the day with a jar of Brazilwood pieces steeped in alcohol. These can be dried and reused. I plan to experiment…

Brazilwood, dyepot

Fibre swimming in Brazilwood dyebath mordanted with 15% alum

shibori, tansy, indigo

Shibori: tansy overdyed with indigo

I discovered superwash wool takes the dye too readily for my taste. It looks like commercially dyed yarn (which in itself is pretty amazing!)

Roberta used tansy to dye a piece of wool fabric then tied a resist and overdyed it with indigo for a beautiful shibori effect.

I have to admit, when it comes to indigo, the thought of a traditionally fermented dyebath nurtured slowly is what makes my heart beat faster.

Plans are afoot…

Brazilwood, Indigo, Coreopsis, Natural Dye

Brazilwood on grey roving, indigo and coreopsis on superwash wool.

Peonies in the darkI was working at my dining room table, re-purposing some old garments. I had a pile of old clothing, rotary cutter, a mat… and an inspiration. I worked in silence, a simple repetitive task, when a thought popped into my head. It flew in and took root. Now I think about it a lot.

I thought about all I do to nurture my physical health. I try to eat well, get enough rest, exercise, visit the doctor to get the stamp of approval, etcetera. You know the drill. Then I thought about the other aspects of my health. My being is more than just a physical body. Am I nurturing my emotional, spiritual and mental health?

It’s never an issue when things are going well but that is not how life works. When difficult times come… and they do, it’s necessary to have developed the inner fortitude to come out the other end with psyche intact.

Lots of questions have burbled up and I’m glad to have plenty of quiet time to explore this. It’s a personal journey but I’m sharing because I suspect others may relate.

I am starting to look at mental health as a precious resource that can be squandered and lost. We must be aware of our inner life and some unnameable essence that has to be minded, topped up.

I’m struck by the number of people who are “broken” for lack of a better word. Some do terrible, desperate things. We all see them on the edge of society, some taking meds, some not and I ask myself could this be prevented? Can we teach people how to cultivate their spiritual and mental health?

If I think of my inner health as a flower in a garden. How should I tend it?

Oriental Poppy, flower

The dazzling, but delicate poppy: Beware of wind and rain!

Every flower has its own nature. A native wild flower needs very little care and before long takes over in the right conditions. Not all of us have that strength built into our constitutions!

Some of us bloom only under specific conditions, requiring lots of care and feeding.

I think I’m a pretty resilient flower in a healthy garden.

So what do I do to cultivate my inner garden? Here are a few things:

  1. Set some time every day for quiet, reflective time.
  2. Find time to be in nature.
  3. Move my body – Go for a walk, a swim, a belly dance class!
  4. Turn off the news – It just causes me stress!
  5. Be social – Quality time with like minded people is a good thing  for me.
  6. Weave, spin, knit, sew, embroider – Creating with fibre is water for my garden. I can’t go very long without or I wilt!
Ecinacea, Coneflower, bee

Echinacea, or Coneflower has medicinal properties.

Here’s a challenge! Ask yourself what you need.

Is there something in your life you are ready to let go of? Gardens have seasons and with seasons come change.

It is my hope that more people take an interest in preserving and improving their mental and spiritual health.