Friday, October 30, 2009
this is the link to my photostream on flickr where I have fotos of my work with felt

Thursday, October 22, 2009

and the down side

the riot police are back. in fullforce. they are afraid a handful of villagers will stop the bulldozers.

a moment in paradise

it is not all burnt. on the way my boys asked me a thousand times, watching the blackened trunks, are you sure it is green where we are going?and when we climbed out of the car and started walking, their joy was tangible. oh, it smells good they said, over and over again. I realised how hard it is for them to live with the evidence of the catastrophe of their environment around us. the outing was an exploration of new storywalks for the museum, because we cant take children to the old ones.
and of course a dyeplant hunting excursion for me. see the cotinus coggyria (smoke tree) lower left in the above foto

and joy of joys madder, madder madder everywhere. it is like a second spring, we have warm weather after rains, sprouts seeds and flowers all together on the same plants. I hope the winter is not too harsh

these are wild pistachio galls, source of tannins and yellow dye which is very lightfast, according to D. Cardon. The bushes are full of them.

I opened one, it was full of aphids. Cardon says they were used before the insects broke out. I promised the boys we'll explore properly during the weekend, I see me dyeing next week

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

felt fun 2

this is a bag made as a result of improvisation. I wanted to see how the "native" wool would combine with fabric, so I laid it out on a sheet of cotton. It is quite coarse(the wool), and I was happy to see that the hairs were passing through the fabric- happy because they were visible, also because lots of them had passed through, it was quite stable without being at all fulled. when I started to throw it and drop it I decided to make something out of it, and not have just another flat sample of felt. I sewed two sides together, one short and one long, making a cylinder, closed on one side. I threw it around some more. I love this part, spraying soapy water all around, massaging my woolly fabric and stroking it so the hairs felt into the others and not rising up. It was just beginning to get crinkly when I thought it might be a good idea to strengthen the seams. I cut merino commercial prefelt into strips and laid it over the seams, rubbing a little bit. after throwing and squishing some more it dawned on me that it would be uneven, with more wool on the seams, so i started "collaging" more prefelt on to the fabric, until it was covered. It is good that this wool doesnt felt quickly, so I had time to wait for inspiration while squishing. I get my best ideas when working with my hands- it would be easier to cut a strip of prefelt as large as the fabric and lay it out on the other side from the beginning, but now I know eh?
After rolling and squishing and wetting and soaping and then hitting and really rubbing hard and dancing with the felt I had a cylinder, closed on one end. And it stayed on the kitchen table all night long with no identity, just possibilities. I wasn't making a bag, just a nuno sample. Next day, the boys were asking what it is. I told them it is a hat and wore it on my head. they laughed. but it did look good, and I saw it could take many shapes with blocking. As I was playing around with form, I saw that it would make a nice pouch. so I made cords, using the black wool and some merino roving dyed the same as the prefelt I had used for the inside, and because it was looking good and I was enjoying the rolling, I made a second one, long, soft and coarse at the same time. I cut holes near the top of the bag, rubbed them well, the felt hardened more there- I think with manual felting there is always the possibility to felt some more-, I passed one of the cords through the holes. Now I had to attach it to the lower corner. I made a small palm-felt, hard and strong, and opened holes - two widely spaced and two closer together. passing the cords through that, I saw that it is good for pushing against the rim of the bag to keep the cords tight to close the opening- like the pieces of wood with two holes that keep the tent strings taut- so I kept that for a closing mechanism and made another one for the bottom end. I passed the cords through the second one, made a nice flattish knot. Then I put some wool behind it, stitched a few holding stitches with wool yarn and rubbed it until it was fused with the body of the bag. I liked the second cord too much not to use it, so I wove it around the first one around the rim of the bag. It is now my handbag.
My mother when she saw it said that she especially likes the combination of sugar white and caramel now I am going to make one for her. But she doesn't like sac-like bags, she wants compartments, so I have to practice using resists. Then I'm going to start selling them for a lot of money and be mythically rich so that I can play around with sheep hair and soapy water all I want without worrying about the bills :-)))))))))))))))

these are my future experiments soaking in various indescribable liquids. I will have many metres of different light weaves of cotton to play with. when I am rich, there will be silk also.
this one began as an exploration of karagouniko (my native fleecewool)on linen. I did measure it to make a wallet for the packet of rolling tobacco, the measuring worked- I allowed for it to be half the size when finished. it is harder than I would want for wearing, but fine for a bag or slippers.the breakthrough on this one is how much I enjoyed stitching. I couldn't stop- it still needs a bobble or something to keep it closed, but I like it. the yarn is wool from the same kind of sheep, sold as rug yarn - i bought it some time ago.

and, a whatif- another one! A piece of fabric died with seedpods from a bush that is prolific on our land, acacia leaves and the remnants of a eucalyptus bark dyebath. so whatif I made a bag with this inside? which side would be nicer? would the dyes keep? this hasn't had time to cure- but the colouring is so bold I think something will stay. here it is stiched on two sides- should I say basted?i decided to use the gray fleece, to see how it felts. it has very long hairs and is very coarse.I made a resist out of cereal box cardboard, taped an opened plastic bag and bubblewrap around it.I put it inside and sewed the top closed. that is more sewing than I have done in the past thirty years, and there's more to come.fibres laid out on one side. they took a lot of water. both sides wetted out and tucked in. I rolled it up and rolled away bouncing it a little bit, the bubblewrap on the inside helped the bouncing. I hated not being able to look inside to see whether the fibres are passing through the fabric. so I decided to trust it. and roll softly and a lot, to make sure.I opened it when it began to get crinkly, you can see where I made the cuts. the colours on the cloth were lighter, but they look good with the greythis is the inside of the finished purse, interesting markings on the cloth, but not as bold as before. So I got bold with the stitching-


frontside open


I'm enjoying the embellishment, stitching, sewing sooooooo much I don't believe it. I was the worst pupil in "home economics" when it came to stitching I managed to nearly fail this unfailable course in high school
the teacher didn't like it that my hands were always inky from writing with a fountain pen
she didn't like it that I made stitching drawings instead of straight lines
now revenge is mine
I will stitch and embroider rough wooly felt in a rough wooly way to my hearts content.
It is a pity that I refused to touch a needle for more than 30 years
maybe I will enjoy it more for that
for this new joy of stitching I want to thank jude hill of spiritcloth I read every post, visit her favourite sites, and admire her work
the idea of whatifs is from her site too
I think everything I do is a whatif, much of my everyday life is a whatif now that I am growing older and can appreciate the fun
when I found myself looking at needles in the shop I knew new worlds were opening for me
since I started searching the internet to learn about dyes from plants last spring I feel that I have opened the door to a great place to be
I'm so grateful

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

how I love my washing line

the last of the unwashed fleeces now washed in the sea, rinsed with water at home, now drying next to a compost dyed sweater.

rose leaf bundled cotton washed after curing for a couple of months. I want to do this with felt.

the same next to a compost dyed cotton scarf. I love the khaki colour my compost gives, i wash it out very very well, and I wear the scarves. there is no unpleasant smell, the colours are washfast, I sometimes put them in the washing machine on purpose or by mistake, the colours from the compost have not changed. it is my "dye"compost, I throw plant matter and remnants of dyepots in a metal barrel that is beginning to rust.

these are my summer experiments with bundling fabric with plants from around here and scrap metal. these are cotton and linen, cured for at least a month and rinsed after. I washed with olive oil soap, and there was very little colour in the water, and the fading was untraceable in the fabric. The washing did soften the contours of the prints, a pleasing result. these fabrics were premordanted with ash water (uncalibrated) and either yoghurt or soy milk with repeated dippings and dryings. It makes a huge difference to the fastness and brightness of the colours.

bundle print on linen, eucalypt bark tie-dye with elastic bands (smells lovely)cotton

and, yes, I worked for a day picking grapes. Back- breaking work, hot and dirty, but holding the bunch of grapes in my hand, the juices running along my arm... mmm I was dead tired after the first hour, but went on for six more. lunch was under an oak tree, the best tasting cheese and olives I've ever had. And yes, there were galls in that tree- I'm going to pick them one of these days.
the pay at the end of the day was good, too.

the hills in the background are all burnt.

the bunches of grapes weigh more than a kilo- bountiful little wizened shrubs
the knife they gave me had a lizard on it
and I got to take some grapes home. Luka is being very good- she knows they're there.. the fleece is the one I washed at home, it got quite felted with the repeated rinsing, and I used an awful lot of water- The sea every time from now on for the first cleaning, I'll only rinse the salt out at home with the fresh water because it makes them harsh to the touch.

I'm off to Marathon now, to check the post. Please take a look at attikasos
(click on the word)later today for updates on arrivals for our fundraising project for reforestation after the fires.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

wool, silk, felt

merino extravganza. at last I found my battery-loader refiller plug. you see lots of eucalyptus, some madder, no reds yet but beautiful warm browns and pinkish oranges, the yellow and green are hypericum from the mountains of arkadia, smaller leaves and flowers than what I found here, but sort of perforatum. upper left are fleeces, unwashed, uncarded, just rinsed. the blue is from the incredibly smelly vat made from the first water when you rinse a fleece. top right are prefelts for experiments. the brown in the back is my woolen blanket, commercial. lower left is some purple basil- the purplish blue and the light green, and the orange is coreopsis, just a few flowers. there are quite a few nondescript tans there in the middle that are going back to be enriched, either before or after felting. acloser look at the basil and coreopsis. the basil is extremely sensitive to atmospheric conditions, it keeps on changing colour. I have not tried wetting it and soaping, maybe needlefelt on the inside of a bookcover would preserve it for a little while ;-)
madder in the middle, hypericum to the right, the yellowy in the middle is eucalyptus, a really beautiful colour. I'm really happy with these colours, all of them have survived felting, (except for the purple basil..)some were just thrown in pots and jars haphazardly, the deepest ones were made carefully. Carefully means with heat and time. some have began felting, but of course they were the ones that I kept squeezing to see how the colours are catching.

onion leaves bundled at prefelt stage, felted after. there will be more in the future. Next I'm going to try felting first and dyeing after. It does change the process, it means that you think more in terms of structure of the work, instead of painterly colouring.

Silks- bundled with plant matter. silk is so expensive- cant really experiment all I like. It is so beautiful, whatever you do to it.
eucalyptus bark and ironwater

fig leaves and various

and felt
its all experiments and samples, I really enjoy this.

so this is part of what I've done this summer, B. F. I also have lots of cotton and linen dyesperiments drying on the line. Going to make photos...

Friday, September 18, 2009


a bat came in to my room late last night scouting or hunting
so what is this creature of the night telling me?
It doesn't see very well, but it hears
so listen, listen he says
listen to what?
dark winged night creature tell me should I listen to my dreams? what I see when i don't see- the winged nightflight of my soul

give me your ears to hear what my eyes can't make out in the dark

he hangs upside down, like odin, who gave his eye for wisdom -the seeing, the seeing
like a baby in the womb getting ready for rebirth
like inanna's skin on the hook
time to die he says to be born again
let go he says
hang upside down he says for a moment or a while
in the dark
I do not hate black any more, it is all around me , I cannot live in hate, only regeneration can follow black
it has rained. alot and hard
the soil was pouring down the road to the sea
the sea was blackened. I couldn't help wondering what all this ash-water might be doing to the soil and to the sea people
there is a carpet of little two leaved miracles on the earth
weeds for dyeing
but even the oak begins as a two leaved sprout
we shall see what will sprout out of this earth

Saturday, September 5, 2009

late full moon music share

i stumbled across this
i don't know anything about them

but they reminded me of rosa - rosa balistreri

and then I remembered this lady singing for mother earth

thats me with my drum with maria laffite, efren lopez on the hurdy gurdy and many more musicians at the music village on pelion mountain, 2 years ago

in memoriam
maria, rosa, lal

Friday, September 4, 2009

kermes oak and madder

pine trees die standing,
kermes oak just dissapears

this is grammatiko village, the photo is taken from Varnavas village- everything is burnt, right down to the sea. I still haven't mustered the courage to go to the area to the left in the picture, behind the village to the sea- where the forest used to beDuring my madder hunting excursions I learnt a lot about the habitat of kermes oaks, because madder loves growing between its roots, making it very difficult to dig up the madderroot. Kermes oaks are short bushes. the goats like to eat their leaves when they are young, so the branches become thick and gnarled, something like a natural bonsai. when they are allowed to grow naturally they get tangled and make a low canopy, like a hut for other plants and animals. I've seen ratholes and snakes, and also larger holes, homes for foxes, and weasels. The animals are especially protected because the oakleaves are small, tough and and thorny -very scratchy making entry impossible for larger animals, including man (and madderhunting woman).

spiders like to make their webs between these thorns, and there always were many little coccoons of stored food for later- so it seems insects love this plant too, for the protection it gives.

and about insects: of course the kermes oak is the host of one of the most important dye- insects in the history of dyeing, the source for scarlet, Kermes Vermilio.

I had an eye out for those fat red ladies, not to "harvest"them, of course, because they are endangered, just to meet one of these famous historical personages.

D. Cardons book arrived a bit too late to help me identify the egg laying Kermes, but I think I did see a few "cocoons" with the youngsters gone. I was waiting for the second mating period in September to see them in their red splendour. Now it is too late.

you see they don't have legs, they can't flee a fire.

Their habitat in the north of Attica has been utterly destroyed. I do not know whether there are sufficient numbers of Kermes insects left on surviving oaks for them to repopulate the area when the garrique has recovered, if it ever will.

The Kermes oak is more like a bush than a tree and it does not make an attractive forest. It grows on stony dry land and is strong enough to survive grazing by goats. I don't think it is a first priority in anyones reforestation program. It is considered unproductive and ugly, and the scrub land that is called garrique is the first to be turned into housing land and roads after a fire.

and the madder? I am more optimistic, because of its deep roots, but where shall it entangle itself come spring? Suddenly from being madder- rich I look at the bag of roots that are drying and I see how precious they are, madder gathered in the wild. I'll have to plant some, for the years to come.

Maybe I should try to persuade the local authorities to make a botanical garden, an artificial site of remembrance for the lost ecosystem of garrique scrubland. But who will be willing to give anything for the preservation of pournari( greek for kermes oak) when a common saying uses it to denote something worthless. We say: he left the wedding and went for pournari when we want to show that someone has missed a great chance because of making a silly choice.

see Dominique Cardon, pg 610 onwards for information on the Kermes insect, the oak and the reasons why Kermes Vermilio is an endangered species.

This was taken from my balcony on the night of the 22nd. the fire has left towards Athens, it is burning around Marathon, and going up the mountain of Pendeli, which is actually quite far away.
the little red lights on the left are what the firemen call "kandilakia", votive flames, which are in reality the trunks of olive trees turned into pillars of live coal. some of them are still burning, two weeks later, deep in the ground where the roots are.
It was a horrific spectacle, the glow of the fire lighting the night and turning everything red. how can something so destructive be so beautiful. that thought still wakes me up at night, sometimes.
In reality I'm mourning.
the fat red ladies
the foxes, weasles, owls, rats mice, snakes, millions of insects,
the poor turtles
the plants that were their homes
waiting for the rain. may it be gentle this year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

and now...

it is not the first time I have been in the wake of a wildfire. in 1998 I lifted my eldest in nappies from his crib and ran with him in my arms through the scorching smoke in front of raging flames to safety. every summer fires rage throughout the country side. two years ago they got out of hand and burned huge areas all over the mainland. there was a lot of talk about taking measures to avoid the same thing happening in the future.
but it does happen. again and again. And Greece is a very dry country, it takes decades for a forest to regenerate and mature..more often than not fire takes its toll before the forest has re established itself making the loss irrevocable.
that is why reforestation and the care of the forest in the future is the best way to undo some of the damage
also the education of our children whose legacy is beying destroyed to respect and care for nature and themselves

suddenly my little "stash" of seeds, leaves, flowers from dyeplants has become precious, invaluable.
they can be turned into seeds of knowledge and experience, a legacy for the future
this land has a terrible need of good, to undo the bad

That is why we have begun a new project called art for trees, it is a call of help to artists and craftspeople all over the world
we are asking for donations in the form of works of art that can be sold to provide funds for reforestation in a responsible way
I have started a new blog, attika sos in english and greek to host information about the project hoping that it may work as a forum for ideas, information and experience regarding these matters
there you will find information about the organisation the will act as host for the proposed events, and you can follow the progress of the action
I'm hoping that a visit will inspire donations- please forward the link to anyone you think might be interested
any ideas- thoughts- experiences are more than welcome, please do not hesitate to post comments -they are very helpful
also I welcome any thoughts about the connection between fiber and textile arts and environmental awareness - I will post all relevant texts, with authors permission, and translate them into greek
every gesture helps, every phrase, comment, experience, thought, idea, is more than welcome. at this moment i feel it is of vital importance.
i will keep this blog as a more personal account of my dyeing, felting journey
jasmine has been the moving power for the undertaking of this project, please visit her blog by clicking on her name to see the rug she is making for us
thank you all

Monday, August 24, 2009

I have to do this quickly because I don't know how long I;ll have electricity- it is mostly down

I'm ok, the dogs ok and the house is ok, the boys are in Spain

everything else is black and burning
around here there is not much left for the fire to burn, but there are a couple of places where they can't control the fire, tall pine trees etc so the planes are flying over all the time

the fire has gone south towards Athens

what I really want to say is that it is wonderful to find your comments and support they made a good "place" so thank you all very very much for your concern, I will thank everyone personally when this is over

oh the olive tree you see in other posts is full of birds- we are a little green pocket
it is so sad

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I hate black

wildfire. started at 10 pm, too late for the planes. on a hill behind the village, we are on the other side so that is probably ok. in a way.
on the hill where the landfill is going to be. pines, juniper, wild pistachio, innumerable flowers, kermes oaks, olivetrees, almond trees, sheep, goats,
the morning will show
there are 60 firefighters 2o fireengines the police won't let us near
I've spent nights up there watching out for fires
all alone with trees and stones, from sunset till dawn
it is a place where I have been made welcome by the trees and stones
I have listened to their tales
two years not a flame
this year they wouldn't let us look out for fires because of the landfill works
the riot police were up there, busloads,
the undercover "safety"police were there, carloads
and the firemen were there
and tonight the fire is there doing its work while the firemen protect the landfill landscape machinery
and the trees are burning
the animals are running
isaw foxes outside my house and birds flying at 3 oclock in the morning
it is snowing ashes
and the village is dancing. really. it is the summer dance-ball? of the football team, there is an orchestra playing in the square,
i smell smoke
I hear music
waiting for dawn when the planes can rise the sun will light the black of this nights work

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

softly and with humility- sigana kai tapeina

softly and with humility I tread on this earth

here she is, the crone, softly singing, leaving an everlasting mark on the souls of the listeners.

I was in Arcadia-literal - real arcadia, a sea of mountains and trees in the heart of the Peloponnese

we told stories in the forest, sang songs in the taverns

a workshop in the woods: we tied leaves and twigs and flowers collected from the ground with coloured yarn, spinning storywebs, and hung them on the trees. a twig for the prince, a flower for the third daughter, bark for the crone, the witch. a sickle shaped dead branch for Charon, death himself.

then we beat drums and told the story of inanna's descent, the fox, naming the world

now we have gone, leaving the lightest of footprints, carrying our fugitive marks inside of us. the forest is there dancing its skyward dance.

one day it will be gone too, dust or charcoal, who knows

why do we make so much effort to find "fast" dyes and colours-an illusion of eternity, false as false can be when a moment of true beauty can last forever, there, where it counts, in our souls.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

small update

looking good! the purple basil is growing and there are lots of seedlings thrown in randomly and sprouting. they might just give something before winter. there is coreopsis, there are rudbeckia of some kind, the daisy like ones with the black centre, and the purple ones, I do not know their names- I liked their colours. there are dahlias and zinnias, I got them very cheap because it was so late in the season. the little trunk you see is our peach tree, it grew from a pit thrown randomly- we chuck all pits, pips, seeds from fuit onto the dirt, I cheat because I aim towards the watering drips...the dogs think it is a wonderful game so I do my throwing when they are not looking
these are my latest felt creations, made while waiting for my brother to wake so that we could rehearse for a gig. we were in rhodes, and of course I had carried fleece and carders with me for a two day stay with work! they were made in the palm of my hand, they could be eyes or leaves, or even fried eggs, if you are hungry. the model is my favourite red rose bush, the one of the colourful leaves. the snake rope is for protection and blessing
more colours. solar dyed, no mordant, uncarded rinsed wool. no detergent. I let the fleece dry without rinsing, these have been washed with olive soap, to see what will happen when I felt them. the colours did not change. I think that this method of dyeing is good for felt because of the lack of ph modifiers


when the moon is full the marks are the same in different colours. this first one has been dipped and dried many times in very umripe persimmon juice. it is getting darker every day, the colour is beautiful. it is cheap bleached cotton- a leftover from an old workshop. shadows
like boys
they never stand still long enough

shadowmarks on stones with fossils in them
yes the sun is the strongest one of all

I went to a concert of his, I was 16, first time concert! while he was playing this song, the lights went out, electricity down, total darkness and silence, then the police fell upon us with tear gas and clubs. I climbed over a wire fence in a split second. running away, the people from the houses around hosed us down with water and threw us lemons for the tear gas. that tear gas then (1981, yes, aeons ago, when I was 16) was nothing compared to what they use now. I'm off- the president of our community sent a message calling everyone to the community centre of the village- it is 11 30 at night, it seems the company is coming to make the landfill which will bring tons of trash from athens to one of the most beautiful spots left in attica.
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