a few words about miss chelsea elizabeth...

she likes: making kites, dancing in the rain, adventures, little-while friends, letters, whole-leaf tea, crayons, bare feet, jumping in rivers/streams/creeks/waterfalls, language, catching the clock as it changes numbers, sleepovers, trains (big or small), cuddling & waking up before the sun rises, among other random things.

oregon-born, seattle-raised, bellingham-bred and franco-refined, she had moved back to the states from her affairs across the atlantic & now resides in columbia city with french husband & love of her life rémy. they spend most of their time taming the garden, taking care of their three chickens & two cats, and preparing the urban homestead for a new little chick of their own.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

prepared to dye


I started the process with Lion Brand Yarn Organic Cotton, which I chose for many many reasons I explained pretty thoroughly in my last post.

I chose just a standard non-dyed non-bleached classic cotton color.

Then I started my concoctions. According to the awesome book on botanical dyes and home dyeing I've been reading, there are basically two parts to dyeing. First, there is making a vibrantly colorful dye bath. And second, equally important as the first, is making that color stick to your fabric of choice. Sometimes a color will seem to jump right on to your cloth or yarn or thread; sometimes it looks beautiful as a dye but the color stays in the liquid. Luckily, as the book explains, you can add a catalyst to the mix, also known as a mordant (from the latin root "to bite") which helps bind the color to the fibers of the fabric.

There are infinite mordants out there, and it's not really an exact science, so adding random stuff to your mix might make your color stick better. A rusty nail will bring out greens & help them bind. Soy milk or egg whites might do the trick with other colors. Salt and lemon juice, even urine, these can all be useful mordants depending on the ingredients in your color stew and the type of fabric you want to dye.

I knew that tea serves double duty. It's a known mordant and it stains brown, which was one of the colors I wanted. So I used that as the mordant for my first mixture. My brown concoction included chai tea, spent coffee grounds and used recycled paper coffee filters. I added hot water & let it all brew.

 I put the cotton yarn in & mixed it in to make sure it was covered evenly.
Then it was time to let time & gravity do most of the work.

For the second mix, I decided to use lemon juice as a mordant. My yellow concoction included lemon juice, rhubarb leaves & stems, marigold flowers, yellow onion skins and turmeric.

 Amazingly, as I added hot water, the red color from the rhubarb bled out into yellow liquid,
leaving white chunks of rhubarb in its place.

I added the yarn to my beautiful homebrew...

And set them out in the sun on the back porch to let solar power do the work.

India says that depending on fabric and dye, you may want to leave your concoction brewing for anywhere from several days up to multiple years. (Apparently in old England they used to throw wool sweaters in peat bogs for years on end to soften them & give them color.) The important thing is to get the fabric the color you want, and then that's it. You take it out. 

I know I am generally impatient, but I only left the yarn in there a few hours and it had already turned beautiful shades of brown and yellow, so I decided to take it out before it got too saturated or bright.

 The brown turned out the perfect shade for a monkey!

 And the yellow was way more vibrant than I was expecting!!

Next they need to dry. You are not supposed to ring them out to prevent damage, but can spin them around to get out extra moisture and then hang them to dry in the shade.

 I decided to hang them on trees in a shady spot of our side yard.

Look how beautiful they are!!

I am so proud of myself for accomplishing this endeavor and even more proud of how well it turned out! I can't wait to see what it looks like dry and to start knitting!!!

knicks & knacks

I have always been obsessed with arts & crafts, stuff I can create with my hands, but lately it is getting ridiculous. I recently checked out a few (bajillion) books from the West Seattle library about screen printing, knit toys and home dyeing using sustainable methods.

The amazing book describing the latter is by an amazing woman named India Flint and her book is called Eco Colour: botanical dyes for beautiful textiles. I do not want to give this book back, no joke. It describes easy methods for using common weeds, compost, fallen leaves and branches to create incredibly vibrant colors and stunning designs. Since picking the book up at the library last Monday, almost every thing I see (grass, dandelions, ivy, dirt, old rusty pieces of metal, tulips) I want to slip into my giant bag and take home with me to experiment with. I find myself imagining various concoctions and wondering what the resulting colors would be. I have secretly been trying to find an old t-shirt of Remy's to experiment with, but unfortunately we got rid of all of our old clothes before moving back from France.

And then I got the perfect excuse: our good friends' Sam & Mariah up in Bellingham have the most adorable almost-two-year-old on the planet, and his birthday is coming up. I know it is an ambitious project, but I have decided to try to knit him two stuffed animals from hand-dyed yarn; a monkey (because that is his favorite animal right now) and a lion (because it is my favorite animal right now). I have a pattern for a bear family, and I figure that a monkey is just a bear with a tail and a lion is just a bear with a mane. We'll see if I'm right.

The first step, however, is choosing yarn and colors. The ladies at Seattle Yarn up on California in West Seattle were very helpful in showing me the organic options available today, and the yarn I ended up choosing is Lion Brand Yarn Organic Cotton. I chose this for its softness; because when choosing cotton, especially for anything children will touch, organic is the only way to go (conventionally-grown cotton takes up about 2% of crops world-wide, but uses 25% of the pesticides and insecticides used annually in the world and 5 of the top 9 pesticides used on cotton in the US are known carcinogens.); because there were no colors added - there were a few colors possible, from white to off-white to tan, all just from varieties in the natural color of cotton; and last but certainly not least, because it wasn't made in China (it's grown in Peru).

The colors I decided to try to concoct in my kitchen are a nice deep brown for the monkey and a nice golden yellow for the lion. I am in the middle of brewing / concocting right now and am so excited to show you the results!! Check back soon for an update!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

on chickens and oatmeal cookies and freedom.

So this guy comes in to work the other day. He had a backpack and a whole bunch of junk in his hands he throws down on the counter, including a giant clipboard. Some part of me thinks to myself "Oh great, another guy with a petition. Don't talk to him too much or he'll try to get you to sign something."

He just wants some food. A slice of pumpkin bread and an oatmeal cookie. It's when I'm ringing him up that I get a good look at his petition sheet. It's one of those intense animal rights activist forms, with pictures of chickens cramped in cages and such. I like leading by example, personally. I'm not the biggest fan of violent tactics (and I personally think bloody pictures or videos of pigs being slammed into the ground or shot in the head with spikes or whatever is pretty violent... for a peaceful message - i.e. be kind to animals - it's an odd way of making your point in my mind), but I figure, hey. We're on the same side here. Usually animal rights activists love to hear about you being vegan.

So I casually mention, "Well hey, the only vegan food item we've got here is the molasses cookie, but it's damn good. Want me to switch out your outmeal for the molasses?"

He makes some comment about how molasses is gross and says he'll just go with what he ordered. On a for here plate so as to not create waste, of course. BUT he wants a copy of his receipt. No saving trees there. (I watched him later throw these away.)

As I'm swiping his debit card I look down and see the pictures of the chickens and I jokingly say, "I still can't believe you didn't go with the vegan cookie, man. I mean you're here for animal rights, with pictures of chickens, and you go ordering Starbucks oatmeal cookies and their corporate eggs?"

He looks up at me, straight in the eyes, totally 100% serious and he says, "There are eggs in this?"

(another beat)
(not sure how to respond)

Part of me is thinking "He's got to be joking." But he's not. Has he never made a cookie before? Has he never seen anyone make a cookie before? Is he really trying to get people to sign something against hurting chickens and he doesn't know that caged chicken eggs are in cookies? Especially big chain processed foods cookies?

He seems really upset about this. He all of a sudden wants to change his order. Switch out the oatmeal cookie for another slice of pumpkin bread. My mouth drops. My coworker slides up next to me and states in the perfect tone, "Ummm those have eggs in them, too, you know?" (Thank god for Nick sometimes, seriously.) He is outraged. Eggs in bread?!!! "Is this a common thing?" he wants to know. Well, usually not in standard bread (although there's almost always milk products), but sometimes, yes. But this is a pumpkin loaf. It's basically cake, but with a sly name that gets you to think it's healthier than it is. Almost all of the food items sold at Starbucks have either eggs or milk products in them. "Oh, well it's not the milk industry I'm up against. I trust those guys. It's the egg industry that's truly evil."

No words. I guess in the animal rights world some animals are worth sparing pain more than others. Whatever. Animal rights is not why I'm vegan. Let's not go there.

I apologize for our products having eggs in them. Ask him if he wants a refund. He looks around at the other customers, then back at me. No. He just wants another slice of pumpkin loaf. "I mean, it's bread. It's got to have less eggs than the cookie." He covers up his petition with his jacket and walks over to the corner table, scarfs it down and leaves in a hurry.

This might sound weird, a vegan dogging on an animal rights activist. But it's not about the cause. It's about integrity. If you want to get passionate about something, especially something radical, DO IT! Educate yourselves and then yeah, spread the word! Educate others! But don't go out and force intense ideas on other people, trying to change their minds and behavior about something as big as what we put into our bodies on a daily basis when you don't even understand the basic fundamentals. It is hypocritical and it is dangerous. Don't sell shit you don't know how to work yourself, you know what I mean? That's why we all secretly hate the slick salesmen. Because they pitch us shit we know they'd never use personally. It's sad that activism has come to that, too.

And it's sad that our solution is not to change our actions or even - gasp! - the system, but instead to make ourselves feel better. We learn "eggs are bad" and we agree. We want to do something about this terrible outrage. But then instead of opting to not eat eggs anymore, we choose the product with "less eggs" or "cage-free eggs" (which means absolutely nothing... it is a piss-poor excuse of a step in any direction and the fact that people buy into it is so laughable it makes me want to cry inside a little bit) not because it actually makes a difference (it doesn't) but because it makes our conscience feel better about it. We can say "this egg came from a free chicken" and we picture in our minds a happy chicken scratching away for worms in the sunshine somewhere next to a picturesque red barn or maybe a water-soaked wheelbarrow even though 90% of us have never seen a real live chicken in our entire life.

We have become so far removed from our food and what's in it and where it comes from that feeding ourselves has become totally and completely controlled by media and advertising. It's crazy!! So break free, my friends! Educate yourselves! Take a second to read one of those ridiculously long novel-like labels on your favorite foods and be amazed! Be appalled! Be moved! And please, above all else, don't be a hypocrite!

Monday, May 2, 2011

tap into it!

I know I have already tried to make all y'all watch this, but I really do strongly believe this is the best commercial ever made. Ever. And it's for a good cause. So watch it again, y'all!