Friday, June 26, 2009

Snails in the Garden

The garden is alive - a micro-biome of vegetation, organisms, and elements such as minerals, water, and sun. When we are involved, tending to the seasonal harvest, we become connected to the spirit of the earth.

Naturally, we find an assortment of creatures also enjoying the garden. Amidst the broad leaves of squash, we spotted a congregation of Syrendell snails!

It's Snooks (orange), Sport (red), Slim (blue), Sprig (green), and Sweets (purple), taking in a beautiful day. We should learn a thing or two from snails, to slow down a bit and savor life.

Happy gardening, friends!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Our New Home - Syrendell

Syrendell has moved....just across town (still in Fair Oaks), to a fairy cottage by a creek. We are surrounded by grandiose trees, a bio-dynamic garden, wild berries and spiraling vines. Our magical home is in the midst of natural much to inspire us as we learn, create and grow together a family this year.

We are still close to relatives, the kids' activities, and conveniences. The best of both worlds! Our neighbors are kind people who all have an affiliation with anthroposophy and/or Waldorf education. Sacramento Waldorf School, a park and bike path are around the corner. Steiner College is two blocks away. The American River is a few streets away. Time to start biking and rafting!

Our home is smaller than our past houses, and yet it feels just right. Funny how we think that as the family grows, we need more space! Well, we've had a large new home with a pool and big yard in the past and we loved it, but...this place is different. We are enjoying the closeness of each other, the simplicity of having fewer square feet to clean, and time to focus on homelearning, gardening and art.
Spiral Path in the Front Yard

Already, we are playing our instruments more, singing, and crafting! Good energy abounds.

Syrendell Sprites Crafted in our New Home

Our home has a large deck in the front and back which extends our living and learning areas. We've transformed the bookcase and dining room table Daddy made into a homelearning center, aka, the "Dell". Our new Dell has doors that lead out to the back porch, reminding us of the importance of spending time out of doors each day.

So....we haven't been blog posting or commenting as often this past week because of the move. Our Etsy orders have been a bit delayed. We should be back up to speed, soon. Although, it is awfully tempting to just sit on the deck and breathe in the jasmine...take a nap...dream....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mud Dyeing

Bjo Trimble hosted a mud dyeing class at the Griffin DyeWorks Fiber Retreat in Castaic, CA. The African tradition of bogolanfini (bogo=earth or mud; lan=by way of; fini=cloth) dates as far back as the 11th century AD, when this art served to decorate hunters' garments and women's wraparounds. Apparently, Anakin Skywallker used a bogolanfini wrap when he traveled with Padme in "The Clone Wars." At the Retreat, some of us created our own designs using the pigments and fixatives that Bjo prepared for us. After cleaning our fabrics, we soaked them in myrobalan, which is rich in tannins, and acts as a mordant. Soy milk was also used as a fixative. Slurries of mud with iron oxides, clay, and other earth minerals offered natural pigments. We used brushes to appy the mud dyes. Bjo instructed us to wait about two weeks before washing for the pigments to set.

Here, the Tans created some interesting designs with the mud dyes. Primitive motifs, timeless shapes, and mythical creatures graced our garments. You can email Bjo or visit her website for information on dyeing and other cool facts and tips about dyeing with mud!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


This week Jenell sent me (Jennifer) a Watermelon Award. Sweet!

I accept and reciprocate by sharing six things that make me happy:

1. My kids. I know that seems obvious, but I've only been an at-home mom for 1.5 yrs now. My husband was the at-home dad for 10+ yrs. before that (which was a wonderful experience for him!), so being home with them now makes me so happy!

2. Fiber arts. Crocheting, spinning, weaving, dyeing, knitting, felting and other fiber arts...soothing, challenging and creative.

3. Living among trees, flowers, gardens and a creek. Our new home has all of this and more! We are moving this week. Happiness!

4. Homeschooling. After 15 years in the public education field (teacher, administrator), I am truly loving teaching and learning along with my own children. Each day is a new adventure!

5. Music. My husband and I love to play harp and flute together, compose songs, and sing. We also love playing and performing with the kids.

6. Holistic therapies. Yoga, aromatherapy, chiro, massage, acupuncture, waterbirthing, meditation, Tai Chi, Feng Shui...learning about and doing these things bring a lot of balance, peace and happiness!

In turn, I nominate these six, refreshing mammas:
Tammy: Tammy is such a nice person and her homeschooling activities are inspirational!
Jen: I got to meet Jen in person. What a lovely family of homeschoolers! She does the neatest activities with her children.
Kristie: The most amazing homeschooling resource and mommy!
Juliane: She makes such happy, cute, wonderful crafts!
Kelly: Living in a small home, they not only homeschool, but Kelly also hosts wonderful swaps through the Bits of Goodness yahoogroup/Flickr group.
Michelle: Crafty mommy with great ideas!

I would love to hear what makes you happy, but please don't feel obligated.
There is much love to go around; pass the melons!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Weaving with Children

Weaving can seem daunting, especially if you are picturing weaving on a large floor loom (like this one that we have for sale...hint, hint!). With children, the best way to start weaving is with a simple, homemade loom. You can make one out of cardboard and yarn or string, like the one Joey is weaving a pouch on, below.

If you spin or dye, you can create a family weaving project with your own yarns. We wove a table runner out of our handspun and dyed yarns from the Griffin Dyeworks dye & fiber retreat from last year (see pic at the top and under Table Loom, below).

Some other options for weaving with children are....

Small Looms

Pin Weaving

Table Loom (Knitter's Loom)

Inkle Weaving

Card Weaving

Nature Weaving
Forked Stick, Yarn, Pine Needles
Some places to get weaving inspiration, ideas and help:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Drum Circle of Friends

This year the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat experienced an explosion of the drum circle! Word spread quickly from the previous year that dyeing and doumbeks do mix. It just seemed natural that in the setting of Camp Verdugo, among the native oaks, and in the presence of the immortal, creative spirit, ancient textile arts and primitive drumming come together. We tapped into the essence of our human instincts to bring forth and express our rhythmic souls.

With percussion, a fine line separates noise from music, and that is synchronicity, the beat with which the group becomes one. Without a steady beat, two sticks banging together are just two sticks banging together. In a group, the sticks become claves, creating a distinctive, staccato, wooden tone. We had an assortment of percussive instruments: djembes, doumbeks, bohdrans, a cymbal, shakers, a kalimba, tambourine, claves, and jaw harp! We even created some homemade percussion found on site: an empty dye bucket turned upside down, gourds with dried seeds inside, two sticks, and a thick metal bracket that sounded like a cow's bell when srtuck.
Drummers and non-drummers, belly-dancers, friends from all walks of life, our camp ranger playing his jaw harp, and a retreat attendee honoring her deceased drummer friend by bringing his cymbal, we came together, united in the spirit of friendship, the primal urge for rhythm, and the simple joy of banging a drum!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

We love to do natural dyeing at home, but there are some dyes we only use when we are at the Griffin Dyeworks Dye & Fiber Retreat. Indigo is definitely one of those unique, natural dyes that is best done with masterful dyers around!

Dyeing with indigo is unique -- you can see in these pictures how Ricky is dyeing his handspun yarn. First, he dips the yarn into the blue dye pot, then he pulls it out right away. The yarn looks green! Oxidation occurs. Eventually, the yarn turns blue. If he wants it darker, he can dip it again.

We dyed our own handspun wool yarns, some silk ribbon and a few silk scarves with indigo dye this past week while at the retreat. Some were redipped for a darker color, while others were first dyed with other plants, and then overdyed with indigo. Here are some of our creations:

1. Brazilwood, then Indigo = lavender, purple, indigo colors
2. Broom, then Indigo = blue-green, lime green colors
3. Onion Skins, then Indigo = med.-deep green colors
4. Broom, then Indigo, then in the Brazilwood rinse water = aqua color

Mommy had fun using the rinse waters to change the tones a bit and ended up with some light, fairy colors! Can't wait to make the yarns into a family project. The silks will be used in our nature table and around the Dell for homelearning activities and play.

Basket Weaving at the Retreat

Camp Verdugo Oaks in Castaic, CA, hosted the 2009 Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat. From our previous blog, you caught some glimpses of wonderful activities we as a family engaged in. One of them, an ancient craft practiced throughout the world, was basket weaving!
In the hands of a masterful craftsperson, flat and round reeds of assorted widths and diameters and seagrasses are trasnformed into works of functional art. Basket weaver extraordinaire Therese Calhoun (stylish ripped jeans below) taught a group of eager students how to make two types of baskets, the Irish Potato Basket, and the Egg Basket. Therese explained to us that basket weaving is the one craft that cannot be accomplished by automation and is largely still only accomplished by human hands.
Here, Therese is showing the first part of the Egg Basket, beginning with two flat hoops set perpendicularly, intersecting at the middle.
Daddy and Ricky both created an Egg Basket. Sitting side by side on a worn rug, they shared clippers, and some valuable father-and-son time.
When the hoops were in place, which would become the rim and handle of the basket, the next step was to create the "God's eye." Using a flat 1/4 inch reed, which has been soaking in water to maintain its workabilty, a criss-crossing pattern is made at the junction of the two hoops.
Next, round reeds with a diameter of about 3/8" were cut to desired lengths to create the cradle of the basket. The ends of these "ribs" were inserted into the God's eye, and one can see the form of the basket taking shape.
Then, the weaving begins! Round reeds of various diameters are saturated in water. The longer they sit in water the better, as they can split or crack easily as they are woven. Lengths between 5 feet and 7 feet were used and woven into the ribs, with the ends tucked into the weaving. Additional ribs are added to maintain a tight weave, and to give it structural strength. This part of the project took time and patience. Each length of reed must be worked quickly as it dries fast. It also sucks moisture from the hands. Last year, one of the students took her basket to the camp pool, reeds and all, to keep them wet as she wove in her bathing suit!
Daddy, determined to finish his basket, had stayed up until 1 AM Sunday early morning. The camp was tranquil, the crafters were all asleep, and with a mountain lion possibly lurking at the edge of the shadows, Daddy wove in the dim light of a lamp. He wondered if a mountain lion shared the same curiosity as domestic cats with a ball of yarn, because from far away, the coiled reeds and the ends of the reeds, flailing in the air as he wove, looked awfully enticing!

That Sunday morning, after breakfast, Daddy completed his basket with seagrass wrapped around the handle. Ricky had just a bit more to do with his basket, and Therese suggested some interesting alternatives to use for weaving such as strips of denim and fibers.

All in all, the basket weaving was a wonderful class. Certainly, it is a craft that is timeless, and its true artisans like Therese will continue to create beautiful works. Daddy and Ricky are proud of their creations, and will always remember the time spent together weaving baskets.