Magpie Moments

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only one like me. I seem to spend 1/2 of each year uninspired, bored, tired of doing what I do, mildly pissed off at myself and then BOOM, my enthusiasm for life returns.

Those months that I spend uninspired usually have a cause, or a beginning at least. I encounter an issue in my life that I cannot change, control, or power through. I get existential all over. My favorite thought is “why bother?” I pull back. Inside, I am more than pissed off. I’m waiting for something to set me off. And then, something does and my mood changes. I go from depression to anger to back interested in life again. 

I have a million ideas right now for things I want to do. I knit, as you know, but I am tired of knitting except for socks. I haven’t seen a pattern that inspired me  since the pandemic started. I’m not thrilled with buying any new yarn since I bought a lot for socks. I can do socks to keep my hands busy but I’m not like inspired to get creative with socks!

I am, first and foremost, a visual artist. At the ripe age of 5, I got to finger paint and I was hooked. I tried to help my grandmothers piece quilts, but it was a lot more ambitious than I thought. My Grandma Nanny taught me to embroider at the age of 5. God she was wonderful. Mom taught me to cast on, knit and purl and cast off. She taught me to sew. She made almost everything I wore from the time I can remember. I started making clothes for myself at 11. I learned to batik fabric at school when I was 13. At 16 I designed and made myself a bathing suit. My dad made me an easel and I painted pictures from postcards and illustrations. . I made shades for my bedroom out of canvas Dad brought home from the University because it was going to be thrown out. 

I’ve always DONE art. I won’t say I’ve done it well, but I’ve done it. From 1987 until 2000, I made what was then called art quilts. I’m not fond of that term, at all. Probably because a nice woman somewhere makes a bunny rabbit quilt with a picket fence appliqued on it and calls it art. I did things with geometric shapes and about 25 different fabrics.

An example of my hand-dyed cotton

I dye fabric. When Mrs. Pond, at Benjamin Franklin Junior High in 1965, let me do an independent study with her (I still don’t know how that happened) she taught me to batik fabric. I chose green and blue dyes. I spent a few days putting wax on cotton in random patterns. We dyed it green, I put on more wax and we dyed that blue. Then I had to remove all of the wax with a hot iron and newsprint. That took FOREVER for a 13-year-old. But the cool thing – I had 3 yards of fabric I’d taken from plain white to a thing of beauty. I made a romper. I don’t know why. I guess rompers were in that year. It was a one piece thing with shorts. I wish I still had it. Thus began my fascination with dyes and cloth.

I found that multi-color dyeing appeals to me more than solid color, although I will do solid colors in order to get something I need for a piece. But I also found that complimentary colors run together and make a god awful shade of brown. Not what I’m going for!

In 2015 I figured out that I didn’t need to saturate the cotton with soda ash after applying the dyes. I just spritzed the fabric with a spray bottle full of soda ash water. I let it sit overnight, rinsed and dried the fabric and then, if there was a great deal of white left (usual) I would do it again. This allows me to dye yellow right on top of purple, green over red, blue over orange or yellow, etc. And the colors don’t mush into mud. 

Since marrying in 2018, I haven’t dyed fabric except once – outside in the driveway on a table made of plywood and saw horses. I put the fabrics up in my sewing room, thinking they weren’t as vibrant as I wanted. I had used a less densely woven cloth since I couldn’t get a hand sewing needle through the cotton poplin I was using. The poplin takes the dyes beautifully, but pretty is as pretty does! I need to be able to get a needle through it without poking holes (machine) or breaking needles (hand). So I used muslin, or something similar. 

I didn’t like them and put them up. A few weeks ago I’m straightening out my “stuff” and I come across these 6 or 7 pieces of fabric. You know what? They’re gorgeous. Wait until you see them!!!!

A magpie life. That’s what I have. I flutter from project to project, everything in the world inspires me and I’m wrapped up in the beauty of life, the excitement of the next discovery, the energy the universe intended for me. A way to live, that is. The Magpie Life. 

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