last minute summer projects

I have figured out, finally, well into my 37th year of existence, that looming deadlines inspire lots of creative activity on my part. Like when we're mere hours from leaving for vacation and I suddenly feel the urge to cast on three new knitting projects, or when I have finals to grade and Christmas is a few days away and I decide to make everyone in the family felted potholders or reusable shopping bags for stocking stuffers. This has become a pattern with me. I'm under pressure for some thing or other, whether it's work or family related, and I want to Do Everything and Make Everything. It gets so I can hardly sleep.
The zinnia is irrelevant. It was just showing off.

This weekend, for example. Yesterday I had a gig that wasn't especially high pressure or high profile on my end, but it was stressful anyway (because I only got the music in mid-July right before having guests from out of town and then going away on a trip and no extra childcare whatsoever at any time during the last three weeks). It went reasonably well, but I was just so relieved when it was over that all I could do was sip a glass of wine and watch my husband make dinner (which he volunteered to do, thankfully) and knit on a test sweater project that should have been finished last week. Ugh.

Now with the start of school drawing near I should be tweaking my syllabus and lining up gigs and sending out feelers to the people I worked with last year. Instead, I'm knee deep in online research about foraging wild plants for natural dyes, scouring thrift stores for old stock pots and perusing The Modern Natural Dyer for ideas. By the way, that is one beautiful book, totally worth owning even if you never plan to dye anything ever. 

This creative mania, left unchecked, often leads to lots of ideas and unfinished projects. I am more mature and focused now than in the past, at least I hope so. Curb your enthusiasm, Susan. Still, for some reason, I am gripped by desire to try collecting random things from outside and dye yarn and fabric. There are a lot of potential dye plants blooming right now, which is contributing to this inspiration. 

This morning I found myself at the park around the corner with an old shopping bag at my side, plucking blooms from Queen Anne's Lace growing wild by the drainage ditch.  The intended purpose is to make dye with it and dye some yarn. (All the resources for foraging for natural dyes say to be MINDFUL about collecting wild plants but Jesus, this stuff is so prolific it's actually considered a noxious invasive weed by the state DNR, so really I was doing everyone a favor. I probably should have picked more.) Anya went out with me and helped a little bit, too. She is an old soul, I believe, and interested in anything related to being outdoors.

I brought home a bag full of blooms and seed heads and then panicked a little because it turns out Queen Anne's Lace looks an awful lot like hemlock, which if you remember anything about Socrates, is extremely poisonous. WHAT IF I PICKED THE WRONG THING AND I PUT IT IN THE POT TO BOIL AND POISON US ALL??  So I watched several YouTube videos and read a bunch of stuff about how to tell the two apart. I did get the right thing. Thank goodness for the internet, right?

I wasn't able to find a stock pot secondhand, but Stuart got one for me at the hardware store. I rinsed the blossoms and put them in the pot with a bunch of water and simmered it for a good two hours. (It smells like carrots). I plan to leave it to steep overnight and I'll strain out all the plant matter tomorrow. 

I'm kind of doing everything backwards and by the seat of my pants here (another indication I'm feeling stress, I'm getting sloppy). I didn't weigh the plants. I'm not taking careful notes. I don't even have a real plan other than to find some natural colored yarn in my stash (I'm sure I have some; in fact I know I have a big pile of alpaca I've had listed on my Ravelry destash page forever that hasn't sold, so I might just use a skein or two of that) and figure out the scour and mordant process as I go. 

Who knows how this will turn out? It might be gorgeous, it might be a bust, it might be sort of okay. If I don't like it, I can always over-dye with Kool-Aid. Or with the onion skins I've been collecting. Or the avocado pits I've had drying on the counter for two weeks. Or the marigold heads I plucked this evening. 

And did I see some goldenrod growing among the other weeds at the park?...

I'll let you know how this goes.


Whatzitknitz said…
it sound like you picked Queen Anne's Lace and not hemlock or water parsley, it has a distinctive carrot smell.
I love to dye with my garden flowers. I use alum as a mordant and cook outdoors using the fire pit or an old roaster. that way I don't have to worry about heating up the house or odd odors.
Black eyed susans are in bloom now(yellows and green). and you may be able to find jewel weed(orange) in the ditches. I live a little north of Madison and dyed with jewel weed a week ago. golden rod is great for yellow/gold.
can't wait to see your results.
Suze said…
Yes I checked and double checked and triple checked that I did not pick any hemlock. It definitely smelled like carrots, too, so whew!
I have lots of black eyed Susans in my yarn and there is jewel weed EVERYWHERE so I can definitely experiment with those. Goldenrod is around, too, but not quite as prolific? I'd like to try it too.

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