Beetle · Dyeing

Dyeing with Lichen

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Dear Fern,

It has been awhile since I have done any more experimenting with natural dyes, but I have been collecting stray bits of lichen that I often see on the ground at school in the hopes of doing something spectacular with them. I’m very grateful for this article, by Alissa Allen, which is a wonderful source of information and includes good recipes for dyeing with lichens. Did you know that lichens are symbionts, made of a combination of a fungus and a cyanobacteria or algae? I somehow made it to adulthood without learning that bit of trivia. So, some lichens don’t yield any dye at all. Some lichens dye bright yellow, some dark brown, some golden, or tan. These are the easiest to dye with, because you can just toss them in a dyepot and boil them up! You don’t even have to mordant your wool, because lichen dyes are substantive. Which is why, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I looked at the pile of unidentified lichen I had collected and figured I would just do a quick test to see if I could get any color out of it. 20 minutes later my little piece of test yarn was golden! Yay!

I will have to update you on this experiment further in a few months, because there is another type of lichen that, when fermented using a water and ammonia mixture, will make pink or purple dye! I’ve got a couple of jars of that sitting on top of our fridge right now. And, there’s one lichen that even dyes pink, and then the color turns to blue as the yarn dries in the sun. I really can’t wait to try that!

But for now, this golden beauty will do.

Missing you,

Beetle

P.S. I know you thought of your wedding planner when you read the title of this post.

P.P.S. To anyone out there reading this who wants to start collecting lichen to use as dyes, please remember to collect ethically—only take lichen that is abundant or already detached from its substrate. Lichens are very slow-growing and may not recover from overharvesting.

Fern

Christmas Past

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Dear Beetle,

It should come as no surprise that I have some similar little angel treasures from my childhood. These are a part of a small collection of German ornaments that I saved from my childhood Christmas tree. My mom bought these when we lived in Frankfurt. Our tree was always full of these sweet little wooden ornaments – angels and St. Nicholas and pipe-smoking Santas and chimney sweeps and little babies in walnut cradles. Over the years, many have gotten lost or broken. Now I just have a handful that I unwrap every year and hang on the highest branches of our tree, away from curious little hands. In a few days, on the Epiphany, we will pack up all our Christmas things and enjoy the blank slate that is January. But for now I hold tight to my cozy memories and hope that I’m creating new ones for my children, ones that will warm their hearts on cold winter days for many years to come.

Happy New Year! Here’s to another beautiful year of friendship and crafting!

With love,

Fern

Beetle

Echoing Their Joyous Strains

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Dear Fern,

I wanted to show you these precious little angels—my most beloved and prized Christmas ornaments that I have had since I was a child. Their little metallic loops broke off long ago so they can no longer adorn our tree but I love and treasure them nonetheless. They stand about one inch tall. I don’t have any information about their origin or who made them. When I was young, I used to imagine that they came to life at night and would fly around our living room. When I look at them now, I can still feel that magic. I just love their sweet faces! I think they were my very first peg dolls!

Merry Christmas!

xoxo

Beetle

Beetle & Fern · Knitting

On the Needles

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I am almost finished with these Vancouver Fog fingerless gloves—just have to knit up that last thumb! Luckily I’ve knit so many gnome hats for peg dolls that the thumbs aren’t too tricky. I’ve used my Malabrigo Rios in Primavera that I bought on that sweaty day last July when we were frantically drinking all the coffee, eating all the chocolate croissants, and hitting up all the yarn shops in our vain attempt to make moving day never, ever come.

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I finally started my Easy Folded Poncho pattern by Churchmouse Yarns and Teas. That Fibre Company Acadia yarn that we took hours picking out over the summer is even more gorgeous all knit up. It has lots of teal and grey and purple with little tweedy bits from the added silk, none of which I could capture with my camera. I can’t wait until you start knitting yours too!

Fern · Waldorf Dolls

Baby Swaby

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Dear Beetle,

I’m so glad that you, your family, and your craft supplies made it all the way to Spokane, safe and sound. Durham is feeling that much emptier though, and I’m burying my loneliness in doll making and yarn hoarding. I’m working on some variations of the Winterberry Doll pattern, both for the shop and for my just-turned-one-year-old baby boy. Do you remember the prototype – my middle boy’s beloved Baby Swaby? He fell in love with that doll as soon as he saw me sewing it up, and when he asked, his voice full of wonder, “Is that for me?” I couldn’t possibly say otherwise. While my son gained a buddy, I unexpectedly gained the opportunity to watch one of my dolls grow into something so much more than the cloth and wool I sewed up.

Baby Swaby has been swung by his arms, bumped up and down the stairs, squeezed into backpacks, twirled in the air. He’s been in forts and tree houses and tea parties. Nightly snuggles have softened his belly, and running up and down the hallway has stretched his arms a bit. But you’ll be happy to hear that all his seams are strong and sturdy.

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This past weekend, we decided to give him his first bath. I always include instructions to gently hand wash my Waldorf-style dolls with a good quality wool wash. But surrendering a beloved handmade doll to a full soak always comes with some trepidation, and I was careful to be extra, extra gentle with this guy. We filled up our sink with lukewarm water and added a few teaspoons of Eucalan. After diving right in, Baby Swaby got a soft facial scrub with a baby toothbrush and a very gentle belly rub to brighten up his bunting.

Then I very gently squeezed out some excess water, rolled him in a towel, and squeezed a tiny bit more. He stayed out in the sun for the rest of the day, which freshened him up some more and helped with any residual stains. Since my boy was unwilling to wait for overnight drying, Baby Swaby then went on a drying rack in the dryer on the “ultra-low” setting. After two cycles, we crossed our fingers and opened it up. Thankfully, he was clean, dry, and ready for snuggles, with no signs of felting or shrinkage! Phew!

Meanwhile, your lunch bag is amazing! I love that linen! And I do remember that trip to the quilt store. I remember that you had to explain to them the definition of a “shot cotton”. It was actually on that same trip that I bought the alpaca yarn used to knit Baby Swaby’s hat. The guy who sold it to me kept following us around the fiber festival, if I recall. We never did manage to visit his alpaca farm…

And yes, I too have Autumn knits swirling around in my head. Hopefully I’ll have some finished objects to share with you soon.

Your Sister-in-Craft,

Fern

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Beetle · Sewing

Boxing and Unboxing

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Dear Fern,

We made it to Spokane. Taking the scenic route, we drove just over 3,000 miles. But according to the Google maps, we are only 2,554 miles apart. I miss you! My crafts and supplies are everywhere. There’s a puddle of blank peg dolls on the floor of the room I’ve designated as my studio space. It’s in the basement but it has a nice window and lots of room to spread out. I somehow managed to sew up a lunch bag for the girl before school started, despite not having any real chairs in the house yet. I used this pattern from DesignBlanche on Etsy. It’s nice and big and will hold a water bottle and a hearty lunch inside.

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Remember the day we went to the quilt store in that little town where the fiber festival was and I bought this pink floral print and the blue shot cotton?

I’m thinking about Autumn and all the knitting that needs to get done before it gets cold. I can’t wait to start our Churchmouse poncho knit-along! (But I need to find where I packed away the pattern first.)

Your Sister-In-Craft,

Beetle

P.S. Thank you for reminding me to write yarn on all of the book boxes that I stuffed yarn into. I think I’ve found it all.

Beetle · Festivals · Peg Dolls

Martinmas: Glimmer, Lantern, Glimmer

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Glimmer, Lantern, Glimmer

Little light a-shimmer

Over rocks and sticks and stones

Wandering, tripping, Little Gnomes!

Pee-wit, pee-wit, tik-a-tik-a tik! Roo-coo! Roo-coo!

Dear Fern,

Every time we celebrate a festival at our school, I always say, “This one is my most favorite!” So it comes as no surprise that I just love Martinmas and the lantern walk that we hold at the school each fall. I adore every part of it: the lanterns that the children make at school to light and carry on the dark path through the woods, the beautiful songs we all sing together as we make our way (sometimes wandering and tripping), and the perfectly-warmed apple cider we all share at the end of the evening back in the safety of the familiar playground. The whole event just fills my spirit with warmth and light.

To celebrate at home, I made these little Lantern Children peg dolls for our nature table. I had knitted the little capes sometime last summer, and set them aside when they didn’t work for the project I was working on at the time. So it was almost as if I had planned it when I absolutely, positively, had to make those lantern children right-this-instant! I love it when a craft comes together.

Now I had better get back to crafting for our table at the upcoming Holiday Faire!

Your Sister-In-Craft,

Beetle