Things are growing a-pace at the allotment, although it has been so very dry and warm that some plants are struggling. I sowed some flax back in early May (a bit later than intended but the spring was so cold). It has been good to see it grow and now bloom with its dainty blue flowers that only last less than a day each.
This is a very small patch of flax, which I know won’t result in much of a quantity of linen, once it has been retted, processed and spun. But it is an important part of my experiments in using gathered fibres for my MA project. Last year I grew an even smaller amount in large pots at home. I didn’t manage to process it over the autumn, so I left it dried until we had warm conditions. It has now been retted and is drying again in the green house before I can do the breaking, skutching etc. ready to hopefully spin some thread.
I have been gathering all sorts of plant fibres from my plot and using them to make cordage, including nettle fibres shown drying below. I’m really enjoying experimenting with these different materials and working at the plot when I can. You can see some of the cordage results on my instagram account here.
I spent last week in a quiet part of Cumbria. It was a working week but in a beautiful location away form home and studio. We made time to explore a bit as well, enjoying the sweeping views across the valley and the changing weather patterns.
Almost exactly a year ago I had a similar week working here and came across an old lime kiln that had been used recently as a bonfire site; a place to dispose of various bits of agricultural rubbish. You can see this structure on the picture above, in the middle near the bottom. What remained amongst the ash and nettles were various bits of metal, rusty and burnt. Some of these objects formed the starting points for a section of my Findings project. I brought this group of work back with me, intending to photograph them ‘on location’. So last Friday, with good light conditions and a pleasant breeze, the pieces accompanied me on a walk up onto the edge of the fell until I found a suitable limestone rock. This was within view of the old lime kiln and made a very suitable foil for my line of Findings.
I’m now in the midst of putting together the book to accompany the exhibition. This publication, like my previous self-published books, tells the story of the project. Images and words are gathered together from the places that sparked off the ideas, the making of the work and the finished pieces.
> Yesterday I went east a for a couple of hours on the train and, despite the gloom and mist all the way, found that spring on the east coast is definitely a week or so ahead of here. This effect is usually evident going south but I don’t remember noticing it as markedly going east before. I guess it has more to do with the milder coast rather than the direction I travelled in … anyway, in my parent’s garden there was some lovely cherry blossom; the daffodils were opening, unlike the tight buds I have in my garden; and I found some nettles pushing confidently through. I gathered a carrier bag full to bring home for dyeing, something I’ve been waiting to do for a while, eager to find a nice green.
However, I must be doing something wrong. Instead of a green I got a rather boring pale brown. What am I doing wrong? Am I heating them too much? I poured on boiling water from the kettle and then simmered/steeped very gently for an hour before removing the wilted leaves and adding my fabric. Perhaps it is because I left bits of stalk in there – should it really be just the leaves? Do I need to tear the leaves up more? Advice please!