Summer Robe

After making my Kimono Robe from an old child sized shop kimono with a flannel lining, I realized I also needed a lighter weight robe for warmer days. This Spring, Jude Hill over at her blog did a tutorial on how she makes her robes which I have long admired. So I decided it was a good time to start on my Summer Robe. I wanted to use two pieces of pecan dyed fabric that I made a few years ago. My husband’s unlce has a pecan tree on his property in Arizona and sends pecans from his tree as packing in our Christmas gift! Of course, I had to try dyeing with them. And eating them – they are excellent! I never realized fresh nuts would have so much more flavor and a softer texture than those purchased in the store. No telling how long they sit on a shelf before they end up in my kitchen. So pecan pie for all! My husband loves pecan pie and so does most of his family so I baked more than one over the years with his pecans and keep the shells for dyeing.

So I had these two cloths with some shibori stitched circles/spirals but I needed a bit more cloth for the robe. I had been periodically soaking/cooking up some Ponderosa Pine bark and pine cones that I started last summer. Hoping that the longer they soaked and the more times they were cooked, the more color I would get. The color is still light but a lovely peachy pink. I am not a big fan of pink so I like that this color is more peach than the avocado colors I have been getting. Probably looks a little more pink in the photos than in real life. I added strips of old recycled sheet dyed with the Ponderosa Pine (same as the totem tree below!) to the sides and sewed up the robe. Way to big on the sides! So I used Jude’s suggested and laid my Kimono Robe on top and drew the sides in the shape that I already had used and enjoyed. Viola! the basic shape of the Summer Robe came into being.

The edging along the opening is some of the left over Ponderosa Pine fabric which I then dipped in iron to get a darker shade. I like this color and might dip some more for more edges. We’ll see.

Love the pockets on my Kimono Robe so I made the same size and shape. I had a few onion dyed silk circles from a previous winter project so I decided to add them to the pockets BEFORE I attached the pockets to the robe. Much easier and a lesson learned from the last robe project. I also trimmed the edge with the iron dipped pine dyed fabric – almost looks like black walnut! Since it is a Summer Robe and already had circles, I decided to celebrate the circles and the season with some more with flowers. More flowers to come I am sure! Lots of room for stitching.

Totem Tree

We have several giant Ponderosa Pines on our property along with LOTS of Gambel Oak or sometimes known as Scrub Oak. Gambel Oak grows more bushy and low and loves to grow under the Ponderosas. The Ghost Cat dragged its kill under a Gambel Oak at the foot of one of our largest trees which I call our “totem tree.” The Forest Service guys who were here this summer told me it is easily over 100 years old. Just amazing to think of these majestic beings right outside my door – and windows!

So I have added the Totem Tree to the Ghost Cat on my kimono robe. It doesn’t look as majestic here but, hopefully, the idea is there. I will be adding more to the image – this is one of those very long projects. Maybe a decade. Who knows. Here are some details:

The stitches do not show up as well over the blue/white print fabric – something to consider in the future. The trunk is rough edge appliqué fabric and the rest embroidery stitches. Just two really – stem stitch on the trunk and branches and feather stitch for the pine needles. Amazing – two little stitches to stitch a Ponderosa Pine tree!

Ghost Cat

Ghost Cat face

Ghost Cat Visits … and stays

We had an exciting week back in September when a mountain lion came to visit one night. My husband had just taken the dog out for her nightly routine and told me how beautiful the stars were so I went out to see. I walked to the other side of the house on the deck – the best place for viewing stars. I heard a very odd sound and stopped to listen wondering if a person was out there and needed help. The sound continued and with the help of a flashlight we realized there was a deer down on the edge of our parking area. My husband was the first to realize there was a mountain lion in the mix. Fortunately, the attack was over quickly and we were about to learn all about mountain lions! The mountain lion covered his/her kill under lots of pine needles and branches under a scrub oak tree at the base of our biggest, towering Ponderosa Pine and continued to visit nightly until the deer was consumed. We saw the mountain lion several times during both daylight and dark. Letting our little dog out at night turned into a two person job – one with a flashlight and bear spray and one with a flashlight and a big stick. After watching the mountain lion and his ways for several days, we were not really too scared – he didn’t seem interested in other deer, people or dogs. Just happily enjoying his feast. After a week, he left and we haven’t seen him since. We talked to Fish and Game, neighbors and read info on the internet. One of the intriguing facts I learned was that most people live their entire lives in Colorado and never see a mountain lion and for that reason they are also called “Ghost Cats.” We were lucky enough to have the thrill of one visiting very close to our front door!

I have been following Jude Hill ( and @SpiritCloth) for many years and currently taking her course. She is discussing making patches/squares/puzzle pieces and I decided to follow along and make some. I try to use colorful colors at times, but I am usually drawn back to my natural palette especially as I have been doing some eco printing and natural dyeing. I had made up a bunch of these squares when Jude’s example of putting them together was a cat. I had the ah-ha moment of using my ecoprinted puzzle pieces to create a Ghost Cat on my Kimono Robe (more about that in a later post). So here is the Ghost Cat, fuzzy ears and all. I am adding the giant Ponderosa so more photos soon.

Getting ready….

I hope you have been able to find the Stencil and Stitch workshop on the Durango Arts Center website under Education. For some reason “Staff” is listed as the instructor rather than my name – but look for the stitching image above (on the right) and you will find it! Preparing lots of samples, materials and info to share… it will be here soon!

Also organizing and reorganizing my new studio space. Trying to figure out where to put everything so it is easy to find when I want to use it. Anyone have a great way to store/organize embroidery thread??

Stencil & Stitch Workshop coming in May!

I am happy and excited to announce I will be teaching a workshop at the Durango Arts Center May 18th!!! This workshop is based on my Traveling Companion project which I completed a couple of years ago. It encompasses many of the techniques I love and use on a regular basis. We will first learn how to make a stencil which can be used on both cloth and paper – very versatile! We will stencil onto silk and cotton just to give you a well rounded experience and some play time! Next, I will teach you how to use basic embroidery stitches to further embellish your stenciled fabrics. No experience necessary or maybe you want to add to your surface design or quilting repertoire. If you would like to join me on this exciting adventure go to Durango Arts and click on the Education/Adults Visual Arts page to register:

New Place… new work…

This photo was the day we moved into our new house… in the mountains… giant ponderosa pines all around but some open space too. It feels like a dream…. my husband and I just look at each other some days and say, “Can you believe we live here?” After 35+ years together, we finally got to choose where to live. It was not an easy choice. And now we are up to our eyeballs in snow and wondering if we made the right decision! Not really, the snow will melt and summer will be glorious here. I just know it. For February, I signed up for an online class with India Flint – “a clearing in the woods” through her School of Nomad Arts. She had the lovely idea (she has many lovely ideas) of creating a class to keep the doldrums of February at bay. A little message and surprise every day of the month and a place to put them all into good use creating a shawl or a blanket or whatever sparks your joy. I am working on a Pashmina shawl in lovely, soft creaminess. I used a bundle dye process with avocado skins/pits and expected to get a pinky color. I wasn’t too sure how I would like working with or wearing pink as it is NOT my favorite color. But as I have learned through other projects, sometimes it is good to push yourself into something uncomfortable – even new colors. However, the long bundling process taught by India for this course, determined the color to come out a reddish brown – much more in my regular old color palette that I seem inexplicitly drawn to. Go figure. So working my way through February and dreaming up new things for myself has been a pleasure. I do not expect it to be done by the end of February – only a few days to go. It will be one of those projects I can pick up or take along when I need something to work on and be able to use it I the process. I sometimes lay it over my lap in the evenings as I work on it even now. I will show a more finished version in a later post. Happy stitching!

Just a Pocket – The Alchemist’s Apron

The next step on my Alchemist’s Apron is to create some pockets.  Of course, ones I tried to plan out and carefully dye were disasters.  This one I sewed from a third shirt that I dyed for “extra” pieces of cloth to work with in constructing the apron.  I had sewn on a small strip of reddish silk someone had given me.  Some of the silk I used for this purpose, frayed to the point of not being useable but this one had an interesting look to it.  I saw a tree almost immediately when I ironed this pocket.  I used thread dyed with turmeric for the leaves and some brown from the dye pot to stitch the tree trunk, roots and branches.  The brown did not create enough contrast so I did use some darker commercial brown as well.  The fabric had a circle design so I employed a circle for a sun in the sky.  The colors are more of my autumn palette, however, Arizona also has a lot of browns and golds so I will use this on my apron.

Eco Printing with Plants

Eco-printing was developed by the amazing India Flint, an Australian artist, farmer, and designer.  Sounds simple – apply plants to cloth, bind tightly and heat with water or steam.  It is, however, anything but simple!  I have tried for several summers to achieve something beautiful and have had mixed results.  Having the advantage of hearing and seeing India teach through her online class (The School of Nomad Arts) has helped me tremendously.  I am finally getting some amazing prints.  These are all on cotton muslin – much more difficult to achieve prints and colors on cellulose fabrics vs protein fabrics such as silk and wool.  I am excited and happy to achieve these results – and all on my little camp stove!  Of course, part of the battle is finding leaves and plants that work well for this process.  These are pecan and grape leaves – courtesy of the amazing property we are staying at right now in the Verde Valley of Arizona.  Alas, we are moving on this week so, although I have plenty of printed cloth to work with for now, I will be experimenting further as we travel and hope to find some other plants to create amazing fabrics in the future.

Learn more about India Flint here: or


Back to the Dye Pot

Experimenting with natural dyes has fascinated me for a long time.  I work on this fascination in bits and pieces.  There is so much to try and learn that it is a bit overwhelming.  Since we did have this bit of time in Arizona to stay put for a few weeks, I decided to break out my (very small) dye pot and my camp stove and see what could be done with these limited tools.  Spring is just beginning here in Arizona so there are is not a lot of plant stuff for the asking.  There is, however, the common food stuffs we use all the time that have been used for dyes throughout time.  I decided to work with avocado, onions, tea and turmeric.  Although I did find a few purple carrots so I eagerly tried those too! but, sadly, did not have enough to do a dye pot.  (Keeping my eyes out for purple carrots in my travels!) My avocado dyed fabric (to the right above) is more of a dusty rose probably due to the naturally high iron content in the water where we are currently staying.

These threads (white DMC embroidery floss) were dyed with (from left) purple carrot, turmeric, yellow onion skins and avocado.  The variations in color happened from using mordants after the initial dyeing process.  The mordants used were also easily found ingredients for a home/RV traveller:  baking soda, wood ash, cream of tartar and iron water.  I have to say my favorites were the ones with cream of tartar – just brightened the color a bit.  This is the first time I have taken the time to test colors with after mordants to really see for myself what happens – the best way to learn!

The Alchemist’s Apron

Traveling for the past few months kept me wondering where to go next with my artwork.  Along came India Flint announcing her new endeavor to teach an online class and the title of her new adventure is the School of Nomad Arts — well that certainly describes me – both before and after this RV adventure began.  I figured I would not be able to take a class from her anytime soon as traveling to Australia is not in my current travel plans.  India Flint is well know around the “whirld” (her spelling) for being the creator of botanical eco dyeing — using heat and pressure to print leaves and plant material onto fabric.  She makes absolutely wonderful creations.

Her first online class is The Alchemist’s Apron – I have always loved her ecodying, printing and construction so I was thrilled to be part of this class.  Luckily, we had scheduled a few weeks with a relative of my husband’s who offered us their house while they travelled.  We wondered what it would be like to settle down for a few weeks, but the timing could not have been better for me!  Out came the camp stove, some second hand store finds, and I started cutting, ripping, stitching and dyeing.  Could not be more happy to have had these days of getting back to doing what I absolutely love.

To check out more about India Flint’s work and the School of Nomad Arts: