Abundance of Inspiration, Process, and the Yin and Yang of Deadlines

Natural dye sampling on silk with chicken scratch notes taken while standing at the dyepot.

With the onset of the warm weather and beautiful summer days, my daughter’s wedding  on the horizon, and now having an abundance of natural dyes, yarns and rainwater for dyeing, I am overwhelmed with inspiration and frustrated at the same time by simply not having enough time to squeeze it all in.  My only daughter is getting married next week, and while we are thousands of miles apart, we are trying to share what we can of the planning process and accompanying excitement (hiding our stress…it’s so easy and necessary with this distance).   I had big plans to make my dress for the wedding on my knitting machine and shibori it with natural dyes.  (You are probably wondering why I didn’t make plans to make my daughter’s dress.   Well, I always wanted to, but she has her own ideas. )  So I made several samples for my own dress and finally decided on a fine linen and silk boucle.  I was so excited about making this dress, but was afraid that I didn’t have the right pattern for me. I didn’t want to waste my limited supply of very fine silk boucle without making a sample dress of something else first.   In the meantime, attending the ISEND conference, new dye sampling, a trip to Paris to visit my granddaughter, and my son and his new restaurant, creating two websites, meetings, and all sorts of sundry odds and ends, left me where I was last week, last minute shopping for a dress, shoes, and finishing old projects that would be nice to wear in the US.

Madder, Brasiletta, Aquarelle Indigo, Fustic over Myrobalan on felted wool/silk

My numerous creative impulses had their way of creeping into my mind all the time, but with the deadline of leaving for the US quickly advancing, I find myself mostly unsatisfied with the results of my last minute efforts. Creativity is a strong impulse that needs time and energy to finish and flourish, and when I get caught up in the fear of a deadline that interrupts this flow, my creative process sometimes goes amiss.

Two weeks ago, when I thought I still might have time to make my dress, a client who ordered a handpainted, felted baby blanket called me at the last minute and asked for the blanket now because the baby was already born premature.  I had come to the conclusion that she had cancelled the order because I never heard from her about the colors that she wanted.  Under last minute time pressure, I did the samples ass backwards, beginning the project by only making 1 gauge swatch for the fabric that I intended to felt on my knitting machine.  I had grabbed 1 strand of a nice silk/merino boucle and once strand of a merino/silk/cashmere to knit together that I knew would felt nicely.  As I was finishing knitting the second long piece, I realized that even though this is a beautiful fabric, this is just too exotic for a baby blanket.

Some rainbow colors to give me an idea of how colors blend and how paints work on this wool/silk

Mobius painted without sampling

Sample overdyed with Aquarelle Indigo

So I began the sampling that I should have started two days before.  I made several more samples, felting and hand painting them before I made any decisions about what worked for the project.  These I showed to my client, rather than a finished piece, i.e., guesswork.  Well, after all that, the client did choose the simpler fabric and decided it was too expensive for a baby birth present. She wanted it for a christmas present.  In my haste, I had mordanted all the fabric that I had just knitted plus the samples (1 kg) and was now left with four long pieces of mordanted machine knitted fabric waiting to be painted.  Okay, I’m thinking, so I’ll make a mobius out of the two boucle pieces.  Again under pressure to finish something, please, just something to publish on my blog before I go to the US, I slapped on the natural dye with almost complete abandon and very little planning.  I told myself, that natural dyes are so pretty, it probably wouldn’t matter how they are applied, if the color scheme is okay.  To say the least, I was not happy with the results!  Yes, the colors are pretty, but it looks like something a clown would wear with all the polka dots!  Given that I’m not really a painter, I thought, let’s overdye the whole thing in indigo.  Thank God, I finally had an intelligent moment of forethought and decided to overdye the small sample in the indigo before overdyeing the mobius.  What a great idea, actually, the correct correct way to do things, but in my misguided need to have a completed project NOW, I actually forgot my normal PROCESS. Needless to say, the overdyed sample in indigo was not pretty.  It’s not the problem of the dyestuff, but the dyer!  The colors all merge into mudiness and do nothing for me.   Was I glad that I didn’t rush in to ruin another piece.  I know from experience, that every single time I thought I could cheat and get away without taking sufficient time to sample, I was dissatisfied with the results.   It’s so tempting to dive right into the project in our excitement to try out a new idea, that we think we can skip the MOST important part of the process.   I think this is where most people get stuck and don’t move forward in a craft.  They have created something that really didn’t work, and they don’t know how to fix it.  So they give up, not understanding that samples are part of the learning process, part of the artistic process, no matter how experienced you are.  Not every sample is a good sample…that’s the whole idea, that we have to choose the best and most inspiring sample out of a host samples that give us different directions.  The sampling process should be seen as a neutral process.  I have found that when I sample until I get that feeling, “Yes, that’s it! That’s what I looking for.”, I can go forward in my project with confidence and still make corrections and improvements as I go.  And I enjoy working on the project so much more!

The Yin and Yang of deadlines?  I have found over the years that deadlines for shows and clients are really helpful to motivate me to try new things and to force me through the “eye of the needle”.  When I am inspired to sample, sample, sample, sometimes I have to make difficult decisions between different really good samples.  I have to think about why I’m making one choice or another.  Here comes the point when I have to dive in and take the risk.  And still I make mistakes.  I have to deal with my fear of failure every time I pick up that beautiful skein of yarn to dye, knit or weave.   For creativity, mistakes are my best friends.  You say, how can that be true?  Well, when I make mistakes with good quality materials or pieces that I’ve put a lot of time into, or that have to go into a show and there’s no time left to make a new one, something happens.  I am forced to find CREATIVE SOLUTIONS.  “Necessity is the mother of invention.”    I am sure of this.  I have learned more from my mistakes than from what I thought I knew.  This is the Yang.  I think of Yang as the courage to forge ahead, to take the risks, and to find our way out from the fear of failure.

The Yin is the focus on process.  When we give ourselves over to the process and let it happen without regard to time and instant results, that’s when we experience the joy of inspiration and the joy of seeing what we are capable of.

The completion of the mobius will just have to wait until after the wedding and I return home to peaceful summer days to begin my work again.

So I dedicate today’s blog to my daughter who is a very talented artist in her own right and who has given me the opportunity to continue to learn how to practice what I preach.  Happy Wedding Day my dear!




About naturalcolor

Passionate about textiles, threads and color. I began knitting and sewing as a little girl and found spinning and weaving via my experience at Marygrove College in Detroit for Waldorf teacher education. Learning to spin, first on a drop spindle, then on a spinning wheel, made me feel as if I had done this in another lifetime. It seemed effortless. Since then, my passion for threads, yarns, color and weave effect, knitting and natural dyeing has led me into the rich world and cultures of textile design. Through the study of weaving, knitting designs and natural dyes, I have learned the archetypal connection we as weavers, knitters and dyers have to each other around the world and the richness of our art as we express our cultures through our craft. Ultimately, my passion is to preserve these life-giving arts through the connections we make with each other and ourselves with our craft, the information we store in our minds and hearts, and the stories and techniques we pass on to the next generation.
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3 Responses to Abundance of Inspiration, Process, and the Yin and Yang of Deadlines

  1. Celeste says:

    Thank You Mom!!

    It’s so nice to know that these kinds of things drive other people crazy as well. You and I are very similar with needing time in order to think, imagine and produce. Making the mistake isn’t always the problem, it can also be the solution. I look forward to reading more, and I hope your trip here will inspire you. The wedding I’m putting together has stemmed from my imagination, and based around an artistic era. I know you will love it. I can’t wait to see you.

    Love you more than you know,


  2. Pingback: Notebooks to Dye For |

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