Finland, Uncensored

I checked out this really cool book of illustrated maps from the children’s section of our local library yesterday and upon perusing it at home, my attention was immediately piqued by this part of the page dedicated to Finland:

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“The Finns Love Saunas.” But someone (a LIBRARIAN???) appears to have covered up the sauna illustration with a strategically taped down piece of copy paper!

Why would anyone do this, if not to goad a person into removing that paper, just to see what’s underneath? (Especially since you can sort of still see the top of two heads and a couple of beads of sweat popping out.)

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People … in a sauna.

I wondered if there were any more cartoon illustrations that the city of (redacted) deemed inappropriate?

There were, in Belgium:

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(that pic is from after I removed the little piece of paper.)

And I thought, What about all the little children who actually walk past that fountain in Belgium every day? Who will tape a piece of paper to their eyeballs to prevent them from witnessing such a disturbing sight? What about Italian kids whose grandparents have peeing cherubs in their gardens? What about  the little boys who have to use the bathroom every day?

America. We’re all still a bunch of Puritans. But don’t worry, I’ll tape the sauna ladies and the peeing kid back up before I return the book.

Or should I?

 

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Alchemy

Last fall I tried dying fabric using plant products and was immediately hooked. I love the nuanced organic hues that you can get, but also standing over a steaming cauldron and stirring a bunch of weird things together to see what color they will produce. It’s like being a kid again and making potions from stuff you collected in your back yard.

Admittedly, I did a little research before starting. Even more than the Internet,  Sasha Duerr’s book on the subject has been the best resource I’ve found to date. It turns out there are several steps you have to take just to prepare a fabric for dying, and Duerr explains these very thoroughly. Unfortunately, she does not let you cut any corners. I was scouring and boiling and mordanting my little pile of fabrics for days before they were finally ready to go in the cauldron. There was a kitchen scale involved and I had to use math.

Normally I may not have gone to all the trouble but truth be told I really felt that I could not let Sasha Duerr down. Read the book and you’ll understand.

Anyway, so far I’ve dyed fabric using:

  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Oak hulls
  • Pokeberries
  • Blackberries
  • Turmeric
  • Black Beans
  • Madder Root

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For my latest project I ordered powdered dyestuff from Maiwa because I don’t know how to forage for madder root in the dead of a Cleveland winter.

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I dyed a small batch of vintage linens from Lithuania that had seen better days. And look how nicely they turned out:

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For one of the pieces, I added iron powder to my dye as an “after mordant.” A mordant is an agent like tannin or alum that helps bind plant dyes to the fiber. But you can change the color of a dye pretty significantly just by adding iron. In the case of my madder root, the iron powder turned the dye a plum purple color, which ended up lilac gray after it dried.

I made this bird with it.

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lilac swallow in flight_edited-1

I just love the idea of turning a tattered piece of vintage cloth into something like that. You know?

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Name Days

Every so often I like to scour Etsy for vintage Lithuanian ephemera, as one does. If I’m feeling generous, I will also add “Latvian” and “Estonian” into my search parameters. That’s how I came to be the proud owner of three pre-war Latvian day planners and one set of German trivia cards about Native Americans.

kalendars

indianer

It seems that the primary purpose of the calendars was to keep track of name days, which were very important (still are?) in Eastern Europe, and celebrated like birthdays. There is a Lithuanian word – “vardadienis” – that literally means “name day.”

Since my daughter’s name is Latvian in origin, it was never listed in the Lithuanian calendar. Now that I finally know her name day, I will be sure to commemorate it by giving her flowers and a doughnut with sprinkles for breakfast.

aprilis

My son’s name day is June 24th. On this day, if he were in Lithuania, he would get a free drink and try to jump over a bonfire. My husband’s name day is March 17th and every year he gets a parade.

My name day is May 28th, but so far nobody has ever sent me a card or even given me so much as a pat on the back.

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Bird Parade

The bird obsession continues. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to draft a few good patterns I can use consistently. In the process, I’ve found that I have almost infinite patience for tasks such as un-picking seams, fiddling with wire, sewing beaks, and drafting and re-drafting patterns.

Because apparently that is what it takes to be a bird maker. No matter how well thought out I may believe a pattern to be, it seems never to yield the bird I had in mind on the first try. Take this specimen for example:

A Bird with Boobs

It was supposed to be a mockingbird. But after I started stuffing the body, I realized that my mockingbird was going to be hunchbacked and have chesticles. So I turned it into an approximation of a type of pheasant called a “Chukur.” Still, I find him rather endearing.

chukur1

So bird making involves a lot of time, trial, and error, but there is something especially rewarding about turning a simple sketch into a three-dimensional object, then giving it character and personality.

Aviator

Ready for Takeoff

Green and Brown Songbird Closeup

Songbird

Red White and Blue Bird in Tree

Odd Bird

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