A little post for AJ

A few days ago several of you kind folks offered me some great suggestions as to what to do with these here hollyhocks here:-) One lovely suggestion came from AJ. She wondered about natural dyes- e.g. red onion skins! It was a wonderful idea but there is a hitch- in fact several. Natural dyes are beautiful for sure but they are not nearly as colourfast as the new Procion MX dyes I use. Also, just like trying to mix Kaffe Fassett fabrics with other commercial fabrics- ya just rarely get away with it! The colours just do NOT work together. The hand dyes I  are brilliant, clear colours and my natural dyes , also beautiful, are VERY subtle! Lastly, the natural dyes work splendidly on wool and silk and linen but they are pretty pallid on cottons. So, sadly I had to forget the idea of natural dyes.

That said, I did confess to AJ that I HAD done a LOT of natural dyeing and hand spinning once upon a LONG time ago in another life. I promised I would photo my baskets full of yarns for her. SO...here they are. I was REALLY shocked to see that the little tag labels on my skeins are dated 1978!!!!! My babe was born in 1977 so this stuff is OLD ( sorry Katherine!) It was a joy to do . I intended to weave with it but I found my neck and back were not up to weaving so I have baskets full of lovely natural yarns and lovely DYED yarns just languishing in the darkness of our cellar. DD is a knitter. Maybe she'll knit something woolly some day? Anyway, here are some of the yarns I spun and dyed , AJ!
Madder, Onion skins, indigo, Queen Anne's lace, Buckthorn, Logwood, St John's wort, and a natural black fleece

Some dyes with my wool cards, a lovely cherry  drop spindle hand turned by DH, fleeces of all sorts including ratty looking black goat 

 A GORGEOUS Mi'kmaq willow splint basket I purchased years ago in Nova Scotia
So there you have it folks! My spinning, natural dyeing career ( well, obviously not the WHOLE career!) in a couple of baskets. BTW, I believe the pinkish skein beside the cards is sumac. I smelled up the entire house for days making sumac dye- smelled like fruit jam . The First Nations folk make sumac tea as a medicinal drink. I used to know a whole lot of this stuff! I know that sumac tea is fuzzy tasting because of the sumac flowers and not a yummy drink. It is likely efficacious though.

And , a parting shot- here are the hollyhocks to date. I am playing with details at the moment and the blooms are sitting on top of the fabric I bought for the background. I have some transparent fabrics I MAY use for background too. The colours are not too accurate here. Need to reset my White Balance!
In fact , the colours are wretched here but you may be able to see the process?
Cheerio for the moment folks. Happy Labour Day Weekend. Be safe, be careful, wear your seat belts and your life jackets ( hopefully not together).

Fraught with frustration :-(

I am here to whine a little!! I have had this silly hollyhock together, apart, on the white background fabric, off the white background fabric, on several different coloured backgrounds, with and without the stalk, leaves and dead blooms ! My DDDH has had me all over southern Ontario today trying to do the impossible by looking for the nonexistent. The man deserves a medal!

I found a part of a fat quarter of Stonehenge fabric in very pastel greys, soft greens and a light wash here and there of a pinky lavender. It is the watercolour effect I was thinking of but NOBODY seems to carry it any more. I rarely , if ever, buy printed fabric any more but this would have been perfect.

I THINK I have pretty much decided that the stalk etc is not helping the design, so it is set aside. I MAY add another larger leaf near the bottom of the blooms- I say MAY??? I tried the flowers on a piece of my hand dyed fabric - only so-so to me. The blooms are NOT actually finished yet. There are a lot of little detail bits to add and I think that once I do the stitching and quilting, I will feel better- BUT there is NO suitable background for this yet. I believe I COULD dye something and DO intend to try tomorrow. To that end, I am going to mix some fresh dyes tonight and let them stew over night. I have not felt this frustrated for a LONG time! It is likely good for me. I always start out KNOWING I will finish what I start with a modicum of success. This has knocked me down a peg or two and , chastened, I will post a photo with the blooms on that old piece of my own hand dye ( which I do NOT like at all) and will then post the whole shebang to the needleandthreadnetwork.blogspot.com. Feel free to malign or encourage or both. My skin is tough!

May or may not leave the stalk. It was a LOT longer! Horizontal version here.

And square one here. I do NOT like the tie die look! Colour---eh :-/ and the stalk is DEFINITELY outta here!
OK, CAPS TO INDICATE THAT THIS IS A LATE ADDITION! I have discovered a piece of the fabric I was looking for in Cambridge, ON at Sew Little Time! Yay for that!! I emailed Northcott and a woman called Arlene kindly returned my email with a list of the places that had ordered the fabric from them. Fortunately, SLT was on the list and is just an hour from our home :-)...so... later this afternoon, as arranged, off we go to get it. It is wide backing but it will serve as wide fronting, backing, facing and sleeving for this piece. The pics are not great but you MAY get the idea somewhat. This is the remains of a FQ I had bought ages ago - just because I LOVED the colours!!Sadly, Stonehenge has gone out of favour now. Not sure why it never caught on . I REALLY liked it.

Left side of the blooms

Right side of the blooms
MUCH better and I am toying with the idea of some bits of tulle overlay to emphasize some spots but we shall see once I get the piece of fabric. there are little bits of detail to add to the hollies and then the decision will be taken. BTW, for those of you who seem to be "stockers", I have decided that I SHALL use part of the stock. Wish me luck and good luck to All Y'All too! Thanks for your valued input. MUCH happier camper here today :-)

I Know what I am after, but....

Working with a limited amount of fabric in limited colours ain't easy! I have finally gotten the partial hollyhock bloom to the right of the main one - SORT OF! I have had the whole thing off the backing and back on, and then off again and a whole new one on now! It is still not exactly what I want but I believe it is closer and I feel more comfortable with it. I know I can play with my Prismacolor pencils and make some subtle adjustments. I shall- but not today, Dear! It will have to stay as is for the moment! Here it is to date!
Well , here we are so far. this is a very grey , gloomy day so I really should have used a flash but I didn't.
I am kind of thinking watercolour right now. I think the background may be forming in my little pea sized brain. We shall see. This little post is just to show that I am never idle ;-) Now, I am going to dine with DH ( whose back is KILLING him today) and my Mum!

Juicy Greens???

I said I wanted to get greens into this to make the pinks more sparkly. Juicy greens! Then, I remembered - hollyhock greens are DUSTY Greens! They are pubescent so it makes the underneath green ( which IS juicy) look dusty and dry. Anyway, the green surely DOES help - at least to my eye.
I should reedit this pic as the whole thing is too garish. The colours here are far more gaudy than they are in real life. I shall post this but come back and redo the photo.
Now, I have the lower stem with spent flowers still clinging and a sort of shy bloom to the right of this one. She did not quite want to show her face :-)

Off I go to start supper and to reedit this photo. Stay tuned!
There we go! MUCH closer to reality! 

Making progress slowly

I have to dye some more fabric for the bloom that is behind this big one. The colours are cooler, greyer, less in the foreground. No time today as we are invited out and I feel a little iffy anyway so not a good day for concentrating on BIG WORK. Ok, here is where I was last evening...
Part way round the five petals. So far, so good.
This morning , I began to work on the rest of the big main bloom and have MOST of it on the go now.

Here are the main petals pretty much done except for the jittery fritters little snips for details.
And here I have added a bud and some further shading.

Now I am DYING to get some green onto this piece! That may sound silly but ever since I was a little kid, I have needed some green to prevent things looking dry. Green makes it "juicy" and I like that. The greens will be cottons , hand dyed , rather than silks. The silks have been fun to work with. I really like the feel of them. The Habotai ( in this case, VERY light weight) shimmers so nicely, The gauze and chiffon are both very flat looking but gently translucent but the queen on the transparent fabrics is the silk organza! It REALLY adds depth as you really CAN see into the layers of fabric. I LOVE the effect- not for every piece but definitely stellar for this job! I have to decide now if I will use cottons or silks for the background hollyhock.

As it is Tuesday, I plan to post this to the needleandthreadnetwork.blogspot.com . There are lots on interesting project there. Enjoy!

Jolly Hollyhocks

I am finally starting a new project! My lamp died- and DH repaired it. I loaned a bolt of PFD to friends - and the new order FINALLY arrived so I can start dyeing again. I drew some holly patterns, had them enlarged at the Printshop. They came out TERRIBLY so- I returned the next day and they redid them for me ! Things are looking up so I have STARTED! YAY,ME!!!!

I adore hollyhocks as you may have seen in earlier posts. I have a LOT of photos and have made some patterns. I dyed a bunch of different silks- Habotai, chiffon,organza and gauze in various pinks, lavenders and some reds because hollyhocks SHOULD be made of silks!

pretty colours, eh?
 Yesterday, I started on the actual piece with a base of cotton, and a hollyhock base of the palest pink Habotai I could manage. This is where I am at the moment- perhaps not too exciting for viewers yet but my hopes are very high for some lovely transparency .

Cotton and silk over paper pattern. Pretty blah at the moment but that pale pink is JUST what I want for the transparent bits where the morning light is shining through the blooms!

This bloom was almost finished when I photographed it so it was virtually transparent. I HOPE I can capture that effect. Here is the photo I am working from-

Big bloom- not really. Just close up :-)
I THINK it is this one. There are two or three very similar . Anyway, this one gets you the idea.

I am going to post quickly to the needleandthreadnetwork.blogspot.com and dash as I have to go out. I may add more later.

A message of hope!



All done , quilted, faced and sleeved - still needs a label!

Oh, goodness, it's been a long time since I posted. I swear it's for a very good reason, though. I have a story to tell, and I'm going to tell it because it was thanks to hearing stories like this that I was able to get through my own experience. This is not a unique story -- plenty of people out there have been through their own version of it -- but it is a story that is often swept under the rug. Because of the almost taboo nature of the subject, I think a lot of people suffer rather unnecessarily. My hope, in telling my tale, is that anyone else out there who is struggling with this same problem will realize that they are not alone, and that a glimmer of hope is not always beyond reach. The story goes a little something like this:

Several years ago, I approached my sister-in-law, then a resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology, about the terrible time I had been having with my periods. This is something that I have suffered with my entire post-pubescent life. I have had dreadful irregularity, which has included having a period for weeks at a time, having a week off, then starting up again, as well as being in so much pain that I couldn't get out of bed. (I should mention that I am not generally much of a wuss about discomfort. I was back doing archaeological fieldwork less than a month after major abdominal surgery, just as an example.) I had been to doctors about this problem before, and most had patted me on the head and told me to take a Midol. My fabulous sister-in-law, however, said "That just isn't right," and arranged for me to see one of the doctors she studied under at the local University hospital. This doctor asked me loads of questions, ran some tests, and listened to my concerns over the fact that nothing had happened after 2 years of trying to conceive. She concluded that endometriosis was the likely culprit, and that a simple surgery would probably correct a lot of these problems, so I went ahead and scheduled the procedure.

Surgery day came, and I was wheeled off to the operating room in the hopes of waking up to a whole new comfortable world, and to the possibility of being able to get pregnant. When I woke up, however, I was given some slightly disheartening news. Years ago, I had lost an ovary and fallopian tube as the result of a cyst that caused ovarian torsion. Because of the fact that I was starting at a slight disadvantage when it comes to conceiving, the surgeons decided to check out my remaining parts in order to ensure that everything was in good working order. What they discovered was that my remaining fallopian tube was blocked. It appeared to be a blockage at the end where it enters the uterus, and so I was given a very positive prognosis. A simple procedure should have been able to open up the tube for me.

I was sent off to a reproductive endocrinology (RE) specialist who told me that, if the blockage was where the other doctors had thought it was, it would be an easy (although not permanent) fix. She said that, once the tube was opened up, I would have a good 6 months or so to try to get pregnant before it likely would close up again. In an effort to make sure that everything else was functioning before we tried opening the tube, my RE doctor put me through a battery of tests to make sure my hormones were working properly and that I had a good egg supply left to work with. Long story short: they were not, and I did not. Based on the results of my test, I was looking at an early onset of menopause. My egg quality had diminished substantially, and I did not seem to be producing eggs reliably. Any hope of becoming pregnant was beginning to fade, but was not entirely lost.

The option to open the tube was still a viable one -- there was, after all, a chance that a good egg would make it through -- so I scheduled the HSG procedure (hysterosalpingogram). This procedure involves injecting a dye (contrast material) into the uterus and then observing the path of the dye with a steady X-ray beam. (Incidentally, this procedure is NOT comfortable, no matter how much Advil they tell you to take! But it's not a long-lasting pain.) I watched the procedure on the X-ray monitor. My doctor showed me where the various structures were, and explained to me what she was seeing. In my case, there was only the very faintest trace of dye in the fallopian tube. It looked like fine, hair-like smudges in a couple of spots along the tube. This indicated that the blockage was not just at the proximal end. Instead, the tube was almost completely blocked along its entire length, making it un-fixable. My heart dropped at this news.

My doctor presented me with one last option: I could try injectable fertility drugs (hCG), which force the ovary to produce many eggs per cycle, in the hopes that one might find its way through the tube. After my first cycle, my RE performed an ultrasound and discovered that I had produced a small handful of eggs -- about four, if I remember correctly. This was not terribly encouraging. When women are injected during IVF cycles, doctors like to see more on the order of ten eggs. We had no luck with that first cycle of injections, so we tried again the next month, with a much higher dosage of the hormone. At the end of this second cycle, despite my dosage having been increased to the maximum, I produced even fewer eggs. This was not good news. My ovary appeared to be shutting down. My doctor sat down with us to discuss our options. Because of my lack of response to the fertility drugs, I was not a good candidate for IVF, nor was there much point in continuing the injections in the hopes of conceiving the "good ol' fashioned way." I was given a less-than-2% chance of ever being able to conceive naturally and the doctor said that, if I ever did manage it, the blockage in the fallopian tube would almost certainly cause an ectopic pregnancy that would have to be terminated. Our remaining options: embryo adoption, egg donation, or traditional adoption. Being a starving student, all of these options were, at least for the moment, out of our reach.

My husband and I grieved for a time, and then decided that we had done all we could do. We began to study adoption procedures, and we looked into taking classes so that, if we were eventually in a financial position to do so, we could pursue adoption. This was at the end of 2012.

In mid-February, 2013, friends of ours asked us out to dinner to announce their pregnancy. I was very happy for them, but our sad news from a few months before was still a bit raw, so the evening was rather bittersweet. I mentioned to the mommy-to-be that I was excited to eat some real food again, as I had been feeling really nauseated for about a week-and-a-half. I had no appetite, and nothing was sitting right. Perhaps I was just overly aware after news of our friends' pregnancy, but I started to think: I had been nauseated for most of two weeks, and I had been feeling very tired. I decided, on a whim, to take a pregnancy test....

...and there was a line! I was in complete shock, so I called my sister-in-law (the OBGYN). She told me to call my RE right away. If I was, in fact, pregnant, I would have to be checked out immediately, in case the pregnancy was ectopic. After what seemed like an interminable wait, my doctor called me with the results: I was pregnant! Based on the date of my last period, I was just barely pregnant -- around 4 weeks or so. My hCG levels were very high, though, for being so early in the pregnancy, so either my calculations were off, or I was pregnant with twins. (Spoiler alert: it was not twins. Phew!)

I went in for an ultrasound, to see if the embryo was in the right place, and it was. This little "bean" had made it through the tube, and had attached itself perfectly. I was measuring at 6 weeks, which was odd, considering that the date of my last period meant that I should be 4 weeks along. Regardless, I was PREGNANT!!! My elation was short-lived, though, as the doctor became concerned that she saw no movement or heartbeat. It turned out that my last "period" was actually the scary kind of bleeding that indicates a problem with the pregnancy. I was actually 8 weeks along, and had lost the pregnancy at 6 weeks. People who hear this story are always very sympathetic and sad over the loss of this pregnancy. I remind them, though, that, while it was a little heartbreaking in the moment, it was actually really good news. Contrary to all the medical opinions I had received, it was possible for me to get pregnant. And now that we knew that, my RE could help us with our baby-making schedule, and could provide the appropriate hormonal support.

So, after having to take Misoprostol to deal with the missed miscarriage, we started trying to conceive, with the help of my fabulous doctor. I'll skip past all the remaining gory details and just tell you that, on June 19, 2013, this happened:

and then, over time, this happened:

with a little of this along the way:

 and then, finally, THIS happened:

We welcomed our beautiful, healthy little boy on February 27 of this year. He is now a beautiful, healthy, active, sweet, and hilarious little boy of 5 months. I was sick as a dog the whole pregnancy, gave them a couple of scares at the end, and had a long and somewhat difficult delivery...and I would do it all over again to get to meet this little fellow! I am still completely stunned by how things worked out. I thank my lucky stars every day, and I thank that first little "bean" who didn't make it. Whoever he or she was did a wonderful thing, I think, and got my "oven" all ready to bake an amazing little boy.

I am so grateful for the help and support of my doctors, family, and friends throughout this whole ordeal. It has been a definite test of my mettle, and of mine and my husband's strength as a couple. I couldn't have survived the last several years without my husband's constant love and support. Even when things were at their darkest, he was able to lift me up, and to remind me that not all was lost and that things have a way of working out.

So, to any of you out there who are struggling with similar issues, I encourage you not to give up. I know this same story won't happen for everyone, but if you can manage to cling to a little glimmer of hope, you never know what might happen. I think, for me, relaxing after accepting that pregnancy was not in the cards, as well as the effects of what we thought was an unsuccessful medical procedure, were the keys to our success. To all you ladies who are struggling, I wish you all the best of luck and encourage you to remember that you're not alone. We're all cheering for you (including Baby O)!