Sunday, 28 December 2014

Light and the Absence of Colour (Part Four)

Colour theory differs in some very significant ways if one comes at it from a scientific or an artistic perspective. While white is the union all colours of light in scientific understanding, to an artist or craftsperson’s mind, colour must be removed to produce white. This interplay of colour and whiteness is utilized by the laws of the tabernacle. The previous posts discussed the sacred colours; this last post is about white and the priestly garments. But I find it requires some background information to get us there.

The Torah includes a number of laws that seem pointless to modern people. One of these is the prohibition against linsey-woolsey or “shatnez” (the prohibition isn’t against any type of blended fibre either; it's very specific that the prohibited shatnez is a blend of linen and wool). Modern people have difficulty explaining or understanding it; they’ll often point to it as an example of a law that is simply meant to differentiate the Israelites from their neighbours (it isn’t). What they usually miss is that the priest was commanded to wear linsey-woolsey, except on Yom Kippur. I guess that’s where dye history and knowledge come in.

 One of the dividing lines between Egyptians and the various Canaanite peoples of the Levant was their use of fibre; the Egyptians detested sheep and everything that came into contact with them, including shepherds and of course wool. They became the preeminent linen producers of the ancient world (it’s through linen production that we can date a likely time for the Exodus). So a prohibition of mixing linen and wool could be seen as a prohibition against syncretism in the vein of the laws against getting horses from Egypt, but it’s likely more than that.

The Egyptians note the brightly coloured clothing of the Canaanites (see the beni hasan murals depicting Canaanites or Hyksos in patterned clothing). Like Joseph’s coat, this was a distinguishing feature of the people of Palestine. It is of course because they favoured the very fibre the Egyptians detested: wool. Anyone who does natural dyeing knows that wool takes almost all colours the best (with the exception of indigo--one would assume murex being a vat dye would have similar properties). Cellulose fibres need a lot of extra processing to take most colour, and it is never as bright. So while linen was sometimes dyed, it was usually bleached. When you wanted true vibrant colour you opted for wool (see our samples from my dye trip post and how wool takes dyes compared to other fibres). Vat dyes would produce good colours on cellulose fibres, but other dyes need some chemical wizardry (in some cases, a 29 step process). The material isn't mentioned in Exodus, but since shani was not a vat dye, wool would be required to get a bright scarlet. This is later confirmed by the author of Hebrews. The coloured threads were made of wool.

Which brings us to the clothing of the priest. The garments he was to wear included an ephod and sash woven or embroidered in a pattern with both the sacred colours and linen. Meaning those items were made of linen and wool blend, as were much of the tabernacle textiles. Consider that the coloured yarn is mentioned in addition to linen. There are sometimes a lot of gymnastics done in rabbinical writings about what counts as shatnez and what doesn’t, but only a few dispute that the priestly garments and tabernacle were shatnez. Some Jews also believe the prayer shawls laymen wear were to be shatnez as well.

In other words, like the special incense, this blend was to be set aside for sacred purposes. So it wasn’t about making the Israelites peculiar. The tabernacle and the priest were being singled out from the people, the holy from the common. Mem says this is like how no one was to work on the sabbath but the priest. Just as we now do not work, and instead trust that our Lord is “always working” for us.

 A second part of the equation is that on the day of atonement, the high priest wore linen only. This not only prevented sweat (since basically any discharge was a sign of uncleanness) but also did away with the wool embroidery/weaving and colour. Ezekiel re-iterates this and says the new priesthood of his vision does not wear wool but only linen (which again implies that the daily priestly garments at the time were in fact shatnez). That the wool, with the colours of blood, judgement and death is removed when atonement is made is a powerful picture of the true work of the final high priest. shatnez for now, but finally linen pure and clean. A little bit of simil justus et peccator.

 As noted the production of these dyes is very ancient, and at various times, controlled by royalty. This has led some to think the dyes were commanded just because they were valuable, to remind people of the kind of respect God deserved. But God tells David he's not particularly interested in human displays of wealth, and the fact that all traces of the colours were removed from the sacred robes on the day of atonement as well as Ezekiel’s vision suggests that this was all very intentional. If the colours represent the work of God (both for salvation and judgement), perhaps the lack thereof represents the results. It reminds one a little of the blinding visions of God, not to mention Peter’s description of the transfiguration. White and light, all colours blurred into oblivion.

So while there is an element of royalty and status in the colours and, as YHWH himself said, “glory and beauty”, it is interesting that on the day of atonement, the priest appeared with “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him”. He arrived before God in plain white. White like the dress of the angels, and finally the dress of the martyrs, white robes given to them by the lamb and final high priest, bleached in his blood. The restored priesthood with Christ alone as their head don’t wear beautiful colours. They wear white like the high priest, like the cord on the door of the temple when atonement has been made. Like God himself as partakers in his nature.

It turns out all colour does unite to make white.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Symbolism of the Colours (Part Three)

As I mentioned in the previous post, until the 19th century all dyes were what we now call “natural dyes”--with most of these being produced from plants. Murex snails and carmine producing insects were two of the three known animal dyes (lac also is produced from the secretion of an insect). We have established that these were the most likely sources of the “sacred colours”. That is, of all the dyes out there, the ones chosen were the few animal dyes. Dyes valuable because of not only the fastness, but the work and also the death involved--murex requires the death of thousands of snails in order to produce the smallest amount of dye (at least the way the Tyrians did it).

They are also all produced by unclean animals. Jews and Muslims still tend to avoid carmine food dye as it is cochineal, another carmine producing insect. Though one could argue that one would have to ingest the colours to violate purity laws, there are plenty of examples of people being rendered unclean by simple contact with an unclean person or item. This is part of the reason I’m inclined to believe those Jews who argue tekhelet is murex; it then nests better with the other two colours on the symbolic level (though that is not necessary and really the colour IS indigo).

 I don’t think it’s accidental that animal dyes were chosen, and unclean ones at that. The work of the tabernacle was all about cleansing and death and atonement.

 Josephus mentions the colours when he describes the temple, associating tekhelet with the sky, argaman with the sea, and shani with fire. These do line up with some other things we know about the colours. As mentioned in my previous post each colour tends to be associated with different things, both in scripture and in later cultural practices of the Jews.

 A few years ago I wrote a post on abrash and trinitarianism, making the argument that natural dyes proclaim a sort of diversity like the trinity. Mem assures me this is not reaching like Origen for the crack pipe, but I do see a trinitarian structure to the colours used. Not simply by the fact that there are three colours and therefore bam it’s the trinity but in the afore mentioned symbolism.

 As I mentioned previously, tekhelet blue covered most of the holy objects of the tabernacle and is the only colour laypeople were commanded to wear.  Josephus’ comparison to the sky is most likely based on the fact that the original Sanhedrin see God standing on a “pavement of sapphire, clear as the sky”. Ezekiel and Isaiah see the glory of God the same way, enthroned in the crystalline blue of the heavens. Numbers gives the reason for the use of tekhelet tassels--to remind each individual to be holy to God.  This colour is almost always used as a reminder of God and his holiness, often emphasizing his righteousness, “otherness” and power.

The symbolism for shani ranged almost contradictorily from sin to purification. While modern people often suppose that scarlet is associated with blood rites, it’s more often associated with cleansing rites and “fire” in scripture (usually blood was included separately). Fire is actually the primary purifier in the torah, with water being used when fire couldn’t be; but the scarlet wool features in both types of rites. Isaiah, while famously saying that scarlet sins become white, also says that such blood stains are washed away by a spirit of judgement and fire. He also associates the towla or worm with the unquenchable fire of judgement, a picture Christ echos later. It calls to mind that John said Christ would baptize not with water, but with “the Holy Spirit and with fire”. Of course the Holy Spirit manifests as fire in the new testament at pentecost, as God does several times in the OT.

I'd like to wax Calvinist about the fact that the bread of the presence was covered in shani-dyed cloth, but I'll leave that for you people to decide. >:)

While Josephus associates it with the sea due to it’s source in the same, purple almost universally signified royalty. When Christ was mocked he was wrapped in a purple cloth; the soldiers were clearly mocking Christ’s claim to be king of the Jews, the anointed one. But it’s hard to think the connection of Christ being wrapped in purple just as the altar of atonement was wrapped in purple is coincidental. This action, like the prophesy of the high priest, appears to me to be an unwitting acknowledgment of what he was truly doing. Again, of all the tabernacle articles, only the bronze altar was covered in purple. The significance of a bloody altar/Christ is hard to miss. Argaman, and not shani, is the colour of blood and atonement.

With all that said the colours seem to represent the triune nature of God, but perhaps even more the roles of the person of the Godhead in the salvation of man. It wouldn’t be surprising that the colours chosen intended to represent the God who met his people in the tabernacle. Not that I’d push it, but it doesn’t seem that far out. It’s through the workings of the persons of the trinity, in the place where God meets his people, that we are finally made holy, righteous and clean. The workings of the persons in bringing us into communion with God are all there.

As the writer of the epistle of Barnabas notes, in salvation he takes broken human beings and makes them into living stones of an incorruptible temple. In so doing, he makes us “partakers of the divine nature”. With that said, there’s a final piece to this puzzle, known as “shatnez”.

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Colours (Part Two)

The history of dyes is older and full of more intrigue than one might think. Until the 19th century, all textile dyes were produced by and extracted from plants or occasionally animals, with the rarest and most colourfast being the most valuable and sought after. It can sometimes be surprising to modern people how sophisticated the techniques really were--vat dyeing with murex for example appears to go back as far as 1800 bc.

There are numerous colours that were well attested by the time of the Exodus, but a set of three become the centrepiece of the tabernacle. These are the “sacred colours” of Exodus: tekhelet, argaman and shani--translated as blue, purple and scarlet respectively. These three colours decorated all the cloth items in the tabernacle as well as the priest’s garments and were used to colour the cloths that covered the holy items when being moved. Each colour is also used individually in the items or rites of the tabernacle. However they’re not generic colours as we might think in a world of chemical dyes; each was produced from specific sources which gave distinct shades of each colour. For example, while madder red was used at the time, scripture is clear that shani is produced by an insect.

Towla Shani
As mentioned, shani is actually referred to as towla shani or “worm scarlet”. There is no question it’s a bug dye (“worms” including larvae of insects), made from an insect known as kermes. The female kermes insect produces carmine (we get the words “carmine” and “crimson” from kermes, while “vermilion” comes from the latin name for worm--the kermes vermilio) and has been used as a dye since neolithic times. While it usually produces crimson, the dye bath can be altered to get scarlet as well (crimson being blue toned, while scarlet is orangey), though the scripture uses them as parallel synonyms (ie Isaiah). Shani can only be carmine red.  I’ve seen one or two people deny this since “the colour of fire is orange, not red”. But those people are morons; don’t look directly at them.

It’s also important to note (for later) that kermes is the only colour of the three that isn’t a vat dye. It’s what we know as a “mordant dye” because it requires an auxiliary (the mordant) to bind it to the fibre.


Kermes (red ground) on silk--the coronation mantle of Roger II of Sicily

Shani was usually used on its own in cleansing rites. Wool dyed with worm scarlet and hyssop were used to sprinkle the blood of the dead bird over the living one to be set free in leper and house cleansings. It was also to be included in the burning of the ashes of the red heifer.

The scarlet yarn also features in later interpretations of the rite of the day of atonement. In a ritual probably based on Isaiah’s prophesy, a scarlet cord was to mark the goat for azazel and after splitting it, half would be tied to the temple door and observed. It was thought it would become white if YHWH had indeed cleansed and forgiven the people. This also harkens back to the cleansing rites using the two birds, one killed and one freed.

There is really only one purple of note in the ancient world, produced by molluscs and more commonly known as murex. As mentioned we have examples of murex dyeing as far back as 1800 bc--this is the source that is intended when the word purple is used. The Greeks even called Tyre “Phoenicia”, the land of purple, because of the production of murex. Lydia sold murex cloth, and at times its production was funded and controlled by royalty around the mediterranean (this continued until the end of the Byzantine empire). In Exodus this colour is called argaman.

 So like shani, argaman isn’t just a generic purple, it’s an item dyed in murex. “Tyrian purple” is the most prized form of it, produced from overdying in two breeds of murex according to Pliny the elder. The colour is sometimes known as oxblood, as in the ancient world the most prized shade was that of “clotted blood”. It’s more akin to maroon than a bright purple we may think of.


murex dyed byzantine robe--murex is apparently difficult to photograph. It is also unusual in that it darkened with time rather than faded, and could eventually turn black through oxidation. Thus the colours aren’t the most accurate.

This dye, the colour of blood, is the colour of cloth YHWH commands should cover the bronze altar. It is the only thing that is covered in purple alone--even the ark is covered in blue. There are no other uses for argaman specifically.

Tekhelet has an interesting provenance, or lack thereof. It’s the only dye of the three whose source isn’t completely agreed upon. The colour is almost certainly indigo blue on the chemical level so we do know basically what colour it was. But there are debates between Jewish writers over whether the indigo is produced by the indigo plant or by murex, and over what shade of blue it was. Talmudic writings do claim this colour was produced by a "fish" (ie shell-fish) and that indigo was a cheaper copy of the real thing. If so, murex is the most likely dye as certain breeds can produce blue with exposure of the vat to UV. The only other known animal dyes all produce shades of red.

The argument for murex is also compelling because there have been murex dyed blue items found in Israel from the time of Bar-Kokhba. So we know they were using it at that time. It seems odd to use murex if indigo could be used, because indigo production is comparatively simpler. That said there appears to be a tradition that the colours had to be "locally sourced". If true this would explain why murex was used for blue.

Tekhelet-dyed cloths covered almost all the items of the tabernacle service when they were on the move, with the exception of the altar covered in argaman as mentioned. The bread of the presence and dishes are also covered with shani-dyed cloth, after being set on the table over a tekhelet cloth. All the loops and tying cords of the tabernacle were also blue. The priest also wore a tunic entirely dyed in blue.

Tekhelet is of particular focus for Orthodox Jews because it is the only colour laymen were commanded to wear on the tassels of their garments (the blue of the flag of modern Israel commemorates the blue tassels of the prayer shawl). For some time the colour has been considered “lost” because of the disagreement over the dye source--again not any shade of blue will do.


The blue version of murex on wool from around the time of the Bar-Kokhba revolt. These dyes were prized at least partly because of their unmatchable fastness.

Interestingly, the same three colours were also important ritual colours in many other cultures, as far away as the Americas (with different sources--see the traditional Oaxacan wrap skirt for a different configuration of them). This has to do with the beauty and general fastness of the colours as well as the difficulty of producing them; murex alone is historically one of the most expensive and labour intensive dyes to produce. When YHWH demands everything be made with gold we think that made it precious. But murex was equally precious (in the modern age, it’s actually MORE precious. Than fricking GOLD. Yeah). When scripture speaks of people of status and security, blue, scarlet and purple are mentioned. Across the world these colours symbolize wealth and status, or as YHWH himself says, “glory and beauty”. But they also are tied to other things. More on that in the next post.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Colours, Sacred or Otherwise

Since mem is a wicked human being who won't get his dad to make me dibromoindigo, I'm being forced to think of other ways to get it. This includes making a trip to Morocco to some place I can’t pronounce in the purpuric islands that is rumoured to sell it (and yes a trip to MOROCCO would still be cheaper than buying it from most reputable suppliers by about 40k). It seems legit.

PLUS ALSO Pantone’s colour for 2015 is pretty close to what Tyrian purple would have looked like (though more brown). AND I got an induction burner for Christmas which Phil called WITCHES BREW BURNER. Well it's taken them almost two decades to come to terms with my use of noxious chemicals.

So my art project is back on! In my head. Like usual. This of course brings to mind some interesting things I've noticed in the colours and textile processes used in the production of the priest's garments and tabernacle of Exodus. Mem assures me these things aren’t super extra BORING to normal people, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have a lock on what normal people think or he wouldn’t be my friend.

But I’m going to write about them anyway, because mem is the only one who reads my blog and I think he thinks I can’t write a book length tome on this. To which I say “it’s like you don’t even know me mem”.

 I am reminded of the author of Hebrews saying that the tabernacle was a copy made according to a heavenly original. Some people think this has to do with aesthetics; I am not one of them. The tabernacle represents the realities of God; how he makes himself a holy priesthood and a place where he meets his creation. And maybe I’m crazy but I think that’s more significant than the proportions being an aesthetic pattern for people to follow. While many fixate on the proportions and other things, I’ve always been interested in the processes. I can admit that’s the craftsperson coming out--process is always the most important thing to us. But I do think there are some powerful symbols involved in the creation of the tabernacle (symbolism being used in the more mediaeval sense).

Anyway, there are things going on in the text that are pretty easily missed if you don’t understand how the production of fibre worked in ancient times. In a world where we are so removed from the processes that make the daily items of our lives, we miss many things that would have been common knowledge then. I think this can be shown by how Christians tend to interpret them sloppily and figure they’re not particularly important anyway. Orthodox Jews for their part debate them intensely--they understand that they’re valuable at least partly because they’re still trying to keep the law.  But we believe all the scriptures are about Christ.

I originally wrote this post super cyclically (like a rabbi! Just as wise for sure). While that was pretty cool, it metastasized into a 3000 word document in a few days (even though I skipped a lot of cool stuff--told you mem). So I had to make it linear (or as close to it as someone like me can get) in order to be able to chop it up into shorter posts, of which this functions as the introduction. It took longer to reorganize than to write or research, so the work has been languishing a little. But I really wanted to finish at least one of my book length “blog posts” so the reorganization had to be done. Someone asking about the towla on fb motivated me to wax nerdy again. Anyway hoping I succeeded in being more greek, but I really prefer hebrew thought. If you see some repetitions and lack of clarity, blame your western linear mindset--I had to do this for YOU so don't whine. I also left out a lot to keep it from being even longer.

 Follow for the next posts and you'll see why a trip to Morocco would be worth it.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Obligatory Dye Trip Post

Maiwa is celebrating the tenth year of their annual fall textile symposium. And I've wanted to go all ten years, but either couldn't afford it or was otherwise busy or lived in the crapartment. This year I determined that I would go, especially since all my dye stuff came out of storage purgatory when we got out of the crapartment. Fortunately Michel Garcia was coming to teach a few classes, one of which I enrolled in (should have done the indigo one too but thought it might be too expensive and hard to get into both of them) after a stressful few moments when registration opened (it's infamously hard to get into some of the really popular classes--it's the same kind of mental anguish basically invented by ticketmaster when your fave band is coming to town. You know the kind that involves saying things like NO I WANT THE GOOD TICKETS. yeah it's loadin...NOOO. WHY ARE YOUR SERVERS DOWN WHY YOU NOT PLAN FOR THIS. You and I both know you've been there).

Anyway I also managed to force a few theo peeps to come to visit, which was cool and we decided to meet the weekend before the class.

Spirit of the Haida Gwai, Bill Reid's famous statue which I directed Liz to by telling her to find the giant boat.

Theo peeps! Well, Rachel and mem. Elizabeth married in to theo peepdom. This was in the vancouver public library, which is shaped like a spiral and has a bunch of shops and government things around it. It is also in sight of the former performing arts building which now houses a mennonite brethren megachurch, about which we surmised what level of heresy was taught there several times throughout the week. Yeah we ended up in the library a few times.

Sunday we went to Granville Island, mostly so we could go to the market and I could buy ART SUPPLIES. While it rained on Monday, the weather was pretty nice for the rest of the trip, which was nice.
the bridge that makes it a not-island and yachts of Richies.

mem being all pensive about the quality of the fish.

 Anyway once that was done, we went for supper to a place Carly told me is where people take their mistresses and people they want to impress and I found out that sea bass is DELICIOUS (thanks to Elizabeth). After that I finally got to take my classes.

Chemistry stuff, which went over a lot of people's heads. Though I felt like it was pretty basic and I hated chemistry so much (would have hated it less if we could have done cool things NOT FOOF MEM so don't even say it). 

Someone actually told me "you must have a background in chemistry or science because you know a lot of this". The internal laughter that followed. I guess being a nurse helps even if I'm basically the worst at it ever cause we had to learn SOME chemistry for both physiology and pharmacology.

all the samples together in mah book

Our samples
We got to do some interesting experiments, though most of the classes focused on cotton which I never use because the alum-tannin-alum premordanting methods are like all hard work and stuff for really sucky colour anyway. But most of these samples gave okay colours, though not quite like the wool. And now you know why Joseph's coat was many colours. Wool takes dye so much better than anything else. Well except indigo.

Michel Garcia all "lookit getting red with madder so essy" Or something like that. He told us why mine failed and precipitated about two seconds after this. :(  Definitely no real concerns about the "rules" for madder, he's pulling it out of a boiling pot there. He wasn't a big fan of doing things the "official way" and mentioned the antichrists' alum mines, which I totally remembered as soon as he mentioned it. Church history has a practical application people!

Anway we also learned mordant print making and got some really nice golds with titanium as a mordant. I  have all the other mineral mordants (shhh) so I'm trying to find some of that, especially given that it produces golds with a lower health threat than chrome. The only place I found it charged 300 dollars for it. major sad. Here are some of the other cool samples and things:

A piece painted with four mordants and put in cochineal and a second that was screen printed with different mordants and also dyed in cochineal. 

These were poundings done to see if a plant has any tannin in it and will be worth harvesting. And safflower PINK. The yellow was tres laid. Was so excited to see the pink.

Of course we also made samples to take home. A lot of people were worried about how they would look but I was more concerned with the process because they are just samples anyway. Plus I'm really a craftsperson so the process and technique are why I do these things in the first place. So I used a few screens that already had designs on them and went all random with them.

 Appparently there is iron or something in the water as they were supposed to wash out cleaner from the backgrounds. This one is my fave though: Weld. The gold is titanium, neon yellow alum and black is Iron.

We also made printed "charts" with the different mordants so you can see the range of colours one dye can produce, and mordant discharge. And safflower! Did I mention how cool it was? Okay.

We tried most of the dyes in the supply cupboard and some people brought plants that we dyed on too.  Overall I learned somethings that I'll definitely be able to use, especially if I can find some cheap titanium.

I also took Vancouver public transit to and from classes, which mama noted was the true highlight of the trip for me because I wouldn't stop talking about it for two days. It was so great though, with quiet electric vehicles, a train station that was still a skytrain station and not a casino, and each vehicle even had a pleasant computerized voice to tell you where you were going. I took this picture of an extra long hinged bus turning a corner for mama cause I knew it would make her rageful:

But man that was great public transit. Good job city of Vancouver.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014


It's my blog's 10th birthday. I made it because someone suggested blogger as an alternative to livejournal, which I still feel fulfilled the true purpose of blogging, which is to showcase narcissism. I used livejournal to do art by the inch, trade cds and keep up with nervousness people.  It's kind of  like how I use facebook almost exclusively to keep up with theologica people. Now art by the inch, nervousness and even mix cds are things of the past sadly. But the blogger blog has lived on. I picked the name because "Hey dooders" is a lame person trying to be cool term and I chose it to be ironic since blogs were the "cool thing" amongst the nerds of the internet. Thus far, it's really been pretty apt though I do think I posted some good theological posts.

Over the years I have kept the blog as I've done everything in my life. By doing whatever I want (or in this case writing about it). So sometimes I posted sad things or rants or pictures of things I'd made or PeTrA or art theory or theology or The Jerk. Or for awhile there, random things to bother mem (that was when I was basically at the apex of my prolificacy).

This looks great. And other than wonky eye, nothing like me. 

Speaking of my narcissism,  I recently posted a great picture of myself on facebook which, as usual, looked nothing like me. James suggested that it was such a nice picture I should make it my fb avatar to which I replied "I have never used a real picture of myself as an avatar in the history of the internets." That's because if I alter them or draw them I can trick people into thinking I'm better looking than I am which totally feeds my narcissistic vanity. And as above, this is what the internet is basically about, more so now than it ever was 10 years ago when you like had conversations about things (remember that? I totally do because I'm all old and crap).

Anyway, in honour of the narcissism I decided to post my last decade in avatars along with the actual pictures so you can see why I never use actual pictures (or as many as I have; one is missing the unretouched photo so obviously I saved over it). Artistic licence is basically the way you make boring crappy things more interesting and palatable. And you know I'm all kreyative.

The first one was actually a drawing that I did with crayola markers then added some filters to but this was the photo I used for the picture. Phil Johnson gave me a chance to do my best Navin Johnson impression because of this picture (yes I do remember all stupid insignificant things but don't ask me if I remembered to add the mag sulph to the mar cause I'll prolly just stare at you like a deer in the headlights). I've found that in any artistic rendering of myself, all I have to do is make sure to include the lines under my eyes and it definitely looks like me. The photo was a little old at the time, taken in 2003.  It's also pretty small because for some reason everything I saved to old discs is really small on this computer, despite the fact that I scanned them in at like 300 ppi. Pheh.

The famous quilt, which I took originally for a blue and red deco. I altered the photo then printed it, painted it and finally made a quilted version. And it represents the only time I ever had a quilt at Houston, cause I'm never going to get anything that matters there.  Took this one in 05, then made the deco and the quilt in the same year.

Took this picture specifically to replace the other. This is when mem discovered my wonky eye which made me cooler than him forever. My skin looks different colours is because at that time in my life, it really was. Taken in 07.

The mucha me is still my google profile and is the only picture I ever painted totally digitally. I hated doing it. I had to try to stylize the actual photo of course so that it resembled Mucha's style and ended up making the wonky eye a little wonky in shape too. 

This btw was the other drawing I made for mucha me but I lost it and stuff so I just did it again. I think I may have loosely based it on the blue and red picture, but of course also from life though I don't do that much because my face is pretty asymmetrical.

I didn't use this one for super long because the altered version didn't really have the line quality I prefer. I think the picture wasn't high enough contrast, but I seem to remember it took a fair bit of work to take the background out so I used it. I think this one was 08.  

This was another one that didn't look the way I wanted exactly, though I liked my expression a lot. This is how I look at my screen when you say ultra stupid things that I can beat you over the head with to win any argument. Not that anyone actually SAYS anything on the internets anymore. This was 09, not long before I started university which aged me about 900 years. I miss you athol house and athol house basement :(

This one was probably one of my favorites ever and I kept it for a number of years. This was during school when getting my hair cut cost too much money (but I still made WAY too much to get a student loan, especially since they expected me to be able to get in a time machine to pay the kind of rent people did in about 1998). This was taken not long after we moved into the crapartment in 2010, which is why I look less miserable than later.

I've decided this is definitely my good side. Well it was before I started getting all jowly.

I think I kept this one for a month or two and only changed from the above picture because it was showing up as an exclamation point in comments (not sure why since it hardly looked like me so definitely WASN'T obscene). I didn't like it because I hadn't put photoshop on the new computer yet so used crappy software. I saved over the original picture but the photo is just another one taken at the same time. I think it was 2012.

This, as you can see, is the current avatar. I took this one before the Junos last year. It's another one of my faves, I'll probably keep it for awhile. 

 One last one: me in dragon form prolly hanging out in crooked lake. I do look better in dragon form, it's true.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Reworking Old Faves

I will always credit John Flynn for being the reason I still use Janomes and got a new sewing machine to replace my terrible first one (That first machine and Shemar have been my real Janome lemons, though meticulous cleaning and aurafil thread has helped with Shemar). I decided to make a double wedding ring quilt using his method, which involved strip piecing and resewing of all seams at a prescribed angle, which was marked out on the machine in tape.

The machine was HORRIBLE and since I had a warranty, It spent more time in the Sears Bargain centre getting fixed than it did at home. Every time I took it in, I would tell them "there is a piece of black electrical tape on the machine. DO NOT REMOVE THE BLACK ELECTRICAL TAPE". This happened frequently enough that the lady finally looked at me and said "haven't you been in here A LOT with this machine with the black electrical tape??" Yes, yes I have. "We'll make sure you get it back in working order this time" she said.

Then a few days later they phoned me to tell me it had been "broken in transit" even though it was never shipped anywhere and as it was under warranty I got to pick a new one, which I think probably still has the black electrical tape on it. That machine was great and I learned then that when Janomes are good they're very very good, but when they're lemons they're HORRID. And I like to think the lady at Sears Bargain Centre sent that other machine to some part of Chaplin Sk.

 I'm slowly plugging away at the new york beauty (half plus one of the sashing strips are done! 15 left...and then the rest of the top) but kind of want to do something else. This is all the amazing progress I've made:
Yeah isn't it underwhelming. I'mhalf done half of the top. Sort of. Still no blocks as each one of those sashing strips includes 40 seams. And I'm doing this the EASY way. Holy crap new york beauty. Still not happy with the lighter blue options, I begin to think the actual shade of blue I wanted doesn't exist.

But as the NYB is one of those patterns I have always wanted to make, It reminded me of the double wedding ring. I learned to quilt to make one of them, and it took about 6 or 7 years before I found the afore mentioned Flynn Method and did it. As I had a very small bed I made the quilt equally small.

Somehow it ended up in Regina and hidden under mama's bed in the crapartment, where I found it and then put it in the cedar chest when we moved. Over the summer the oppressive heat of the upper floor of the apartment required a) the home made air conditioner and b) different blankets so I was using the DWR, as it has ultra thin batting. But it's really too small to fit a regular bed:

 This really looks better than most pictures of it. The main background fabric was a leftover fabric I had used on the midsummer night's dream quilt (actually all of the background fabrics were) and I never liked it as much as the off white, which I had less of. But the colours look pretty good here.

So I've been thinking about what to really do with it, because I've rarely ever used it. I considered putting it on the wall, but I think I can actually make it bigger without too much difficulty.

I didn't bind it because it hurt so much to hand quilt it (my joints were flaring at the time), and once I zigzagged the edges I couldn't bind it. It was the only quilt I ever did start to finish on my hoop actually. Man it hurt. I never got back to it because I hate binding and I would have had to sew the back by hand with the curved edges.  But this means it will be relatively easy to rip out the zigzagging and add rows to it.

Painful and agonizing that quilting was. I would work on it for a half an hour max and my joints would stop working. I remember having to pry my left hand open. Yay for getting inflammatory arthritis at 15. I was trying to get the digital camera's f stop to work here.

These are the remaining original fabrics I still have, plus a few I picked out that I think would work as well. I was sure I had some more of them and I probably have to go back through my scraps again. I had to buy solids that matched the peach of the four patch and then other neutrals for the background (that didn't matter as much since there are already several neutrals in it) so I decided to get a 30s print jelly roll as well to make up for the lack of leftovers. 

Jelly Rolls! I love them more than bluesmen do. 

...Okay not those kind. 

There are some good coordinates here so I'm sure it will look fine. It's scrappy anyway and as long as it keeps with the 30s cotton candy kind of colourway I think it's not going to be too bad. 

 If you're wondering, what I will do is make three new rows of seven rings and sew them together as a unit. Then I'll split open the longer side of the quilt and sew the tops together on the curve, but probably add the batting and backing in a straight row to the back and then flip them over so they sandwich. Then I'll quilt them and edge it and probably not bind it. Because I hate binding so much and it will be soo big and I hate doing binding. 

This is what the quilt will look like with three more rows added to the side. I think this will make it a good size.

I still have the original templates but they're not that great so I re-drafted them. I'll still strip piece the majority of them, but I think I'll foundation piece a few arc units just to be able to use the smaller pieces of the original fabrics. Shouldn't take too long to sew a 3x7 set of blocks, and Sam is no longer around to lay on the blocks, as he did when I made the original. After twisting around on them and fluffing them up.

Yeah Sam. Sometimes I miss him then I think about things like that and him biting me.

Thursday, 3 July 2014


The time frame between July 1 and 4 is full of celebrations across the continent, national "birthdays" commemorated with patriotism and happiness. Though there was a time our family also celebrated that is not so much the case anymore. But as others remember formative events of their nations, This time recalls formative events for me too.

I never thought I'd be the kind of person who cared about milestone anniversaries or dates. As most of you know, I'm absent minded enough that I often forget what day it is or how old I really am. I never remember numbers because they are meaningless to me and I find them somewhat arbitrary. People can recognize them or not as they see fit. One man considers some days more sacred and another sees every day alike.

So it turns out I'm normally the latter, but when it comes to specific milestones, I've ended up becoming the former. My birthday never meant anything to me until I reached 30 (and then I hated it--it means only that I'm even older than I thought). I always did like the metric system and multiples of ten because I could understand them, unlike most math. So those milestones seem to make me stop and remember. Whether it's ten, seventy, ninety, or one hundred years, it seems right to remember, especially now. Even in sadness.

All of that said, the assigning of significance to certain dates, though arbitrary, is an (often unacknowledged) way of pointing to the relationship we should have with the giver of all meaning. We look for meaning in even the most mundane things because we know it exists in the deepest part of our beings. We know there is significance to life, even those that are gone. And, as I've mentioned before, the marking of time means we're coming closer every day to the culmination of all things. The point when time and our sojourn end and it turns out the milestones were only monuments to a brief separation after all. They only mark the time it took to get home.

Saturday, 28 June 2014


The modern world, with all its meaninglessness and alienation, was born 100 years ago today. Fitting that death would be the catalyst for the death of an entire generation and with them, western society. 

Etching from Der Krieg series, Otto Dix

Sunday, 11 May 2014

After Four Years of Exile...

We have finally moved to a place that has room for all my fabric and Fergus (plus at least 20 other cats for Fergus to get beat down by, including a random grey kitten that ran into our apartment today). It also doesn't have the stupidest tenancy agreement of all time, so even though I'm paying more, it's probably all worth it. 

Since I can put shelves on anything that doesn't move and we're paying more for rent, we are getting rid of the storage locker. We have enough room that we don't need it, and while I packed it like tetris before the move, we finally got down to the original layer and brought it all home today. This was virtually all my stuff, including my quilt hoop, the parts of the industrial sewing machine (now in the basement), the homemade drumcarder and fibre, the tubs of dyestuff and pots for dyeing, and the two jumbo tubs of FABRIC.

Ooh tub of TREASURE. SO EXCITING. Those are the poly brocades I hoarded on top. I started pulling everything out of them as soon as possible and depositing it into multiple piles around the living/dining area.

Fabric piles everywhere! And patterns. And test designs. And things I sort of made. And interfacings/fusible web/buckram/timtex. And other wonderful things.

It turned out I had lots of white fabric (mostly silk) for dyeing. Some cotton, linen, organza and also some kind of stiff silk I have no idea what I'm going to do with. It's almost like paper. Definitely silk though, which is my favorite fibre ever:

Especially duppioni, apparently. I love the versatility of silk and the way it dyes. It's the perfect fibre and if silk worms weren't so disgusting and nasty, I would totally raise them to reap the benefits of their hard work and sad little lives. Yay! But they ARE nasty so someone else has to do it for me. I also had some silk hankies (these are pulled out cocoons) in there, which I used in felting projects mostly.

 I took most of the quilting cotton in the form of fat quarters with me and they sat on the shelf of my room, but a few of the larger cuts I put into storage. I found some nice plain blacks and whites, both of which I've bought more of since. Plus some cotton, wool and silk/wool batting. Unfortunately I can't decide which is the wool and which is the silk/wool. Love wool batting though.

Various apparel fabrics plus the sari I bought all cheap. I also had a couple of patterns. I keep trying to do clothing sewing, but I'm just not that good at it. Mainly because I want to be able to sew like Alexander McQueen already and am always sadly disappointed that God didn't just make that happen like when the lame walk and the blind see.  IT'S JUST AS VITAL. Like who wants to make t shirts? I want to make COOL STUFF.

I totally did buy that Japanese Vionnet book in anticipation of him changing his mind on that this time though!!

These are muslins, test blocks and half finished projects. Never have known exactly what to do with some of these. I also have the ties and bits for the crazy quilt I have always been planning. One of these days I'll start it!

 I even found actually finished projects as well (yeah I do have a few of those). This was my big bagua batik. The tiger was probably my favorite, and I dyed the colours with procion mx and sodium alginate. I remember the black being really problematic and it ended up fading quite a bit after I put it in a window, though it was meant to fade out on the edges. Mama was like "let's put it on the table for decoration" haha.

  I also found the logwood dyed things had shifted quite a lot into brown from purple. Gotta watch those browns. And logwood of course. The dye woods are in their own tub, though I suspect I'll have to replace all the noxious chemicals I'm still not supposed to have.


I did not find the three missing quilts. I think they are gone. Mama keeps saying "I didn't take them, just the other ones you found under my bed!!" Sigh.  It's possible they got moved, but they are not in any of the places my other things are. RIP quilts, where ever you are: