I’ve been working on a wee garden this week. It started with carrots from Ecuador, then there were some northern Alberta onions on a trellis. Like the homesteaders back in the day, I moved the big rocks into a pile in the corner of the garden, or sort of curved the rows around things I couldn’t move, like the caragana bushes well established in the corner. I used some pieces of a broken violin to stake up some pretty yellow flowers. Sure, there were a lot of weeds, but they were pretty. The best part, though, was when the camels moved in to enjoy the bounty.
For the first time in over a year, I’ve created a woven wall hanging on my tapestry loom. It was a bit of a challenge remembering how to do what I wanted to do, but that was part of the fun. All of the yarns are natural fibers (wool, llama and alpaca with a wee bit of silk) and most were hand dyed with natural, not synthetic, dyes. The only synthetic dye is the tassel earring on my llama in the top corner as he guards the garden and the alpacas below. But, then, his earring would probably be “acrylico” in bright primary colours if he was home in South America.
From the bottom, here’s how my garden grew.
1. Light green. One of several Field and Forage Yarns from Custom Woolen Mills near Carstairs. The wool is from Western Canadian sheep and dyed with Tansy, collected responsibly around the Carstairs area. Tansy is loved by dyers, but apparently is almost a noxious weed to farmers (who I guess would have been delighted to have dyers remove it from the road allowances). My actual garden has a number of those type of plants – pretty in my eyes, easy to grow and almost impossible to remove if you don’t want it any more. The caragana buttons came from the Strathcona Farmers Market in Edmonton. It’s a hardy bush that you’ll find overtaking abandoned homesteads.
2. The border between each bed is Made Marion alpaca lopi spun and then also dyed with Tansy. This artisan lives near Grande Prairie and used to raise her own alpacas. She’s gradually working through her inventory of fleece and hand spinning and dying it. The word is that she won’t soon run out of fleece to spin and dye.
3. The yellow field is Field and Forage Yarn dyed with African Marigolds and Honey. The marigolds were grown on their farm, not in Africa J Browsing contentedly on the flowers is a family of Alberta alpaca dressed in silk scarves – silk alpaca roving, again from Custom Woolen Mills.
4. The next field is more Made Marion alpaca lopi spun yarn – this time dyed with onions from her garden. I don’t know if you grow onions on trellises – probably not – but I wound a trellis stitch through the bed so I could show off the warp thread – Euroflax from River City Yarns in Edmonton. Every time I use this yarn, the concept of vegan yarn makes me smile. The rock piles have been sitting on my shelf waiting for that perfect occasion to be used.
5. The bright orange is, of course, carrots. Ecuadoran wool hand spun and dyed with carrots. This came from the workshop we visited near Cuenca. The merchant wasn’t willing to part with any of the fine cotton silk yarn imported from Uzbekistan and hand dyed on premises then woven into high quality shawls, but this was another sideline. It was thick and lumpy and has almost no give, so makes a great field of carrots, but I don’t see it as a garment. The carrots have some tansy volunteering as well.
6. The top bed is a mixture of tansy with dots of flowers throughout. The yellow is marigold and the beautiful rust/red is a mixture of coreopsis (a yellow flower) and pernambuco (Brazilwood). Brazilwood is prized by furniture manufacturers as well as for musical instruments and is endangered. Custom Woolen Mills stated that the pernambuco was scraps generously donated by a local violin manufacturer. Surveying the garden is a llama with his bright tassel earring to designate who his owner is. The llama is my last bit of roving that was found by my friend Maria in La Paz. In South America, llamas are seen as transportation not for their fleece, so this was a very special find. The tassel is baby alpaca from Cuzco, tied with alpaca yarn from La Paz, both commercially spun and dyed.
7. The camels? The llama and the alpacas of course. They, and their wild cousins guanacos and vicunas, are camelids. It makes me smile.