Growing up in the Midwest long before the age of the internet, I was stunned by the magnificent Sequoias I encountered on my first trip to California when I was in my very early 20s. I was completely gobsmacked! Not only was I in love with the Sierra Nevada, I was also in love with these awesome giants and completely enamored with the orchestra of pine and fir in the breeze. As a young woman traveling with dog, red VW bug, atlas of maps of the states, and a borrowed tent (thank you, Paula!), I was seeing some completely amazing sites for the first time. But the Sequoias and the Sierra Nevada had my heart.
My love of the Sequoias extended to their close relatives, the Redwoods, when I encountered them on my second solo cross-country camping trip the following year, in the late 1970s. I remember hiking through these amazing forests on the far north coast of California and emerging on a cliff over the sea. Wow! I was hooked and moved to San Francisco a few years later.
Being a resident of the Bay Area for two decades afforded me many opportunities to wander through Redwood forests and among the Sequoias of the mountains, but only once (BC, before children) did I make the trek all the way up the coast to the Redwood forests. Of course, I raised my kids with frequent trips to the big trees and the mountains and in more recent years, my grandson has joined us.
Late this past summer, living in the foothills, feeling very isolated because of the pandemic, and also very much missing the coast, my husband and I planned a socially distant and pandemic safe trip to see the Redwoods of the north coast. We rented a house on a cliff over the sea, took almost all of our own food, and planned to enjoy the ocean view and the nearby Redwood forests. Of course, the minispinner and lots of knitting went with us.
Almost as soon as I entered the Redwood forest, I met another weaver! This one was quite an expert.
The Redwoods still affect me the same way. They are majestic, peaceful, primal, and utterly amazing. Oh, how I would love to be able to sit in their canopy! What a view that must be. While sitting in the forest I decided to challenge myself to weave something inspired by the redwoods.
We had a few pleasant days on the coast and then headed home. It took me a while to come up with a plan to weave something inspired by the Redwoods. I knew that mixing brown and green would be difficult and might result in muck. I had to embrace the possibility of failure in order to simply experiment.
In earlier years I was inspired by the Mendocino coast redwoods and wanted to create something in knitting but was never able to accomplish that. The closest I had come was dying some fiber in 2014. And how that came to be is another interesting tale.
By chance, I met Ilga Jansons and her husband, Mike Dryfoos, while spinning at our regional Celtic Festival in 2013. Ilga came from Washington, had her wheel with her, and joined our local fiber guild in the spinning demonstration. Long story very short, she overheard conversation about desire to attend the Madrona Fiber Arts festival in Tacoma and right in the moment, Ilga invited us to stay at her nearby home .
What an amazing adventure! Her 3000 square foot dye studio, her warm hospitality, her amazing home and botanical garden, and Madrona were very special experiences. You can learn more about Ilga and Edgewood Garden Studios at her website Edgewood Garden Studio and her Etsy store Edgewood Garden Studio Etsy
How this relates is that while staying with Ilga, I dyed a braid of Blue Faced Leister and silk inspired by the Mendocino Redwoods. The yarn that I later spun has sat around waiting for its turn in my knitting queue, but it is now next up. I’ve been inspired by my recent visit to the Redwoods. Stay tuned to see what it becomes.
So, weave something inspired by the Redwoods. Mix green and brown and avoid muck. As the pandemic raged through the fall and we all dealt with election anxiety, I pondered and continued working on holiday gifts.
One day, while browsing through Weaving Innovations from the Bateman Collection, I found a draft that I thought would work well for my idea of weaving the Redwoods. I decided that a short warp of towels would be best as materials are not as expensive and mostly already in my stash. Even if I ended up with muck, the towels would still dry dishes. I played with Brassard 8/2 cotton colors, wound some color cards, and decided that less was more. Now this is not my usual perspective about color so already I felt I was learning things. I had long wanted to play with the Bateman drafts and this would be a fun jumping off point.
In the end I decided on two colors in the brown family for warp and three colors of green, using one for tabby and two in a double shuttle for pattern. Playing with the draft in Fiberworks yielded lots of information about my color and draft choices. Finally, with holiday gifting and my online store opening behind me, I was winding a warp and dressing the Mighty Wolf.
Weaving went well, up to a point. A broken warp thread was repaired but somehow the original thread became caught under a warp stick. That was a new weaving problem for me and resulted in some only somewhat successful problem solving. In any event, toward the end of the run of towels, my warp was a bit less than optimally tensioned on one end. So, I had to keep one towel for my own kitchen since it was not perfect. And instead of an extra towel, I had some extra fabric. All of this means that I have officially tested my towels and I can say they are very thirsty towels and have a great hand. And they work well in my red kitchen, too. Not only that, but I had enough fabric and enough handwoven tape left to make a lined pouch for the spinning wheel. That is, once I overcame my dread of cutting fabric and using the sewing machine.
I don’t envision another long drive to the far north coast any time soon, but I will be visiting the Redwoods in the Santa Cruz area in a few days when I visit my daughter for the first time since last February. Now that my husband and I are fully vaccinated, I cannot wait to throw my arms around my firstborn. And we will be embraced by Redwoods that surround her home. Blessed Be!