Books I've Checked Out This Month

I've got four books checked out from the library currently: two on textiles, one birder murder mystery, and one poetic travel book that all feed a different part of me. Some good stuff here, and I'd like to share.

Hand Dyed: A Modern Guide to Dyeing in Brilliant Color for You and Your Home by Anna Joyce, photography by Dane Tashima. (2019). If this were a pastry, it would be delicious. It caught my eye, facing out on the "new books" shelf, by its simple cover of five shades/scraps of cloth presented on a crumpled white paper background. Would it be more than beautifully designed? Happily, yes! This is a perfect book for a near-beginning dyer, and she uses mostly materials from Dharma Trading, a reliable and wonderful source. She includes information about different types of fibers, colors, types of applications, tools and materials, dyeing basics, dyeing with indigo (it's different!), how to create different patterns with folds and ties: the Japanese shibori and itajime shibori style with clamps, clothespins and strings; stamping, stenciling, and ice dyeing as well as dyeing wooden beads. Projects and detailed directions follow the basics. Her instructions are clear and very simple. A pleasure.

One micro-technicality on page 125: supplies list "Japanese screw punch tool (also known as a bookbinding hole punch)," and  "Hammer or mallet," and the picture shows a regular bookbinding hole punch with a ball peen hammer. The Japanese screw punch requires no mallet and no hammer: it's a push punch that rides up on its own mechanism. It isn't that crucial since the results are the same: a hole removed completely. AND I know how hard it is to write these instructional books, so I have empathy.

Meanwhile, I still have some moss green, ultraviolet, and indigo (the color, not the real thing) dyes from a previous order. I just picked up a baking rack (for ice dyeing) and some sodium alginate (for thickening the dye for stamping), and 5 pounds of very fine dyers salt (dissolves instantly). I already have deColourant and Dye Magnet, and now I'm really ready to play. More on those in future posts, I am sure!

Molas: What They Are, How to Make Them, Ideas They Suggest for Creative Appliqué by Rhoda Landsman Auld, photographs by Lawrence Auld. (1977). Molas are a textile art created and practiced by the Cuna Indians, San Blas, Panama, which probably began in the late 1800s. While it is not an ancient craft, it is a particularly place and culturally specific one. To begin, Auld gives the history of the Cuna people and the development of the mola. The book is now 40 years old (since 2010, the spelling has been changed to Guna), but the culture has not changed much (more info here and here); and the history is helpful to understand the creative process and progression. Cloth is layered and cut, turned under, and handstitched in an appliqué and inlay fashion. I had tried pigmenting some cloth a few weeks ago with acrylic inks and liked the look, and I was going to try to make a mola patch, but the more I read, the more patience I see I will have to have. This is not a one-day project, but it could be a beautiful one, particularly if it is made with hand-dyed cloth!

my feeble mola attempts and some of the acrylic ink-pigmented cloth
An interesting video on mola making is here.

A Dance of Cranes (A Birder Murder Mystery) by Steve Burrows. This is the sixth in a series of detective novels that incorporate birdwatching into them. The murders always happen at the beginning, so we get that over with, and the rest of the book is the search and piecing together of clues: a police procedural. A core cast of characters march steadily through the series as well. For me, chapter five is where the story really begins, though, because that is when we encounter our usual protagonist, Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune. It is a bit slow going until halfway, when it starts to pick up. There are 56 chapters, and I think it could have been edited down. (The first of the series was Burrows's first novel, ever, I believe, and the concept was original, but the writing was a little bumpy.) My favorite of the series so far has been A Shimmer of Hummingbirds: Birder Murder Mystery 4.

California Towhee nest from front yard (likely never used)

Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals 1960-2010 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. (2019). I'm digging this book. I'm still reading about the 1960s, but I'm all in. So far, he's gone to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, New Orleans, Big Sur, London, Tijuana, Salton Sea, Seattle, France, London, Los Angeles. Being Ferlinghetti, he gets to the heart of a place, a human interaction; as a poet he captures a moment in time. The Revolution is on his mind, but it could just as well be a metaphor. It's a bit before my time, and fascinating history for me to imagine. The poetic descriptions are diary entries, each no more than a couple pages long, some as short as a paragraph, so it's easy to dip in and savor. The form is quite fragmented, and with what I believe are numerous intentional ellipses. The book also includes facsimiles of his handwriting and some of his drawings. From the Author's Note: "I wrote these peripatetic pages for myself, never thinking to publish them." He also calls them, "interior monologues." And there is quite a bit of humor as well. I'm enjoying the travel across time and place, and the staggering look at what has happened to the world in those fifty years.

Art and writing, always on my mind. Gathering my materials, now. I'm going to be diving into some writing soon, seriously considering participating in National Novel Writing Month (November), aka NaNoWriMo, so it will be nice to have some dye/play time between the writing sessions.


Liz A said…
I, too, just checked out the dyeing book from the new book shelf ... libraries are wonderful

and thank you for the Mola video ... it looks deceptively easy, the product of many, many hours of practice no doubt
Alisa said…
Liz A—a skilled and accomplished craftsperson always makes it look easy, right?? Maybe we should start with two colors and some straight lines…