Textiles and Dog Profiles in Two Parts

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Winter is here, our fence is completed, snow is settling in, and we can finally take some deep breaths and relax a little. But we have not been idle. I am immersing myself in textiles and we have been on another dog hunt–navigating the maze of doggy adoption. This is a long post, with two entirely different topics, so it is divided into two parts.

PART ONE:  TEXTILE DREAMS

Winter is the time to indulge my long-simmering love of textiles.   When I was young, I sewed, spun, knitted, and wove, but during the years of child-raising and working, I seldom had time to do more than an odd project here and there.  Now I have all the time in the world.  I wake in the winter-dark mornings, anticipating the pleasure of a day in which I can indulge in making things. It is a seasonal occupation, solitary, soothing, slow-moving, and satisfying a creative itch.

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This year, my preparation for winter textile time started early.  In full summer, when plants were at their most lush,  I learned ecoprinting–the process of transferring plant dyes directly onto fabric to create almost fossil-like impressions of plant materials. I was introduced to ecoprinting through Amelia Poole’s beautiful fabrics at the Common Ground Fair.  The post Wood, Fabric, and Water has a section about ecoprinting and Amelia.

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In July, I attended a day-long workshop at Amelia’s studio, Ecouture, on Cape Rosier (not far from the Nearing’s home in the previous post Good Life).

It was pure pleasure. I gathered plants from home the night before and we spent the day experimenting with different plant and fabric combinations. I drove home a happy woman, with a bundle of fabrics imbued with my own garden.

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Rolled and tied for steaming

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Oak leaves and geranium petals

I decided to buy some mordanted fabric from Amelia to do ecoprinting with our grandchildren on their August visit. So, George and I combined our trip to the Nearings’ home with fabric pick-up at Amelia’s studio. To me the whole process is a kid’s dream–gathering leaves and flowers, laying them out in designs on fabric, rolling it up, steaming it, unrolling it, and magically, your own personal botanical fabric is created.

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After the grandkids made their fabric, we sewed it into doll blankets and sachets with garden lavender.

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Another summer-into-winter textile activity involved my spinning wheel. After stripping layers of crud from the little antique flax wheel that I bought for a song last year, I was able to spin, but still had a few issues to address. I only had one bobbin and it had a broken piece. In addition, many of the hooks on the flyer were missing or badly bent.

Fortunately, I attended Maine’s Fiber Frolic this spring, an event celebrating all things fiber-y, and met Mudd Sharrigan, an 89-year-old competitive swimmer and former hot-rodder, who makes sought-after boat rigging knives, and also, occasionally now, repairs spinning wheels. Mudd’s wife, Esther, is a spinner and she had a collection of antique bobbins. We found one that fit my wheel, and Mudd took home my flyer and broken bobbin for repair. A few weeks later, George and I stopped by their house in Wiscasset and picked up a beautifully repaired flyer and bobbin. Where but in Maine would this have happened? My antique wheel now is as sweet as can be for a winter of spinning.

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The shiny hooks are the new ones that Mudd inserted.  There are more on the other side.

I have been spinning and working on quilts for my niece, who is expecting twins. Later this winter, I will start knitting my spun wool and pull my loom from the basement for some significant repair work before I can start weaving. Enough to keep me busy and contented in the cold and snow.

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PART TWO:  DOG DREAMS

On to dogs. While we continue to enjoy gorgeous sunrises, to watch turkeys and assorted other birds on our walks, and to do some snowy cross-country skiing, we are looking for another dog to add to our little pack.

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Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be so difficult to find a dog. Years of education and rigorous spay and neuter programs apparently have had an impact on reducing the number of dogs in shelters in Maine. Most dog rescue agencies here import dogs from southern states or even from other countries. I am thrilled that the number of unwanted dogs has been greatly reduced, but it makes for a sometimes bewildering process of competing for rescue dogs.

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When we lived in the Atlanta area in the 90s, we adopted two golden retrievers from the Atlanta Golden rescue group. One was 9 years old, with medical issues, and the other a fearful young girl who had been abandoned and living on the street. We had such a good experience with those dogs, that we thought we’d look for another.  Atlanta’s too far, so we applied to a different, local Golden Retriever rescue organization, filling out an extensive application and submitting a $25.00 application fee. Within two days we were informed that our application was denied because our yard fence height did not meet their 4 foot requirement.

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Capp enjoys our totally inadequate fenced yard.

Now, I understand the reasons for the fence requirement and that the group does not want to have to quibble and negotiate these things with every adopter. Nevertheless, the group indicated on their website that they will grant exceptions to fence requirement. So George and I both sent polite emails explaining that our fence is only 4 to 6 inches short of their height requirement (depending on the slope), that we are home all day with our dogs, we don’t leave them alone in the fenced yard, we walk them daily, we are loving, knowledgeable owners, yada yada yada.

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Birdwatching

The response was immediate, negative, and rather rude: “Our fence exception is for experienced owners who may live in apartments or condos and cannot have a physical fence. They have to give us a glowing vet reference and tell how they will exercise their new dog. We cannot grant a fence exception just because someone is unwilling to raise the height of their fencing.”

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Capp and the fence

So, let’s see. We are experienced owners (we have had four Goldens, with two special needs rescues), live in a house (no worries about changing landlords or angry neighbors), have almost seven acres with a fenced area of an acre, can provide glowing vet references, give our dogs daily walks, bring them swimming regularly, hike with them, and are home all day. But because we are “unwilling” to raise the height of our fence, we are summarily dismissed.

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Well, that makes all kind of sense. Actually, I was spitting mad. Some dogs are fence jumpers and climbers and the higher the fence, the better. But our fence height is more than adequate for most dogs. This group obviously has plenty of homes for its dogs, but you would think they would be more careful about alienating potential adopters. Aside from wanting to adopt, we would have donated and volunteered. Now, nothing would induce me to help this group.

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Instead, we found another rescue group here in Maine, with people who really seem to care about finding the best homes for their pups.  They think our fence is just fine.

Capp, of course, enjoys his only-child status and is thriving.

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Capp in the pink light from the sunrise below.

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I am worried about my bees, though. We have had huge temperature fluctuations, with temperatures warm enough for the bees to fly in the day, followed by hard freezes at night. I have quite a few dead bees on the hive bottom board and around the entrance. I suspect that they have been caught out from the winter hive cluster and freezing.

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On sunny days, we have had flocks of bluebirds checking out the bird houses. I love to see the bluebirds in the winter. Next spring, we will put up two more houses in hopes of attracting more bluebirds and swallows.

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We are looking forward to solstice and Christmas this week. Have a wonderful, festive holiday season.

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42 thoughts on “Textiles and Dog Profiles in Two Parts

    • Thanks Beth. We won’t have any problem finding a wonderful dog, I know. Lots of the rescue dogs here are brought up from Georgia, actually. Maybe we should just take a trip down there, visit the kids, and pick up a dog! Happy holidays to you, too. I hope you are staying warm and dry.

    • It was so much fun to do the ecoprinting with the grandkids (actually it was with my daughter and granddaughters, my grandson had no interest in it). We have plenty of time to get the right dog. Our problem is that we want to take them all home, and we are trying to get the right fit. We have found some wonderful agencies–the Golden Retriever group was the only one with an arrogant attitude.

    • Yes, we will know the right dog when it comes along. I hadn’t seen bluebirds in the winter either until last year. This year, I see them all the time. They run in flocks and descend on seed sources. Such little beauties. I’m really hoping we have multiple nests next summer.

  1. Your story about rescue was very similar to my experience years ago with a basset hound rescue in Ohio. They snapped back at me like they did you in an email and I decided to throw it right back at them with a few other choice words. I was then lucky to find GABR in Illinois where Heidi was my 2nd rescue from them in 2011 and my first with them was in 1998. Of course without them giving me the benefit of the doubt without having any fence and no plans t build one … I doubt if any other service would let me adopt even after 30 years having basset hounds or bloodhounds and like now, both.

    Capp is looking fantastic. I always enjoy seeing you have a post updated on my blog sidebar.

    • Thank you Steve. Much as I wanted to, I refrained responding to the rescue group with profanity. Any good rescue group will do a real assessment of the adopter, and not just tick off boxes. Capp is turning out to be an amazing dog. We are thrilled to have him. Now, we just have to find him a buddy …

  2. Your fabric looks beautiful and your winter should fly by with all your home projects. Capp is growing up fast, a marked growth since the last post. I’ve encountered control freaks in the Lab rescue arena, too. They are missing the mark, IMO. I hope you have success with your second choice. Happy Solstice and Christmas!

    • I can already feel the winter flying by. Once solstice hits, it always feels like a climb towards spring. Capp is growing like crazy. His paws seem to get bigger by the day. Interesting that you’ve encountered control freaks in Lab rescue. This is the first time we have run into it. Some people cannot handle even a little bit of power! But such a shame to pass up great adopters because of unthinking rigidity and a condescending attitude. Their loss.
      Have a warm, lovely Christmas Eliza.

  3. Your fabrics are beautiful. I’m sorry about the weird adoption people. For a few years here there were so many stories of bad dog adoption people that I thought if I ever got a dog again I would get one privately. Ugh. Surely that isn’t the purpose. Glad you found another group that’s more realistic.

    • Some die off is normal, but the severe temperature fluctuations are hard on them. I hope I don’t lose the hive. But there’s not much I can do at this point but wait and see.

  4. Beautiful fabric, beautiful children, beautiful dog. But the fence issue? What the heck?!!! Good luck finding a dog buddy for Capp. The dog who comes to your home will be one fortunate dog, that’s for sure.

    • I know, all that beauty, but we’re no good, we’re no good, we’re no good, when it comes to a fence! We are devoted to our dogs and generally those seeking homes for dogs can sense that right away. That’s why this organization left such a bad taste. I couldn’t help but wonder if they REALLY cared about placing their dogs in the best homes possible. It sure didn’t seem that way.

      • I can certainly understand why you felt that way. Again, what the heck! Lucky is the dog who comes to live with you, your husband, and darling Capp.

  5. My blood is absolutely boiling reading this, what is wrong with these people! I do home checks for our dogs at the rescue and seriously I would kneel to have you adopt one of our dogs, I would be pleading with you to take more than one….they have seriously lost the plot. You tick every box x a million. Hope you get your second pup soon! Maybe you should send these idiots a link to your blog, let them what a wonderful life a dog could have with you both. How many dogs have an oppurtunity like that???
    I just love those fabrics, I really must give it a go. You grandkids look utterly inspired, what angels they are. How glad I am to hear you’re spinning again….Mudd sounds amazing!xxx

    • Crazy no? At first I thought these people couldn’t be serious. A few inches of fence height–really? And you don’t care at all–other than the fence–what kind of home we can provide? They have seriously lost the plot. It’s a shame for their dogs. The good news is that we found another rescue group that is wonderful. I just had to vent about this one, I was so upset with their attitude.

  6. I love the idea of blending nature with fabric – as you say incorporating your own garden with the material. The fabric looks lovely. I’ve always thought that winter is the time for spinning/weaving. I sold my spinning wheel about three years ago but I did enjoy spinning the wool from my sheep. Typically we got the interesting colour sheep (the rich brown) after I sold the wheel!
    That is so irritating about the rescue organisation and their rigid rules. Surely what’s best for the dogs is recognising good owners when they come along and having some flexibility. Hope all goes well with your hunt for Capp’s companion.
    Sorry to hear you’re worried about your bees. Temperature fluctuations are such a nuisance – we’ve had mild- cold – mild here. I’ll be checking my own bees soon. Although I left them in Autumn well fed and with stores I need to be sure they’re not hungry. I’ve got the fondant ready.
    Those bluebirds are beautiful!

    • How nice it must have been to spin the wool from your own sheep. I went to a flax workshop this summer and am going to try to grow my own flax for spinning. I think sheep are more than I want to take on! The rescue organization’s approach is silly and short-sighted, but I suspect that they have so many people seeking Golden rescues that they feel they can act like petty dictators. It is too bad.
      I left the bees well stocked with honey in September. But we had such a warm fall that they were out flying longer than usual. I already fed them some fondant before I closed things up. So, let’s hope they don’t starve out. Our temperature fluctuations have been crazy–in the 50s (F) one day to below zero the next. Being new to beekeeping, I always worry about my bees!

  7. The material you have created is so beautiful. I love the way it has been made using nature as it’s inspiration. I can’t believe that you have had such a time trying to adopt another dog, I’m glad you haven’t given up and found another group that appreciates what you have to offer. Best wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year. Sarah x

    • Thank you Sarah. I hope your holidays are wonderful. The ecoprinting fabric is really special, since it is made from plants from the garden and yard. As far as the dog adoption goes, fortunately the rescue group we are working with is absolutely wonderful. They are loaded down with puppies that need homes right now, so we are waiting until they have some older (female) dogs. Perhaps, when we get a new dog, we should name her Patience.

  8. Gosh, your fabric patterns are beautiful – what a lovely idea to do these with your grandchildren – and I absolutely love the foxy (fox/wolf?) quilt pattern. Gorgeous photos, as ever, Brenda. I wish you a wonderful, peaceful Christmas and all good wishes for the New Year. Sam xx
    PS Good luck with the dog adoption (it sounds far more complicated than it should be!).
    PPS Hope the bees are ok. x

    • Thanks so much Sam. The ecoprinting is a fantastic project for kids. The process has a magical quality to it. The quilt is foxes and the second will be hedgehogs. I was a goner when I saw the patterns! The bees seem to be doing better, and the weather has stabilized, so I remain cautiously optimistic. I’ll keep you all updated, of course, on the dog adoption. Cheers to your holidays!

  9. Flocks of bluebirds – how wonderful! Your experience with the animal shelter seems not so unusual, a friend of ours was denied a cat by such a shelter for a fairly ridiculous reason, and there is a great surplus of abandoned and feral cats. Anyhow, have a wonderful holiday!

  10. What a great way to combine your love of gardening and fabrics and I thought it was very interesting to see how your grandchildren created their patterns. I’m thinking one is a very methodical and organised personality and the other more creative and random, maybe a dreamer and artistic. I can see their difference approach to art that Jack and I have. I wonder if I am right. What a drama to find a new addition to your family. Our son and family have just found a rescue dog. They were looking for a young border collie. No were near as tough a selection process over here. But border collies are a very popular breed so they were lucky to arrive at the pound just as one came in. Will look forward to following you on your search.

    • I love your observant eye on the granddaughters’ design strategies! They both are quite artistic, but, you are right, their personalities are very different. And those differences are reflected in their designs. We are taking a break from the dog hunt over the holidays. Then we will take our time. At our age, we will not have too many more dogs, so we want to get a good fit.

  11. Finding the right second dog is a complicated process, so stay steady over the hurdles and keep your eyes on the prize. I finally discovered the subscribe button for your blog:^), so I look forward to hearing more about this adventure and others. Maybe more tips for projects with grandchildren? I’m hoping to have mine for a week next summer.

    • It is complicated, and seems to get more so every year. When we take a dog in, it is for life, so we want to make sure we get it right–for us, for Capp, and for the new dog. We tend to want to take home the needy ones–especially the old gray- muzzled, arthritic ones–but know that isn’t practical with a rambunctious pup in the house. So, we’ll see what happens. We may just end up getting another puppy for now and doing some fostering, or adopt an old dog a few years down the road. I will let you know if I come up with more projects for the grandchildren. This one was a bit hit. Enjoy the waning days of the year. I’m looking forward to a new one!

  12. I’m enthralled by your textile dreams. I have long admired Amelia’s fabrics at the Common Ground Fair, and it was interesting to learn more about how they are made. I’m hoping this will be the winter to pursue my own textile dreams by finishing the transformation of my old study into a sewing room/guest room, buying a new sewing machine, and getting to work sewing clothes again.

    • I am looking forward to seeing what you will do–with the room and your sewing. This is the first time I have ever had a dedicated space for sewing. I used to set up my machine on the dining room table, take it down, set it up again. I feel spoiled rotten to have a place where I can spread out. I also finally broke down and got a new sewing machine for Christmas. I love my little old Featherweight, but was afraid I would kill it with quilting. Have fun, Jean.

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