“Earthly Coat” Revealed!

“Earthly Coat”

I’m at the end of my long journey for the “Earthly Coat” creation… and the coat has just begun its duties at the MN Landscape Arboretum, as a symbol of our earthly coat: the soil—and to serve as a reminder that all of our clothing comes from the soil (yes, even synthetic—through eons of time). Of course, many people see the coat simply as a fun and lovely thing to visit and that’s OK too. I wonder how many photos have been taken of family and friends in the coat—and how many more will be taken up until the end of the exhibition in October?

My reflections this week have centered around how I have to accept that the coat will change during the coming weeks and months. Nature will have its way with the fiber. The sun will probably fade the colors. The rain has been very kind but all the touching by visitors will abrade the surface more. (That’s OK. I encourage touching.) In the meantime, I’m trying not to babysit the coat by primping and preening it. This is hard not to do since I spent so many hours and so much effort creating it. But I’m trying to accept that the coat belongs to the world now and I need to be as “hands off” as possible to let it be what it is.

Nevertheless, the Pest Management division at the Arboretum is keeping an eye on the earwigs that have taken up residence under the sleeves. They don’t appear to be doing any damage. We think they’re just hanging out. (Hey, if I were an earwig, I’d hang out on the coat too!) The more troublesome visitors have been moths, although the ones I’ve seen aren’t clothes moths. I heard that oil of cloves is a good bug repellent so I used an eco spray on the coat (EcoSmart®). It has oil of cloves as an ingredient, along with a few other organic insecticidal ingredients (smells wonderful—really!). The bugs took off when I sprayed under the sleeves but I understand that they have returned. So it appears the coat may become a study for the pest management people. It will be interesting to see if they can find another solution. (I got some EcoSmart on my skin when spraying the coat and didn’t get attacked by mosquitoes, as others did, while taking a stroll through the wildflower garden. Could it also be a mosquito repellent? It’s a non-toxic product… not that I’m recommending it be used to repel mosquitoes. Just wondering…)

But I never expected the coat to remain fully intact through the course of the exhibit. That’s one of my points in creating the coat for “Dirt-O-Rama.” In fact, the natural disintegration factor is why clothing is hard to find in ancient burial grounds. It’s basically very compostable (aside from synthetic fibers—another reason to avoid synthetics). I just don’t want the coat to disintegrate too early in the course of the exhibit. And since the Arboretum staff needs to consider the whole of the Arboretum operations, pests and all, I’m leaving the pest situation to them. So if necessary, I’m OK with pest management—for now. I know the Arboretum tries to follow the least toxic methods of pest management anyway. But let’s hope the bugs are just visiting and not turning the coat into an open smorgasbord!

In any case, visit it soon to see it intact!

Visitors enjoy the accessibility of the design.

Then come back again in a month or two, and again before it closes in October, to see how it’s changed. I’ll also keep you posted here on its status.

FYI… from this point on, I may be putting up fewer posts until my book (Yarn Works) comes out next spring. But I won’t abandon the blog so please don’t abandon me! It’s been great to meet so many new friends through this medium and share this experience with everyone. I’d love to get your reactions to the coat so, after you see it, please send comments—photos too. With a “once-in-a-lifetime” adventure like this, sharing the experience makes it all the better. Thanks for helping to make this journey more complete for me. I hope it’s also been enlightening for you. Onward!

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The Parts & Parcel of “Earthly Coat”

All of the final design elements are in place, the coat has been properly landscaped with mulch, the signage is up, and now we are just awaiting the public opening this Saturday, June 2. With great relief I can say that the coat has survived two mega nasty rain/wind storms in fine form. In fact, the bad weather seemed to enhance the felting!

You will locate the coat next to this signage for the exhibit. As you can see, Earthly Coat is number 7 on the trail of “Dirt-O-Rama” art exhibits and informational features that focus on the soil.

There has been great media interest in the exhibit. I encourage you to go to my Facebook page (see link to right) and you will get links to some of the media stories and a few early peeks of the coat too! (In exchange for the early peek, please “Like” me on Facebook!)

During the installation, many Arboretum visitors came up the hill to see what the coat was all about. I especially treasure one comment from a seasoned summer exhibition visitor who said she thought that “Earthly Coat” is the best summer installation she has seen to date. I am humbled by the praise and grateful to have such a marvelous reaction after the many months of hard work. Thanks to all!

Next post: The Great Reveal! For now, I have some fun for you…

My intention with this blog and the exhibit is to make this experience be educational and fun for everyone so, with that in mind, here is a little game you can play when you come out to visit the coat:

Find It! – on Earthly Coat
Different plants and other soil life found at the MN Landscape Arboretum are depicted on the panels of “Earthly Coat.” Here is a list of the panels by group—not in order on the coat. I challenge you to bring this list (to print it, you may find it easiest to copy and paste the list into a text file), bring it to the exhibit, and find the correct coat panel that contains each group. Some items are artistically represented on the coat in their actual size and some are much larger, in relation to the size of the coat. This will be a test of how well you know the life of soil (and how well I managed to artistically depict them on the coat!). I’m sure that over time the coat will naturally lose its details due to the elements so visit it soon to find all of these items!

EXTERIOR PANELS:

Blood Root
Great Blazing Star
Blood Root
Great Blazing Star
Wood Frog (this is a Lucky Frog so make a wish in front of him!)
Rudbeckia
A stick
Lily
Ash Tree Seed
False Solomon’s Seal
Goldenrod
Pine Cone

Morning Glory
Dahlia
Coneflowers – purple & yellow
Rose
Lily of the Valley
Maple Leaf
Black-eyed Susan
Bellflower

Dandelion
Poppy
Blueberries
Cosmos
Daisy
Tulip
Dusty Miller
Iris
Oak Leaf
Aster
Verbena

Clematis
Mushroom
Butterfly Weed
Cardinal Flower
Compass Plant
Birch Leaf
Fern

Trillium
Moss Rose
Ant
Sunflower
Cornflower
Blanket Flower
Cleome
Grapes

Lady Slipper
Lupine
Marigold
Hydrangea
Crab Apple
Flax
Acorn
Daffodil

Scilla
Trumpet Vine
Ground Squirrel
Strawberries
Peony
Daisy
Cat Tail

Crocus
Dahlia
Fleabane
Poppy
Geranium
Rose

INTERIOR PANELS–children will especially love to identify these…
Ants
Worms
Snakes
Seeds
Stones
Moles
Bulbs
Roots

Enjoy finding the parts of the parcel of “Earthly Coat!”

For those of you who have read this post to the end, you are being rewarded with a preview of the coat panel art…

One last note before I leave this week’s post…

Please help to respect the coat and don’t allow your children or other children to climb, pull on the coat, or throw things at it. I’ve already watched this happening and it makes me and the coat very sad. Thanks for helping to respect the coat, the effort of its creation, and what it represents: our rich, life-giving earthly coat – the Soil!

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The Final Installation of “Earthly Coat”

Structure Install

It’s up! On Saturday, my welder collaborator (Clark Babler of West End Welding) helped me haul the metal structure to the Arboretum. I owe him a debt of gratitude, not only because he hung around to help dig a large stump into the center of the coat interior, but also because he used his welder muscle to guide the structure into place and lock it down into the ground. The stump in the center will be both a chair for visitors to sit on and a stool for visitors to stand on so they may “wear” the coat—or at least pretend to wear it! 5 dog tie-outs have been buried around the base and attached to the metal structure that, hopefully, will keep the coat from flying over the Arboretum in a strong storm. (Although, I have to admit, that would be a cool sight!)

Here’s Clark and my husband Jim putting the structure in place. It’s sad that all of Clark’s work won’t actually be seen (maybe) during the course of the exhibit. But know that under the huge wool coat there is a very secure metal construction welded by this man.

Here’s a last look at the structure before the coat covers it up.

Coat Install

Sunday was the coat install day. I’m guessing that the coat must weigh about 100 pounds. There were 5 of us involved with moving the coat to the site and, after a collaborative debate on the best tactic to employ, we managed to lift the coat onto the structure pretty uneventfully. A misty rain started just as we finished up the placement so we quickly covered the coat with tarps. Special thanks to Gerri, Colleen, Jim, and my sister for coming out on such a nasty day.

The Finishing Details… Landscaping the Coat

My sister and I came back on Monday to finish the landscaping. It was brutally hot with not a single cloud in the sky but we managed to fill in the soil around the coat ends and level out the interior without completely collapsing from dehydration. With all the drop by visitor interest, we didn’t finish the landscaping until the end of the day. Not that we were complaining about the huge interest. That was fun and encouraging. But it was getting really hot out there and we were on a deadline so I called my husband out to the site to be the public voice for our work as we finished up the landscaping detail. Of course, by then it was late afternoon and fewer people came by so we recruited Jim to help out with the shoveling (in his dress clothes! poor guy) so his contribution was still noteworthy.

The Final Sewing

On Tuesday, my sister (who I have to call an additional collaborator due to all of her help) and I sewed the coat to the structure. As a test, this time we left the caution tape around the coat as we were working and it was interesting to see that fewer people came up to see what we were doing when the tape was in place. Only the brave dared come up to the “dangerous” coat! Still, the interest was strong and we didn’t finish the sewing until late in the afternoon. Then we made a run to the hardware store to pick up some more duct tape to secure the tarps back in place for the severe weather that was to come on Wednesday and Thursday (to keep the landscaping soil/mud from floating onto the coat during the storm). The coat will ultimately have mulch around its perimeter and interior floor and that is expected to keep mud at bay during the duration of the exhibit. But the mulch hadn’t arrived yet and storms were coming.

High winds started just as we were began putting on the tarps that evening. In fact, the tarps were turning into kites as we tried to wrap and secure them. It would have been funny if we hadn’t been so darn tired after the long, hot day. And the wind continued in force through Wednesday, so much so that I made a late afternoon visit to the coat to be sure the tape was holding the tarps in place. All was well.

Wednesday night and Thursday brought on torrential rains and I feared the coat might be floating in mud even with all of our wrapping efforts. I wasn’t able to visit the coat today but the Arboretum staff opened it up for a Fox/Channel 9 TV shot (M.A. Roscoe—look for it—perhaps on the morning Buzz program?—sorry, I don’t know the broadcast date/time but it can probably also be found on their website) and they said aside from a gallon of water that had collected here and there on the tarp, all was well. Whew! This was the first day I hadn’t visited the coat in a week and it felt odd—like leaving a child to fend for herself. I hope to get the mulch around the coat tomorrow or at least in the next few days so the coat will no longer need to be covered. From that point on, we will see what will happen to a 7-foot tall, needle-felted wool coat left out in the elements!

I can’t believe it’s in place and nearly ready for the “Dirt-O-Rama” public opening on June 2nd. And you’ve all been patiently waiting to see the final result so… ta-da… here it is!…

Ha! I bet you thought you would be getting a sneak peak. Oh no! Not yet. It IS under this tarp but you must wait for the opening on June 2nd. And then, maybe then, I’ll give you a bit of a look at it on my blog.

Next week, I’ll give you a verbal peek of the visual elements on the coat so you can locate them for yourself when you come out to visit it.

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The Great Dig

But First, The Staking

On Monday, I staked the coat location at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The staked area is 10-feet wide to accommodate the width of the metal supporting structure and the coat ends that will be flared out and buried into the soil edges.

The Arboretum was humming with school groups and as soon as I pounded in my first stake, a half-dozen school children came running up the hill shouting “Cool!”. I don’t have a clue about what they thought was so cool about a single stake in the ground but they must have been seeing the potential of a single stake marking something grander. Oh children, just wait until the structure starts forming!

As you can see, “Earthly Coat” will be at the top of the hill above the Sensory Garden and Wildflower Garden parking lot and just outside of the Rose Garden. If any of you had visited my “1 in 10,000” exhibit a few years ago, this year’s exhibit is just a bit farther down the hill from “my” grand oak tree.

The site I was given was my first choice and where I sat and visualized the exhibit during the introductory project meeting in the fall of 2011. I was looking for a location in which people would have a great view of the beauty of the surrounding grounds while standing or sitting within something that made them feel like they were wearing the earth. (I hadn’t fully developed my coat idea at that time.) My hopes are that this panoramic view on the hill will give a regal feeling of wearing the earth via the coat. Just down the hill, you can see the Ordway Picnic Shelter. When you come out, plan to bring a lunch and enjoy the view!

Final Sewing Details

On Tuesday, I had to tear down the supporting metal structure and get it out of our dining/living room so I would have enough room to attach the coat sleeves and collar. The coat is HUGE! For the past few days, I have been sitting in the middle of the opened space like a queen (or perhaps Mother Nature?), with the coat gathered around me, while I’ve been stitching the final details by hand. The hand work has been especially enjoyable after all the rush, rush of the main construction. It feels meditative. And every time I sit down to work, my pup Rose comes over to lie down on “her” coat. She is REALLY going to miss it.

The “Great Dig” Day

Yesterday, Thursday, was The Great Dig Day. I had a “crew” of 5 generous friends and family who “volunteered” to help out. (Actually, my friend Tom said he shouldn’t have answered the phone the day we called seeking help! Funny guy.) Fortunately the ground was kind to us and broke quite well with shovels. An hour and a half later, and after coping up with 25+ mph winds, we had dug out an average of 6 inches of soil across the entire 10-foot diameter pit. That soil will be placed back around the structure and coat when the installation is complete.

The main digging crew, minus my sister, pausing to photographically record the historic moment.

My friend Rita and I are digging out the edges of the pit.

Tom expresses his “joy” at a job well done.

Here’s the result of our labor: The Pit!—waiting for the next step: Re-construction and placement of the metal supporting structure.

Our eyes are to the sky for the next 2 days. Thunderstorms are threatening. The structure and coat are scheduled to go up this weekend but I think I’ve scheduled the installation to avoid the worst of the nasty weather that may be coming. Crossing fingers…

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Sewing the Monster Coat

My poor Viking sewing machine. It was not designed to sew industrial felt. But being the true Viking that it is, it has held up well through all the abuse. So far, only 2 needles have broken but I think one more is about to give up the fight. The felt is very thick and barely fits beneath my special needle attachment for thick fabrics. Still, it works, so that’s good enough for me.

A tough Swedish sewing machine that lives up to its name!

I have a bit of hand sewing left for areas that cannot be put into the sewing machine but most of the machine work is done. I basically have attachment issues to work on now (no pun intended, although one of my dogs may not agree—see below). The collar is constructed but remains to be sewn on the coat by hand. The sleeves are continuing to present a challenge since they are so bulky. But I’ve devised a method of attaching them that should work well in the end. It will just require more hand sewing on-site when the coat is installed. It appears that I, and my installation buddies, will be gardening tailors during installation weekend!

I used quilter’s heavy-duty safety pins to pin the industrial felt prior to machine sewing. And in my usual accident-prone manner, poked myself several times in the process. I swear, all I have to do is look at a pin and it pokes me! Another one of those times to be grateful for having an up-to-date tetanus shot.

The installation process begins next week. It’s hard to believe that all of this production is soon coming to an end. I have to say, I’ll be glad to get the monster coat out of our house and into its rightful place at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. It’s time to get our home life back to some normalcy again.

But dear Rose is going to be so sad to see the coat leave. She has been taking siestas on the cozy wool and burying her toys and bones around the coat edges. Wouldn’t it be great if her job is taken over by the wild creatures on the Arboretum grounds this summer? I am looking forward to seeing how the natural environment accepts this coat and transforms it during the next 5 months.

This girl says there’s no way she’s letting her lovely nap place leave the house! We girls love our woolies!

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The Wet Felting Process is Done!

The wet-felting marathon continued beyond the mega wet-felting weekend. In my last post, I gave credit to my collaborator Colleen, my sister Shelley, and my husband Jim for coming to the fore when I was too ill to physically do the wet-felting work. The past week has been a duo team effort, with Jim and I finishing up the last panels. As of this past Sunday, all panels have been wet-felted and, as of today, all panels are dry and ready for sewing. Whew! On time, according to my original schedule. I’ll talk about the sewing next week but for now, let me get you caught up on the wet-felting process since I left a lot of that dangling last week.

Wet-felting is a finishing step that secures the needle-felted wool onto the industrial felt panels. The process involves getting the wool wet with very hot water and soap, and gently rubbing the wetted wool until the fibers grab onto each other and create a solid mass of fiber.

Wool is an ideal fiber for the wet-felting technique. A sheep’s hair contains thousands of microscopic structures called “scales.” The scales are arranged on each hair follicle like the overlapping tiles on a tile roof. When the fiber is exposed to hot water and soap, the scales open up. And when agitated (rubbed), the scales grab onto adjacent hairs and pull the neighboring fibers together making a solid mass of fiber. When the fiber cools, the scales close up and that makes the fiber even more dense. Maybe you’re experienced putting a wool sweater into the washing machine, washing it in hot, soapy water, and having it emerge as something a Lilliputian might wear? That sweater just went through a felting process (although, technically, a shrunken pre-structured garment is actually called a “fulled” fabric rather than “felted”). The results are permanent. Any attempts to unfelt a felted fiber will end up damaging the wool fiber. Some have claimed that vinegar will unfelt felted wool but you will damage the wool structure in the process and end up with a weak fabric.

Earthly Coat Wet-Felting Process

Jim and Colleen preparing for the weekend wet-felting marathon.

1. Wetting out the fiber

  • First, we laid out a needle-felted coat panel on a long table and on top of a bubble wrap-type sheet. (Colleen’s bubble wrap is actually something that is used for pool covers. Very durable.)
  • Then, we sprinkled the panel with hot soapy water and, with plastic bags covering our hands (later modified to vinyl painter’s gloves), gently stroked the soapy water into the wool panel until the panel was saturated and no loose fibers were apparent. This step starts the agitation of the wool fibers and settles the design into place.

Saturating the wool panel with hot, soapy water using a very gentle but firm circular hand movement.


2. Preparing to roll-felt the fiber

  • Fabric netting was then laid over the panel, and an olive oil soap was rubbed into the netting and the underlying panel. The netting helps to hold the fibers in place while soaping the panel and keeps them in place for the next rolling step. (Olive oil soap has less suds than other soaps so works well in wet-felting and makes the wash-out less messy. Thanks Colleen for this tip! We used Kiss My Face™ soap—which Jim, ever the contrarian, was prone to continually refer to as Kiss My A** soap! Things were getting silly by the end of the day.)

Placing the netting over one of the wool panels.

Rubbing the soap onto the netting and wool panel below.


3. The Sushi Roll

  • When the panel was well soaped, we laid bamboo window blinds on top of it and rolled up the entire soapy “sushi roll,” tying the roll with nylon stockings and/or rope.

The bamboo layer helps to create a very dense final felted fabric.

Tying of the sushi roll.


  • The sushi roll was then rolled forward and backward, with pressure, at least 100 times; taken apart and re-rolled into a sushi roll and rolled in another direction for 100 times. This step makes the fiber very dense and felted to the point that the underlying industrial felt and needle-felted wool have become essentially one piece of fabric.

Rolling the “sushi.”


4. Finishing

  • Next, the panel is unrolled—revealing a smooth, final material that must be washed to remove the soap residue. We used a garden hose to rinse the large coat panels on our driveway.
  • Finally—dry time. We were fortunate to have nice drying days during this final step, considering every day since has been humid and rainy. Most of the panels were dried outside since we were all getting tired of the smell of the wet wool in the house!

Onto the sewing now!

But first, I can’t leave without finishing up the hanging questions on the spring plant identification from my April 12th post. My neighbor and friend, Amanda, guessed the mystery plant correctly. She thought it was a Trillium. Indeed, it is. A Nodding Trillium. We have very few of these in our woods so it’s exciting to know they’ve survived another winter and the rambunctious dogs. I’ll leave you with a couple of photos of the current state of the spring plants…

The Nodding Trillium! See the flower hanging under the leaves? When it opens fully, it will be protected under an umbrella of its own making.

Here is another Jack-in-the-Pulpit that is being closely tended by its own leaves on a cold morning. I love how tightly it supports itself in its very own hug.

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Solidifying the Design in the Wet-Felting Process

Sorry about the lapse in posts. I’ve been quite ill for the past 3 weeks and haven’t had the energy to put up a new post. I typically try to be the good Viking and do most everything myself but this illness has put me back on my heels and forced me to give up some control and allow others to help. But I’ve learned that the collaborative effort has made the process more fun in the end for more than just me. This sort of fun should be shared! Lesson learned.

The wet-felting phase is still proceeding with only 5 more panels left to do. The weather has cooperated and allowed a fairly quick drying time so I expect to start sewing the coat next week.

I owe a great debt to my collaborator Colleen Werdien for showing us her excellent wet-felting technique; my sister Shelley for helping with the rolling and rinsing; and most especially to my husband Jim who, in my illness, has become a virtuoso in wet-felting and is making sure that this coat gets done in time. I’ll upload some photos and talk about the wet-felting process in the next post.

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Standing Close for the Big Picture

Now I’m having fun. I’ve passed the “Never Ending” phase and have entered the “I Don’t Want It To End” phase. I feel like Mother Nature. If I want a Day Lily… so be it! A Rose… there you go!

I’ve finally finished the exterior main coat panels. What remains are the exterior collar panels (eight to match the coat panel shaping) and details for the humongous sleeves. The interior details still need some work too. My goal is to have all the remaining detail work finished by the weekend of April 21st—the MEGA wet-felting weekend.

This week, my thoughts have roamed around the experience of changing positions from a close-up working stance, to a larger-scale view. From a distance, I found that my most detailed painting became weak and lost its detail. But when my painting style was freer and less detailed, it actually held its form better from a distant view on the large-scale coat.

I think this is another lesson for life. When we stand too close to something (our problems?), we can’t see the bigger picture as clearly. We need to find balance in our viewpoint by occasionally switching our views.

But enough philosophizing. Let’s get close to nature again…

This is the mystery plant from last week. It's a Blue Cohosh! This plant has blueberry-like berries in the fall. But don't eat them! They are poisonous!

This Trillium/Jack-in-the-Pulpit remains to be decided. Although, since the other Jacks are starting to appear, and I've never discovered Trilliums in our woods (and it doesn't especially look like a Trillium now), I suspect this is an entirely different plant. Can anyone help identify this one?

But here is a confirmed Jack-in-the-Pulpit, ready for its sermon!

Even though we’ve had a few frosts after the spring growth has appeared, the wildflowers are thriving. They are well-suited for fickle Minnesota weather! And perhaps they aren’t “stressing” the details. (-;

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The Obsession/Inspiration of Spring

This week, I’m continuing with the coat decoration and have become obsessed with SEEING! Our early spring is feeding my obsession. My walks are spent with nose to the ground—seeking new growth and possible inspiration to add to the coat.

Just look at all the little details in this small snippet of the soil's surface!

But one of the dangers of playing around with plant identification at this time of year is doing it too early in the growth cycle. Last week, I posted a photo of what I thought was a Wood Anemone. When it emerged more fully, showing its leaves, I realized it was a Sharp-Lobed Hepatica. Oops!

Sharp-lobed Hepatica.

Knowing we have Anemones in the yard, I went out to find them. Instead of a Wood Anemone, I found Rue Anemone. (The leaves help to distinguish between the two types.)

Rue Anemone

The Scilla is in its full glory now.

Scilla.

And the Blood Root has arrived! Oh, how I LOVE the Blood Root and its regal leaf mantle. The leaf curls up tightly around the flower at night and on cloudy days, and opens when the warm sun hits it. Such a delightfully intelligent plant!

Stan Tekiela's Guide (see below) says that the red-orange juice found in the stem and root has been used as an insect repellent and a dye. No wonder I love this plant. Those are two of my favorite things!

This Week: A Challenge for the Optical Phytomaniac (someone obsessed with visually collecting plants)…

What is this plant?

Trillium or Jack-in-the-Pulpit?

And just for fun – a few other plant obsessions…

Anthomania and Florimania – obsession/passion for flowers

Orchidomania – obsession for orchids

Pteridomania – obsession for ferns

Tulipomania – obsession for tulips (I think this one is particularly strange. Why not Lilacomania? But Tulipomania has a strange and fascinating history within the field of economics, explaining why tulips are singled out.)

“Earthly Coatomania” – this one I have!

Steady Inspiration

Even though our early spring has started providing living inspiration for the coat decoration, it’s still too early for most of the bloomin’ inspiration. So I’ve sought out photographic gardening books to use for reference. In the end, I was surprised to find very few gardening books showing the sharp detail that I needed for the coat imagery. After stripping the library bare, I found a handful of strong partners to help me with the imagery. You may want to add a few of these to your gardening library.

Books to Inspire – Minnesota-focused

Wildflowers of Minnesota – Field Guide by Stan Tekiela – This is my backyard bible since our property is wild and we never know what’s coming up from one year to the next. It’s got most of the facts anyone could be seeking for native (wild Minnesota) plant identification.

Landscaping with Native Plants of Minnesota by Lynn M. Steiner – Lynn describes and shows more than flowering plants. This book is a “must” for people who seek to grow any type of native Minnesota plant. For me, it’s been a great guide for identifying native grasses to incorporate in the coat imagery.

Minnesota Gardener’s Guide by Melinda Myers – This book’s crisp photographic close-ups of plants have served as my key imagery guide for the coat. Melinda also shows non-native annual plants that are suitable for the Minnesota garden. She even gets into vines and trees. I’d say that most of the plants found at the Arboretum are represented in this book.

Books not focused on the Minnesota region but still inspirational…

Easy Mix and Match Garden Color Guide to Annuals and Perennials by Graham Strong and Alan Toogood – This book reminds me of a pop-up book. It’s spiral bound and in the back of the book there are mini flip pages of colorful flowers shown separately by type, allowing the pages to flip and match 4-up in a column. This clever page design helps in garden design—and coat decorative design—and lets the gardener mix and match plants to suit their taste.

Taylor’s Guides: Growing North America’s Favorite Plants by Barbara W. Ellis – This book has good close-up photos of flowering plants and a few grasses.

Garden Plants & Flowers Through the Year by Ian Spence – Crisp photos. Has a very nice fern section.

Garden Plants and Flowers: An A-Z Guide to the Best Plants for Your Garden by Ian Spence – Large, sharp photos. The shrub section is especially thorough.

Plant Partners: Creative Plant Combinations – by Anna Pavord – I’ve been primarily juggling between this and the Minnesota Gardener’s Guide while creating the coat decoration. The photos in Plant Partners are huge and show great detail.

The spirit of spring and new growth is all around us right now. I challenge you to get your nose to the ground and find it for yourself!

I’m ending my post this week with an image of new growth…

Growth tips on Arborvitae.

The light green tips of this Arborvitae show where the new growth for this year has occurred. And soon, this new growth will become the color of the rest of the shrub—adding to its expanse and becoming the support for next year’s new growth.

In this season of growth, leading to new possibilities, I wish you a wide swath of bright green at your tips!

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Inspiration Springs Forth! …and choices are made.

Our early spring weather is making indoor work difficult but it’s also providing loads of inspiration…

An early spring riser: Sharp-Lobed Hepatica (in the Buttercup family).

One of the earliest bulb flowers: Scilla.

Day Lilies waking to spring at the edge of the woods.

A Minnesota woodland standard: Virginia Waterleaf.

My self-imposed schedule says I have 4 more weeks of detail felting work before I need to move on to the finishing phase. Right now, I feel that’s not enough time. But it’s always like that at this point in a project. I need to trust it will all come together as it’s meant to.

The detail felting is definitely the height of artistic freedom for me. But freedom is a mixed blessing. It means you have to make choices and those choices lead you along the way—sometimes making you end up in a different place than you thought you were going.

I’ve spent time stewing over how to approach the feeling of the design. I wanted a consistent look to the coat and to achieve that, a cohesive design concept is needed for the entire coat. But how to approach this? Do I focus on the details—making the design fit the virtual perspective of nature? Or do I break out into the world of the giants, as does the coat, and create a fantasy world of large flowers and plants? A turning point came on a rainy afternoon while listening to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in D major Op. 28 “Pastorale”.  While listening to this uplifting piece, I started to “feel” the visuals in the coat. This may sound nutty to those who aren’t in an artistic mindset but I did somehow, deep within me, FEEL the visuals coming through this music. It felt like a veil was lifted from my eyes and the way became clear.

Oh, I’m cruel, but I’m not going to tell you the direction I ended up going since… I want you to see it in person!!

It’s a short post this week but I have to get back to work on the coat!

BTW… This week, my publisher told me that my Yarn Works book has been bumped back for a Spring 2013 release so it won’t be out this year as previously mentioned. The extra time is giving the layout staff more energy to focus on what will be a truly complete guide on fibers (protein, cellulose, and synthetic), spinning, and dyeing (natural and synthetic)—including 10 knitting patterns created from yarn made with the dyeing and spinning techniques outlined in the book.

Posted in "Yarn Works" book, Earthly Coat | Tagged , , | 2 Comments