A Slight Tragedy

I had been suffering from what I thought was a minor cold, involving me feeling stuffed up and headachy. But I never had a runny nose nor did I have any boogers. So, it was hard to breathe, but there wasn’t anything in my airways clogging them up. My airways themselves were just mad and inflamed.

Last night, I had one last idea for the copper yarn and I threw a skein in the dye pot. At the moment the whole house filled with the smell of hot wool, I could feel my nose shutting.

I’m fucking allergic to wool. Maybe it has to be hot and wet to trigger it, but that’s what’s making me stuffed up.

And I still have all the walnut I need to dye for Julie’s afghan. So, I think while I’m waiting for the walnuts to start falling, I’m going to have to investigate if I can somehow solar dye with walnuts, and keep the wet, warm yarn outside.

Back to Work

God, I don’t know what’s become of me. I had a wonderful vacation and now I’m feeling actually excited to get back to work and to hear what they’ve been up to.


Unfortunately, this is me, now, consumed by this baby blanket that has grown out of control.

I hope my co-workers will still treat me as they always have.

Vacation Brain

I’m going on vacation next week, mainly to libraries, but, hey, for me, that sounds like Heaven. But it’s meant that I’ve spent this week being scattered and busy, trying to make sure that everything is okay for me to leave.

And I’ve been fixing some yarn. And by fixing, I mean untangling in a nightmare scenario.


And I got some yarn so tangled up in my ball winder that I just had to cut it and have two balls.

Which, ha ha.

Done In

Y’all, dyeing with the kids, round one, about did me in! And they stole my Kool-aid. Well, I mean, they also used it to dye with, but I had enough to use with my niece next weekend and now I don’t. And so I’m pretty sure they took some home to try to talk their mom into making it for them.

Which, ha ha, is pretty awesome.

So, I have yarn hanging everywhere to dry, but no good pictures of it, yet.

And the Butcher is going to dog-sit for me, so I can go to Birmingham and spend a short amount of time in their library looking at stuff. So, now I have to make a plan for what I absolutely need to see. And also make time to go down and take a look at Fred Shuttlesworth’s church, since it plays such a key role in my book.



This is the color I got from the indigo dye vat. She said I could come back and dye it darker if I wanted and I was like “No, are you kidding? This is the most beautiful blue I have ever seen.” It’s almost the exact same color as the black bean yarn, which… in fairness… I also thought was the most beautiful color I had ever seen.

I need to go to Birmingham. I have to figure out the dog situation. Like, can I do a research trip in a day? Can I not get bogged down in interesting details that don’t pertain to my question? Or do I need to do it in two days? In which case, who’s going to watch the dog?

Also, right now the book is called “Busy Looking the Other Way: Why Nashville’s Integration Era Bombings Remain Unsolved,” but I’m entertaining “The Rise of the Confederate Underground: Some subtitle I haven’t come up with yet.” The Rise of the Confederate Underground is better, isn’t it?



I got my first three half-poppies in place. Just nine more to go. But I’m about to be hugely busy, so I don’t know if I will get this done any time soon. I am looking forward to seeing how the border goes. It’s just been a really lovely thing to work on. And I’m excited to see how it looks after being washed and laid flat to dry.

And my friend’s mother-in-law has an indigo dye-pot going! So tonight I’m going to take a skein to her house and learn about indigo dying. Basically all I know about it is that it’s magic and you do not want any oxygen in the mix (so I’ll have soaked my yarn for 24 hours before heading up there with it).

And this weekend the step-niece and step-nephew are going to dye their yarns for their afghans. And next week, baby nephew turns one! Already!


Look, he’s already got that world-weary look of a guy who’s about to start a story about back in the day. He remembers what it was like before teeth. He’s out here working hard, standing up, saying “dog,” and kids today, they just lay around, waving their hands. They’re not even waving their hands AT anyone. They don’t know about “hi.”

Poor baby nephew.

Take the Hint

Y’all, I went to bed at 11 and I woke up at 10. In the morning. An hour before when I normally eat lunch. I think I have just had so much stuff buzzing around in the back of my head that I couldn’t completely turn it off and sleep well.

Gladys told me about a murder. I tried to find out if the murder was real before I decided what to do about it, but the details were so vague that I began to think that either she was bullshitting me or she’d gotten the details wrong.

And then I found the murder in the paper. And I was like, well, what the fuck do I do now? All I have is second-hand rumors from a terrorist.

But last night, I went to WPLN’s Podcast Party and Emily Siner’s guest was a retired cold case detective. I am not even shitting you. I learn a thing. I become troubled by the not knowing what to do about it of it. The Universe puts me in the path of a person I can tell.

So, I told him. And I told him that I wasn’t sure how much of what Gladys had told me was true and how much was just her trying to settle some old scores. And he got what I was saying.

So, that’s a relief.

And I went and got the Wilton’s copper food coloring.

Look at how close I was just with my own color mixing! (It’s the second from the left.)


Copper Continued, Continued


I overdyed three of the yarns from the day before yesterday to see if moving from the microwave to a pot was going to work. I think it is, but I also think I’m going to have to go by Joann’s and get some gel food coloring. Scaling up with the drop kind is just giving me a little more mottled look than I want.

And, after five hours on two evenings, I figured out how I was fucking up the poppy! It’s now in place. Good thing that was the only one! Oh shit…


I can’t believe how beautiful this afghan is. I’m truly just blown away by it. Even the join is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. And it looks fantastic. I think I get caught up in the idea that everything has to be so fucking hard to be worth it and I’m glad to be reminded that simple, fun stuff can result in great beauty and happiness.

The shit did hit the fan at work yesterday. Hard. I’ll have a better sense after I see how next week goes, but I think that may have been the worst of it.

Also, I already broke my yarn swift! I think I can fix it, if I can find the piece that came off.

I’m going to see my baby nephew today. He’s trying to walk, but he doesn’t yet have the whole “standing without holding onto things” part down yet. He remains the greatest.


I really want to make a copper afghan. But I can’t find the yarn I want for it–something that will look like an old penny. But last night, I decided to experiment to see if I could get something I liked with just the tools I have in my house–in this case, vinegar and food coloring.


I hand-painted the wool, but had way, way too much liquid. Oh, well, live and learn. Those little blue and green specks looked awesome. None of them survived.

Here’s what I ended up with:


So, what I love about this is that the brown part has the exact right weirdness of pink in it that copper has. I also like that I got some really good tonal variation, which makes the yarn look shiny. I might wish it were a hair darker. And I think my patina is good, but also, might have wanted it a hair darker. Also, maybe greener.


But I keep going in to stare at it. I really like it.


I’m ready to have my brain back. But it seems slow in coming. The join for this afghan is a lot simpler than I thought it was (at least so far; let’s not yet consider the poppies), but it looks really great. I’m just really pleased with how this is going, even if it’s going there very slowly.


I can’t remember if I said where this came from, but it’s a Janie Crow pattern. I would say it’s about a medium on the difficulty scale. It’s not incredibly difficult, but you wouldn’t want it to be your first afghan, or even your 10th, I don’t think. On the other hand, if you’re a beginner, but you already have your decreases down, I guess, go for it.


Nothing like being sick to put you in a state where you don’t feel like leaving the couch, but you also can’t sleep. I have all my motifs for this afghan done and even all of the millions of tails tucked.


The colors of this afghan are just so beautiful I can’t stand it.

Now I’m working on the joining round, which is a kind of lacy blue thingy. I have the first row done. I think it went all right. I’m more curious about how easily, or not, the motifs attach on two sides, instead of just on one. And I am curious/terrified about how the poppies go in.


But so far, so good.

It’s Not Allergies

It’s a cold. Not the worst cold I’ve ever had, but not a cold that seems to have any interest in moving along. I had three goals for today–walk the dog, water the plants, do the dishes. I have gotten the dog walked, on a half-assed walk that at least let him poop.

We’ll see about the other two things.

I did finish my whole poppies and have started work on the half-poppies.



I use Tom’s, which is supposed to be a “natural” deodorant, whatever that means. Usually I use the unscented, because I tend to be allergic to scents in things. But the last time I was at the store, they were out of unscented, so I grabbed the lavender scented stuff. Friday, I used it for the first–and only–time.

I had an allergy attack the likes of which I might have mistaken for a summer cold except for, other than being stuffed up and sneezy, I feel fine. Plus, I felt noticeably better after showering and scrubbing my pits.

So, hot damn, I poisoned myself. That was dumb.

And I’ve finished all my sunflowers. I don’t know if I should put them together and then start on the poppies or do the poppies and put everything together at once.


Dye, Dye again


I love dyeing so much it’s silly. It just makes me happy and I like to see how stuff turns out. Here’s some of the pokeweed. Just plain. No modifications.


And this is some of the pokeweed variegated with yellow food coloring. Look at the cool orange it made! And all my awesome speckles. I was worried because you need heat to set food coloring and I knew pokeweed will turn brown if you get it too hot, but everything worked fine.


The rest of the pokeweed yarn is sitting in a bath with the rest of the black beans. You’re not supposed to let the yarn touch the beans, because something in the beans will turn the yarn gray where it touches, but I’m trying to make a multicolored yarn. What the fuck do I care if there’s some gray in there? I don’t know how long I’ll let this sit, but it’s sitting for now.


Then I took a good hard look at my cabbage and blueberry and blackberry dyed yarns and decided to give them a little help looking okay once the natural dye starts to fade.

I bought myself a yarn swift and a ball roller and I’m a little in love, I must tell you. I don’t think I’m in desperate enough need of a knitty-noddy to buy myself one, but I am putting it in my letter to Santa.



Even through I’m following a pattern and using a kit, meaning, if I do things right, there’s no way to not end up with something that looks like the thing the pattern is supposed to produce, I was still surprised to see how gorgeous the finished motif is.

A thing I’d like to get better at is understanding color theory better. Like, why does that teal bring the whole thing together. So, obviously, blue and yellow are complimentary colors, so they should look particularly nice together. And I think there’s something about the vibrancy of the teal and the orange and the red and the purple that makes it all look like it belongs. And maybe the green of the teal makes it seem like it goes with the leaves?

But I really only feel like I can put that together in retrospect. I don’t know how to know that ahead of time and use it in my planning.

Also, I pulled the yarn out of the pokeweed bath. So far, so good. But I put the blueberry and blackberry yarn next to it for contrast, and look how much color those have already lost.


Makes me wonder how that cabbage is doing. Some of this may be destined for redyeing sooner rather than later.

How the Pokeweed Dyeing is Going

Let me be clear, for those of you wondering if you can attempt this at home (me, too, at this point), very little of this color is coming from the berries. As you can see, I have quite a few green berries in there. But once some berries on the cluster turn black, there is enough red in the stem of that cluster to get color out of.

I know many dyers use only berries, but in Me vs. The Birds for who is going to get the ripe pokeberries, it’s not me.

So, I had been collecting poke parts and putting them in vinegar and keeping it in the fridge. Then I mordanted my wool in eight parts water to one part vinegar (I ended up using 12 cups of water and a cup and a half of vinegar. Plus a teaspoon of alum. I heated that all up and simmered it for an hour and then let it sit until it was room temperature. I also brought the pokeweek vinegar bath out of the fridge and let it sit until it was room temperature. Then I put the yarn in the bath and used the water/vinegar mix to top it off.

Last night I moved stuff around so the plant matter was on top and the yarn was on bottom. I have also been adding pokeberry clusters as they ripen on my weed.

I don’t know how long I’m going to let it sit for. I’ll admit that part of it is just based on smell. I don’t want another situation where I have a yarn so stinky I don’t know how I’ll use it. So, basically, I’m going to let this go until it starts to smell bad or until it gets a shade darker than I think is really beautiful.

I am very, very nervous that it will all wash out. Like, what is setting it, if not heat? But the black beans didn’t wash out. That’s a lovely blue. So, cold dyeing can be done. But, man, if this works, it’s magic.

If it works, I’m going to be really tempted to redye my blueberry and blackberry yarn using this method.

Sunflower Thoughts


This round is easy and fun, but I’m having a hard time getting through it with any speed because the motifs are so much fun to touch at this point. Everything’s squishy and those tall stitches feel cool.



The second I finished my first leaf, I could hear clearly in my head the way that sunflowers rustle in the wind or when you walk by them. Funny how memory works.

Sunflower Humor


The round I’m working on now on the sunflowers makes the sunflowers, when in a pile, look like something you’d get at Taco Bell–nine layers of crunchy shell and eight layers of lettuce.

I ordered a bunch of yarn yesterday because I decided that Kool-aid dyeing with my niece would be the best time. So, when she’s up for Labor Day, we’re going to do it. She doesn’t know that yet, but I am so excited!



I’m also working on this beautiful sunflower afghan from the designer, Janie Crow. The flower part (except for the leaves) is pretty straight forward, but it has this lacy join I am so excited and nervous to try.

I also think I just about have my pattern figured out for the hand-dyed yarn, so now I’m just waiting on the pokeberries to ripen and walnut season to arrive.

After doing a bunch of research online, it seems like the thing about pokeberries is that, if you heat them up too hot in the dyeing process, you get brown, not pink or purple or red.

And, also, the trick seems to be to use just a fuck-ton of vinegar.

So, my plan is to harvest the berries and stems as they ripen (there’s color in the whole thing) and stick them in vinegar to start extracting color. Since we’re early in pokeberry season, I just have enough to fill a quart jar, but I bought a gallon jug this weekend to be ready. Once the color is exhausted from the plant material (i.e. when the stems turn white), I’m going to strain it out and put the yarn and the vinegar all back in the gallon jug. And let that sit… I haven’t decided where. Maybe in the fridge, maybe just on the counter.

In other words, just do a cold dye in an incredibly acid bath.

If it works, I’m just going to make this my go-to berry dyeing trick.

More Colors


Here’s everything I have so far that’s dry.

And here’s everything I did yesterday, which is still somewhat damp. That leaves the pokeweed when it’s ripe and all the walnut, when it’s in season.

My fight with the FBI, such as it is, has turned incredibly stupid and aggravating. Last year, when I asked them for the Looby bombing file, they told me it had been destroyed in ’96. Period. End of discussion.

That always nagged at me, but what could I do about it? I asked around over time trying to find anyone who might have gotten a copy of the file before ’96 or trying to find someone who could help me understand why the FBI would destroy their file on the assassination attempt of a sitting US politician.

Long story short, I finally talked to a retired US attorney about it, who simply did not believe that the files would have been destroyed. I asked for my U.S. Rep’s help.

Truncating a lot, the FBI recently sent me another letter saying files had been destroyed in ’76, but some had made it over to the National Archives.

And leaving even more out, for the sake of getting to my point of anger, the plan is for the book to come out in April of 2020. The wait time for getting a file from the National Archives that needs to be vetted for classified information is about twenty-four months.

So, if the FBI had told me there was a file at the National Archives last spring/summer when I asked them for what they had, I could have requested it and already been a year into my wait time. I would have had it by next year and had enough time to incorporate it into my book.

But by dicking me around, they’ve basically either ensured I won’t have the file in time for my book or that I’ll have to push back the pub date. Both of which suck.

I’m still hoping there may be a solution. (So fingers crossed!)

But it really pisses me off.

And the worst part is that I can’t even say that it’s some deliberate effort to sabotage my story. I truly doubt, before my Rep got involved, that my name or my project had even registered at the FBI.

They just dicked me over so fucking hard as a matter of course, as an impersonal non-deliberate side effect of how they work.


I opened the solar dyeing jars. That was unpleasant. You know what happens when you put a bunch of plant matter in water and then heat it for days? The same shit that happens when you stick a bunch of plant matter and water in an elephant and let it work its way through the system: a smell from the outskirts of hell.


These guys live in the garage until I’ve decided they don’t smell too bad to include. The idea that I might have to overdye them with Kool-aid just to make them smell okay is cracking me up.

Anyway, in my neighborhood, it seems the easiest color to make is yellow. I keep making it almost by accident. And it got me thinking about the outfits people wore before commercial dyes, what folks’ clothes would have looked like. And I have to imagine, for the people who had to make most, if not all, their own clothes, there was probably a lot of yellow.

And it got me thinking about the colors that have magical properties. There’s an old African-American hoodoo belief that to sleep under a blue blanket will bring prophetic dreams. And to get a blue color that stays? The person who can get that for you has to seem like magic, that blanket or quilt has to seem like magic. Blue is hard to get and hard to keep, until you have indigo.

Red, black, and white are also tricky colors to get (and to keep) with plant materials available to most people.  Yes, madder, but look at how much skill it takes to get red out of madder if you have to do it yourself. Black is… I don’t even know. I think you could dye a lot of things for a long time to get a dark, dark, dark brown that might pass for black, but pure black naturally would be hard. And white, a clean white, requires a lot of processing as well. So, it’s no wonder you find so many charms that call for thread or yarn in those colors.

If magic is about gathering energy and expending it in directions it doesn’t normally take (think of the sailors who kept winds they needed tied in knots in yarn they kept in their pockets), then red, black, and white have a lot of energy put into them.

But I live in America, so I also can’t wander around with the dog thinking about color without thinking about race and I got to thinking about how much of a fear of the “secret” black person there has been in American popular culture. And smarter people than me have written about how “black” is seen as corrupting and spoiling.

Corruption and spoilage are both powers. And black, in color, is hard to get.

Yellow is common and easy to make.

And I feel like there’s a revelation about a facet of American racism right at the tips of my fingers that I can’t quite articulate yet.

But it’s commonly accepted that words have meanings and associations that color (ha) how we see the things those words are describing, meanings and associations pulled in from other uses of those words. So, saying that a bad person is blackhearted or has a black soul or has a dark morality or that these are dark times and then saying that person is black or has dark skin can lead us to associate that person’s skin color with all the ways we think of black as meaning bad.

So, I wonder how much to an 18th or 19th century white American, black would have also resonated as powerful (much to the eternal tragedy of black people) and yellow as common and easy to get. And I wonder how that shaped the expressions and their own understanding of their racism?

Also, speaking of black, look what black beans gave me!


My Delighted and Confused WTF?!

Okay, so yesterday there was red cabbage at Kroger. I bought a head for dyeing. I read up on how non-colorfast it is. I fretted some. But I’d already bought it, so… I mean, this is a long-term project. If the colors start to do something funky before my dyeing is done, I’ll just redye.

I split the dye bath into three and made one acidic, left one neutral, and made one basic.


There they are. The pink is the acid, the purple the neutral, the bluish-gray is the base. That makes sense to me.

But, as I picked them up out of the water, they began to turn colors. The blue became a weird mint green. The purple became a Band-aid pink. The pink became… and I’m not even shitting you… yellow.


Note, this photo makes the Band-aid color look almost like a pretty pink. It was not in real life. I ended up throwing it in what was left of the basic bath to turn it greenish.

Why did this happen?! Could it be something in the acrylic yarn I used to tie the skeins? Something having to do with the pots? I washed them, but the yellow was in the pot I used for tumeric.

Also, I am a mix of delighted and chagrined that I am some kind of “dyeing things yellow” savant.

I’m going to have to pick a pattern that works with these colors and also takes into account that many of them will fade. Or possibly change color over time. It needs to look good with these colors and look good with the antique versions of these colors.