Growing up, we used to visit my parents’ friends Jack and Glenda. The drive was seven hours long; seven hours of California’s Interstate 5; seven hours of flat highway, punctuated by a little bit of LA freeway, the Grapevine grade over Tejon Pass, gas stations like lighthouses amongst the empty grasslands.
Sometimes my older sisters, Lori and Juli, or Glenda’s son Cecil, were there, but mostly Wendy and I were on our own recognizance. I almost died from boredom.
I made these long, boring lists of things to do, because it was SO BORING there: roller skate around the block ten times; walk to the store for Jujubes; read the Grimm’s Fairy Tales book; snoop in the garage (nothing but booze); fly my kite (I hated flying kites).
When I got older, I’d sneak peeks at Jack’s Playboys, marveling at what my body would supposedly become, lost to the unreality of the physical ideal, misdirected by a 1970s male-centered version of what women and sexuality were supposed to be. My mom caught me once, and I almost died of embarrassment.
Sometimes I poked through the overflowing ashtrays, picked out unfinished butts, and smoked them. Since Glenda smoked in the house, no one ever knew I did that except Wendy, who came in the front door while I was sitting in front of it smoking, like an idiot.
Once I was so bored I played with Glenda’s Nair in the bathtub, and accidentally removed half my pubic hair. That was scary.
Sourgrass grows like the weed it is in my San Francisco back yard, and at first I wasn’t thrilled to see it there, old memories being what they were. But over time I came to appreciate the pretty yellow flowers, and the change it made in the garden in Februaries, from empty brown to luscious green.
Of course, once I learned I can dye with Oxalis, I became peeved that it didn’t last longer than it does. I’ve been wanting to try dyeing with it, so I recently mordanted some linen, cotton, and wool with copper/urine, and tried out both some bundling and pot dyeing techniques.
For starters, I laid fresh Oxalis on damp fabrics and rolled it tightly around copper pipe. I made six bundles, and steamed them for an hour in my new, giant dyepot (estate sale, Twin Peaks, 5$!!) I had two sets of matching fabrics on six copper pipes. One set I steamed, then left alone. The second step I steamed, then reserved for later.
While the bundles were steaming, I collected two huge dyepots full of Oxalis from the back yard, covered one pot with water, and as it heated and the oxalis lost bulk, I slowly added the remaining Oxalis, so that ALL of it fit into one large pot. I simmered it gently for 90 minutes to extract the color, then added in both the three reserved bundles, my first selection of fabrics, some silk yarn, and some swatches of fabrics that I slowly lowered deeper and deeper into the dyepot.
After about a half hour, I added a few more fabrics and more silk, and a bit after that I added one last skein of silk, and a few more pieces of fabric to exhaust the dyebath. I then took it out to the porch to cool and fished out the three bundles that had been stewing in the bottom.
Above are the bundles, on the left is the night I pulled them out to cool; on the right is the next afternoon, before unbundling.
I have loads more pictures I’ll soon share, and overall, I was really pleased, sometimes thrilled with lust and drool—albeit a bit shocked and surprised—at some of the results I got. Let’s just say, I was hoping for green, but the Oxalis dye turned out to be a little bit deceptive, with a lot of questions lurking under the surface, just like those Playboys. Some of the surprises were almost as shocking as rinsing off that Nair.
However. It was anything but boring.