Preparing For My 3rd Indigenous Fashion Week

“The Aikido of Marketing: Go where your customer is and your competition is not willing to go!” Martin Brossman

Join me as I prepare to participate in my third Indigenous Fashion Week in three years.  It’s an honor and privilege that I don’t take lightly to represent the textiles cultural traditions of the dispersed and scattered historical North Carolina Tuscarora Confederacy.  I teach workshops demonstrating color transformation on cloth from plants, flowers, nuts and insects.  My Momma taught me that if we witness transformation before our eyes, it gives us hope that regardless of our present circumstances, we can transform our lives.  The lessons my mother, two grandmothers, a great-grandmother and the elder women in their circles taught me through creating color, stitching and cooking are life lessons that enable me to be strong and resilient.  It was my dying mother’s prayer that I share our survival stories through creative hands experiences associated with natural dyeing and stitching.

This season, I’m enlisting technology to help me share my journey to Indigenous Beauty, Fashion and Design Week at Otahpiaaki 2019 in Calgary, Canada.  The theme this year is Isstoiyitahsinni or Winter Count.  Indigenous Fashion is a gathering place that includes intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual connections to the patterns, designs and garments we choose to wear.

Dried Indigo

I will be broadcasting live on Facebook and Instagram showing what I’m doing and why I’m doing it with a weekly Fiber Fridays where you can ask me questions.  At long last, I’ve figured out how to make videos of my creative process to post on YouTube even though I’m working solo.  And, I will be podcasting once a week on my new channel Seed2Runway.  I will share educational information about events, creative processes and indigenous design elements and interview movers and shakers from the world of indigenous fashion who inspire and influence me.

So where do I begin. I took three workshops sponsored by my local Small Business Center at Wilson Community College:

I purchased the Seed2Runway domain from Google Domains for my podcasts, which in my opinion is better than Go Daddy.  Google is $12 a year and includes email@yourdomain and privacy protection is included.  I’m beginning my podcast endeavor with just my iPhone.  My thinking is to just jump in the podcasting waters and learn by doing. I am writing a script and planning my podcast episodes.  I’m going live one week from today, Friday, October 11th. In the meantime, I’m redesigning my Facebook business page to focus on my new creative direction. Will also be updating my Linkedin profile and taking a more active role in managing that SM platform, since teaching workshops seems to be part of my here and now.

“Life is an adventure which can take you to unknown and unexpected places!” Carola Jones

Saturday Soaps

Several of my friends want me to teach them how to make soap, so I’m making a series of blogs teaching the process. I’m callings this series “Saturday Soaps.” This first post explains what supplies will be needed. My grandmother, Minnie Haskins, was a master soap maker. She taught me and I inherited her recipes. Join us, and learn to make your own soap. You’ll never want to use store-bought soap again!

Supplies Needed for Cold Process Soap Making

Cold Process Soap Making combines oils and sodium hydroxide, which produces a chemical reaction known as saponification, which heats from the inside out.

You will need a mold for your soap.  This can be a cardboard box lined with freezer paper, a traditional wooden soapbox with either a removable bottom or sides or silicone bread or soap molds.

You will need to cover your mold for the first 24 hours while your soap becomes firm.  Some contemporary molds come with lids.  However, you can use cardboard from the flaps of boxes to cover your mold.  If your mold is a cardboard box lined with freezer paper, then you can just fold the top over your soap.

An accurate kitchen scale is highly recommended for beginners.  When my grandmother taught me soap-making, she had 50 years of soap-making experience.  She made a batch of soap every other month and she used different sizes of Mason jars to measure her ingredients.  Contemporary soap recipes require the use of a kitchen scale.

Stainless steel spoon or an electric stick mixer.  You will need a small spoon to mix the lye water, and a large one if you stir your batch of soap by hand.  The alternative is an electric stick mixer, which speeds up the soap-making process.

A large bowl for mixing your soap.  The bowl will get hot so beware.  I recommend a stoneware pottery bowl or a large heat-resistant glass container with a handle.

Heat resistant glass measuring cup to measure and mix your lye water.  I use a large glass measuring cup for the lye and another to measure my water.

Assorted plastic containers to measure the fat or oil used in the soap recipe.

Old towels to cover the molds during the first 24 hours while the soap becomes firm.

Safety goggles to protect your eyes, and gloves while mixing the lye water.  Wear a long sleeve, natural fiber top, and closed-in shoes when mixing lye water.  Remove young children and pets from the process.  I make soap outside under my carport as a safety precaution.

A metal cutter or large knife to cut your soap into bars, and a potato peeler to clean up any uneven edges.

After your soap becomes firm and is cut into bars, it will need to cure for four to eight weeks.  I use a large cardboard box with needlepoint plastic sheets at the bottom.  The box flaps are what I use to cover my silicone molds.

Stay Tuned! Next Saturday, I’ll assemble my supplies and show you my set-up!


Textiles Tuesday | 01.25.22

Schedule For Upcoming Textiles Tuesdays
Open Studio @ The Edna Boykin Cultural Center
In Historic Downtown Wilson, NC
From 1:00 – 3:00 PM, Tuesdays in February & March

The Skaru:re (NC Tuscarora) and Geechee knowledge of growing and harvesting color and stitching was preserved in my bloodline, but I don’t own it. It was my dying mother’s prayers that brought me back to the lessons, teachings, and stories from my childhood. It came back to the People on Lumbee land at the Studio of Patricia Brayboy. The knowledge has been transferred in Virginia with the Nottoway, and on Canadian Treaty Lands in Toronto, Calgary, and the Kainai Reserve. It now belongs to all of us. For us, the process of indigo, along with natural dyeing is healing medicine and a practice in cultural survivance. It’s one of the steps we’re using to decolonize ourselves by creating our own indigenous seed to runway fashions, honor blankets, and modern quilts.

How Do I Transform A Bundle to A Design

Indigenous Indigo Dyeing
Making Bundles 2 Simmer In An Indigo Pot
Binding Up Sorrows & Disappointments
Stitching In Joy & Gratitude

Free observation in Open Studio on the creation of cloth bundles to be simmered in an indigo or natural dye vat.  This is NOT a class or workshop.  Open Studio only.  Questions will be answered but no detailed instructions provided.  Textiles Tuesdays Open Studio sessions are recorded and available on YouTube and on my blog.  All instructions are for cellulose or plant fabrics: cotton, linen, hemp.

February 1, 8, 15, 2022 | Patterns Created Using Rubber Bands & Twine

My Supplies:

  • Fabric that has been prepared for dyeing
  • Rubber bands, I prefer all my bands to be the same size
  • Twine (I use tobacco twine & cotton sinew but I also use hemp twine)
  • Scissors

February 22, March 1, 8, 2022 | Patterns Created by Stitching

Stitched Example

Supplies I Commonly Use:

  • Fabric that has been prepared for dyeing
  • Embroidery Needle
  • Heavy duty polyester thread
  • Fabric Marking Tool
  • Paper or Plastic Template Optional but Beneficial

March 15, 22, 29, 2022 | Patterns Created Using Clamps &/or Embedded Objects

Supplies I Commonly Use:

  • Fabric that has been prepared for dyeing
  • Clamps in various sizes
  • Wooden Clothespins
  • Assortment of objects to embed, i.e. marbles, coins, lids, plexiglass or wood cutouts

Fiber Friday 01

The Making Of Calo’s Quilt
Machapunga Blues: Memory Quilt
Honoring My BFF &
Our Travels On The Pau Wau Highway

My connection to Calo started on an overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi, Lapland Finland.  I was traveling with a professor and mentor to Sodankyla for the Midnight Sun Film Festival.  She and Spiller had a pottery show with an opening reception at midnight.  I was the student helper in setting up the show in an intimate art gallery in the middle of town.  We were bunking in a hostel across a river bridge within walking distance from the art gallery.

The day felt like being wrapped in gray wet wool, with fatigue pinching at your flesh.  I ate my first deer meat pizza with canned pineapple.  When we returned to our bunkhouse, I took a hot shower and a nap inside my sleeping bag.  Karen went immediately back after changing clothes and putting on makeup.  I got up and dressed in my hot pink skirt and orange cotton top.  I wrapped my braids in a pink bandana.  As I walked across the bridge, the clouds parted and the midnight sun burst through with an intense yellow light that was Calo.

After returning home, I was enrolled at ECU, and I needed a Pow
Wow, like a dead man needs a coffin.  Chuck Chamberlain told me about a Pow Wow in Williamston.  I had been to Martin County with Momma, but I had never driven on my own.  I got out my map and figured out which roads I needed to drive.  I wore yellow and black bumble bee colors and found my way to the Arts Council building in downtown Williamston.  As if it was waiting for me, one Pow Wow flyer was thumb-tacked to the front door.  It gave directions to Moratoc Park, where the Pow Wow was being held.

I hung out with two of the Traders that I knew from The Trail,  Leon Locklear, and The Herb Lady.  As if by cue, the energy from the yellow midnight sun in Sodankyla was in the Circle on the Roanoke River during a Blessing Ceremony for her daughter and grandbaby.  We met again at the ECU Pow Wow and became BFF.  The next weekend I was in Durham at Lynette Blackfeather’s house, and Pura Fe was teaching me how to make our three-tier tear skirts and Berthe Collar blouses.  The next year at the Machapunga Pow Wow, the food vendor dropped out at the last moment, and I had to cook and feed the dancers.  And as the story goes, it’s just another day on Morattico.

Textiles Tuesday 01.18.22

Designing With EQ8
Machapunga Blues: Memory Quilt
Honoring My BFF &
Our Travels On The Pau Wau Highway

Unless you’ve been a sojourner traveling the Carolina-Virginia Pow Wows, it’s hard to understand the love, joy, laughter, and connectedness it brings.  It brought healing in my life, and I got to share it with a Mama Bear named Carolyn Juanita Pierce.  We created great stories!  Three NDN Women and a Baby started the Trail in February at the School of Science and Math in Durham.  Joe Lyles coordinated a one-day indoor Pow Wow with craft Traders and dancers from all over the region.  They provided a cafeteria meal for dancers. It was a joy to dance in the Circle at NCSSM.

Using EQ8, my design problem is to create a quilt with connections to Calo, Machapunge survivance, the Roanoke River, and my ancestral history.  I want this quilt to have a commanding presence equal to the strength and dignity of a Bear Clan Kokum.  I’m beginning with eight columns, nine rows, and double borders.  Like me, Calo was a teacher, so I want a version to be a workshop quilt.  EQ8 is a wonderful tool for me because it gives me an estimate of how many values of indigo blues I’ll need for a project.  Except for my whole cloth indigo-dyed quilts, the pieced quilts patterns can be taught using pre-cuts, in this case, a layer cake plus additional yardage.

The Colors

Bound Resist & Stitched Resist Designs

Blues:  Representing water, the trauma of stolen people on stolen land, cultural survivance. (Hand Dyed Indigo: 13 solid values, 2 stitched designs, and 7 bound resist patterns)

Fire Colors: Representing Calo’s passion, the fire in our bodies from dancing in The Circle to The Drum, the fire of being one with the earth in a Sweat Lodge in Piney Woods, and the fire of exalted jubilation at Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ. (Hand Dyed Marigold, Madder, Chamomile, Cutch, Lac and Onion Skins)

Cloud Colors: The Southern tradition of indigenous women of color wearing white, except my value of white is lightly kissed with indigo. (Indigo solid value #2, the Kiss)

The Design

Inspirational Historical Quilt Block:  The Carpenter’s Wheel.  I chose this block design because the Machapunga helped slaves escape down the Roanoke River to the Roanoke Island Station.  Slaves found freedom in the Swamps and hid out in woodland communities with the remnants of the Tuscarora Confederacy.  The Carpenter’s Wheel is an Underground Railroad coded block that was used as a signal for slaves planning to escape meaning to be ready to leave.  Calo’s family were free people of color, and one of her ancestors lived in a house on the Roanoke that had a hide-a-way room that could only be accessed from the river, not from inside the house.

The Carpenter’s Wheel is also a crochet pattern that I learned in my youth, which is another reason that I chose it as my source of inspiration.  Overall, I want my modern version of The Carpenter’s Wheel to resemble Mama Bear standing on her hind legs with her hands on her hips.  On the lightest solid value squares, I’ll attach photos as applique.

Machapunga Blues Memory Quilt
In Honor Of My BFF
Carolyn Juanita Pierce

Indigo Cloth 2 Dye 4: Day 16/30

Resistance & Resilience:  Witnessing Transformation

More and more I realize that Momma’s dying prayers are wisdom gained from her living a life with a broken heart.  My healing is jump-started by my hands in a warm indigo vat massaging color into cloth.  Witnessing transformation through the indigo dye process gives me the strength to know that I can overcome my circumstances.  Some people think it’s the beautiful blue color that’s mesmerizing about indigo.  But, the suffering and deaths of indigenous people in the pursuit of Blue Gold take the shine off the indigo blue color.  From a South Carolina plantation to the rice fields of India, colonizers have exploited indigenous people of color for a cash crop.  The spirit of “owning” indigo to create a beautiful color remains with us today.  However, as a Kokum I’m focused on sharing and celebrating plant-based indigo as cultural survivance.

Hemp for weaving, indigo for body markings, and sleeping mats, along with black walnut hulls were part of the North Carolina Skaru’re (Tuscarora) Confederacy before the Spanish and English arrived.  All three are part of the Neuse, Tar, Roanoke, and Contentnea river lands of the Coastal Plains.  Reconnecting with the creative hands of our ancestors grounds us to the land beneath our feet, which promotes self-healing.  Once we learn to heal ourselves, we can teach others and begin the process of sharing healing within our community.  The Niitsitapi concept of Poo’mikapii is an ancient Algonquin way of knowing with powerful benefits if practiced.  In order to survive, we must learn to share with people hurting who are lashing out and hurting others.

We live in a “Follow Me” world but to self-heal we need to sojourn the road less traveled.  It’s a lonely road but to heal oneself you need to travel fast, at warp speed.  Grandpa (Howell Woodard)  taught me how to avoid the snares and traps of the slavers by moving alone in silence through the negative space.  So, I’ll continue to practice textiles as healing, as I walk out my dying momma’s prayers of wisdom for healing a broken heart.  I love you and I like you, Doris Lee Woodard (Haskins) Jones.  My goal is for my actions to honor your suffering and to share the lessons I’m learning.  RIP Momma.

Indigo Cloth 2 Dye 4: Day 15/30

Textiles as Healing:  Dancing With The Ancestors

At the core of my being, I’m a Pau Wau Dancer.  Some of the best times I’ve experienced come from traveling on the Pow Wow Highway.  I was one of “3 Women & A Baby:” Calo, Shaky, Duck, and me.  We hung out with our drum, Eastern Bull.  From Connecticut to South Carolina we rode the I-95 corridor listening to native drum music, sharing stories, and laughing like happy youngin’s.  Pow Wowing is a good life!

The Covid shutdown is teaching me that I need to practice Sacred Dancing every day.  It needs to be part of my daily ritual to keep me from backsliding into negative feelings of being so overwhelmed that hope is in short supply.  It’s important for me to step outside of my troubles and by putting music to my circumstances.  The Pow Wow Drum that speaks to my soul is Northern Cree.  My song is “BJ Blues – “Oh My Sweetheart, Oh My Sweetheart, You Are So Beautiful,” from the Sweethearts’ Shuffle – Round Dance Songs album.

As 2021 is ending, I’m critiquing my healing process and using this time to pause and reflect on my thoughts and actions.  Who Am I? | What Do I Want 2 Make Today? | What IF?  I need to celebrate my achievements while practicing humility and kindness.  At midnight on December 31st, I reset myself with two endpoints, a body of work in new quilts, and outfits to wear demonstrating that indigenous fashion is a language of survivance.

Indigo Cloth 2 Dye 4: Day 14/30

Sunday Dinner

I miss the fellowship from being active in Church since Covid.  But, I manage to honor my family’s tradition of cooking Sunday dinner.  It was a Daniel Hill’s tradition, that Sunday dinner was shared as “feeding on the grounds” at Barnes Chapel Church.  Mama, Mat, Mis. Doretta, Mrs. Steward, and Ms. Sudie Mae were Moon Lodge Sisters.  Skaru:re women who were connected to each other and to the land whose periods came on at the same time.

They were my first teachers as I sat weighted down with leg casts under the quilt frame.  Being born cripple placed me in the unique position of being raised as an old soul in a child’s broken body.  Someone told me once that my life was useless because I had too many mommas.  What foolish thinking!  Having multiple women’s stories is empowering me to walk out being on the road less traveled.  Each woman abundantly blessed me with her stories, and with her creative hands for such a time as this.

My circumstances are at rock bottom.  The house that my Momma built is in need of major repairs, and I’m living like “Sanford and Son.”  I’m stuck in the muck of indigenous generational trauma.  My Momma tried hard to protect me from the pain of being Native American.  But, she fell in love with a Seminole Rez Indian man.  I get it!  In many ways, you have a better chance at living in Wilson as a person of color if you’re African American.  Just as long as you’re not Indian.  Being Skaru:re in Wilson County is to know a resentment that has to be endured to be fully understood.  But, the ritual of cooking Sunday dinner soothes the feelings of loneliness and helps me keep my eyes focused on the prize.  Indigenous Fashion Week in Toronto!

Indigo Cloth 2 Dye 4: Day 13/30

Honoring Skaru:re Ancestors From Chicamacomico, Chattoka & Catachna

Tree at New Bern Standing Watch

It’s hard walking out being indigenous in Dixie because the culture believes that one drop of West African blood makes you less NDN, while almost all your blood being Anglo is allowed to be an enrolled state-recognized Native American.  It’s so backward!  For state recognition, Indian tribes select only the light-skinned members from a family and not the brown or black children.  Same family, same ancestors, same bloodline.  It’s not logical at all, and they deprive the tribe of the creative hands of the brown people.  Because every brown Southeastern Indian that I’ve ever encountered is abundantly blessed with natural-born knowledge of historical arts and crafts.  I know because I’m one of them. We are born full of the cultural ways of knowing and doing connected to ancestral land. It’s like the blood in our veins is a coded transmission to our creative hands. Our creativity and ability to adapt are our superpowers. Every brown skin Skaru”re has a natural-born connection to the ancestors of the Tuscarora Confederacy on the Coastal Plains of Eastern Carolina, both North, and South.

I don’t judge!  I only know and affirm my own bloodline, as the last Algonquin Skaru:re Toisnot Contentnea to Chicamacomico Indian with knowledge of the old ways.  Howell Woodard made me repeat the place names of our ancestors in the old tongue so I would never forget them.  He was one of my great grandfathers and the first person who told me that I was a Tusky.  It was a blessing to know and spend time with him.  He said out of the whole bunch of his supposedly grand youngin’s,  I was the only one that was his blood.  He was a medicine man, tracker, and a Contentnea hunting and fishing guide.

He was born on the Outer Banks to Kanuto and a slave owned by John Etheridge, named Richard, who later became the commanding officer of the Pea Island Life Saving Station.  There weren’t many African slaves and no large plantations on the Outer Banks in the 1840s.  Even though it was against the law, John Etheridge taught Richard how to read and write.  This was a blessing to my family in the 1860s during the Civil War because Richard forged free people of color papers for Kanuto as Ann Woodard, and for his son as Howell Woodard.

Kanuto’s (Ann Woodard) family were ferry guides crossing the Albemarle Sound to the Tuscarora Township of Chattoka.  According to GrandPa, the ferry boats were called “kunners” which were made from two to four dugout canoes lashed together.  In 1710 German Palatines and Swiss settlers renamed Chattoka to New Bern.  All Skaru:re people were rounded up and relocated to the Tuscarora Township of Catachna, later known as Bell’s Ferry and now called Grifton.  Howell Woodard died in 1955 at the age of either 99 or 101, we aren’t sure which.  He lived with my extended family for the last two years of his life, where he showered me with his love and his stories.  I cherish the stories he shared with me.  His most valuable lesson was teaching me how to be quiet and still so I could listen to the wind. I’m abundantly blessed to have been loved by two great grandfathers, Howell Woodard, and Bud Harris. Their stories live in my heart!

Indigo Cloth 2 Dye 4: Day 12/30

Fashion Is Language

Sage Paul Cardinal was the first that I heard say that indigenous fashion is a language.  I witnessed what she meant when I attended my first Indigenous Fashion Week Runway Show in Toronto.  The experience was mind blowing and changed the direction of my art-making hands.  Indigo dyeing came back to The People on Lumbee Land at the studio of Patricia Brayboy, artist and Head Ceremonial Lady for her people.  Through Pura Fe to Sage, what was nurtured and protected in my bloodline was shared with indigenous people in Toronto.  We are broken indigenous women suffering from multi-generational trauma, but our time to heal ourselves and our land is now.  One of the ways we can heal is by creating color from plants.

So, as we celebrate Native American Heritage, I would like to honor the rebirth of what appeared to be lost but was instead preserved by Skaru:re Toisnot people traveling Contentnea Creek.  Stories of birth at Mercy Hospital, survival skills nurtured on Daniel Hill, and The Civil Rights Movement given a voice at Charles H. Darden High School.  My Skaru:re ancestral homeland is also the land of Jim Crow colonizing settlers in the heart of Dixie.

It’s a land made famous by once being the world’s largest flue cured tobacco market.  It’s the land taken March 20-23, 1713 by the treacherous and universally despised Colonel John Barnhill of South Carolina by massacring Skaru:re people at Fort Neyuher:uke, kidnapping survivors and marching them from the Coastal Plains of Eastern, North Carolina to Port Charleston to be sold into slavery.

Least I forget!  Why it’s important that I survive the pandemic!  Why I have to overcome my multi-generational broken heart by focusing on helping the 7th generation behind me.  Yes, it’s possible for me to restore my childhood home in 2022.  Mark 9:23 “Jesus said to him, If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJV)  |  “If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (NIV)  I pray for preserving steadfast faith, and Abraham’s unshakable hope to honor my dying mother’s prayers for me to share our stories about growing and harvesting natural color, dyeing cloth, and stitching.  TGBTG

Indigo Cloth 2 Dye 4: Day 11/30

Some days I explore the indigo dye pot, just because I love it! My life is complicated, and dyeing cloth gives me hope that everything is going to be okay.