Flying the Coup to Freedom in Canada

A Personal Celebration of Indigenous Eastern N.C. Cultural Heritage ~ From the Last Toisnot Tuscarora Gatekeeper

Yesterday, while braiding my hair, Felicia Farmer asked me how I felt about my upcoming trips to Calgary, Canada and New Orleans. I told her I was fearful because I’m alone and, as a woman, I don’t want to be lost or stolen. But my prayer for the last fifteen months has been to have preserving, steadfast faith and unshakable hope. Be careful what you pray for because you will be tested to see if you are sincere. So as someone who isn’t fearless, I step out on faith to sojourn to the land of The Blackfoot Nation. This continues my Life Event of “Flying the Coup to Freedom in Canada.”

It’s a lot of fear swirling around in American society today. We all feel fearful of the unknown. But, for faith, fear will overcome us. But, for love, fear will turn to hate. But, for desperation, fear will steal your joy. But, for anger, fear will harden your heart. But, for selfishness, fear will destroy your soul. Everyday, each of us has a choice on what we want to make today. Do I want to make unity, harmony and celebrate peace inside and out or do I want to make mayhem, discord and celebrate how unfair life can be. It’s my life, my choice! My choice is for peace inside myself because it takes so much less effort to maintain, leaving energy for me to be creative. I’m learning not to judge other people for their life choices, because until I’ve walked a mile in their moccasins I’m clueless of their circumstances.

banner02Creativity through design thinking demonstrates that there are no shortcuts, fast fixes, quick solutions. The process of transformation is hard and lonely. It causes you to dig deep within yourself to become your best self. The process of creating transformation on cloth using natural plant dyes helps me. My momma said, “If you can witness transformation on cloth with indigo dyeing, it’s easier to believe that you can walk it out in your life.”

So, I travel “Up North to Freedom” with one song, Mahalia Jackson singing, “If I Can Help Some Body.” And I share my one authentic dance, “Algonquin Eastern Woodlands Blanket Dance,” given to me by Kathy Crippin at the Machapunga Tuscarora Pow Wow in Moratoc Park overlooking the Roanoke River. I’m humbled and abundantly blessed by this opportunity. I’m standing on generations of prayers, especially my dying mother’s specific prayer for me to share plant dyeing and stitching.

Otahpiaaki 2018 Workshop Preview

Starting a YouTube Channel to document my dyeing and stitching adventures for upcoming teaching gigs.  My first video is upload. Please check it out.  Like and positive comments appreciated.

Link to Poo’miikapi Textiles Workshop at Otahpiaaki 2018.

Poo’miikapi Textiles Tutorial 02: Naatowápo’takiis Show Quilt Pattern

Song: Ulali, “Mother,” Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women CD, World Music, 1995.

The Otahpiaaki Fashion Week Community Quilt

You Will Need Six Yards Scoured Cotton Fabric:

  • Divide 2 yards into four half-yard pieces and a one-yard piece.
  • Divide each of the half-yard pieces in half to make eight 18”x22” units. These will become our quilt squares
  • Bind into four pairs of circle designs. Used found objects to embed into cloth to make circle. I used both the ring and flat disk from canning jar lids, and Spider Woman design.
  • Bind the 1-yard of fabric with wide pleats in Little Canoe. Will be cut into strips.
  • Bind the 1-yard of fabric in a narrow width pleats in Little Canoe. Will be cut into strips.
  • Twist and bind the remaining 2-yards of fabric. Will be used for freeform improvisational cutting.
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Our goal is to make hand made matching circular designs. The two were made with embedded Mason jar lids.
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These were made with embedded Mason jar lids and cotton sinew.
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This is Ksisówáwakaasaakii (Spider Woman) Design created with tobacco twine.


Poo’miikapi Textiles Tutorial 01: Naatowápo’takiis Quilt Pattern As A Quilted Blanket Shawl

Poo’miikapi Textiles
Naatowápo’takiis Quilt Pattern
Sacred Circles Community Healing Project
Using Hand Dyed Cloth Made Sacred With Otahpiaaki Indigo

Song: Ulali, “Mother,” Heartbeat: Voices of First Nations Women CD, World Music, 1995.

My version is to make a quilted blanket shawl using the same design concept as the community quilt.  Follow Blog to make your own.

I will be using  Five Yards Scoured Fabric:

  • Divide 1 1/2-yards into three half-yards pieces.
  • Tear half-yard pieces in half to make six 18”x22” units.
  • Bind into three pairs of circle designs. Use found objects to embed into cloth to make circle. I used both the ring and flat disk from canning jar lids, and Spider Woman design.
  • Bind the 1-yard piece of fabric in a wide width Little Canoe.
  • Bind the 1/2 yard of fabric in a narrow width Little Canoe
  • Twist and bind the remaining 2-yards of fabric.  This will become the blanket shawl back cloth.

Narrow & Wide Fan Folds for “Little Canoe” Resist Pattern Design

Bound Bundles. I used green Kona Cottons to over dye in indigo for my quilt. You can divide yardage to accommodate print fabrics or unbleached cotton muslin.


Poo’miikapi Textiles: Tips For Dyeing Yardage

When we dye fabric for a ribbon skirt, regalia or a quilt back, we will be working with yardage. For a ribbon skirt, you’ll need two or three yards depending on your size. For a quilt back we need three to five yards of fabric in a bundle. Dyeing yardage can be a challenge. My approach is to keep it simple. Generally, I don’t design elaborate resist design patterns. My go to design is “Little Canoe” because it’s quick, easy, uses only twine with a few clothespins optional, and it produces excellent results. In a ribbon skirt an elaborate design will get lost under the ribbons, as it will in a quilt back.

The scouring process produces seriously wrinkled cloth especially if dried in a dryer. Don’t panic when the cloth is removed from the dryer in a tangled mess. Have a pair of scissors handy to cut the unraveled strings and take a deep breath. Hanging clothes on a clothesline to dry after scouring makes less of mess but takes a little more time. Discover what works best in your indigo dye practice. Taking the time to press the cloth with a hot steam iron will make it easier to manipulate. Steam pressing five yards of cloth is time consuming but well worth the effort when you begin folding and binding the cloth into a dye bundle.

When making large bundles, make sure your indigo vat will be large enough to totally submerge the cloth. Quilt backs can be dyed in smaller units and pieced. There aren’t any hard and fast rules, so experiment and find your best practice.

Poo’miikapi Textiles: Dancing Blanket & Whole Cloth Shawl Making

My goal this week is to prepare yardage for quilted blankets and whole cloth shawls to be used as teaching examples. This will include dyeing a yardage of wool to be equivalent to a Pendleton blanket. The process for dyeing wool is different than cotton because wool is a protein or animal fiber, where as cotton is cellulose or plant derived. I’m beginning with the yardage of wool, since it will have its own vat. As I write this tutorial, I’ll be making bundles to dye by the end of the week. Stay tuned!!!

Yardage Cut Size In Inches Size In Centimeters
Fat Quarter 18 x 22 in 45.7 x 55.9 cm
1 yard 36 x 44 in 91.4 x 111.8 cm

Dancing Blanket: Blanket for Eastern Woodlands Blanket Dance Using Cloth Made Sacred by Hand Dyeing with Natural Plants, Flowers or Nuts

The size in inches is approximately 50” to 60” by 65” to 75” depending on your height. In centimeters the measurements are 127 cm to 152.4 cm by 165.1 cm to 190.5 cm.

To make a whole cloth blanket with 3 layers equivalent to a Pendleton blanket that will need to be quilted. Approximate amount of fabric you will need:

  • 3 yards for top
  • 4 yards for back
  • ½ to ¾ yard for binding
  • Total Fabric to Dye = 7 ½ to 8 yards
  • Plus 4 ½ yards of batting or muslin for middle layer

Divide cloth into three pieces. Using a sharpie pen, tag pieces with Tyvek prior to dyeing. Secure tags on cloth with a rust proof safety pin.

  • 3 yards for top
  • 4 yards for back
  • ½ to ¾ yard for binding (depending on how wide you want binding)

To make improvisational pieced blanket top divide cloth into

  • 8 fat quarters = 2 yards (4 fat quarters per yard)
  • One 1-yard cut to make strips
  • One ½ to ¾ yard cut for quilt binding (depending on how wide you want binding)
  • One 4-yard cut for backing

To make a whole cloth blanket with one layer out of wool equivalent to a Pendleton blanket that will not involve quilting you will need 3 to 4 yards of white or natural colored wool. Indigo dye recipe will need to be modified to dye wool, which is a protein or animal fiber instead of cotton, which is a cellulose or plant fiber.

A whole cloth shawl for regalia is approximately 46” x 82” or 117cm x 210cm. I normally dye three yards of cloth by whatever width of the cloth. Fabric is usually 40 to 42 inches wide. A whole cloth shawl is a single piece of fabric with a rolled hem on all four sides. Fringe is usually added on three sides.

Poo’miikapi Quilting: Design Concept

It is with honor, humility and gratitude that I participate in Otahpiaaki 2018: Pride & Protest which was developed by a team of Blackfoot Elders, students from diverse Nations, and faculty from Mount Royal University. Twenty-eight fashion designers, artists and creatives from eighteen Nations on Turtle Island are participating. The purpose, which is inspired by Nitsi’powahsinni, which in Blackfoot is a celebration that carries the breath of the ancestors, is essential for the continued survival of indigenous people.

The purpose: “significant social, cultural, restorative and economic reconciliation across reserves, communities, regions and territories by promoting, protecting and providing resources and capacity building by using a ‘seed-to-runway’ social enterprise model that unfolds alongside a program of research in our workshops.”

I have been designated with the honor of being an Elder, which carries the responsibility of focusing all of my life experiences and creative energy into cultural traditions associated with dyeing cloth and stitching Poo’miikapi Textiles which translates into teaching, learning, sharing and healing. My design problem is how to construct a shared learning experience through a community quilt project that can become a cultural expression supporting “restorative and economic reconciliation” while contributing to indigenous fashion. My solution is what I call Poo’miikapi Quilting.

Poo’miikapi Quilting Definition:  Poo’miikapi is a Blackfoot language concept that translates into teaching, learning, sharing and healing.  In a nutshell it means, we teach, we learn, we share and we heal. Rooted in traditional indigenous Textiles history it gives voice to cultural, social, restorative and economic empowerment within the global modern quilting movement.  Algonquin people have a long connection to cloth, color, pattern, rhythm, visual texture and stitching.  Our three-layer quilt sandwich consisted of sustainable fibers from our land and was bound with sinew and spun twines.  Finished products were blankets for the Eastern Woodlands Blanket Dance, shawl blankets as regalia to keep us warm, as well as bed quilts.  The design choices of how to put the basic ingredients of making a quilt together are parallel to our experiences of putting the broken pieces of ourselves, families, communities and Nations back together.  As indigenous survivors we push the boundaries; we harmonize using improvisational techniques; we break the rules; we make up our own patterns or deconstruct traditional ones into something new and unexpected. Poo’miikapi Quilting is a fluid and evolving means of improvisational indigenous expression.  We are interpreting the cultural traditions of our ancestors using cloth made sacred by hand dyeing and quilting as a metaphor for Otahpiaaki’s “seed-to-runway” social enterprise model.

I Was Blind But Now I See So I Practice Machine Quilting

I Was Blind But Now I See So I Draw & Practice Machine Quilting
Ways Of Making Color That Got Lost Are Coming Back
Letting Go By Binding Cloth Bundles
Textiles As A Holistic Practice

Change and transformation require hard work, dedication, an open mind and busy creative hands. Idle hands are the devil’s breeding ground. One eye healing with the ability to see clear vibrant colors and distance is a wonderful blessing. With 1.75 reading glasses, I can see close up well enough to start back drawing and learning machine quilting. Hallelujah! Near blind in the other eye, but I have sight!

Today I begin anew to heal my broken heart through creative hands and design thinking. My journey begins by exploring line as an element of art. Machine quilting wavy lines and drawing as contemplative mark making. Both free motion quilting and drawing share the ability to put me in a total mind and body pure creative state of being. I had to put both activities on hold since my mother’s death because of vision problems. But, now I can see out of one eye and I’m elated to once again be able to see clearly. I have astigmatism and have always worn glasses. Seeing clearly out of my eye is a new experience, and is not something that I take for granted. I’m humbled by my new sight, and boldly proclaim, “every time I turn around God is blessing me!”

Learning free motion machine quilting is like learning to play a musical instrument. I’m determined to invest the time and energy required to master it. I truly like machine quilting better than piecing a quilt top because it has a Zen like quality. I’ve just been unable to see well enough to do it well. But practice makes perfect! As an artist, I have a problem with sending quilts to a long arm service. I want to piece and quilt the entire process for myself, with my own creative hands. If others can learn free motion machine quilting, then so can I.  I may suck at free motion machine quilting today, but in 30 days I’ll be better and in 90 days I’ll be on my way to learning it.

Indigenous Textiles As A Holistic Practice

Letting Go By Binding Cloth Bundles
Indigenous Textiles As A Holistic Practice

I’m at a crossroads as a “Motherless Child.” Two years after my momma’s death, I still have her house and mine both full of a “mountain of things.” My inability to bring order to clutter has broken and humbled me. But, for studying the greatest letter ever written – Paul’s letter to the Romans – I pray for preserving steadfast faith and unshakable hope. I hold on to my prayer with each precious breath I breathe in thanksgiving to Creator, total submission to Jesus as Savior as directed by the Holy Spirit.

Algonquin Little Canoe Resist Technique In Round Dance

I was born to The Blues as was my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother. But, The Blues is what enabled us to hold onto creative hands Algonquin culture in Eastern and Coastal North Carolina. We were cloistered women who keep our hands busy, minds focused, mouths shut and concentrated on making something out of nothing. I grew up in a Moon Lodge with many mothers, each of whom blessed me with their wisdom.

Now I need the lessons, the strength, the endurance, the ability to heal my brokenness through art. Art Heals! When large numbers of people stop being able to create something out of nothing, they lose their culture. As culture fades, so does health, mindfulness, prosperity, hope and future expectations. I need to transform my mind through my hands and let go of the pain of grief by getting out my own way and allowing the Holy Spirit space to redesign my heart.

I’m practicing letting go of fear and insecurity by binding cloth bundles while perfecting the “Little Canoe” Algonquin Resist Technique in thanks that I witness this new day saying, “Every time I turn around God is blessing me!”


I Was Blind But Now I See
At Least Out Of One Eye

Cataracts removed on one eye with a Toric lens implant and I have natural distance vision for the first time. I see bright full chroma color which reflects light with neon effect. However, I can’t see close up out of the corrected eye. My other eye is a yellow sepia toned veiled world in which I can see close up but distance vision is non-existent.

This is the second time in my life that God has restored my sight. This time around I’m dedicating my sight to what God wants me to see and render through drawing. I love drawing especially charcoal so as I write my business plan and reorganize my art making, journaling my journey will include drawings, short stories, stitched blankets and shawls on dyed cloth! Thank you Sweet Baby Jesus! “Every time I turn around God is blessing me!”