In Gathering Blue, when Kira first comes to Annabella's, what is Annabella doing?

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The answer to this question can be found in chapter 8. Chapter 7 ends with Kira telling Matt that she wants to go visit Annabella. Chapter 8 begins with Matt saying that he will come with Kira because she needs protection.

“You be needing me and Branch for protectors,” he said. “Them woods is full of fierce creatures.”

Kira tries to dissuade Matt, but he wins out. It takes an hour or so to get to Annabella's house, so the two characters fill the time by talking about earlier childhood experiences. Matt explains a bit about the family structures and dynamics in the Fen, and Kira talks about how great her father was.

“I had a father. He was a fine hunter,” Kira told him proudly. “Even Jamison said so. But my father was taken by beasts,” she explained.

As they get closer to Annabella's home, Matt goes ahead a bit. He comes rushing back to Kira and announces that the old woman's house is ahead and she is there. Matt also says that the old woman's hands are "full of rainbow." Kira arrives and sees that the woman is dyeing yarn and hanging them to dry.

She leaned toward a basket on the ground, lifted handfuls of bright-colored yarns—yellow of various shades, from the palest lemon to a deep tawny gold—and hung them across a rope that was strung from one tree to another. Deeper shades of rust and red were already hanging there.

Annabella is surprisingly knowledgeable about who Kira is and why she is there, and Annabella states that Kira must learn to dye as well.

“You must learn the dyes,” the old woman said. “You come for that, aye? Your mum did, and she was to teach you.”

“There wasn’t time.” Kira sighed. “And now they want me to know it all, and do the work—the repairing of the Singer’s Robe? You know about that?”

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In chapter 8, Kira, accompanied by Matt, goes to the forest to Annabella's cott to learn about dyeing. Matt runs ahead, then comes back and reports to Kira, "There's the crone outside in the garden, with her crookedly hands full of rainbow!" When Kira arrives at the hut, she sees that the old woman is working near a flower garden. In her hands she holds strands of yellow yarn in various shades. She hangs them over a rope on which other strands of yarn are already hanging. Annabella has been dyeing yarn with various colors—yellow, gold, rust, and red—and is hanging them on a line to dry. She invites Kira to sit on a stump, and then begins pointing to various plants in the garden, explaining to Kira which parts of the plants to use to make which colors. Kira must keep coming back as often as she can to learn about the dyes from the old woman. After Annabella's death, Kira becomes the only one who knows all the secrets of making the colors necessary to repair and add on to the Singer's Robe.

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