Thanks to Barbara Kingsolver for her thoughtful book and wonderful book title (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). As I've been playing alchemist--converting plants in my yard into dyestuff for wool and silk this summer and fall--this book title keeps coming to mind.
This fall I also had the opportunity to take another natural dyes workshop, so I jumped at the change. Taking more than one class on the same or similar topics really helps solidify concepts in my head, and sometimes getting the perspective of several different highly knowledgeable teachers can really help broaden understanding of a topic. So after the terrific three-day natural dyes workshop in KY in May (plus a 1/2-day indigo workshop in IL in September) with Dagmar Klos, I was excited to take a one-day natural dyes workshop with Jane Woodhouse at the amazing New York Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, New York.
My good friend and intrepid travel buddy Susan and I hit the road early Wednesday morning to drive from Madison, WI to Rhinebeck, NY. It was over 1,000 miles each way, but we got a lot of time to talk, laugh, listen to a great book on CD, see some beautiful fall colors in WI, IL, IN, OH, PA, and NY, and both get to see the Hudson River Valley and Catskills Mountains for the first time.
We stayed at the fun and rustic Inn at TreeGap outside of Woodstock, New York (yes, THE Woodstock) and then commuted across the Hudson River to Rhinebeck on Friday and Saturday for workshops and taking in the festival. The whole area was spectacular, with sunny skies, near-peak fall colors, and temperatures in the upper 60s to mid 70s. Here's the view out of our TreeGap loft/cabin:
In the natural dyes workshop we used natural dye extracts and distilled water to create dye solutions with cochineal, madder, fustic, and logwood. We then created dye solutions with each of these pigments in combination with one another and in multiple shades. We dyed wool yarn samples in quart-size mason jars with these 60+ mixes:
We got terrific base color on wool that Jane had mordanted ahead of time with alum (potassium sulfate) and cream of tartar. From left to right, the dyes are: cochineal, fustic, madder, and logwood:
We worked at tables of four, and I had a great time with my fun, adventuresome dye partners Karen, Gail, and Whitney. Whitney, a former high school biology teacher and homeschooling mom of three young kids was getting a real kick out of the amazing colors coming out of the jars. Here she is with our four base-color samples:
And I had to take this picture, because the yarn samples coordinated so beautifully with the orange shirt and yellow work gloves:
To round out our palette we overdyed several of the samples with indigo. Here's our teacher Jane sitting by the indigo vat and talking about the magic of indigo:
And here are some of the gorgeous colors we got after dipping dyed wool in indigo for just three minutes!
After Friday's workshops (Susan took one on options for spinning multi-colored roving) we spent Saturday with thousands of other enthusiasts shopping the seemingly endless booths of yarns, spinning fibers, fleeces, dyeing supplies, and hand-dyed wool fabrics. We also thoroughly enjoyed the wine and gourmet-food tasting building at the end of the day. The whole event, new to both of us, was an incredible visual and tactile feast and a bit overwhelming. It wasn't uncommon to see lines 40+ people long waiting to purchase yarns at some of the most popular vendor booths.
We also had fun on Saturday browsing the barns full of sheep, cashmere goats, alpacas, llamas, and other amazing creatures including one that was new to me--paco-vicunas. There was a very informative booth about paco-vicunas--luxuriously soft, docile creatures that are a mix between an alpaca and a vicuna and have even softer fleece than alpacas! Touching the sample fleece at the booth was like touching a cloud. I think I've (kind of) gotten over my daydream about owning an alpaca or two, but it was such a treat to see and pet many of the beautiful creatures who give us such spectacular fibers. Hmmm, maybe two paco-vicunas would enjoying living in Madison...
Well in all the driving we did between our cabin outside of Woodstock and the festival in Rhinebeck I didn't come upon a child of God walking along the road... but I did get to see these two sweet paco-vicunas at the festival! So that's pretty close.
Once I got home yesterday I laid out my yarn samples from the workshop. I'd love to create a stitched embroidery or quilt with the samples from both the May workshop and the October workshop.
I am planning to write at least one more post this fall on my natural dye experimentations before winter hits us here in the upper midwest (we had a freeze last night). In that post I'll show the results of my elderberry dye experimentation, and I also hope to still harvest some black walnuts from my dad's farm to use to create some beautiful browns on wool... So, as always, stay tuned!