I had a fantastic weekend. My spinning guild offered a two day dyeing workshop with Rita Schwab and I was able to take part.
First off, it was held at a place called Clement’s Farm. This is the kind of spot you don’t think still exists on Long Island. It is privately owned and our guild was able to use the property. There are fields all around it and a cooperative organic farm at the end of the long driveway.
We learned the process of natural dyeing – starting with the mordant. Then we went about extracting the dye from the vegetable material and after that, the fun of actual dyeing. We worked over open fires.
Rita explained that most dyers use hot plates or their stove tops, but that during her workshops she likes to take the historical approach. As recently as 200 years ago, this is how fabric was dyed and the work fell to the women. it’s good not to be a sweet-old-fashioned-girl.
Now, I love me a good campfire – the snap, crackle & pop and especially the smell. I like to sit near them. Operative word there is sit! Once the wool was set into a dye pot, it needed to simmer. This required a great shifting of many hot and heavy pots in order to move them from the center to the edges of the fire as they needed to either boil or simmer. It was hard to do this without getting facefulls of smoke and/or singed.
We extracted dye from marigolds, logwood, brazilwood, calendula, daffodils, dandelions, onion skins, sumac, thai tea, hickory bark and sumac! We actually made more than these, but I have forgotten the others – I am suffering information overload.
Have I mentioned how much I love this spinning guild? That the women are all so multi talented and interesting? Another great thing about the workshop – having so much time to spend working together and getting to know one another.