Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fiber Workshops on Peaks Island

I'm so excited to start offering various fiber workshops at my home on Peaks Island, Maine. The idea has been cooking away in my brain for a few months now and it's finally going to happen. This past weekend, as you read from my prior post, I hosted an indigo dyeing party which was a blast and a great learning experience for everyone including myself. This coming September 22nd, I'll be hosting my first workshop at the house. It will be just short of a week from my return from teaching at Squam The Taproot Gathering. I've entitled this workshop, Home Dyeing Made Easy. We'll be dyeing with madder root, logwoods, black walnuts, indigo, and osage orange. I'll talk about and demonstrate simple steps for preparing for the dyeing, tools and techniques that just make things a bit more manageable when you don't have a dyeing space set up all the time. Sample yarns will be used including merino, cashmere, angora, mohair, and alpaca. You can bring your own as well if you have something you'd like to dye up or have been itching to change the color of. Not a fan of your yellow yarn? Come drop it in the madder root to create orange or the indigo to make a green. Bring your bag lunch and hang out on the porch and chat away in the breezy afternoon while the pots simmer away.

If this date and time does not work for you but you'd like to take a workshop or private lessons in dyeing or other fiber related forms, let me know, I'm happy to work with you to create a workshop that can accommodate your schedule, skill set, or group.  

Feel free to email me with any questions! 44clovers@gmail.com

Hope to see you in September!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Indigo Party!

This past Saturday was a very special day. A lovely gathering of specials ladies came to the island to participate with me in the first indigo harvest of the year. My mom Karen one of her best friends and my childhood neighbor and my second home, Elaine. Shannon, my younger sister, and Kasey one of my closest friends. Kasey drove down from Northern Maine the night before to spend a whole weekend we me. I felt especially blessed and just so lucky to have such wonderful visitors. They all left their routines and families to come spend the day to extract color from leaves in a very mysterious and magical way. 

We had a very specific agenda. And that was to harvest my first batch of indigo leaves. Back in very early June, I was still in Ireland on my honeymoon. With the help of two sweet ladies, these indigo plants made their way from the fiber frolic with the help of my mom and then made it into the ground with the help of our friend Judith who was staying at our house at the time. 

I waited to just when I thought they'd be perfectly ready for harvest. Not too late and not too early. Once we were all present we waisted no time in clipping away. We cut the stalks a few inches from the ground.

Then we stripped them from the stalks and put them into a pot. We poured 2 gallons of water over them. 

I then put in a pot, creating a double boiler effect on my stove inside, I let the temperature climb very slowly for an hour to 160 F. 

The leaves where in two gallons of water. I added two ounces of ammonia. We all took turns passing the liquid back and forth between two pots to incorporate oxygen. Immediately the water was turning blue brown and then more blue and foamy.

I then popped it back on the stove and added a teaspoon of spectralite. Also known an rite color remover. I needed to get the temperature to 130 F. And I needed the color of the bath to go from blue to yellow green. This spectralite does something to the bath. I don't know what exactly (I was awful at science) but it reduces the oxygen. When it turned yellow green, and smelled like grass, I knew it would be ready. 

I brought it outside and we dipped various small items in that had been soaking in plain water. 

They gave a lovely color!!! The yarn on the bottom edge was a soft pale lavender. It turned a lovely pale blue! 

However, as we continued to dip our items in, I was worrying more and more about our color. It was fading and it felt like something was wrong. I put the pot back on the stove thinking the temperature dropped. I tried to baby it and pay attention but nothing more was happening.

Did I not add enough of something? Where there not enough leaves? What was I missing? Did I just need to keep dipping? I'm not sure. So to supplement I got my indigo powered pigment vat from the basement and woke it up. I hadn't used it in a month and it was still great! Heavy results too.

I let everything dry over night outside and was about to rinse everything by hand under the faucet in the kitchen when it occurred to me..... Put it in the washer!!! It's not wool or yarn, it will be fine. I thought maybe I would have to wipe out the inside of the washer afterwards or run the clothes through 3 times to set the dye but I didn't. 

The all turned out beautifully the first time. And the inside of my washer was perfectly clean. No blue!

My mom's shibori dyed tank.

Now, I'm going to go play with my indigo leaves vat and see if I can remedy anything. 

Friends in Fiber

This is a little bit over due but, better late than never! I spent another glorious week for the 4th year in a row at The New England Fiber Arts Retreat in Washington, Maine. Though I affectionately call it Medomak as it's part of the Medomak Family Camp. I look forward to this every year. A whole week with my girlfriends. A whole week working on knitting, spinning, embroidery, dyeing, felting. A whole week talking about such things to many others who love to talk about fiber too. Exchanging ideas, encouragement, and advise on projects. And a whole week of indulging in ice cream, swimming, sitting in a rocker and making friends in fiber. As one of the five instructors, it has always been such a delight, refresher, awakening and rejuvenating week to spend time in such a place to share my knowledge and passion and learn so much in such a way.
This year we had triple the amount of participants sign up as last year. It was truly 3 times the amount of fun, friends and learning for everyone!!

I have a few pictures captured from the workshops I taught and just a smidgen of others. This one is from my first workshop: indigo and pigments. We used fustic for yellow, indigo for blue and cochineal for red. Everyone had several sample skeins and choose which pots they dipped them in. 

This fustic came in a liquid form. Fustic comes from a tropical tree back. Also known as Dyer's Mulberry. The tree can grow in Mexico and Argentinia. 

Cochineal can usually come up a mauve color with alum as a mordant. But when you add enough cream of tartar, BAM! It turns a perfect bright red!

My favorite in this gathering is the deep purple and the light subtle purple hanging from the light blue. everyone had so much fun playing with the color blending.  

Here are some pictures from my second class; Foraging. As I was coming up from the lake the day before, I discovered these Lobster Claw Mushrooms peeking out from a pile of leaves. Those are the huge bright orange ones. 

Those said mushrooms gave a lovely pink with ammonia and alum... We also collected golden rod, lichens and other mushrooms. It was such a blast. 

The golden rod is like a fluorescent marker! And smells kind of zesty. Dyeing with golden rod is one of my most favorite dyes. Also done with Alum as a mordant. If you add iron, it will give you more of a green. 

Bristol Ivy and Dana Fadel collaborated on a class of dyeing silk hankies and then weaving with them. The first day, Bristol taught how to dye the silk hankies with acid dyes. Dana taught how to weave with them.

It was so fun to see everyone with their card board looms working on this sweet project. It was quite the hit!

Every year I so look forward to the field trips. Going to Katharine Cobey's is always such a delight. Amazing surroundings, both the landscape and Katharine's studio. 
And she always has a new technique to teach us. After 4 years of visiting her, for me, it never gets old. Her energy, welcoming spirit and zest for knitting is contagious, inspiring, and empowering. 

She taught us to knit and purl back wards, from left to right. But really, when you think about it and trust yourself, you'll find that you DO know what to do. 

Here she gave us all a piece of rope and taught something I don't quite remember but it involved starting from three stitches. Can I do it again? I wonder....

We visited Swan's Island Company.... Where they use natural dyes for their yarns that weave their blankets. The yarn is for sale as well. This was such a treat as we were given a tour of the show room, the weaving room, the finishing room, and the dye house. Everyone was so warm, friendly, knowledgable and so transparent about their process. It was refreshing and delightful. The time they take for each piece is amazing. If your able to acquire their yarn or their blankets.... you will not be sorry. It was also a lovely way to connect two of my workshops to their process as it was inspiring and affirming to hear them say the same things about their dyeing process that I was talking about in my dye workshops. Afterwards, I picked the brain of the dye-master and he was very gracious in answering all my questions, giving me tips and even showing me the books he uses. Two of which I own too:) Such a lovely lovely visit!

Our last field trip we visited Black Locust Farm in Washington where Yvone an her husband rise cashmere goats. I blissed out on purchasing 4oz of green dyed cashmere cloud. Spinning it has been a delight and I haven't regretted an ounce:) I will be double plying it and creating a cowl.. to sleep in this winter....? Quite possibly. I mean, its the kind of fiber you want to curl up in and sleep. As it turned out, the fiber was dyed by Bill Huntington of Hope Spinnery. Bill is another one of the instructors at Medomak which I have such a pleasure of teaching with. Bill sells his yarn, patterns, and knitting loveliness at The Fiber Frolic and The Common Ground Fair, and know there are other fairs but off the top of my head I can't remember!! Bill also uses natural dyes:)

In another class I taught nuno felted head scarves. Carrie's is a perfectly felted gem. With felting I love how thick the wool becomes and the silk edging around it is all delicate and crinkly. Next year there will be a new twist on the nuno felting class:)

Even through down pours, we kept spinning, and creating with our fiber. Some times we didn't even notice it was raining. 

Until next year...