If there’s something even better than having a burner for everyone and a floor where spills don’t matter, it’s a big patch of dye materials right out the back door and great companions while harvesting, brewing and learning.
Students in the Natural Dye Retreat at Sievers started their week by cutting material from the willow patch on campus. It’s beautiful material for dyeing as well as for basketmaking. I’ll write more about the specifics of willow dyeing soon (I haven’t forgotten, Frances!). But for now, here’s a picture of a wool-silk yarn dyed with willow leaves (salix alba vitellina) and modifiers from a demo I did while the fresh-leaf Japanese indigo pot was heating.
Students picked the leaves from a Japanese indigo plant I took for the class, monitored the heat, helped manage the vat, and did a great job of exhausting every last bit of color from it!
That’s what the plant looked like at the end of the day. I think Nancy’s skein was in the third group into the vat. Everyone was limited to a small skein or scarf for the first group, so all could have a full-strength sample from the polygonum tinctorium.
Lots of students brought walnut hulls, so there were rich browns to go with those blues.
One student used her walnut brew to dye a the nylon sheath she knotted over a bottle years ago…
…and sampled different natural dye baths on deerskin and nylon, as well as linen.
Another student discovered her yard-sale copper boiler leaked, so she used it to mordant her fabric before dyeing. That’s silk yardage wrapped around the boiler and sprayed with vinegar. After a couple of days the copper-enriched fabric went into a willow leaf dyebath and came out lovely. My hurried picture the last morning did not do it justice, and no one got a photo of it frozen to the clothesline the night before. But here’s what her silk charmeuse sample dyed with willow leaves looked like:
The great fall color showed up in other ways during the week. Many students had fun making contact-print bundles using maple and other leaves picked up on the Sievers campus.
We had a double rainbow over the studio one afternoon, and lots of magical moments.
Can’t wait to do it again!