Sievers Natural Dye Retreat

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 Sievers 2015 Natural Dye Retreat with willow harvest.

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.

Yarn naturally dyed with willow leaves, and a modifier sample set.
From left: Dyed with leaves of Salix Alba Vitellina, baking soda modifier (no heat), copper liquor modifier (heated), willow/iron liquor modifier with COT (brief low heat), white pine bark alkaline extract modifier (no heat)

Sievers students picking fresh Japanese indigo leaves in natural dye class.

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!

Nancy's wool yarn dyed with fresh Japanese indigo, and the plant stripped of its leaves.

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.

Student work in the Natural Dye Retreat at Sievers.

Lots of students brought walnut hulls, so there were rich browns to go with those blues.

Macrame-covered wine bottle got a new look from walnut hull dye.

One student used her walnut brew to dye a the nylon sheath she knotted over a bottle years ago…

Natural dye sampling on deerskin, nylon and linen.

…and sampled different natural dye baths on deerskin and nylon, as well as linen.

Another use for a leaky copper boiler.

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:

Silk charmeuse dyed with willow leaves.

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.

Ecoprint scarf made in the Natural Dye Retreat at Sievers School of Fiber Arts.

We had a double rainbow over the studio one afternoon, and lots of magical moments.

Double rainbow over the studio at Sievers School of Fiber Arts.

Can’t wait to do it again!

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

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