Twin Pond Dyes.. Beautiful Vermont

August 1, 2012

A trip to Vermont last this week brought a wave of inspiration for natural dye color.  I taught a two-day class for a group of 17 who came from a range of places from across the United States.  The workshop was hosted by Twin Pond Retreat, and paid for by a grant by the Vermont Women’s Farm Foundation.  We spent the first day preparing our wool, organic cotton and other samples in sumac leaves, alum, rust water, bog mud, and  cow’s whey.

The sumac leaves were cooked lightly for just one half hour before entering the raw materials into the pot.  The tannin in the sumac was rich at this time of year.

Apple branches were pruned, (these came from a wild apple tree), we harvested lady bedstraw, goldenrod, madder, fresh indigo, black walnuts, purple basil, coreopsis, sumac berries, and I also brought sage from California to share with the group.  Other than the sage, everything had come from the garden.

The mordanting and preparation all took place on the first day… we prepped 7 dye vats in total.  It was an ambitious and exciting task to combine those colors with so many mordant options.  It would have likely taken a week to even begin to explore the color permutations.

That night we ate wood-fire pizzas as the dyes cured and the mordanted fibers dried. We ate and dyed from the same garden. Re-inforcing the food, fiber, and dye connection. It is true that what we eat, and what we wear are crucial pieces of the human ‘well-being’ puzzle, and the way we procure these necessities either hinders or enhances the existence of other species and our own progeny.

Madder root was harvested fresh from the garden (3yr. old roots), and we created a beautiful frothy red vat.

The samples of red are pulled out of the vat, almost ready, the red takes time, the heat must be slow and low.

The cool spectrum colors were abundant (which is rare), but we had tannin and iron reactions, purple basil, and fresh indigo to do the trick.

Some of the samples are lined up here, including a pH modified coreopsis strip, made yellow with vinegar and deep orange with wood ash.

The rug wool samples were divided up amongst the group.. light pink from bedstraw, red from madder, sky blue from fresh indigo, tan from sumac, gold from apple bark, and turquoise from purple basil, orange from coreopsis.

The pond was just a short walk from our dye station, and very swimmable.  The edge of the body of water housed an iron rich bog– which we also put to good use.

The bog was filled with conifer needles, and over time the decomposition had created an iron-rich concoction.

The cloth was originally rolled up tightly– here you can see it after it had been unrolled, it turned black all along the edges where it was exposed to the bog (in just one full day of soaking).  The inside of the cloth had been rolled up with maple leaves that had just begun to leave a tannin reaction that could be seen as a light green outline of the leaves in the center of the fabric… (given more time the leaf imprints would have been black.)

At the end of the last day the sun began to set and the samples were collected in the last remaining light. Our group was hard-working and compiled a lovely collection of garden colors.

Our wool yarns illuminate the rainbow that came from the Twin Pond Garden.  A beautiful array of botanic color.

Thank you Jennifer Steckler and Twin Pond for your incredible Vermont hospitality– and for nurturing such a special place on this planet.. and thank you Sierra Reading for your incredible work and teaching skills!  What an outstanding and deeply inspired event!

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4 Responses to “Twin Pond Dyes.. Beautiful Vermont”

  1. Lynn D Says:

    what amzing colors, so fun. a beautiful place.
    what are the greens fabrics in 2 of the photos? Is it basil w a different pH or mordant?
    Thanks
    Lynn D

  2. ecologicalartist Says:

    I believe that was a purple basil and golden rod experiment, but there were so many hundreds of samples floating around it was a bit hard to keep track of all the variations….

  3. Karen Tsutsumida Says:

    Would our California Sumac yield the same luxurious purple? What mordant was applied? This is exquisite, all the colors are amazing and what a beautiful place for the workshop. You’re such a fun teacher, Karen Tsutsumida

  4. Marie-Josée Says:

    It looks like the workshop was amazing! I wanted to be there, even though I live in Québec, but couldn’t make it. I really hope to have the chance to participate in one of your workshops one day. I love natural colors, fibers…


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