This is my blog to share my adventures, misadventures, exploration, and experimentation with fibre- and as it turns out, with life as well. There is some of both. One thing leads to another. Collecting, spinning, weaving, dying, learning, building a web of relationships. Here we are: welcome.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dye Day: Day Camp for Grown-ups

Well, this happened June 13th, and I had it written and the photos all done by the next day.  Then something came up and then I forgot I hadn't posted it. A little late, but here it is, the report on my wool guild's dye day.  The best one ever, according to some folks who've been there forever.  I wish I could post photos of all of it: it was wondrous. But I forgot to take my camera. So I'll have to stick with sharing some photos of some of my own projects I took the next day. 

Some things are just too fun. There we were, a bunch of ladies, many of a certain age, others of a younger but mature age, and some young ones. To round things out and keep them interesting, one teen and two under ten. One of those was a boy. Were they on the sidelines? Nope. Not at all. But it was mostly a day of grown-up ladies wearing old clothes and playing with messy stuff. And having the time of our lives. The kids helped. They were right in the thick of things.

We do this every year, my wool guild, but this is the first time I've been able to go. Usually late May/early June is when I take my annual trip west to visit family out west (there are a lot of them). This year circumstances intervened, and so I got to go to the dye day. I sorted through my handspun stash, and picked out some of my skeins,some I felt were good candidates for experimentation. I gave them a good wash, and left them in the rinse bucket with just enough water to keep them damp.

Imagine a house on a hillside in central Vermont on a sunny June day. Imagine a semi-covered courtyard overlooking a sheep pasture and tree-covered hills. Imagine people sitting round the terrace alongside all of this, spinning, knitting, chatting, getting up from time to time to check a dyepot. 

Imagine- the joy of it- three propane cookers, dozens of dye pots, Crock pots repurposed as dye pots. Jars of multi-colored wool waiting to be “cooked” in a canning pot of hot water. Tables with a multitude of dye projects going on, skeins of wool being “painted” with dye, then wrapped like a burrito in plastic and put in a microwave (never to be used for food again). Imagine unwrapping one of those packages, the anticipation of the mystery within, rinsing the skein-- and another miracle of color to hang from improvised racks and trays along with hundreds of other skeins, and roving, and fleece and locks. An entire hillside transformed by color.

Times this by several hundred and you get the idea. These are mine, hung on a wooden clothes dryer after I got home.
Midday break for a potluck lunch. These folks have amazing potlucks. It's like going to a fine restaurant with friends. I'm talking GOOD cooking- appetizers, salads, main dishes, bread, you name it. Five desserts (I took small portions of three of them: when it comes to dessert, I sometimes have a hard time making up my mind). 

Fortified, we went back to dye some more.

I'd done dyepot dying before, mostly natural dyes I'd collected myself. This was my first major experience with commercial dyes. But I'm also a painter, and one thing I'd learned in my research is that the pigments used in dyes are the same pigments that are used in many artist's paints (and some in foods-- that's why Kool-Aid works as a simple, safe dye). I could visualize in my head-- to a certain degree-- how many of those dyes would interact.

Hogg Island Moss
That works well with dyepots, where you can see the dye before you put the wool in. Not so much with some of the other techniques, where random variables are likely to introduce some mystery into the process. And surprises, sometimes good, sometimes ok, sometimes awful. I got one of those- some Hogg Island roving that ended up looking sort of like camo. After I split it up and drafted several lengths together to mix up the colors, it spun up into a beautiful woodland moss medley.  From disappointment to delight.

And there is the one I thought was going to be mud, and it turned into unexpected magic:
Yarn, light, pigment,and magic.

I learned how to do things I might not have even tried on my own. The skein painting. I really don't care for most painted yarns I've seen (often referred to fancifully as “colorways”, a term that tends me make me feel a combination of amusement and nausea). But I've seen some that were fascinatingly lovely, that made me visualize how the yarn would work up and the colors interact. I wanted to try something like that. I had no idea how to go about it. That teenager I mentioned above? She turned out to be the expert. I watched her, asked for advice, and then I went wild. 

Spring in Vermont.  This photo does not begin to capture all the different greens in this skein!
  I will never miss another dye day as long as I live. I'll travel west some other month.

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