Kristine Vejar, owner of A Verb for Keeping Warm yarn and textiles shop in Oakland and author of The Modern Natural Dyer, taught a class called Mapping Color last Sunday. I managed to just squeeze into the class a couple of days after I returned home from my trip. In the class we learned how to eco print with local plants, mainly flowers, onto different kinds of fabric.
The class took place in the cozy little back patio area behind the shop. It was inspiring to see the small creative space and all of the different dye plants growing or drying there, waiting to be made into natural dye.
Fresh flowers and plant stuffs that were provided and used during the workshop included coreopsis flowers…
…and eucalyptus leaves.
Kristine also had some jars of onion skins, cochenial beetles, and dried coreopsis seeds available on the tables. Students were encouraged to bring flowers and plants from their own backyards if they wanted to as well.
Packed in each of our workshop kits were three different types of fabric pieces: silk, linen, and wool. Each its own blank canvas.
At the start Kristine gave us a short tutorial with tips on how to forage locally and demonstrated some eco printing techniques. Then we got cracking on our projects.
The faster we got our bundles wrapped up and ready, the sooner they could go into the dye pot to simmer for at least 45 minutes.
As always, the best part of a natural dye class is the unveiling of people’s projects. I was amazed at the clear details of the flowers and the unique designs that the other students were able to achieve.
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I wanted to keep the dyeing process going and decided to bring my own bundles home without unwrapping them. (I didn’t even take a peek. You should be very proud of my patience, guys.) After letting them simmer for an additional two hours on my stove, I finally unwrapped the silk and linen bundles, rinsed them, added a few more flowers before rewrapping them, and I simmered them again for a couple more hours.
Here are my fabric pieces now, freshly air-dried and soon-to-be ironed. First the linen, which I eco printed with mainly marigolds and onions skins. I’m extremely happy with it. Kristine gave us a nice big piece of linen, so I think I will be sewing a summer top with it.
Next, the large silk scarf, printed with marigolds and coreopsis seeds.
For the smaller silk scarf I used a little bit of everything: coreopsis flowers, marigolds, and onions skins. The magenta/pink speckles were from some petals of an unknown flower from my anniversary bouquet, which I kind of regret adding after the fact. I have a sneaky feeling that the flower had been dyed by the florist, because the color seems a little too fluorescent to be natural.
Ah, well. Lesson learned: be wary of bouquets. As Danny said to me on Wednesday, “It’s all part of the learning process.” (I may have told him to “oh, shut up” when he said this to me at the time, haha . But it’s true. I am still very much learning.)
The final bundle, which was the piece of wool fabric, is still steeping in a jar of eucalyptus dye after I re-rolled it on Wednesday with a copper pipe and steamed it. So, no pictures of that one yet. It’s currently hanging out on the kitchen window sill with two other jars filled with hibiscus dye and thrifted hanks of wool and alpaca yarn.
Today, I have a pot of yarn and cotton items simmering in an oak gall/iron dye. A little less colorful than my other current or recent projects. Kinda looks like a squid ink pasta, don’t you think?
I can’t tell you how good it has felt to get back to dyeing. I’m on a roll, and I’ve really been embracing the creative energy that it’s been giving me.
I’ve also been on a roll with my knitting over the past couple of days, and I’m finally in the home stretch of my Cinnamon Girl Cardigan, which had been hibernating while I was away. Only the sleeves to do now. We’ll see how much progress I can make over the weekend. Danny and I are going to the SF Ballet performance in Stern Grove on Sunday. All of the Stern Grove outdoor summer concerts are free tend to fill up really fast, so we’ve learned that it’s best to get out there plenty early to stake a good spot on the grass. I foresee a lot of knitting happening during that pre-show waiting time.