Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Day to Dye - and Die

It's been a busy couple of days - especially for fiber-related things.

Last night, Aaron & I took the Audacity sock out to Thomas Friedman's lecture about his new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded. It's something of a stretch to relate the sock to the lecture - especially since I think "wear warm clothes and turn down the thermostat" is exactly the sort of thing Friedman thinks won't be enough to create a green revolution and protect the environment. I didn't get a chance to get his opinion on socks, as this was the most rapid-fire book signing I've ever been to. But he was very friendly about pausing for pictures, even as he scrawled his autograph on what must have been hundreds of books. I'd love to get joint-care tips from authors - book-signings must be worse than Hat Attack knitting for wrist pain.

Today was much more fiber-related. At the invitation of Amy, a Ravelry and Hogwarts friend, I drove over to Danville for the Champaign-Urbana Spinners & Weavers Guild's Natural Dye Day. Natural dyeing is one of those things that's been on my "to do" list for a LONG time, and so I hope this will get me inspired to get out and play on my own.

The get-together was at the Forest Glen Nature Preserve in Westville, Illinois - right on the state line. (Yes, I drove back to Illinois while Aaron was here for the weekend. Love means understanding your beloved's freakish interest in fiber, I think. Or it means being content to sit at home and watch football.) The location was great for me, because it meant I could leave home around 9:o0 for a two-hour trip to be there at 10:00. Have I mentioned how much I love finally being in Eastern time for good? I could kiss our governor.

But not today. Today is for talking about dye. They did the whole thing outside, at this re-created pioneer cabin in the nature preserve. It was well-appointed, with water, electricity, and the cleanest pit toilets I've ever seen in my life all handy. And it was a beautiful day - a perfect day to dye. (Yes, I know it's a stupid pun. But it's so easy.)

Easy like natural dyeing - although it was only easy for me because Beth, one of the guild members, did almost all of the work. I think the whole dying thing is her baby - she'd assembled the recipes, and prepared the materials, and owned most of the equipment. So by the time I got there, the dyepots were simmering over a fire, and lunch joined them soon afterwards. Some of the dyes went into the pot that morning, but others were collected in advance, and saved or soaked or dried.

We dyed with pokeberries and goldenrod (both shown here), osage orange chips, padauk wood, marigolds, cochineal, black walnuts, and indigo.

The indigo was the tricky one - and they used an "instant indigo" that didn't require weeks' worth of stale urine. It got its own pot over an electric burner, because it had to be kept within a very narrow temperature range, and treated very gently.

(The Yarn Harlot's friend Laurie has a lovely set of posts about indigo here, so I won't write about the whole process. Especially since I have no intention of trying it until we get a shed.)

Beth was kind enough to bring a giant bag of samples of previous years' efforts....

...and here are this year's results. We were told to bring eight 1/2 ounce skeins of yarn, and that we might be able to dye more. I think everyone (and there were probably 20 or so) got to dye everything she'd brought.

So now I'm home with about eight ounces of yarn, and surprisingly few dye spots on my clothes. I had a great time.

What I didn't have, I fear, is the sense to get any good pictures of Amy or Beth or any of the other lovely people there. So I can't show you any of the wonderful spinners and weavers from Illinois. But it's probably safe to say they're like fiber people everywhere - you can easily drop into the bunch of them and always have something fun to talk about. In this case, what we talked about is that I really need a spinning wheel.

Getting home wasn't so good for me. It turns out to be a day to die, too.

There was a package waiting. I was excited, at first - maybe something from my Secret Pal? Or some yarn I'd forgotten I ordered?

Then I saw the return address, and remembered.

It was the Hat of Death, Pahoehoe, named for the slow-moving but dangerous lava. Dogs, it seems, are not afraid of lava hats - although it's possible that the doggie treats that were in the box helped overcome their normal instincts that would cause them to fear a Scary Death Hat. I'm told they spent the day sniffing the box, but since they really didn't do much about it, I doubt they have a future in detector-dog work.

Except for the whole killing-me thing, it's a perfectly lovely hat, made with the delightfully soft Therapi. Thank you, foxpearls, for killing me so warmly - and for softening the blow with goodies! Thank you, too, for killing me quickly, so I don't have to knit five more of these things.

Some days, dyeing, or dieing, isn't so bad.


Blogger Calliope said...

yay! I had so much fun meeting you and doing this! If you're ever in Illinois on the second Saturday of the month, that's when one of the spinning groups gets together. :D Also, there's another event at this park in April, I may have characterized it as a spinning thing, but it's just a general fiber thing, really, people knit, crochet, weave (on small looms) and spin there.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like you guys had a blast! And such wonderful colors! My guild does a dye day every year, and we've done some natural dyes, but not on the scale of what you guys did. It's awesome.


10:08 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home