Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Color, culture and cloth

We had a fantastic workshop with Michele Wipplinger of Earthues here at the farm last week. She arrived in the dark of the night, I was so happy to see her safe and sound. Tuesday morning we hit the ground running, unpacking her wares and setting up and by 10 AM the group had gathered for what was 3 days of lecture and dyeing in the European tradition. Michele taught the process of hue gradation as she was taught by Jean Dufour in France who developed the technique many years ago. Jean Dufour taught Michele the process using only the eye, whereas we were given some actual recipes to follow. The outcome on Thursday was a rainbow of 9 hues with 5 shades within that hue. Natural dyeing has as intense a range of color as any chemical dye ever hoped to have! We feasted on lunches by Berndt and Nancy. I let them choose the menu for each lunch and it was a culinary delight! The weather was perfect all week so we were able to serve outside buffet style up in the garden. Thursday evening Michele treated those who could stay to a slide show of her travels to Mali, Thailand, China, Guatemala and beyond. I watched our winter sheep barn transform to a dye house then an evening movie house complete with an evening buffet...it was marvelous! When the winds of winter are whistling around and the sheep are nestled in this same barn I will remember these colorful days of dyeing; ethnic cloth from around the world, the stone walls awash with indigo from oxidizing skeins, tales of distant cultures and the color that surrounds us.

Monday, August 21, 2006

School uniforms

We have had a good laugh since Berndt remarked the other day about the sheep coats. Jack and I were putting larger coats on some of the sheep and 3 of the six lambs are now coated. We were talking to one of the lambs as we put her coat on and Berndt told the lamb " it's just part of your schooling here at Long Ridge Farm, you have to wear a school uniform". How true it is! The lambs took to the coats without batting an eye.


We have had the good fortune this summer of connecting with Nancy Eakins and Berndt Zabel. They have moved into the cabin here at the farm and accepted the position of assisting shepherds! They most recently came from Scotland where they worked and taught in a Rudolph Steiner community environment. Nancy is originally from Washington state and Berndt is from Germany. The sheep took to them instantly and we think vise versa! Berndt plays the penny whistle for the sheep and they quite enjoy that...it is an alto flute so the notes are quite soothing to them!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sheep Days of Summer

We are in a wonderful stretch of weather right now. The day highs are in the 70's and the overnights dipping as low as 40! The sun is still strong; no bugs and no humidity. The sheep are in heaven; able to put their heads down for lazy afternoon siestas.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Indigo girls

A few of us got together Saturday here at the farm and dyed with indigo. I prepared the stock in the morning and we made a vat at noon. I had a few skeins of dark gray yarn, Diane had two skeins of oatmeal Icelandic from her flock and Maryanne brought some raw fibers of mohair and wool in mesh bags. We had great success, the vat had good PH and reduction; we had to correct it after an hour of dipping, but that gave us extra time to visit. Dyeing with indigo really is a patient process. The dips can be as little as 20-30 minutes apart or as long as a day, it's such an individual experience, as the number of dips determines the shade of indigo desired. In the villages of far away lands there is usually one indigo dyer. He can manage up to 100 or more vats all the time and if the village or group moves, so does the indigo dyer. We did two to three dips yesterday and I did one more on Sunday. Each of us are allowing the fibers to rest for 24 hours and then begin the after dye process of a vinegar soak and lots of rinses.