Sunday, September 27, 2009

Painting Variegated Sock Yarns with Earthues Natural Dyes Reviewed

I want to share some photos of our annual summer workshops with Michele Wipplinger, founder of Earthues, here at the farm. The weather was just about perfect, albeit summery and warm, but perfect for relaxing around the dye tables.

The first workshop was Painting Variegated Sock Yarns with Earthues Natural Dyes. It was a three day intensive, combining lectures about color theory and the characteristics of the natural dyes, creating color palettes on yarns for the students future reference and then using the color palettes to create skeins on sock yarns. Michele always brings a trunkful of textiles and fibers to stimulate our color senses. We set them out in my studio where the first day she spoke extensively about natural dyeing, fiber preparation and mordanting, Earthues dye properties and the handpainting process using her painted yarns to give example. After lunch we took to the barn to begin the actual work.
Here is Michele in the barn during one of her lectures.

Each student chose their individual dyes from a variety of prepared dye combinations.

With their dye concentrations they then set up yarn cards to test their palettes. These cards are a great reference for the future documentation as well as re-creating a palette. Memory doesn't always serve us well as time passes! Once the yarn samples are painted and steam set the students organized them on card stock pages with all the information about what dyes, mordants, water (hard vs soft) and any other pertinent facts needed to duplicated the hue again. These yarn samples are ready to be set permanently on card stock.

Her is a student analyzing her yarn samples before she started to paint her first skein. Painting skeins for socks is a system using six or seven colors with a percentage used for dominant, secondary and accent colors within the skein. Each color scheme should have some contrast, just a little: in value, hue or saturation.

An indigo vat is always present in case students want to overdye a portion, the entire skein or merely a strand or two. Here are a couple of the students waiting to dip. They have blocked off areas of the skein that they will not dip in indigo.

This skein has just been pulled from the indigo vat and is ready to let oxidize to get that magical blue only indigo produces.

And a few skeins oxidizing. You can see the puples and greens.

Once again a great workshop exploring the endless options natural dyeing provides.

Special thanks to my friend, Maryann for assisting behind the scenes!

The Art of Mudcloth with Earthues Natural Dyes reviewed

Our second Earthues workshop at the farm was The Art of Mudcloth Using Earthues Natural Dyes. When I first learned Michele would start teaching this art, I knew we had to offer it here this summer. Michele has spent an extensive amount of time studying in Mali and now is able to teach the art to us. Bogolanfini (mudcloth) is the story of Mali and her people. Their cloth chronicles their life. The styles of Bogolan cloth vary based on the region of the country and the tribes of people who create them.

Opening another three day intensive, Michele spent the first morning in my studio giving a presentation and sharing some of her beautiful mudcloths that she has gathered in her travels. Students were able to absorb the symbols and colors imbued in the cloth as they started their journey toward their first peices of mudcloth.

Michele obtained this beautiful board in her travels. It is a piece of wood that is painted with a number of mudcloth symbols and serves as reference for painting the cloth.

Katie, our farm helper, offered to be an assitant for the workshop and here she is getting the muds ready for everyone.

And some tools of the trade....wooden block stamps

and bamboo sticks which have been chewed on the ends, as a means of filling in a design area plus a jar of binyenw, a metal tool that facilitates in outlining the design area.

Then the students began practicing with the muds on cotton fabric. First they lay tannin on the cloth and then applied mud to get used to the process. This is Michelle P's test peice which is handsome as is! It showed the way the various muds interacted with the tannins in the cloth.

As the pieces were painted with tannin they were hung out to dry in the sun.

Some photos of the pieces being created

Lunches for both workshops were great and wine became the late afternoon treat!

Here we the end of three fabulous days having played in the mud only to find it was better than ever!

A very special thanks to Betsy MacIssac of Crooked Fence Farm for all the pictures she took.

Sunday, September 13, 2009


That was August for me. I got back from Seattle the last week in July and although I knew everything would get done in time for Michele Wipplinger's arrival to teach the Earthues workshops, there were times I wondered.

In a prior post I wrote about these shoes that we found buried in the wall of the house when we reinsulated. I learned from Katie, our farm hand, who worked for years at the Cooperstown Farm Museum, that there was a tradition in the 18oos to bury a pair of shoes in the wall when building the house for good luck. When Katie learned about this the shoes had been on a bench in the shed for about 3 weeks. One morning I got to thinking that those shoes had been in the wall here for more than 150 years and I'd better get them back in the wall post haste! They aren't in the same spot, of course, but I did find a wall cavity that accepted them freely...back safe and sound to keep the good luck flowing.

Poor Sidney had been struggling with a rectal polyp for at least a year. It had become quite uncomfortable for him and we had become way too intimate with the situation trying to keep him comfy. Our vet referred us to CAVES, a truly amazing veterinary service in NH, Capital Area Veterinary Emergency Services. They only work with emergency and complex surgeries for pets and what we were told was impossible to fix, they did in just a few hours. We took him up on a Thursday and he was ready to come home the next morning. Here he is the day after, pretty tender, but his pet monkey helped him through! This was not a posed picture....he set it up himself. Too cute, eh? On the heels of Sidney's recovery, Webster,our cat, had an ingrown nail that had to be extracted. The pople who owned him before us gave him a Tendonectomy, which is as cruel as declawing, in my mind. So he can't extend his claws to sharpen them and then they grow to long and grow right back into his toe pad. So we now have to check him every couple of months. Always something.

The weather was still pretty rainy in August but we managed to get 300 more bales in the barn. This looks like a lovely summer day but the temperature was actually 95 and humid. Great for haying but not for us!

The rains simmered down in time for the Earthues workshops here at the farm from August 22-28th. We did have humidity and some showers but all in all it was lovely weather for natural dyeing. I will update on the workshops in upcoming post.

We finally got a stretch of sunny days the 30th of August and the sheep were sooo happy! We trimmed their hooves and changed a number of coats, and yes, I washed and repaired some 30 coats this summer, tough season for coats with all the rain. Just finished the last repairs this morning. But those sheep were feeling so frisky with the cool weather, fresh breezes and pedicures! Look at them run. I was out in front of them and Jack was at the shed and they ran back and forth between us for 15 minutes, sproinging and bouncing like lambs.

Here's Katie moving the flock to fresh pasture one morning.

And they are enjoying a late afternoon graze.

I got a custom dye order filled in between everything in August. 36 pounds to start. It was pretty gruelling tending the dyepots with the temps in the 80s and 90s. That sun behind the trees has been unmerciful for two weeks. I finally would wave to it as it set and say "bye bye", won't miss you!"

Jack keeps a game camera running in various locations and it caught this picture of a bear on the ridge. Since then there have been a few more pictures, one with a cub. That rounds out the population with deer, turkeys, fox, bobcat, bear, moose, raccon and a skunk!

The garden didn't wait for things to simmer down either. I froze pounds of beans, broccoli, peas, strawberries and just today peaches. We are digging potatoes as we go and the brussel sprouts are just about ready.

The hay is in, the garden is nearly in, the dyeing is caught up, although now I am preparing for the NY sheep show (Rhinebeck), the Earthues workshops are finished and were fabulous as usual, and the hint of fall is in the air!