Today was Day 1 of a two-day series on the Art & Science of Natural Dyeing with Jane Woodhouse of Brigid’s Farm in Peacham, Vermont. I learned about the course through my association with the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association and thought it was a safe bet to be able to sign up for the class which is 2 hours north of my farm because it’s January. What happens on the farm in January? You have to defrost a lot of water buckets, keep a lot of hay racks loaded, basically keep the animals fed and watered, but it is usually a good time to indulge in continuing education.
I love to teach. I love to be taught. I don’t usually have the time or the opportunity to be a student, but when I can, I soak it up. I so enjoy everything about Natural Dyeing our fiber and have dye stuffs from the basement to my bedroom, from the garage to the back porch, from the freezers to the rafters. I am always soaking something in a mordant or a dye solution, rinsing or labeling a skein, reading an article or dreaming of dye gardens. My kids think I’m like a woman-possessed. I pull over and jump out of the car to forage, or enthusiastically ask strangers if I can harvest a bit of this or that. I was bartering vegetables for meat with a local grower the other day and was shameless about asking for her dried flowers that I found in a compost pile on the side of her workspace.
When I dye, I fill the pot up with the dyestuffs, I fill it up with water, I simmer and let it sit, I extract the dyestuffs or sometimes leave them right in with the fiber. I’m extremely unscientific. It is similar to my cooking style.
I knew that I could learn a lot from Jane Woodhouse because she’s taught numerous classes, has learned dyeing in an academic setting, and has years more experience than I. I thought it would be excellent discipline for me to dye under the tutelage of one who measures and weighs, one who has formulas.
The facility was perfect (Vermont Technical College put us up in the classroom adjacent to the greenhouse. Oh JOY! A greenhouse in January!) The students were energetic and interested, so fun to meet fascinating new folk. Lots of fiber talk. Lots of farm talk. Lots of art talk. Lots of chemistry and math. The structure, instruction, resources and pace were perfect.
I’ve filled the following space with a photo documentation, leaving the step-by-step details out because this share is more to show how the class went, but not to be a tutorial. Jane Woodhouse has been published in “Spin-Off” Magazine, “Making Dyestock Solutions from Natural Dyes” and you should definitely look it up if you are interested. Jane also teaches at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival in Rhinebeck, NY each fall, and if you are able to, you should take any of her workshops(which sell out almost immediately.)
I thought it would be just what I needed in January. And it was. The drive north was spectacular. I’ve lived in Vermont since the late 80s, I never, ever get tired of how beautiful it is. Randolph, Vermont is a pretty town on the east side of the Green Mountains, so I got to enjoy a different view of the range. Snowy fields, Rose quartz & Serenity skies.
Yes, I had to text a friend in Boston to cover the farm for me. It’s true. I sent Tara, who watches our LambCam in her office during the day, a note: “Can you please keep an eye on Iris and send me a text if you see unusual/straining/loud behavior?” To which she replied “Anything to help!” And so I was at peace to know that at least someone was watching that very pregnant ewe for me while I was away. My plan was that if Tara sent me the alarm text, I’d text my other, local friend Tara to run over to the barn and throw an eye and update me. That was my plan. I have excellent Tara-back-up!!
I’m so jazzed about tomorrow, when we will combine some of our fiber with our indigo vat. I’ll be sure to share.