I have long been intrigued by the natural dye process and all of it's possibilities- the idea of collecting items from nature and harnessing the colour as opposed to industrial dye practices really resonates with me. There is however a lot of science that goes along with natural dying- this intimidates me and although I have dabbled a little bit I knew I wasn't doing something quite right- hence all my natural dyes stayed in their nifty little jars sitting on my self. So when Ally of Oolawoola approached me with the idea of taking a Solar Dye class with local dye maven Caitlin Ffrench of We Will Tell You All Of Our Secrets at a near by wool store I jumped at the opportunity to learn from a pro.
First off I should mention the evening was perfect for this kind of natural magic- one of those brisk fall nights with the fog just starting to creep back in around the buildings- it seemed very fitting that we were learning an ancient technique. When we arrived at Baaad Anna's Wool shop most of the class was already gathered around a large table- dye stuff and wool was set out at each spot- everything was very cozy and inviting. Caitlin had gone out collecting eucalyptus and marigolds earlier that day- she knows all the alley ways and secret spots to find just the plant for her purposes- and she shared her secrets!
Solar Dying is much easier than I anticipated- essentially you are using passive solar energy to set the dyes as opposed to cooking them on the stove top. In the hot summer months the dye process goes much quicker but right now heading into the shorter days of winter we will need to wait at least until after the Solstice before we open our jars up. The basics needed are Alum and Mordant- we used an Iron Mordant that Caitlin had prepared herself- the different mordants are what had me flummoxed but all my questions were anticipated and explained clearly- I left with a much better understanding of how the dye process actually works.
I am really excited by this new process I am just at the cusp of learning- as I mentioned this method of dying really resonates with me- so gentle and easy- and natural. I have big plans of my own which involve natural dying- I want to start dying the fabrics I am using in quilting and home sewing projects- as well as wool. I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to learn from such an expert as well as get my feet wet in the natural dye waters- to be shown and have it explained just how easy this actually is.
A century ago women would gather and make light work of projects like dying fabrics and wool- they did it together as part of a community- as they did with much of the daily work including raising their families. People lived their lives as a part of a community or tribe- I feel that is something that is lost today- we live our lives so compartmentalized. To become involved with and learn these traditions and ways- knitting, quilting, dying- creating the fabric of our lives- we need to seek out those who have the knowledge. I gather these skills to me and wear them like trinkets around my neck- close to my heart- part of something bigger than myself- part of tradition
P.S. when I open up my jars I will be sure to share how they turned out- for now they are sitting pretty in my window sill- to be joined today by a few more jars!