Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dye Workshop


I attended a great dyeing workshop yesterday at Heelside Farm in Four Oaks, NC. The workshop was given by Carolyn Beasley, owner. I should have checked my batteries in my camera before I left home, because after taking three pictures, they died. I managed one photo of some guinea chickens who crossed the road in front of my car on the way to the farm. They weren't in a hurry and took enough time for me to pull out the camera. The second was the beautiful peacock perched atop of the house when I drove up.









I snapped one more of one of the farm turkeys before they died. I will be back at the farm before too much longer, I hope, so will still be able to share more photos. In the meantime, you can visit their website at www.heelsidefarms.com.
I remember dyeing basket reed years ago, when I was very heavily into weaving baskets. It was never one of my favorite parts of basketmaking as the reed was often bulky and required a lot of stirring and rinsing and large areas to lay this out after finishing. Also, the reed, unless bundled correctly, would sometimes flip onto the dyer or fling dye places it shouldn't go.
Dyeing wool with Carolyn was so easy yesterday and a lot of fun. We used synthetic dyes by Jacquard and dyed yarn and wool locks from her Border Leicester sheep. We chose turquoise and cherry red for our solid colors. I decided to buy extra locks to go with mine so that I could get a largeer amount of it from the same dye lot. I used the turquoise which came out in two shades because of re-animating the solution between batches. It's even more beautiful in person (or in sheep?) than in the photos.
We also each dyed a variegated skein by handpainting it with four different dyes. Again, the picture doesn't really do it justice. I'm going to measure my skein. It's kind of rasta-looking. I'm wondering if there's enough for a small hat. We dyed on top of the stove and in the oven as well, a new technique I didn't know.
Carolyn took us on a tour of her farm to introduce her animals, sheep, chickens, peacocks, turkeys and angora rabbits. I so much wanted to take home one of those sweet bunnies. She has beautiful angoras available for sale if you're interested.
Lunch was provided, consisting of smoked turkey and corned beef sandwiches, blueberry muffins and homemade dill pickles. I didn't know dyeing would work up such an appetite, but lunch was delicious. Thanks again, Carolyn and sons (who helped out) for the wonderful hospitality (and advice on my frustrating yak spinning).
Carolyn mentioned that she and some other spinners are trying to develop a group which would meet monthly to spin. I'm looking forward to this chance to network with more spinners. I don't know anyone around here that spins on a regular basis (or at all), so this will be a real treat for me.
In addition to the synthetic class, Carolyn also offers a class in using natural dyes, such as indigo, black walnut, brazilwood, etc. She is a well-read spinning and fiber historian and entertained us with a lot of background stories of indigo growers and other dyeing history. Did you know you can make dyes out of pine tree roots?
I would highly recommend these classes to anyone who enjoys knitting or spinning. Even if you're not a spinner and only buy ready-made skeins of yarn, wouldn't you like to be able to tweak that skein of wool just a little. Maye the shade could be a little bluer than what the store offers? Learn to dye your own wool and take more control of your knitting.

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