Thursday, November 06, 2003

Friday Retreat Sessions

Yup, I'm skipping right over Thursday - aka Market Day You're not that interested in what I bought, are you? Okay, Jillian, put your hand down and be patient.

This is Judith MacKenzie boiling water. Okay, okay, she's adding cool water to her vat (before adding freeze dried indigo) to drop the temperature. Apparently, indigo likes the water temp to be between 90 and 140 degrees. Judith says that if you're dying fabric, you can use the cooler temperatures. For yarn, try to stay as close to 140 as possible. If you go over 140, the indigo becomes inert (won't stick to what you're dying). All is not lost, however. If you cool the dye bath off, you can use a product that will reactivate the dye and you can continue.

There's so much to say about indigo, I'm not sure where to begin. There are lots of books that can help you with indigo dying much better than anything I can come up with here. What's cool about freeze dried indigo is that the hard work is done. All you have to do is heat up some water and sprinkle a very little bit of the crystals into your pot. There's no lye involved and it's fairly safe to work with. All the other rules about indigo stay the same (stir slowly, completely wet whatever you want dyed, add your materials to the side of the pot, etc.) - you still don't want to introduce oxygen into the bath. Here's what you get...

The darker skeins are actually brown yarn overdyed. It's difficult to see the difference in the picture, but I have a skein of it, and it's beautiful. The greenish colored skein started out as a putrid yellow that was way to bright for anyone's taste (except maybe Big Bird). I didn't take a picture of a cream colored Estonian scarf that Judith put in the pot. She planned on dipping it several more times over the next 3 retreat sessions. Nancy and I went back after every retreat to see how much the color had changed. It's absolutely beautiful. Judith said she would probably dip it at least 10 times - to get a deep, even blue.

I want to draw your attention to the 2 silk scarves in the photo. A couple of women in this retreat tied these up for Judith to toss into the bath. What they did was place dried chick peas on the fabric and then put rubber bands around the chick peas. The chick peas rehydrate in the bath and the rubber bands act as a resist (keeping the dye out) and you get a lovely square-ish pattern. I think both of these are random patterns, but Judith showed a gorgeous scarf she had done with diagonal lines of squares on the ends. In fact, she's wearing it in the photo of her above. You can't see the pattern, but you can make out some of the squares.

I wanted to bring some of the freeze dried indigo home, but the only vendor who had it - Morgaine at Carolina Homespun - had her truck stolen before she got to SOAR and the thieves emptied it out. (On a side note, if you see lots of cheap wheels and other fibery things for sale - please let Morgaine know.) Anyway, I had to be content to order it and she's going to ship as soon as she gets back to her shop.

This brings me to Friday afternoon. I toyed with the idea of taking the workshop on handspindles. When I first learned to spin, I had to use a drop spindle for a while and I hated it. I could never get the hang of the thing. As a spinner, however, I love the look of the things. There are so many different models - light, heavy, different kinds of wood, and shapes of the whorl...all that equipment! I decided against torturing myself and thought, "I'll just take a retreat session." This is Andrea Mielke

She is a very patient woman. The class was full of people, like me, who wanted to handspindle, but couldn't get the hang of it on their own. We made some spindles, but most everyone had at least 1 spindle they had bought (me included). I'm telling you, these little things are addictive! In the 3 hours of the retreat, I spun a cop of yarn on my spindle, Andean plied it, and have a nice little skein for my efforts. Andrea gave us a ton of fiber to play with, a couple of balls of combed top, as much carded fiber as we wanted (in several colors), and even some cotton. It was great fun.

Here's my Hatchtown spindle and skein of yarn. The little crochet bag (made by Carol Rhoades) came as a result of my bidding in the SOAR silent auction. Every year, Interweave gives scholarships to people to come to SOAR. This is the first year they've given full scholarships (Workshop & Retreat sessions) in the past, you could only get a scholarship for one or the other. Anyway, there were tons of items in the auction and I think everyone found something she liked. I was in a bidding war with a woman named Hope for a beautiful melon basket and some roving. Hope won - I tossed in the towel and bid on this gorgeous bag. It holds my spindle and about 8 oz of roving. I'm going to have to find something else to hold the spindle I ordered from the Bosworths that is on it's way to me right now. (Did you see how I sneaked that in?)

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