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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Twist Fibre Festival 2013 Workshops with Natural Dyer Jackie Ottino Day 2

Day one was such a blast, I couldn't wait until the next day for the Indigo dyeing class.  I kept my still damp ring of coloured skeins in the mini van.  As friendly as the hotel staff were, I didn't want to chance dripping dye on their floors.  I had a really hard time getting to sleep, I was so keyed up about the day.  At the end of the class, many of us were debating what we were going to do with our pretty mini skeins.  Each is only 25 yards, so not a whole lot to make anything large.  I thought about making some stripey fingerless gloves.  I'm still thinking about it, but I do love the look of the ring on my studio space wall.  To knit or not to knit, that is the big question!  LOL

Day two I was up early and heading out the door.  Had a little mishap with my iPhone gps; she wasn't talking to me.  Which meant I had to go by memory from Montebello to St-Andr√©-Avellin.  Good thing I had an early start, because by the time I got there, there was a huge line up waiting to get into the festival.  Nothing like showing up late for a class to start the day off wrong.  But, thankfully the festival people were super quick getting people through the doors and I made it right on time.  :D
Here was one of the sights they had set up outside to entertain.  A sheep merry-go-round!  I'm not sure how merry the sheep were to be inside that pen, slowing spinning with a guy playing an accordion in the center on a stool, but it was quite the sight.
A shot of my desk spot.  By the end of the class, these sheets were covered in splotches of blue!  We all had a small canning jar so we could make a bit of an indigo dye vat to take home.  Haven't cracked into mine yet, but let me tell you, it is very pretty.
This was Jackie's work space at the front of the class.  She told us she had spent at least three months learning all she could about indigo for her job at Swan's Island Company.  Testing and retesting to get the perfect percentage formula for the indigo extract that they buy.  (What a fabulous job!)  She shared with us the percentage that works best, and made a "master vat" in the large plastic container for us to use in the workshop.
Here is more of the beautiful merino wool that Swan's Island donated to us for the Indigo workshop.  We had to soak it first in water, even though Jackie had soaked them earlier.  It was so warm, they were getting dry spots on them.  The stainless steel rings the hanks are on are called "funny eyes."  They are what lobster fishermen use when weaving their lobster traps.  Excellent dyeing tools, these funny eyes!
We were encouraged to bring in some wool or fabric that we wanted to dye with indigo.  This is my extra large pickle jar, holding about 2000 yards of my sock wool I soaked.  As you can see, most of it was pre-dyed.  I had attempted to dye with black beans in February 2013, but my results were very icky in colour.  I was hoping that the indigo would salvage these skeins. 
Again, our trusty propane burner!  Indigo dye vats are tempermental ph and heat wise.  Since there was so many of us in the class, and so many of us brought a lot of our own stuff to dye, we had to have two vats going at once.  Sadly, only one burner.  We made do by shuffling pots from the burner and constantly checking the temperature.  

I had brought my enamel pot and my little electric burner I got from a second hand store, but the burner would only heat a pot to a max temperature of 155 degrees F.  Grrrrr!  180 degrees F is the magic number for most natural dyes.  Good thing I did bring my pot.  That's it on the burner in the photo.  It turned into the second production vat for this class!  Ah, the temptation of turning something blue.  We workshop students went a little overboard.  LOL! 

After a while, and a ton of items going through the vat, Jackie would "revive" the vat with a top up from the master vat solution she made in the classroom.  Ph was taken again, colour of water was checked, and onto the burner it went to get it up to temperature to activate it.  Jackie could tell by the green shade of the vat if there was enough of a "glug" from the master solution to produce the optimal shade of indigo blue.  They don't call this woman a master dyer for nothing!  It was like watching magic.  In fact, the whole process of dyeing with indigo is like magic.  Watching the skeins go from a green to a rich blue when you pull them out of the vat was... incredible!  If you ever get a chance to do an indigo workshop with Jackie, do it!  

Funny thing, as we ladies were all laughing and talking excitedly around our fire and pots, stirring and pulling fiber out of them and exclaiming as they were turning blue in front of our eye, we had a lot of people walking past us laughing and asking if it was Halloween.  I think this is something Jackie gets quite often, LOL.  Didn't phase her a bit, she waved and laughed with them.  One french fellow came up to watch and decided that our "brew" needed more onions.  :D

It really was a shame that the festival could only give Jackie four hours for indigo, but I did learn so much and am very thankful for that.  We had to reserve a chunk of time for rinsing the fiber because indigo is takes a lot of time to get it to a point where the color will not rub or bleed off (it's called crocking) onto your hands.  I took all my yarn home and washed it at least five times.  Guess what?  The run off water is still as dark as the day in the workshop.  I'm letting it "cure" for a few weeks before I attempt to rinse it again.  That's another little tip Jackie taught us.  And, you must be super careful not to agitate or your beautiful indigo yarn will felt. Remember:
"From cold to hot, worry not, but from hot to cold, cannot be sold!"

 It is a balancing act, but when done right, indigo vat dyeing is so worth it!

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