Dye Day 2013

The day began when the alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning. Very dark, about 40 degrees, so cold, but it is rare that I’m out of my bed that quickly and ready to start my day.  In 15 minutes, I was dressed and downstairs. I woke Scott at 4:45 (which is getting to sleep in a whole extra hour for him), then I made scrambled eggs with toast and hot tea to tide us over for a few hours of hard work.  Scott fed the cats and gave Dylan his morning medicine while I finished packing a snack and got everything moved out to the back steps ready to load the car.  By 5:30, we were on our way.

starting fires

The first thing we did when we got to the Hart/Markle farm just east of Pendleton, Indiana, was get the fires going.  We had had a small bout of rain come through in the small hours Sunday morning, but we found enough small dry wood that, together with the fire starter logs and Sunday Indianapolis Star, we got the fires going.  It took us about an hour and a half though to get the rain and dew damp wood to take.  After many, many, many trips to and from the wood pile, the flames were beginning to create hot coals deep within the beds of wood.

heart of the flames

At that point, all Scott and I could do was keep the fires going long enough to ensure they stayed going.  By the time the sun started to appear over the eastern horizon, Scott’s only chore was to get the fires as hot as he could so that the pots of dye liquor could get up to boiling temperature.  My job was to get the dye pots filled, mordants added, and to make sure their stirring sticks were properly labeled.

The dyes available for this year’s Dye Day were


Annatto seeds with washing soda and alum.  This was a cold dye and was still giving so much color at the end of the day, that I brought the rest home.

fustic copper  turmeric

Fustic with alum and iron – the most beautiful deep greens and olives.  Everyone loved this pot and I definitely will repeat this one next year.

Copper – just plain Blue Vitrol heated up for some nice light, minty greens.

Turmeric with alum and iron – this pot gave some really nice rich brassy colors.

brazilwood juniper berries

Brazilwood with copper – mostly deep, rich magentas and purples.  Always a favorite, but this one is getting rarer and rarer due to its harvesting in Brazil.

Brazilwood with alum – nice bright salmony reds.

Juniper berries – good rich browns down to tans to over dye with indigo for tealy greens.

turmeric weld

Turmeric with alum for bright orangy yellows.

Weld – this was supposed to  be bright yellow, but ended up rich browns.

cochineal juniper berries and osage orange

Cochineal with copper – really nice purples.

Cochineal with tin – bright scarlet reds.

Black oak bark – really, really good yellows.

Osage Orange – Really good greenish yellows.  This one was still giving lots of color, too, so I brought home to rest to play with.

And I had two indigo pots, one for blues and one for over dyeing, but I forgot to take pictures of them.

Both Scott and I were so thankful of the day God gave us. The sky was clear and sunny, there was just enough of a breeze that no matter where you were around the fires, the breeze would switch direction and chase you out again.  Mom always said that smoke follows beauty.  Well, if that is true, then we were a beautiful group today.

And then, the cars began to arrive and the people brought their chairs, baskets, bags, food to share and their questions about what they should do. I took them around and showed them the dyes available to them, and gave suggestions for some fun and varied skeins of wool, pieces of cotton fabric and bags of roving.

Just before we decided it was time for lunch, I showed them how to create an indigo vat.

how to mix indigo vat 1

how to mix indigo vat 2

Everyone took great notes and I do hope some of those there attempt their own indigo pots.

how to mix indigo vat 3

This one cracks me up – Me and me on Heather’s ipad.  Stereo Benita!

Of course, the hardest part of the process of making a good indigo vat is the waiting, so while they waited, they ate, knitted, spun, chatted and played in the dye pots.

people enjoying themselves

Just listening to the chatter and laughter makes this day so special for me.  Yes I love the colors, but I love the feeling of community and sharing what I know to those who don’t and opening a whole new world up to them.

But what colors we got!

Pat's brazilwood with copper

Pat’s handspun dyed in the Brazilwood with copper pot.

Pat's black oak bark

Pat’s two-toned handspun dyed in the black oak bark pot.  Love this one!!!

netting color

Jo's cotton

Heather's Haul

This looks like a painter’s palette and they make me want to design something.

Kaitlin's cotton

There were several people there this year who were new to dyeing, but every one of them told me that they’d be back next year and that they already knew what they could do to make the day even more special for them.

Of course, having my students there made it very special for me.  I love the chance to see the colors they were getting and to know that they were thinking about what they were going to create from them.

As we got to the end of the event, everyone pitched in and helped clean everything up, dump dye pots, washed out cloths containing the dye material, putting away food and getting all packed up.  Thank you everyone who helped, because you sure made it much easier for Scott and me.

And thank you everyone for the donations you made.  I have it all ear-marked for next year’s dyes, and I am looking for some different ones.  As some become unavailable due to ecological reasons or because the prices have climbed so high as to make small time dyers like me think two or three times before we order even the smallest amount, I will see what I can do to introduce new ones.  I like keeping this event fresh and fun.

When Scott and I got home, we badly needed our showers, and the cats let us know that they were not thrilled that we hadn’t been there to feed them lunch.  Once we were clean, and fed, we rested.  We were completely tuckered out.

And you know what?  I look forward to next Columbus Day and doing this all over again.



4 Responses

  1. Cindy in FL Says:

    Incredible! What an excellent way to spend the day!

  2. Sandy O' Says:

    That looks like so much fun! Save me a place for next year! I can help with rabbitbrush , pecan hulls and black beans.

  3. thecrazysheeplady Says:

    What a great day you all had!!!

  4. Sharon Says:

    What a wonderful dye day. I’ve never used fire, just propane. That’s something to aspire to. You’re workshop sample book is going to be interesting with all the different mordants you used. That’s a lucky group of women and they know it!

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