A couple of years ago, one of my fiber buddies, Kristen Judkins (owner of Gilead Fiber Farm)
held a dyeing workshop for her friends. It was at her farm, and was a sort of trial teaching dyeing workshop.
At that workshop, we used acid dyes (think Jacquard dyes or Cushing dyes), natural dye plants on Kristen's farm of jewe weed, tansy, Queen Anne's lace - you get the picture, mushroom dyes courtesy of Lisa (Knitnzu) and had a indigo vat going. I originally had thought I would not be intersted in the natural dye plants, as yellows, oranges and browns are REALLY not good colors for me. Then I discovered indigo overdyeing on those yellows and got lovely greens I fell in love with.
I came home from that workshop and went hunting dye plants in my friends' yards. I made dye stock and saved it in canning jars. I bought a dye pot, soaking tubs, and a few dedicated tools for dyeing (to keep the dyes from contaminating our food).
This year, we did another dye weekend in Vermont at Gilead. We used acid dyes and indigo again. We were fewer in number, and left out the steamed Saran wrapped packages of handpaints. We played more with color mixing I think this time, and each of us was more prolific. We had the use of a turkey fryer rig to heat a large dye kettle, as well as my Coleman two burner camping stove. In the intervening time, I think each of us has gathered a pot or two, a crockpot or two, and some icing spatulas and/or silicone covered tongs for handling the hot wool from the pots. I think we are starting to get the idea of measuring the dye more closely to the weight of the wool, and getting creative to use up the tails of dyepots - saves on dyes, and minimizes environemental contamination with the dyes. I found some lobster trap locking rings (fish eyes)
that are fabulous for holding a hank of wool. We've all collected wooden clothes drying racks and camping umbrella drying racks for hanging the wool to dry. And at a lobsterman's shop, we found flexible pails that work great for soaking wool and rinsing it.
I came home from the weekend this year, and decided to work on being able to identify and collect dye plants to do some experiments. I asked Lisa (Knitnzu) to educate me (she has a botany degree) and so we ventured out yesterday....
We found dock, staghorn sumac, burdock, tansy, horses' tail, chickory, and others. Lisa & I are boiling down the vegetation and making dye stock for future use... the mordants for natural dyestuffs create gorgeous colors, but are environmentally quite toxic. One must take care to exhaust the mordant and not discard it. These minerals include tin, alum, iron, copper, chrome....