Friday, September 2, 2011

Fiber Fest 2011 and Irene

I'm going to let the photographs tell the tale...


Jennifer and Kate at the pole barn

sun tea of dyers coreopsis and wool

aerating woad

fresh Polygonum tinctorium grown in the dye garden at MSW

first dip of woad

first dip of japanese indigo

Jennifer, Kate, and Joann

We had an outrageous time at the 2nd Annual Fiber Fest last weekend. There were fifteen of us there, collecting dye plants in the fields and gardens, preparing plant material to dye with, and going through each step of the process of putting color on the yarn samples. It was an extraordinary temporary community of women of all ages, sharing information, experience, stories, and gathered one point when there were several of us squatting around a big basin of woad leaves, the atmosphere was positively indigenous, and I was aware of being a small particle in the long river of history that is dyers, reaching back through centuries into a very deep place. Jennifer Steckler, the founder of Twin Pond Retreat in Brookfield, where this workshop was held, has created an amazing and wonder-filled place, where people from everywhere can come to explore sustainability in its many evolving and de-volving forms.

Saturday was sunny and warm, a glorious day to collect and gather, to work outdoors, to dye all of the leaf and flower dyes and prepare for the root and bark dyeing to take place on Sunday. Joann Darling gave a dye plant walk through the surrounding gardens at the retreat. We had great success in the afternoon direct-dyeing with fresh japanese indigo (Polygonum tinctorium) that Kate had grown in our dye gardens here at the school over the summer. It was so exciting to see that first skein emerge from the vat an ethereal blue-green, and to finally understand where the elusive color comes from that we have seen on so many antique textiles.

By Sunday morning, the remnants of Irene had arrived in the form of a steady, penetrating, relentless rain. There was some wind, enough to down rotten tree branches, but really, the rain was the worst of it. Nowhere near as torrential as the rains that caused all of our flooding on Memorial Day Weekend, but serious just due to duration. We pressed on, anxious to finish up dyeing the many barks, nuts, and indigo overdyes so that the hardy souls who had braved the weather could go home hopefully early enough to avoid any mishap. As it turns out, while we worked to finish, many Vermont towns, some of them quite nearby, were experiencing unprecedented and destructive flooding. Our power was out, and we had no running water or secondary electric cooktops, so we worked with the gas and collected the plentiful water that was pouring off the barn roof, for both the dyeing and all the washing up. I don't know about anyone else, but I was drenched to the bone and very thankful for my sturdy rubber boots.

We got a great range of colors from all that work, beautiful, considering it was ALL plant material that had been grown locally in Vermont. Part of that was Kate's genius in her knowledge of overdyes. It was a fantastic weekend! I can't recommend it highly enough, on so many levels, not the least of which is the wonderful sense of community fostered by Jennifer and Joann. If you're at all interested in this sort of thing, put it on your calendar for next year. Personally, I can't wait to go back. It's the real thing.

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