Saturday, August 22, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Now we get to the final post regarding my experiences at the Golden Gate Fiber Institute's Summer Intensive 2009. I learned so darn much!

I took two classes - Natural Dyeing with Darlene Hayes, and a spinning/weaving class with Judith Mackenzie McCuin. My photos focused on the first class - the color just astounded me - so that's going to be the primary thing I talk about in this post. Not to say learning to weave with my own handspun wasn't great - it was! But that resulted in a really cute silk noil scarf for one of my sisters, and she can't see it til the holidays. So, no photos! It's a surprise! Suffice to say, weaving with your own handspun is fun and not as scary as I thought it might be. Can't stand Cricket Looms, though, the little loom we used for class. Not after weaving on a proper Baby Wolf! But that's another story.

So, on to the dyeing class: I had taken a dyeing class just a month before the week at Point Bonita, and thought I knew about what I'd see. Nope. The colors I'd seen to date from natural dyes were subtle, subdued, and while quite lovely, not what I'd have called super eye catching. The colors we ended up with in this week of class, tho', wow! Fantabulous!

We started with some very simple dyes and techniques, and throughout we mostly used the raw materials for dyes - no extracts for us. Things like onion skins...

Black walnut hulls...

And of course, bugs...
Specifically, cochineal bugs. You're not going to find a better red anywhere than those little bugs. For some of those basic colors and dyes, we then experimented with afterbaths - pots of ammonia or iron to dunk the yarn in as it comes out of its dye bath - to see what colors things would turn. The cochineal in particular went a bright berry color after a dip in ammonia, and an awesome wine red with the iron. Pretty nifty stuff!


We didn't stick to just "tried and true" natural dyes. For fun, we got an experimental dyepot going with mistletoe.
That last one ended up kind of drab, but when dipped in an indigo bath a few days later I think it turned in to one of my favorite colors for the week. Anyone have some mistletoe they might send my way??? :-)

After the dye pots, we went in to trying some contact dyeing. The premise there is that you take some mordanted yarn (or silk hankies, or scarves, really, whatever you like), you sprinkle your dyestuff all over it, you wrap it up in plastic wrap, and let it sit for a few days. If you have some sunlight to warm things up, that helps. I did two skeins of yarn, one that used osage orange, dill, and eucalyptus leaves, resulting in a varied yellow yarn I'm quite fond of, and another that used logwood, iron, cochineal, and black walnut which I didn't like at first but have since changed my mind.

We eventually go to Indigo day, and as one of the students said "Nothing can't be improved by a dip in indigo!" Indigo vats are a heck of a thing, I have to say. First, you put enough lye and oxygen removing stuff (thiox, aka Spectralite) as well as your indigo so that the resulting dyebath is a rather toxic looking green. Yuck. Then, with gloves on, you slowly dip your yarn or other material in to the vat. Count slowly to 30. Pull slowly out, avoiding bubbles or drips that would add oxygen back in the vat. As you pull it out and oxygen hits the fiber, voila! You watch it turn that famous blue right before your eyes. It's magic. It's what they should have shown in my chemistry class in high school to really get me engaged.

After a few dips in indigo, with 15-30 minute "rests" so the indigo can react with the oxygen before adding more, you've got a rather amazing array of colors, based on the under-color of the first dyeing.

Saturday, we were given free reign to dye what we wanted with the dye stuffs on hand. It was the BEST.

There was so much more, including lichen dyeing (one my absolute favorites), more about after-baths, pointers to additional readings, and so on. On Sunday, I collected all of it together and created a Wall O' Color. This is now my screen background because it makes me So Darn Happy!

And that's what I learned on my summer vacation! Morgaine released the dates for next year (second week of August) and I've already blocked off my calendar. I look forward to seeing all my new friends there and learning who knows what. It'll be worth it, whatever it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Now for the people

Whew, it took a few days longer to get back to the blog than I expected! So, a few days behind, let's dive straight in to the next thing that made the week of the Golden Gate Fiber Institute Summer Intensive just plain awesome. People!


Yes, people. Or perhaps I should say, crazy fiber people. Crazy, troublemaking, rabblerousing, I-want-to-be-them-when-I-grow-up fiber people. I didn't know hardly a soul going in to this event, and now I've got three new sisters that I can't wait to see again, some instructors I'd gladly quit my day job and apprentice myself to if I could, and a few women that make me think getting old won't be all that bad.

First and foremost, Room 9 people, Anne, Pam, and Kristine:In case you are fooled by her innocent demeanor, that is NOT a halo over Anne's head. She'd like you to think so, however. She's sneaky. I admire that in a person. And Pam is a midwife - how cool is that? If you meet her, make sure you see some of her lace knitting. I don't know how she does it, but it's beautiful stuff.

Kristine of Curious Creek fame (what, you haven't seen her stuff? GO! GO LOOK! She's a great dyer with awesome fibers and yarns) also looks sweet and innocent, doesn't she?
Well, room with her for a week, and you'll meet the real Kristine. You'll see. She's got the biggest heart of anyone I know, but I would never classify her as innocent. I say this with a huge grin on my face, too.

The instructors could not have been better. Darlene Hayes was my natural dyeing instructor, and Judith Mackenzie McCuin my spinning and weaving instructor. I learned about the phenomenal awesome power of color, and the magic of using my own handspun to weave with. I also learned that Darlene has quite a nice singing voice, as she serenaded Judith on our group photo day.

Jeane deCoster
taught clothing design, and it turns out she is a dyer as well. She came over to chat with Darlene and Sheila, one of my fellow students who could have been an instructor if she wanted to be. Ask her about a spinning wheel. Any spinning wheel. I swear, she has one of everything at home, plus all sorts of fiber animals, the ability to design and knit a sock from scratch in 3 days or less, and she can dye, too. Cool.

And speaking of classmates, here's a candid from indigo dyeing day.
This event simply wouldn't happen without the love and energy of Morgaine Wilder of Carolina Homespun. She is doing so much to promote the fiber arts, from driving her Yarn-V to all the major fiber events around the U.S. to creating the Golden Gate Fiber Institute.
She managed to coordinate the event, warp a loom, sit in on classes, and do occasional runs in to the city to get us stuff from her store. Now that's energy and dedication!

As I've said, it was a great event, and goodness knows I have more pictures. Next year, I'm bringing the tripod 'cause taking pictures inside of the events was hard! With people moving, wheels turning, loom shuttles flying, there wasn't enough light to take the high speed photos I needed to capture the event.

So, thank you, everyone who went and participated and taught, whether or not you were an actual instructor or just someone with experience to help a newbie. Y'all rock.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Let's start with setting the scene

I'm back from a fantastic week of fiber fun at the Golden Gate Fiber Institute. I have come home with close to 30 skeins of yarn I dyed myself, a lovely scarf for one of my sisters, and over 100 photos. I've been pondering all week how I would present these all to you such that you might consider attending yourself next year. Truly, it's worth doing! For this post, I'll start by setting the scene - where were we? My next post will focus on the people, and then we'll get in to the cool things and the magic we made with color.

The Golden Gate Fiber Institute was held at the Point Bonita YMCA, an old converted military facility just on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The rooms are all shared and we slept on old metal-and-wire bunk beds. The accommodations were no Ritz-Carlton, but the view around us and the information we were learning was worth every bit of it.


The week was mostly foggy and cool, but I was prepared with extra layers and that awesome purple shawl I wove last month. And when I got to take pictures like this, I hardly noticed the weather.

That last photo is of the Golden Gate Bridge, with the fog slowly rising above it. A seagull flew by to cameo in the picture. The other pictures are of the view on the walk out to the lighthouse. Quiet and wonderful.

I did not have a chance to go out to the lighthouse itself, tho' I did find the door through the rock outcrop pretty neat.
Being a mostly suburb-raised chick, I have to admit the proximity of critters was particularly thrilling.
Sometimes, a bit too thrilling - this gent surprised me while I was taking pictures of the cliffs across the little bay:

No harm done - I got to take photos of him, and he sniffed around and pretty much ignored me. All was safe in the world.

On our last day (figures!) the sun finally came out, and the views which were intriguing in the mist became spectacular.

Landscapes weren't the only interesting things to see. The military installation at Point Bonita dates back to WWII, and is now mostly overgrown.
It was truly wonderful and a step away from the Real World. The food was also quite good - the cooks were very sweet about making special meals for me given my food allergies. Nice cooks, we loved them.

So, in the next day or two, we'll focus on the people that made my vacation wonderful! In particular, the awesome roomies of room 9! I love you guys!