THREE DEGREES OF SEPARATION-Plums, Sumi-e & Natural Dye Workshops

Chinese Plum Sauce

How are the following pics separated by 3 or less links in my world in the past 48 hours?

Sumi-e Lotus

The idea for today’s blog began with homemade plum sauce.

Yes, the plum sauce that I was making while procrastinating writing this blog.  When the hand blender fell out of the pot and splattered plum sauce all over the curly, long-haired head of my white standard poodle and onto my new suede sandals, and after an extended list of curse words left my lips, I thought, “This is a real back asswords way of natural dyeing!  What the hell are you doing here?”, I asked myself.  I cleaned up the mess before I thought to take a picture.  You see, yesterday, while picking up a donated roller press iron, the owner, Lieve, had some plum trees that had a luscious load of ripe plums begging to be plucked.  Since she was already up to her neck in plums, she offered us a bag and a ladder.  We had just the day before found a U-pick site not far from our village that we had planned to visit next weekend, so of course, we jumped at the opportunity.  While we picked we got to talking.  It turns out that Lieve is a water-color artist and when she found out that I was a textile artist who worked with natural color, she invited me in for coffee and a tour of her work and studio.  Lo and behold, she teaches workshops for Sumi-e.   I have always wanted to learn brush painting, but never got around to it.  If you remember my last blog and the royal mess I made of the recent attempt at spontaneous painting, you can see why I was REALLY interested in learning the art of sumi-e brush painting.  Consider that I don’t even know how to hold a brush properly!   When she found out that I was giving a demonstration, and two workshops on natural dyes in August and September, we made a happy trade.  I get Sumi-e lessons, and she gets natural dye workshops.  I went home iron press in the trunk, plums in hand, a painting class to look forward to, and the task of dealing with these plums before they rot, thus delaying me even more from getting this blog done and making the necessary announcements regarding my workshops this summer.  Funny thing though, while cleaning up the  splattered the plum sauce mess, I thought about this idea of “3 -degrees of separation” for the blog.   If Lieve didn’t have plum trees, we might have never had the discussion over water color painting and sumi-e, and we wouldn’t have both had the opportunity to share our life long artistic aspirations and journeys.  According to Wiki-leaks and a 2007 article published in The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, we are now only separated by 3 degrees of separation because of the internet.

Curlysheep's English Leicester sheep

Not only do I get all of my participants in my workshops via the internet, people that I never would have met, but I get to talk and learn about other people’s lives and share our loves and dreams so easily.  For example, two days ago, I received a comment on my website from a woman in Tasmania who found me via Kathy Hattori’s Botanical Colors website.  Kathy Hattori supplies me with fabulous natural dye extracts that I use for my artwork and which I sell via my fijnknit business (also on the web).   Those cute little lambies are curlysheep’s  English Leicesters, that are endangered.  The multi-colored square of colors are the curlylocks of her English Leicesters displayed in her installation for her art class.

Curlysheep's English Leicester naturally dyed curlylocks

Which leads me the next degree of separation….Procrastination probably does serve me as a place in time to ripen my ideas whilst I decide what I really want to do and say.

Listed below are the details of my natural dye demonstration at the Herbakkersfestival in Eeklo, Belgium, the 14th of August (in Dutch).   I will be teaching natural dye workshops at my fijnKNIT atelier, the 19th-21st August and 9th-11th September.

Wild breien in de stad (Wild knitting in the city) of Eeklo

Wild breien is een nieuwe vorm van Street art. Wild breien is een verrassing op straat en doet mensen even stilstaan en glimlachen. Het Herbakkersfestival springt op de kar en het maandelijkse breicafé van de bibliotheek is een ideale uitvalsbasis.

Wat we nodig hebben zijn veel gebreide stukken: lapjes van 40 breed en 30 hoog.

Vele handen maken een groot werk licht. Wie wil meedoen kan contact nemen met de bibliotheek via of langskomen in de bib.

Heb je nog een voorraad (liefst kleurrijke) wol waar je eigenlijk geen weg mee weet? Zelfde adres! Heb je geen wol, maar wil je graag meebreien, kom dan wol afhalen in de bib.

Op zondag 14 augustus verhuist het breicafé naar een tent op de markt. Iedereen is welkom. Als extraatje voor alle breifanaten komt Catherine van Laake van fijnKNIT wol verven met natuurlijke materialen tijdens doorlopende workshops. Het breicafé komt samen elke laatste woensdag van de  maand om 19 uur in de veranda van de bibliotheek.

On Sunday, August 14, I will give the following demonstations:

14:00 u    Solar Energy

Solar energy is the way to go, and so are yellows for the Fall/Winter/Spring 2012 Fashion Scene.  I will be demonstrating 3 beautiful and colorfast yellow dyes and how you can turn them into green.  I will also demonstrate the beautiful copper color derived from Cutch which has a golden hue.

15:30 u    Exotic Reds and Purples from Foreign Lands

As far as I’m concerned, exotic reds and purples and the stories of these natural dyestuffs from exotic lands are always in fashion.  Natural dye reds are never out of fashion because the colors are classic and were always highly sought after.  I will demonstrate 3 beautiful reds and 3 exotic purples from trees and insects.

17:00 u   Wild and Local

Northern Europe was famous for it’s colorfast yellows and natural browns, which are necessary color components in today’s fashion colorways.  I will demonstrate how to make your own extracts from raw materials you can pick from the wild or easily cultivate yourself.   I will also talk about the history of woad, indigo and madder that was grown in Belgium and Holland before the introduction of synthetic dyes.

New  Summer Workshops

19-20-21 AUGUST 2011

Friday 9am-5:30 pm, Saturday 9am-5:30 pm, Sunday 9am-1 pm          Beginning and Intermediate


Venue:   fiijnknit Design Atelier, Salviapark 38, De pinte, Belgium

During this class you will learn to dye with extracts from natural raw materials, powdered extracts and a sensational new liquid indigo.   We will focus on dyeing protein fibers such as wool and silk, and limited instructions will be given for cotton and linen dyeing.  You will leave with a collection of small silk and wool samples in a range of many colors and a handout with complete dye instructions for the beginner.


10-11  September,  2011

Saturday and Sunday, 9 am-5 pm                                                                        Beginning and Intermediate

Venue:   fiijnknit Design Atelier, Salviapark 38, De Pinte, Belgium

During this class you will learn to dye with an indigo vat and the new Aquarelle Indigo that does not require a vat.  On the first day, you will begin working with small samples to achieve different variations of blue in the vat and learn some resist techniques.  On day two you will apply the resist techniques to a handwoven silk/cotton shawl and learn some overdyeing techniques to get a variety of colors from the indigo vat and Aquarelle.

Instruction fee:  150 EURO  includes instruction fee, handouts, all dye materialsand a handwoven silk/cotton shawl for custom dyeing.

Basic materials and equipment are supplied but students are also required to bring: • small embroidery scissors • rubber gloves • apron.   Please wear clothes that you don’t mind getting stained.

Extra yarn and Silk, as well as natural dyes will be available for sale.

Fijnknit Atelier: Spacious studio with facilities for both wet and dry textile techniques. Outdoor patio workspace for perfect light conditions, and lunch, and tea-time.
Sustenance:  Unlimited tea, coffee and biscuits are provided for all classes. Please bring your own lunch as there are no shops close by. The studio has indoor and outdoor areas to eat.

If you are interested in attending either or both of these workshops, fill in the registration below.  Please register as soon as possible because they are filling up quickly.  There is maximum of 10 participants for each workshop.


About naturalcolor

Passionate about textiles, threads and color. I began knitting and sewing as a little girl and found spinning and weaving via my experience at Marygrove College in Detroit for Waldorf teacher education. Learning to spin, first on a drop spindle, then on a spinning wheel, made me feel as if I had done this in another lifetime. It seemed effortless. Since then, my passion for threads, yarns, color and weave effect, knitting and natural dyeing has led me into the rich world and cultures of textile design. Through the study of weaving, knitting designs and natural dyes, I have learned the archetypal connection we as weavers, knitters and dyers have to each other around the world and the richness of our art as we express our cultures through our craft. Ultimately, my passion is to preserve these life-giving arts through the connections we make with each other and ourselves with our craft, the information we store in our minds and hearts, and the stories and techniques we pass on to the next generation.
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