For the Times They are A’changin

“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’ ”

Bob Dylan

I had a wonderful time this past weekend giving the Rainbow Colors Workshop.   All of the participants came from different walks of life, and we were all connected by our fascination with the possibilities of natural dyes being applied to our individual crafts.   We shared our different perspectives and hope for continued connections based on the time we spent together.

One topic that always comes up no matter who I talk to is why we have an ever dwindling textile craft industry in the Western world, as well as few viable marketplaces (other than the internet) to sell or trade our beautiful handmade articles.  Since I have been a weaver, knitter, and clothing maker for most of my life, I can honestly attest to the time that it takes to complete any project by hand.  I have placed the video below because not only does it explain why we cannot compete with the cheap imports of foreign lands, but also it speaks to the sad reality of these foreign textile workers in stark contrast to the way we as children and young adults learn about textiles without exploitation, and why we enjoy such an enduring love of our craft.  Many of us have been lucky and proud to have enjoyed the training and company of other textile artists via the network of handweaver’s guilds that have been in place in the US for almost 100 years and in Great Britain and Ireland even longer.  More on this topic below the video:

How could a young life begun like this ever spawn joy or creativity with regards to textiles?  The industrialization of textiles, in spite to the wonderful technology it has given us, has usurped our god-given joy and inspiration to work with what nature has to offer, namely fibers from plants, wool from animals, and natural color from plants and insects.  We have allowed the cheapest and easiest processes and products to dominate our consciousness, and hence the idea that the bottom line ($$$$) is really the driving force that should be considered.   We are encouraged to compare everything by the bottom line without taking into consideration the quality of natural materials,  beauty of process (which requires time), and the ultimate love (creativity) and passion (design) that may or may not (exploitation) go  into the creation of the textile supplies, clothing and household articles that we purchase.

Don’t you think it’s time to begin to bring this process home?  We don’t need to exploit women, children and impoverished people from all over the world just to have cheap textiles to throw away at will.  We can make our own textiles and make them to last, even hand them down to family members as remembrances.  We should not let others convince us that these beautiful gifts that we give to each other in the form of handmade textiles are silly, little old granny things with no inherent qualities, because they are not bought from some exclusive shop with fancy designer labels.   Secretly, we all know that behind the beautiful shop props and designer labels, workers are exploited and outrageous profits are pocketed by the already rich and famous.

To do my part, I will begin an bi-weekly knit salon starting in October, 2011 for the local people in the surrounding Gent area:

atelier fijnKNIT

brei & haak salon

elke eerste & derde dinsdag van de maand
tussen 15 u tot 21:30 u

kom langs op om het even welk ogenblik

 breng je eigen garen of projecten of

luxe breigarens en natuurlijke kleurstoffen  te koop

 voor breien, haken, & weven

Atelier fijnKNIT:   salviapark 38, 9840 de pinte

contact: Catherine van laake fijnknit@telenet.be  of 09 330 6190

There is no need to register for this, but an email or phone call would be nice.

For the Times They are A’changin  

Rescheduling Indigo Vat workshop:  

1 & 2, October,  2011

INDIGO VAT & AQUARELLE INDIGO   NATURAL DYE WORKSHOP
Saturday and Sunday, 9 am-5 pm                                                                        Beginning and Intermediate
By Textile Designer CATHERINE VAN LAAKE

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 silk and cotton samples and learn some overdyeing techniques to get a variety of colors from the indigo vats and Aquarelle dyes.

Instruction fee:  150 EURO  includes instruction fee, handouts, all dye materials and silk and cotton sample fabrics 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 this workshop  please fill in the registration below.  There is maximum of 7 participants for each workshop.

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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

http://www.herbakkersfestival.be

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 martine.vermeire@eeklo.be 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

RAINBOW COLORS     NATURAL DYE WORKSHOP
Friday 9am-5:30 pm, Saturday 9am-5:30 pm, Sunday 9am-1 pm          Beginning and Intermediate
BY Textile Designer CATHERINE VAN LAAKE

CREATE LIVING COLOR WITH RAW MATERIALS AND EXTRACTS OF ROOTS, BARK, TWIGS AND BUGS ON WOOL and SILK MATERIALS

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.

Instruction fee:  190 EURO  INCLUDES INSTRUCTION FEE, HANDOUTS,  DYE SAMPLE MATERIALS

10-11  September,  2011

INDIGO VAT & AQUARELLE INDIGO   NATURAL DYE WORKSHOP
Saturday and Sunday, 9 am-5 pm                                                                        Beginning and Intermediate
By Textile Designer CATHERINE VAN LAAKE

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.

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Abundance of Inspiration, Process, and the Yin and Yang of Deadlines

Natural dye sampling on silk with chicken scratch notes taken while standing at the dyepot.

With the onset of the warm weather and beautiful summer days, my daughter’s wedding  on the horizon, and now having an abundance of natural dyes, yarns and rainwater for dyeing, I am overwhelmed with inspiration and frustrated at the same time by simply not having enough time to squeeze it all in.  My only daughter is getting married next week, and while we are thousands of miles apart, we are trying to share what we can of the planning process and accompanying excitement (hiding our stress…it’s so easy and necessary with this distance).   I had big plans to make my dress for the wedding on my knitting machine and shibori it with natural dyes.  (You are probably wondering why I didn’t make plans to make my daughter’s dress.   Well, I always wanted to, but she has her own ideas. )  So I made several samples for my own dress and finally decided on a fine linen and silk boucle.  I was so excited about making this dress, but was afraid that I didn’t have the right pattern for me. I didn’t want to waste my limited supply of very fine silk boucle without making a sample dress of something else first.   In the meantime, attending the ISEND conference, new dye sampling, a trip to Paris to visit my granddaughter, and my son and his new restaurant, creating two websites, meetings, and all sorts of sundry odds and ends, left me where I was last week, last minute shopping for a dress, shoes, and finishing old projects that would be nice to wear in the US.

Madder, Brasiletta, Aquarelle Indigo, Fustic over Myrobalan on felted wool/silk

My numerous creative impulses had their way of creeping into my mind all the time, but with the deadline of leaving for the US quickly advancing, I find myself mostly unsatisfied with the results of my last minute efforts. Creativity is a strong impulse that needs time and energy to finish and flourish, and when I get caught up in the fear of a deadline that interrupts this flow, my creative process sometimes goes amiss.

Two weeks ago, when I thought I still might have time to make my dress, a client who ordered a handpainted, felted baby blanket called me at the last minute and asked for the blanket now because the baby was already born premature.  I had come to the conclusion that she had cancelled the order because I never heard from her about the colors that she wanted.  Under last minute time pressure, I did the samples ass backwards, beginning the project by only making 1 gauge swatch for the fabric that I intended to felt on my knitting machine.  I had grabbed 1 strand of a nice silk/merino boucle and once strand of a merino/silk/cashmere to knit together that I knew would felt nicely.  As I was finishing knitting the second long piece, I realized that even though this is a beautiful fabric, this is just too exotic for a baby blanket.

Some rainbow colors to give me an idea of how colors blend and how paints work on this wool/silk

Mobius painted without sampling

Sample overdyed with Aquarelle Indigo

So I began the sampling that I should have started two days before.  I made several more samples, felting and hand painting them before I made any decisions about what worked for the project.  These I showed to my client, rather than a finished piece, i.e., guesswork.  Well, after all that, the client did choose the simpler fabric and decided it was too expensive for a baby birth present. She wanted it for a christmas present.  In my haste, I had mordanted all the fabric that I had just knitted plus the samples (1 kg) and was now left with four long pieces of mordanted machine knitted fabric waiting to be painted.  Okay, I’m thinking, so I’ll make a mobius out of the two boucle pieces.  Again under pressure to finish something, please, just something to publish on my blog before I go to the US, I slapped on the natural dye with almost complete abandon and very little planning.  I told myself, that natural dyes are so pretty, it probably wouldn’t matter how they are applied, if the color scheme is okay.  To say the least, I was not happy with the results!  Yes, the colors are pretty, but it looks like something a clown would wear with all the polka dots!  Given that I’m not really a painter, I thought, let’s overdye the whole thing in indigo.  Thank God, I finally had an intelligent moment of forethought and decided to overdye the small sample in the indigo before overdyeing the mobius.  What a great idea, actually, the correct correct way to do things, but in my misguided need to have a completed project NOW, I actually forgot my normal PROCESS. Needless to say, the overdyed sample in indigo was not pretty.  It’s not the problem of the dyestuff, but the dyer!  The colors all merge into mudiness and do nothing for me.   Was I glad that I didn’t rush in to ruin another piece.  I know from experience, that every single time I thought I could cheat and get away without taking sufficient time to sample, I was dissatisfied with the results.   It’s so tempting to dive right into the project in our excitement to try out a new idea, that we think we can skip the MOST important part of the process.   I think this is where most people get stuck and don’t move forward in a craft.  They have created something that really didn’t work, and they don’t know how to fix it.  So they give up, not understanding that samples are part of the learning process, part of the artistic process, no matter how experienced you are.  Not every sample is a good sample…that’s the whole idea, that we have to choose the best and most inspiring sample out of a host samples that give us different directions.  The sampling process should be seen as a neutral process.  I have found that when I sample until I get that feeling, “Yes, that’s it! That’s what I looking for.”, I can go forward in my project with confidence and still make corrections and improvements as I go.  And I enjoy working on the project so much more!

The Yin and Yang of deadlines?  I have found over the years that deadlines for shows and clients are really helpful to motivate me to try new things and to force me through the “eye of the needle”.  When I am inspired to sample, sample, sample, sometimes I have to make difficult decisions between different really good samples.  I have to think about why I’m making one choice or another.  Here comes the point when I have to dive in and take the risk.  And still I make mistakes.  I have to deal with my fear of failure every time I pick up that beautiful skein of yarn to dye, knit or weave.   For creativity, mistakes are my best friends.  You say, how can that be true?  Well, when I make mistakes with good quality materials or pieces that I’ve put a lot of time into, or that have to go into a show and there’s no time left to make a new one, something happens.  I am forced to find CREATIVE SOLUTIONS.  “Necessity is the mother of invention.”    I am sure of this.  I have learned more from my mistakes than from what I thought I knew.  This is the Yang.  I think of Yang as the courage to forge ahead, to take the risks, and to find our way out from the fear of failure.

The Yin is the focus on process.  When we give ourselves over to the process and let it happen without regard to time and instant results, that’s when we experience the joy of inspiration and the joy of seeing what we are capable of.

The completion of the mobius will just have to wait until after the wedding and I return home to peaceful summer days to begin my work again.

So I dedicate today’s blog to my daughter who is a very talented artist in her own right and who has given me the opportunity to continue to learn how to practice what I preach.  Happy Wedding Day my dear!

Love,

Mom

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From fijnKNIT….HELLO WORLD!


Muricid shellfish (click on picture to enlarge)

I’m a lifelong textile artist that recently moved to Gent, Belgium from the US. I moved to Flanders because of it’s long and fascinating textile history that has included the finest of the finest in tapestry, lace, linen weaving, knitting, and of course, fashion design. While I enjoy working on my own clothing and textile designs, I am also busy  making fijnKNIT‘s brand of natural dyes, natural luxury yarns, and textile workshops available to the European community.

Takako Tereda: Hand painted kimono closeup with Muricid shellfish dyes

In later posts, I will begin to show you some of my work, but for now I would like to share with you my most recent experience of attending the ISEND (International Symposium and Exhibition on Natural Dyes) conference in La Rochelle, France.   This conference sponsored a gathering of enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable lecturers from 60 different countries from around the world who specialize in the art of Natural Dyeing.  From the first day on, I didn’t meet a single soul who wasn’t overwhelmed by the magnificent stage decorated by beautiful, golden silk, floor-to-ceiling shawls dyed in the natural materials collected from the fauna in the region of La Rochelle, or by the scientifically oriented lectures that focused on the sustainability issues of natural dyeing and the revival of cultural practices through natural dyeing.  For example, the above picture from the exhibit at the Aquarium in La Rochelle is a sample of the natural color that is produced from the Muricid species of marine mollusks off the coast of La Rochelle, the “royal purple” of Antiquity.  In this sample, the dye was artfully squeezed out of the mollusk to show the variety of colors that spill out of this rare, complex pure dye.  http://www.isend2011.com/exhibitions,263,en.html

There is so much to tell about this conference that I’m finding it difficult to find a starting place, while everyday since returning home I am filled by the memories of being in the company of devoted and passionate natural dyers.  Together with a dear friend from the US, Kathy Hattori (proprietor of Botanical Colors), we traveled by train to La Rochelle where we stayed in an apartment with 4 other textile-loving women from Flanders (Lieve, Marina, Moniek, and Marina).  We had perfect, warm, spring weather for 7 days.

Trudi Pollard, Australia

From 9 am-3:30 pm everyday there were lectures presented every 15 minutes in English or French in a beautiful lecture hall.  The majority of the lectures were given in English, while head phones were provided for translations in both English and French.  The list of lecture topics are so extensive that I provide you with the link to see for yourself: http://www.isend2011.com/lectures-demonstrations,259,en.html  There was a beautiful exhibition of artwork and fashion done by well known natural dye artisans of our time.

As I moved from one exhibition to the other, how could I not make the connections between the world of natural color and form swaying in the aquarium or found on the coast near La Rochelle?

Coral from the Aquarium La Rochelle

It became a seamless experience that fed our enthusiasm, our passion for color, and our growing need to communicate to the world how important it is to once again remind ourselves and each other from whence our inspiration, our life and joy comes from.

These are some colors I was inspired to replicate after the symposium

Do you think my newly dyed colors pictured above are somewhat close to the picture of coral above?  Or are those sea anemones?

Luz Medina Bonta, Honduras

Natural colors from the Aquarium La Rochelle

Ma-Li CHIA, Taiwan

Turkish Cultural Foundation: Reproduction of 16th Century Brocade using exact same materials, techniques and dye sources

Rarely do you see a whole dress made of felt, yet this one drapes beautifully and carries itself with such dignity, creating a couture, formfitting shape, painted with swirling, muted tones to embrace the softness of the felt.  I was so inspired by this dress that when I returned home from the symposium, I enthusiastically put a couple of partially felted knitted fabrics and one loosely woven shawl 200 x 300 cm, in the washing machine.  After 2o minutes, I took out the shawl and it was only 75 x 25 cm!  OOOPS.  But it was beautifully shaped such that it buckled up in places resembling the floor of the ocean, giving me a lovely landscape to paint my aquarium-inspired piece that I had originally taken these pictures for.

The transparency of this large indigo silk shibori  (below and to the right) that allowed all of the images behind it to blend into the landscape of its presence, reminded me of the blue water images taken  from the aquarium the day before.

Who said natural dyes are  NOT COLORFAST?  Well, of course, the competing industrialists who first developed the aniline dyes in the mid-1800’s because they were cheaper to produce and easier to obtain.  So, why then, do we have 1000-year-old museum pieces all over the world that have retained their colors magnificently, only to have slightly faded in the most compatible of colorways?  Is there anything dull about the above pictures?   Who said natural dyes do not produce brilliant colors? Hmmm, I wonder.  Several of the pieces in this artist’s exhibition are already donations from museums or soon will be in the treasured collections of museums around the world.  Their colors will glow and continue to delight peoples of the world for many years to come.

At the Aquarium La Rochelle

Above and below to the left are two samples of handwoven, naturally-dyed fabric from Turkey.  An up-close examination of the incredible handwork that is barely being preserved around the world tells us how much work we have to do to keep these arts alive. There were demonstrations of elaborate backstrap  weaving  and ikat, but I found these few woven samples especially exquisite because I am a color-and-weave effect weaver with a 24-harness loom.  I am not sure whether these were done on a jacquard or draw-loom.

Turkish Cultural Foundation: Reproduction of 16th Century Brocade using exact same materials, techniques and dye sources

The beautiful symbolism in this piece, combining natural forms that seem to melt into human forms create the archetypal design patterns we associate with the orient.  Can you see the ancient story of “east meets west” in these shapes and colors?

At the Aquarium La Rochelle

These pictures just beg to be close to each other.   What a beautiful color scheme to inspire us.   All of the colors in this photo are available to us in the natural dye color pallette.  Do you see hints of shibori on this anemone?  Madder, cochineal, logwood, and quebracho red?

Judy Hardman, England: homegrown shetland wool, natural dyes, hand knit Fair Isle. I dyed the cotton/silk shawl draped under the vest with fustic and a touch of quebacho red.

There was also a fabulous market place open to the public everyday from 3:30-6:30 pm.  It featured natural dye artisans and purveyors of natural dye products from all over the world. The products were of exceptionally high quality and there was no shortage of ethnic clothing directly sourced from the many textile co-ooperatives from around the world.  On the final day, I couldn’t resist and bought a hand spun, hand dyed, hand knit Fair Isle vest made by Judy Hardman of England.  She raised the Shetland sheep herself and grew some of the natural dyes that she used for coloring.  My husband is the lucky new owner of this lovely vest which looks very fine on him or me.  And I have a fully fashioned Fair Isle vest to study when I get ready to make my own version from my personal stash of naturally dyed yarns this winter.  I counted at least 15 different colors sampled in no less than 27 different color combinations!

Another shawl I simply had to have was this one made by the Aranya dyers cooperative and supported and sold by Maiwa.   It’s 100%  silk, hand painted with natural dyes,  shibori.

Maiwa/Aranya: silk shibori, natural dyes

As part of the symposium,  we had  delicious lunches provided everyday to go along with the opportunity to chat with our fellow dyers from all over the world.  We were ushered into a hall with beautifully set tables that included bottled water and red and white wine.   We were served a starter salad entree, a main dish, desert and coffee.  Everyone remarked how wonderful the lunches were and we gave the chef and his staff a standing ovation on Friday.

What was so striking about this symposium was the intentional good will and interest by presenters and participants alike, in using natural dyes as a way of life that promotes healthy living, healthy cultures and an opportunity for us to make a difference in healing the damage, that we as human societies have done to the earth.   We take for granted all the convenience that modern textile production affords us, without really understanding the full impact on our dear planet earth, the destruction of beautiful textile cultures and the exponential loss of complex textile techniques and heritages.  It was a common heartfelt experience amongst the participants  that the organizers of this symposium, who are indeed very high ranking in knowledge in the natural dye community, communicated an egalitarian and passionate desire to help us all further this discussion about how natural color can bring us back to our natural selves who long to live in harmony with nature and live peacefully on earth.

We arrived home late Saturday night, and by Monday morning I was busy trying out new dyes that Kathy had brought for me from the US.   It was so much fun to have a whole week together to talk about the technical aspects of natural dyeing and the different results that we had, considering the different water that we used.   I couldn’t wait to try and replicate the beautiful gold-yellow that I had seen on the stage at ISEND, even though I never thought of myself as a yellow-loving person.

Then I tried these new liquid indigo dyes for machine dyeing with a new vegetal  mordanting process that does not involve aluminum or a vat to dye with.

fijnKNIT: new indigo dyes on 100% merino wool

This month while I’m developing a website to sell these yarns, natural dyes and supplies for natural dyeing, I will be introducing myself, my portfolio, my line of products, and workshop dates for the remainder of 2011.

Dyeing for naturalcolor,

Catherine van Laake

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