Last weekend I hosted my guild members for our annual dyeing day. There are certain benefits in having a professional dyer as your secretary and one of them is access to the perfect venue for the more messy aspects of our craft!
Not that we all fit in my caravan, and the weather currently has transformed it in to a giant oven! After all in essence it's a large metal box, and when we get temperatures in the mid-high twenties (celsius) it does get a bit warm in there.
I've been dyeing at 7.30am on a couple of days in an effort to get out of there before mid afternoon when the temperatures really soar.
However, a couple of gazebos for everyone to sit under, and popping in and out of the caravan for water, dye baths and everything else is a very good compromise.
In previous years we've dyed fibre with acid dyes, and used natural dyes on yarn. This year we had a go at Shibori dyeing, so got the indigo vats set up for the second year in a row! Indigo is one of those things where setting up the vat is a bit of a faff, but once it's going is pretty easy to use, so it's ideal for these sorts of days because doing it by yourself for a couple of bits of cloth would be too much hassle.
It's a Japanese technique where you wrap and fold cloth to provide a resist to the dye. Once you've tied up your fabric it goes in to the indigo pot, and comes out as a small odd-coloured lump! In true fashion I was far too busy fishing in the posts for peoples projects to actually take any photos of this stage.
Then of course, the magic happens. As you unwrap the bundle the indigo is exposed to the air and the transformation in the dye molecules occurs. The bits where the dye could touch fabric turn a beautiful shade of blue, and the parts that were hidden in folds stay white.
You can get very random, or very structured, every piece of cloth came out different!
If you're not already in a guild then it's well worth checking out your local group, there are over 100 groups all over the country, and they're a great place to access new aspects of our craft.