Dye workshop report

The dyeing workshop last Saturday at MoKS was a fantastic experience.

Massive official thanks are due to Blacker Yarns for providing amazing sheep yarns in a variety of whites, greys and browns for us to overdye; we got blue rainbows from your yarn.

Blue rainbow! Natural coloured yarns from Blacker Yarns, overdyed with Woad balls.

Massive official thanks are due also to MoKS as co-organiser of the workshop, and to the British Council, Estonian Ministry of Culture and Cultural Endowment of Estonia as funders for my residency.

I am also grateful to Siiri who has taken some beautiful photos of the workshop (presented below); to Kata and Tuuli who were especially helpful in preparing for the workshop; to Tuuli and Siiri for translating my workshop notes into Estonian; and to all the amazing people who came along to share in the woolly joy.

THANK YOU! It was so great to share this experience with you all.

Siiri admiring our acidic shade of Birch leaf yellow.

I also want to thank Liis who gave me a very valuable tip about dyeing with Birch leaves; you might recall that I noted in my last post about dyeing with plants that the Birch leaf dye bath I tried out last week resulted in a sort of buttery yellow, rather than the in-your-face acid yellow shade I was aiming for? Liis explained to me that in her experience it is worth keeping the Birch leaves at just under 80 degrees Celsius. I followed this tip and just look at the yellows we made.

Siiri took the best photo of the yellowz though; check out how she framed our nice colours against the laundry drying in the background.

Siiri’s stunning photo of the YELLOWZ!

Here is more DOKUMENTATION of the workshop, from mine and Siiri’s cameras.

Our blues turned out a little murkier and more grey this time than in my earlier experiments; this could be because I added all the Sodium Hydrosulphite in one go and shook it with water beforehand, somehow messing up the chemistry of the Woad vat; or it could be because we added 200g more yarn this time; or it could be that there was too much Sodium Hydrosulphite in the vat; or it could be what Liis has termed “the curse of the workshop”! I like these faded denim shades, though.

Siiri’s photo of me explaining the Woad balls to assembled folks.

Siiri’s photo of the shade of the day – a beautiful apple green achieved by overdyeing some Birch leaf yellow yarn in the Woad vat.

Siiri’s photo of the Woad vat with all our labelled skeins of Blacker Yarns in them. All the tags on the mini-skeins which came out of the workshop are labelled with the sheep breed, the colour of the yarn, and the details of the Woad vat!

Siiri’s photo of us draining the Birch leaf dye bath. Tuuli, Kata and I picked the Birch leaves the night before the workshop, shredded them, and left them to steep. We heated them up gradually to 80 degrees Celsius on the solid fuel stove here and then drained the liquid from the pot. Our skeins sat in the sieved solution for about an hour or so. The smell of freshly brewed Birch leaves is wonderful and the yarn smells beautiful once you’ve dyed it with this. We pre-mordanted with 14% Aluminium Sulphite and 4% Cream of Tartar to achieve the POW! shade of yellow.

Siiri’s photo perfectly showing the wondrous moment when yarn from the Woad vat oxidises in the air and turns blue before your very eyes – this is my favourite moment in all Woad dyeing processes.

I am very enamoured with the shades we achieved.

I feel that somehow I have learned how to dye wool the very shades of yellow, blue and green that abound in the Estonian landscape at this time of year.

I have gathered sound recordings of this landscape, and of its birds, forests, and sands.

I feel that during my residency I have found deeper ways of using sound to link each element of a knitting yarn – the sheep or farm it originally came from, the process by which this raw product becomes yarn, and the process by which it attains a colour – to landscapes and places.

The dyeing workshop was an amazing opportunity to share wool and sounds with others in depth, and I’m so grateful to Olivia, Riina, Liina, Ulve, Kata, Patrick, Kaisa, Tuuli and Siiri for sharing in the KNITSONIKTM DIREKTIVE to link WOOL to places and processes with SOUNDZ. Siiri took a great photo of me recording the sound of the Woad vat being aerated which I think sums up this synergy perfectly:

SONIK dyeing!

Thanks to everyone for an amazing day, I hope you will enjoy the yarnz we made together. Thank you also all for the wool you bought to the event, and for all the fun we had trading Estonian/British sheep fleeces while waiting for the dye processes to unfurl.

That is what I meant when I gave my residency the working title of “The Wool Exchange”; lovers of WOOL from two different nations coming together to speak together in fleeces, spinning, colours, plants and a spirit of sharing. It was a pleasure to have the right country, place and company for this to take place. I found myself thinking deeply of wonderful Caecilia during this time in Estonia – the Rough Fell fleece, the Swaledale Fleece and the Bluefaced Leicester fleece which she gave to me in January have been like ambassadors during my stay for all the character, softness, scratchiness, diversity and complexity of British Wool, and bits of these fleeces have gone home in all kinds of pockets in exchange for bits of fleece from Estonian sheep.

I am so ready for WOOLFEST!


THE WOOL EXCHANGE photographed by Siiri.

4 Responses to Dye workshop report

  1. Pingback: Leidnikerdajate klubi: Felicity Fordi lõngavärvimise töötuba » kunst ja praktika

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