Tag Archives: wool

Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

Working with natural dyes like cochineal that yield red, indigo blue, wild marigold (pericone) and fustic to give us yellow, is like being a pastry chef and following a recipe.  It helps to know a little chemistry or have a willingness to learn.

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Indigo dye bath percolating

Eric Chavez Santiago, who is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable natural dye experts and our workshop leader, takes us through the steps to use a non-toxic process to mordant wool that we will  use to dye cochineal, fustic and wild marigold.  Wool that we dye with indigo requires no mordant but another set of intricate steps that will guarantee a result of intense blue and its variations.  See the green bloom in the photo above. The chemistry here is to allow no oxygen to enter the dye bath. Stirring is a no-no.

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The intense colors we get depend on a number of factors, including the original color of the natural wool, the amount of dye for the recipe, the length of time in the dye bath, the number of dips, how little dye is left in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid (lime juice, for example) or a base (baking soda, alum or ashes).  Eric has developed an extraction technique for the cochineal that yields the most intense, concentrated color.  The extract can be saved and refrigerated for later use and then refreshed.

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In the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets workshop, we go through the basics and then tackle more advanced dyeing techniques using acids, bases, and over-dyeing.  Over-dyeing is when you first dye your fiber with the base color such as red (cochineal) or yellow (fustic or wild marigold).  The red is then dipped in the indigo dye bath to yield various shades of purple depending on the shade of red.

Next Workshop:  March 6-12, 2014

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This is not a complex process, but requires attention and following the recipes.  By the end of the workshop, participants have color samples with specific formulas/recipes for all the shades from yellow to green to pink to red to orange to purple to blue.

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During the workshop, we also experiment with shibori dye techniques using indigo with 100% cotton fabric.  The resulting pattern depends on how we fold, wrap, package, or tie the fabric.  Some use rubber bands, string, marbles, sticks, and other materials to manipulate the design.

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Everything depends on whether the material is a protein (animal) or cellulose (plant) fiber.  Cochineal only works best with protein fibers that are mordanted in advance.  Indigo is not really a dye but a stain and only coats the surface of the fiber (which you can see through a microscope).  Indigo works well with protein AND cellulose fibers.  And, wow, does it attach to everything it touches!

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Assisting Eric with the workshop is his wife, Elsa Sanchez Diaz.  As his partner in life and this workshop, Elsa takes detailed notes about the formulas that Eric is using so that there is a record of the colors achieved.  She also helps the participants to complete their samplers with tagged formula notes at the end of the workshop.

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Our participants come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Northern California, and Kansas.  They include novices and experienced fiber artists/dyers.  Several had never been to Oaxaca before.  One is an English professor, another a faculty member in architecture and interior design, another a mixed media artist, and two professional weavers.  Everyone came away with a great experience and more information than they ever dreamed possible.

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Next Workshop: March 6-12, 2014 

If you can’t attend this workshop, let us know!  We can possibly schedule the next workshop to suit your travel schedule.

Felted Fabric Fashion Oaxaca Style

Making felt is one of the oldest forms of fabric known to humankind–a process more than 6,000 years old.   Felt happens when sheep wool is moistened, heated and agitated.  

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For our Felted Fashion Workshop with Jessica de Haas in Oaxaca this week, we used merino wool dyed with natural plant materials — pericone and indigo, and the cochineal insect.   At the end of the week, we had collectively created shawls, scarves, rebozos, wall hangings, pillow covers and enough ideas to feed our creative energy for some time to come. 

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We gathered in the pomegranate tree-shaded courtyard, first to see examples of great garments, including published examples of Jessica’s.  Then, we jumped into two days of preparing sample fabric swatches to experiment with the colors and materials we brought.  Jessica warned us: always make samples first to see how the fabric will look before you make a larger piece.

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On day three, we jumped into tuk-tuks to have lunch at Tierra Antigua Restaurant.  (Can you see five of us packed into that little electric go-cart?)

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Afterward, I commandeered a pick-up truck to take us up the hill to see examples of indigenous clothing made by Arte y Seda.  We were ready to delve into the process of making felted yardage that could become a garment.

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Here in Teotitlan del Valle, people weave with wool every day, but using roving (wool that is not spun) for making felt is not familiar.  Zapotec  women who came into our workspace during the week were fascinated with the process.  I am hoping to give a demonstration of the process to local women later this spring.

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Some who participated were accomplished artists, like Linda Jacque, who paints guitars for famous rock musicians.  Her colorful vision was immediately evident in the pieces she created.

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Most of us were novices or beginners to the felt making process, so the experience was both instructive and fun.

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Working with bubble wrap, soap, water, plastic baggies, and lots of elbow (and sometimes foot) grease, we rolled, pressed, and agitated the wool until it began to felt.  The fibers of the wool move together and interlock.  Our instructor, felt fashion designer Jessica  checked, demonstrated, and encouraged us every step of the way.

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By the end of each day we were ready for a TMM.  Some of us chose to keep going even after dark.

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The local color inspired us!  Oaxaca’s great food gave us sustenance. The camaraderie kept us motivated.  We learned from and supported each other.  It was a fantastic experience.

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We hope you will join us next time!

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Workshop To Dye For: Cochineal, Indigo, Wild Marigold

It is a 10-hour day working together to dye the merino wool roving we are using for our Felted Fashion Workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Long, but satisfying.   Our textile dye master is Eric Chavez Santiago who is also the education director at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.   The colors we get are magnificent.

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We gather first to talk about the history of cochineal and indigo, where it is grown now, how it is prepared for dyeing, and the chemistry of natural dye mixing.  Eric uses a mordant on the wool first before dyeing with  cochineal and wild marigold, called pericone here, to fix the color.  The pericone is gathered from the countryside.  Indigo, which comes from the coast of Oaxaca, needs no mordanting.

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First, we remove the merino wool roving from the mordant bath, squeeze it, and make 2 lb. bundles.  All hands together!  A great team building experience for our first day together, one of the participants says later. The dye formula is calculated based upon the weight of the fiber.

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After calculating the weight of fiber, Eric measures the cochineal, dilutes it and adds it to the warm water, which must be held at a specific temperature.  Bella brought a digital thermometer from the U.S.A. that goes between centigrade and fahrenheit to translate the heat for us.

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We carefully immerse the wool into the dye bath to insure an evenly saturated color.

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We are in the home of the Chavez Santiago Family Weavers in Teotitlan del Valle.  They only work with natural dyes, an important ingredient for sustainability that achieves glorious color.  Eric’s mother, Dolores Santiago Arrellanas, gives us a hand to check the color of the wool.  And we stir, and stir some more.

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Next, we move on to preparing indigo.  It’s a family affair, and Eric’s dad Federico Chavez Sosa, also checks out the dye baths, while youngest brother Omar helps move the giant dye pots, which must be either enamel coated or stainless steel.

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Eric adds the powdered indigo to a glass jar filled with marbles.  He shakes the jar to disburse the dye particles and oxygenate it.  He then pours this carefully into the dye pot and stirs from the center.

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Your fingers can’t do anything else but turn blue.  Eric says that indigo is not really a dye, but rather is a stain that coats the surface of the fiber rather than saturating it.

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We use the indigo to over dye some of the cochineal and pericone to get various shades of red, coral, pink, and green.  And we leave some of the pericone and cochineal in its original color.

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After removing the dyed roving from the pots, we rinse and then begin separating the fibers to fluff them.  This makes it easier to pull apart later to start the felting process.

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Lunch is delivered by La Tierra Antigua Restaurant — host Carina Santiago makes delicious tacos dorados with guacamole and fresh fruit. We are finished by 7 p.m. after starting at 9:30 a.m. and walk back to our bed and breakfast completely satisfied with the day.   

Omar’s Hat: Spinning and Knitting Hand-Dyed Wool Roving in Oaxaca

Knitting IMHO is a form of weaving, so I fit right into Teotitlan del Valle where weaving is the culture.  Fiber and textile artists tend to experiment with different forms of the art.  But first, a bit about the wool.  This is 100% super wash merino roving with a 23u top that I bought from DTK Knits in Apex, North Carolina.  I love the variegation of color that they achieved and the softness of the wool.

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They hand-painted it and put it out in the sun to dry.  Sun-dried, solar dyed!  The 4 ounces I bought cost $18.00 USD.  I brought several of these types of skeins with me to use for felting projects over the next few months, although I will be dyeing wool roving here, too. As I showed Federico and Dolores my stash yesterday, they ahhed and oohed, and we talked about what it might be like to spin the roving.  I could then knit a hat for Omar and then one for Eric.

First project underway.

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Federico grabbed a bamboo bobbin and attached it to the spinning wheel.  We then separated the roving into strands thin enough to spin, but thick enough so it wouldn’t fall apart.  That took both of us.  Then we were ready to go.

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After the bobbin was full, I put it into a sealed plastic bag with one end open to pull the tail of the thread through.  That way, the bobbin stays intact.

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Next, I made a sample swatch to figure out the gauge or how many stitches to cast on to fit Omar’s head.  Since he wasn’t there, I measured Federico.  This wool knit up at about 3 stitches per inch and Federico’s head measures 23″ so I cast on 74 stitches using a #10-1/2 (or 6-1/2mm) needle.

Omar'sHatKnit-6I knit two inches of length and then decreased four stitches in order for the rim to turn up and show the purl side.  Then, I will continue knitting until I have about 7″ of hat.  Then, using double pointed needles, I’ll begin to decrease every two stitches until there are four stitches left.  Take a crochet hook and pull the yarn through the four stitches and tie off.  Bring the yarn through to the underside and weave it in.

Resources

I buy ecru merino roving to dye from Paradise Fibers.  I order dyed roving online from various Etsy resources like Rachel Jones’ On the Round, who spins and dyes near Portland, Maine.  I met Rachel last summer at a street fair and loved her wool.

And, here’s the start of the hat!  Didn’t it knit up beautifully?  And, P.S. We still have space in the Felted Fashion Workshop here that starts February 2.  Ask me about coming to the one-day dye workshop component, too.

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Felted Fashion Workshop: Making Wearable Art Oaxaca Style with Wool, Silk and Cotton

For hands-on fun, escape winter and come to Oaxaca from February 2 until February 9, 2013.  Together, during this one-week workshop, we will be immersed in the textile culture of Oaxaca to create naturally-dyed felted fabric combining wool, silk and cotton that can be hand or machine stitched into an indigenous clothing design of your choice.  Our experts, textile and fiber artist-clothing designer Jessica de Haas, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada and Eric Chavez Santiago from Oaxaca, Mexico, will show you how!

 

About Your Instructors

Jessica owns the clothing design company Funk-Shui and is an award-winning, internationally known fiber artist and teacher.  She recently completed an Arquetopia artist residency in Oaxaca, and taught and exhibited at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.  See her website for bio and designs.

Eric Chavez Santiago, founding director of education at the Museo Textil de Oaxaca, is a weaver and natural dye expert.  He has taught natural dyeing techniques  in Oaxaca and at  U.S. universities and museums since 2006.

Our Itinerary

First, working with Eric in his family’s home studio in Teotitlan del Valle, we will dye and over-dye wool roving with natural materials:  cochineal, indigo, wild marigold, pomegranates, nuts and other plants to achieve the colors you will use in your piece(s).  We will learn about mordant processes to fix the dye and dye extraction to create over 10 different colors.  Wool and dye recipes are included!

Then, working with Jessica in the courtyard of our B&B, we will felt our naturally dyed wool fiber on silk or loosely woven cotton or muslin, making a durable and beautiful fabric.  After your fabric is dry, you will have the option to cut and sew it into one of several indigenous Oaxaca styles:  the huipil (tunic), the blusa (blouse), rebozo (shawl), boufanda (scarf) or quechequemitl (cape).  Here is a piece from Jessica’s collection that you might like!

We give you a pattern book to choose your design! Below is a sample pattern for a quechquemitl.

This workshop is for all levels of experience!  You do not have to be an artist to attend.  We welcome beginners who have never worked in hand felting and more advanced fiber artists. This is a perfect residency for students, teachers and artists who may want to explore a different medium, too.

We will provide you with patterns for the basic indigenous designs that can be adjusted to fit.  If you want to contemporize them, we can help you tweak and make minor adjustments. If you have sewing or pattern drafting experience and want to experiment on your own, you are welcome to work on an independent design project after your fabric is made.

We will be based in the weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle where for generations families have been creating wool textiles.  During our time together, we will go on local field trips to meet and talk with weavers who work with natural dyes and weave fabric for wearable art as well as sturdier floor and wall tapestries.  We will see examples of the types of garments that can be created from the felted fabric we make.

Materials to bring (preliminary):

  • silk, loosely woven cotton, and/or muslin—3-4 meters (4.37 yards) minimum
  • beads, sequins, buttons, ribbons, embroidery thread and other embellishments  (we will also have a supply on hand that you can use, too)

Note: The materials listed are sufficient to make one garment. If you wish to prepare more than one piece of dyed felted fabric, you are welcome to bring more materials to dye.  However, it is likely you will only be able to complete one finished piece during the time allotted.

Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC will provide, included in your registration fee:

  • all instruction
  • 7 nights lodging
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 7 dinners
  • all dye materials
  • merino wool roving for one garment
  • pattern booklet
  • dye recipes
  • sewing machine to share, needles, thread
  • selected embellishments

Workshop is limited to 8 participants.

Daily Workshop Schedule:

Arrive Saturday, February 2, Depart Saturday, February 9 — 7 nights, 8 days

  • Day 1, Saturday, February 2, arrive and settle into your bed and breakfast posada in Teotitlan del Valle (we send directions)
  • Day 2, Sunday, February 3, natural dye workshop to prepare wool roving
  • Days 3-5, Monday-Wednesday, February 4-6, make the felted fabric on silk, cotton or muslin
  • Days 6-7, Thursday-Friday, February 7-8, create your pattern, sew and embellish the garment
  • Day 7, Friday, February 8, evening fashion show and reception
  • Day 8, Saturday, February 9, depart
(Preliminary daily schedule subject to modification.  

Workshop Fee:  $1,365 per person shared room and bath, double occupancy. Single occupancy with private bath, add $300.  Most travel programs of this type and length cost more than twice as much!

Options: 

Option 1:  Arrive a day early, on Friday, February 1, and take a Zapotec cooking class on Saturday, February 2 with Reyna Mendoza Ruiz.  Includes one night lodging, breakfast, lunch, cooking class and recipes.  $110 USD each.

Option 2:  Saturday, February 9, guided visit to Yagul and Mitla archeological sites, noted flying shuttle weaver who only works with natural dyes, boutique Mezcal palenque in Matatlan.  Excursion includes transportation, lunch, supper, admissions, and overnight lodging February 9.  $125 per person.

Option 3:  Sunday, February 10, all day excursion guided visit to Tlacolula Market, including apron and rebozo avenues!  Includes transportation, lunch, supper and overnight lodging. $75 per person.

Option 4:  Saturday and Sunday Nights in Oaxaca City.  We will arrange your stay at a lovely Bed and Breakfast in the city where you can explore the shops and dine in great restaurants.  We will provide you with a list of our favorites.  $125 per night per person.

About Our Workshops, Retreats and Programs.  We offer educational programs that are hands-on, fun, culturally sensitive, and offer you an immersion experience.   Our workshop leaders are experts in their field, knowledgeable, have teaching experience and guide you in the learning process.  Our goal is to enhance your knowledge while giving you time to explore and discover.

About Lodging and Accommodations. To keep this trip affordable and accessible, we stay in a local posada operated by three generations of women — grandmother, mother, daughter — all great cooks! The food is all housemade (including the tortillas), safe to eat and delicious.  Vegetarian options are available.

Accommodations are clean and basic.  Shared baths are across the courtyard. (Bring flip-flops and flashlight.)   The base price of the trip includes shared room and bath; single supplement with private bath is available (add $300).   Please indicate your preference.

Your registration fee does NOT include airfare, taxes, admissions to museums and archeological sites, gratuities, liquor/alcoholic beverages, some meals and some transportation.

Deposits, Reservations and Cancellations.  A 50% deposit ($683) is required to guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance due (including any supplemental costs) shall be paid by December 15, 2012.  We prefer Payment with PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an invoice.

If cancellation is necessary, please notify us in writing by email.   After December 15, 2012, no refunds are possible; however, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space.  Your registration is transferable to a substitute.  If you cancel before December 15, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We strongly recommend that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since unforeseen circumstances are possible.

To register or for questions, contact:  normahawthorne@mac.com  I am happy to set up a Skype call with you, too.  Skype name:  Oaxacaculture