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Saturday, August 27, 2011

School, in Natural Color

Again this year I am mentoring a student's Senior Exit Project. Jordan, the young lady I am working with, is studying Natural Dyes. The week before school started we met in the classroom with a friend and fellow crafter, Cassie Dixon, to begin working on the physical product component of her project. Using hot plates and camping stoves, we did several dye pots, including cochineal, brazilwood, logwood, marigold, walnut, broom sedge, turmeric, annetto, osage orange, and indigo. She treated wool yarn samples from our homespun with various mordants before dyeing to see the effects they produced on color. Vinegar and ammonia after baths were also investigated. Jordan also dyed cotton, linen and silk in one of the dye baths to see the difference in how the fibers take the dye.

At the end of the first two days she had a nice collection of dye samples to include in her product. Jordan was excited with the results she got, and Cassie and I had a fun day working with a student who was both enthusiastic and eager to learn. I think we learned as well.

This week, Jordan helped me teach indigo dyeing to her classmates in my Appalachian Arts & Crafts class. Working in the courtyard that adjoins the room so we didn't ruin the newly waxed floors, we worked most of two class periods. Some students brought in cotton t-shirts to dye and others used cotton muslin I had on hand in the classroom. They used traditional tie dyeing techniques to create resist areas in their fabric. 
"Cool" and "Awesome" reactions to the magic of indigo oxidizing from green to blue were such fun. Jordan did a good job explaining the process to the remainder of the class; peer teaching is wonderful! 

Everything dried overnight, and the kids were really proud of their results (one student was absent for the photo).
This week Jordan is continuing to experiment with dyestuffs. She currently has coreopsis and goldenrod pots ready for fibers. On Friday we also put in some more walnuts brought in from another students trees, and on Monday we will be making a bloodroot dyebath as well. These will be used to dye reed for baskets.
Needless to say this is my favorite class.
I get to teach and learn alongside my kids.
School just doesn't get much better than this.


  1. Good to see you back writing!
    Missed you ~~ know you've had a wedding
    and probably lots of gardening, etc..
    Did you finish your Master's?

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Here I am again ~~ thanks for the writer's blog. I will email you something about that . God's presence in your comment!

    I remember Amber doing yarn dying with us in our coop. That seems so clear in my memory and yet so long ago. Your students will never forget doing that!
    What a gift.


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