Discover more from Neblina Wool Dye Studio Notes
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I had hoped to send out two newsletters this month, but unsurprisingly my time in the United States has been busy, between teaching my regular schedule of English classes (my day job), trying to spend as much time as possible with my friends and family, teaching natural dye workshops, and dyeing yarn. I had so much fun teaching the workshops, both the indigo vats I made this month were successful, and I feel like I’ve learned so much about dyeing.
On top of that, at the last minute towards the end of June I decided to join the Artist’s Way book study that Marlee Grace is hosting at their Substack. I first worked through the Artist’s Way about six years ago, before I moved to Chile and before I started Neblina Wool, and I felt it would be a good time to check in again with my inner artist. I was worried about not having enough time to really work though it during my time in Ohio, and during the last two weeks especially I have not been keeping up at all, but I plan to catch up when I return to Chile next week and in the meantime I’ve managed to keep up well enough with morning pages and to make time for some artist dates.
What is an artist date? Julia Cameron explains it as “a block of time, perhaps two hours weekly, especially set aside and committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist.” For me, it is something outside of my normal creative practice (so, dyeing yarn for Neblina Wool doesn’t count) or any activity where the only purpose is to find joy and inspiration in art.
Whether you’re an experienced dyer or just curious about it, I think the artist date is the perfect vehicle for exploring natural dyes in a new way. Here are a few ideas for natural dye artist dates, almost all of them activities you can do as a beginner, without having to buy any special equipment.
Natural Dye Artist Date Ideas
Plant walk: take a walk in your neighborhood, in a park, in the woods, or anywhere you can see some plants and stop to notice the plants around you. Take pictures and identify the plants with a book or an app like iNaturalist. Research their dye potential.
Color test: collect a small sample of a plant that is local to you. Make a mini dye bath by placing the plant in a mason jar (not one you use for food), covering it in water, and heating it inside a pot with a water bath for one hour. Add small scraps of fabric or yarn to the dye bath to see what colors it makes.
Thrifting date: visit a thrift store and look for natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk, wool) in white or off-white that you can use for natural dyeing. While finding white, natural fiber clothing is always exciting, also look for things like bedsheets, curtains, or table linens that could be given a new life with plant color.
Try a new material: If you already have a dye practice, try something different from your usual practice. If you mostly dye cotton, try a silk scarf. If you mostly work with textile dyes, experiment with a natural watercolor. If you usually purchase extracts or dye materials, forage some flowers in your area.
Research date: use the internet or look for sources at your local library. Research the history of a favorite dye plant or the history of natural dye plants in your area, or just search "natural dye" in your library's database and see what comes up.
Art history date: Visit an art museum and look for historical textile art like tapestries, weavings or upholstery. Any textile color from before the mid-19th century or so was created using natural dyes. Look for information about the colors used in the work or ask a docent if they know what dyes were used. You might even find contemporary artists working with natural dyes.
All of these ideas are things I have tried, either as a formal artist date or outside the book study, and are activities I turn to when I need to find inspiration and joy in my life. If you try any of them, leave a comment and let me know how it goes!