Looking for our STORE? Click to shop now!

Archive for: March 2013

Dyeing Eggs, Naturally!

Cartons of colorfully dyed eggs

We recently had a customer email us and ask about dyeing eggs with natural dyes! It’s a great question, and one we get every spring. Here’s our official stance:

We hesitate to tell people they can use any of our dyes on food because if we do, someone will go overboard on it and try dyeing their eggs with indigo (for instance). You don’t want to do that, as the dye is activated with thiourea dioxide. Probably not all that healthy. So much as we’d love to sell you dyes for eggs, it is not a good idea.

If a natural dye does NOT use any chemicals except alum, it is probably safe to use. However, some dyes will impart a taste or smell to the food, even to eggs. And if the egg is cracked, the dye will seep into the white of the egg. One kid who saw just onion skin leakage onto the whites said it reminded him of Gollum’s head.

Another reason we won’t say our dyes just might be edible in any way is that most of them are from overseas, a lot from third world countries. We cannot guarantee how these plants were grown, who picked and packed them, or how many other grimy hands they went through.
Safe natural dyes would be colors you can buy at the supermarket. If you have children, they will be fascinated by helping you shop for fruits and veggies that can give color. Here are a few of them:

  • Spinach or any other dark green veggie (blend them with a bit of
  • water)
  • Any berries
  • Grated carrots
  • Cooked red cabbage
  • Onion skins
  • Any fruits that leave a stain on your clothes
  • Asparagus and artichokes give a light olive green – Cook them for dinner, use the cooking water (it won’t look as if it will give you any color)


With the red cabbage, you can change the color or create designs. Dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in water (use a saucer or small shallow bowl) and in another bowl, put a tablespoon on vinegar. Dye the egg, and dry it. Then dip your fingertips in one of the solutions and touch the egg. That spot will change color. The baking soda will make a blue-green spot. The vinegar will make a bright red-purple spot. Everyone loves watching this happen!

Remember that the longer you let the egg stay in the dye, the deeper the color will be. Hope this helps!

All that aside, if you don’t eat the eggs or empty the shells first, you can absolutely use our dyes and even pigments to decorate the egg shells!

(Public domain images from pixabay.com)

All About our Bijeaux Tapestry

Bijeaux TapestryIf you’ve been to a Frolic or a Retreat, you’ve seen it. Nearly six feet long and two feet tall, our small version of the Bayeaux Tapestry depicts the life cycle of string! We named it after our dye mentor and Griffin Dyeworks owner Bjo Trimble – hence, the Bijeaux (bee-JOO) Tapestry!

The work began in 2009, as a hand drawn gift from our longtime friend and supporter, Esther Benedict of Star Cross Designs and is still being worked on in bits and pieces. All of the threads used in the embroidery are naturally dyed, and most are handspun as well, donated by Frolic and Retreat guests.

I realized recently that I didn’t know anything about how the project started! I emailed Esther to ask her what inspired her to create the project, and here’s what she had to say:

“Well, first of all, I love group projects, where people are working together to create a single piece. I like to think that a little bit of each person’s creative energy gets worked into it. Second, I wanted to celebrate the contributions that Bjo and Griffin Dyeworks have made in sharing the fiber arts. One of the best things about the Fiber Retreat and now the Fiber Frolics is the chance for people to come together and share what they know in a relaxed and also affordable setting. You don’t have to be a big name teacher or fiber “artiste”, you just need to be willing to share, learn and have fun.”

Shearing the sheep












Each of the figures in the tapestry is showing one part of the life cycle of string.  Esther and her husband took every motif from a different medieval or Renaissance illustration.  “For example,” she explained,  “the woman spinning on the great wheel is from the Luttrell Psalter, which is 14th century – and incidentally the first depiction of a spinning wheel in European art –  but the men shearing sheep is from a late 15th century source.  My husband, Bruce, converted them into ‘cartoons’ for the tapestry.  We consider drawing them in one consistent style, but decided to leave them pretty much as is to reflect the origins of the illustrations.  The only thing that isn’t from a “period” source is the central figure of Bjo holding the flag with the Griffin Dyeworks logo.”

Bjo Trimble holding a Griffin Dyeworks flag, the central image in the tapestry

It’s so much fun to see what has been added after every event, and we hope you’ll add a personal touch when we see you at our fiber arts retreat in June!

We have an image gallery devoted to the Bijeaux Tapestry, if you’d like to see more of it!

“Mordants & Modifiers” book 100% free online!

Did you know Bjo Trimble’s book, Understanding Mordants & Modifiers, is available online, for free?

Screenshot of a UMM page

For each of about 50 different minerals salts and chemicals, we provide:

  • Common Name
  • Chemical Formula
  • Description/History
  • Other Names
  • Use
  • Best On which fiber types
  • Recipes
  • Safety information
  • Disposal guidelines (always follow local ordinances)
  • Alternatives (for when you run out!)
  • Sources (not just us!)

Plus, there’s some great general information, such has how to use the knotted strings pictured below to experiment with different mordants!

Five strands of string, all knotted together, each with a different number of knots on the string to differentiate them.

Bookmark Understanding Mordants & Modifiers today!

Teaching at USC Archaeology

Spindle whorls from USC Archaeology

Last fall, word spread through the LA fiber arts grapevine that a professor at USC was looking for people to come in and teach her students to spin on a drop spindle. As an alumni (and a spinner), I jumped at the opportunity and arranged for myself and two other teachers, Ercil Howard and Debbie Coyle, to head to campus with all our drop spindles and combs, cards, and plenty of different types of fiber for the class.

The course we were crashing is a freshman seminar in the Archaeology department called “Human Survival: Learning from the Past” and during the semester the students learn some ancient skills such as making fire, forming bricks, and preparing food with only stone tools. It was our mission to teach the eighteen students how to spin.

We arrived early and had the opportunity to check out USC’s growing collection of antiquities, including a number of spindle whorls (pictured above)!

We broke the class of eighteen students into smaller groups for hands-on instruction. Everyone was very attentive and learned quickly how to handle the fiber and the drop spindle and were soon spinning merrily away!

We had just two hours, so during the first hour we focused on getting everyone spinning, and in the second hour we were also able to cover carding and combing fiber, show many different types of fibers, and demonstrate some of the different types of spindles used around the world. Almost all the students got to try combing or carding, and many continued spinning for the whole two hour class!

During the second class session, we came back and brought Bjo Trimble with us, and the students learned about dyeing and weaving on a warp-weighted loom or an inkle loom. Again, with just two hours on the clock, time was of the essence, so we split the class in two and had one group tackle dyeing first, while the other group tried out weaving.

We used cochineal, onion skins, and indigo so the students could also experiment with overdyeing to achieve more colors than just red, yellow, and blue.

Untitled Untitled
During the dye session, we showed samples of various sources for dyes – roots, leaves, flowers, bugs – and spoke about how the different mordants and modifiers can affect the results too.

For the weaving, we were lucky to borrow a ‘portable’ warp weighted loom and get it set up in time for everyone to try weaving. Ercil was in charge of that loom, while Debbie demonstrated the inkle loom and had samples of different types of inkle and card weaving.

Untitled Untitled

The classes are all completely hands-on, so everyone got to try carding, spinning, weaving, and dyeing for just a small taste of all the effort that went into making fabric in the pre-Industrial world. You can read the students’ point of view on their class blog, the Hunter Blatherer.

Interested in having a workshop or demo for your class or guild? Contact Us today!

Now Accepting Retreat Scholarships!

Thanks to the generosity of our Frolic and Retreat guests, every year we offer one or two full or partial scholarships for our three day Retreat weekends! Click here to download the form – it’s due by April 15!

Our popular destash table, starring the Scholarsheep bank for donations.

Our popular destash table, starring the Scholarsheep bank for donations.

Our three day retreat is a great deal at $300.00, which includes your room, board and most of the natural dyeing over the weekend – but let’s see how some other retreats compare!

Spin Off Autumn Retreat (SOAR):  Seven Days
$700+ for workshops and retreat, plus $100+ for class materials. Accommodations and food not included. (Costs from a previous year’s info)

Squam Arts Workshop: Five Days
$1200 – includes all workshops, evening events, 4 nights lodging, full meal plan, or $675 without the lodging and breakfasts

Knot Hysteria Retreat: Three Days
$795 – Classes, materials (except tools) and meals included.

Madrona Winter Retreat: Four Days
No registration fee, but a per class fee: 3 hr. classes: $90; 6 hr. classes: $180; 2 Day (12 hr.) classes: $325. Meals and lodging not included.

Fiber Frenzy: Three Days
$250-$305 entry; Workshops are $60+$15-$35 for materials each (up to 3), or classes (up to six) have a small materials fee. Meals and lodging included.

You can register today for our 2013 Retreat (June 14-16) with a $50 deposit!

The raffle at the Retreat is a major scholarship fundraiser!

Colorful Frolic a Success!

Miki Lawrence of Funhousefibers.com teaching a color blending class

We’ve been hosting Frolics once or twice a year for a few years now – I’m pretty sure the first one was in January of 2009 – and every time we meet new friends, welcome new teachers and vendors, and most important of all, everyone learns something new!

The dyepots started bubbling early with Bjo Trimble’s indigo class. Check out the beautiful dark blue results!
Indigo-dyed yarn and roving

The Color Blending class (pictured at the top) was very popular! Students received roving in red, yellow, blue, black, and white, and a color wheel – and just by blending the different fibers together with different amounts they each created a staggering 27 colors! We were happy to host a new teacher for that class, Michelle Lawrence of FunHouseFibers.com. Everyone is looking forward to see what she’ll teach us at our Retreat in June.

On the weaving side of things, we had classes in color patterns with warp & weft, 3/1 Twill, basic card/tablet weaving, the ram’s horn pattern, and advanced cardweaving students learned to weave their names.

The name dawn woven into a band

Sadly, I can’t cover every class, but we do have a lot more photos from the Frolic on our Facebook page – and if you have photos to share, feel free to link them in the comments below!