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Arrowhead Ranch - Lodge Porch

2014 Retreat is Scheduled! New Loca...

We are so excited about the retreat this year that we nearly couldn't contain ourselves until we signed the contract! When: June 13-15, 2014 Whe...

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Store down for maintenance

Update 1/16: We're back up and running! Please don't hesitate to contact us if you encounter any problems. Our online store is having some difficul...

April 12 Frolic

April 12 is our Spring Frolic!

Calling all teachers! We're now accepting class proposals for our next Frolic, which will be held on Saturday, April 12 at the Monrovia United Methodi...

Retreat Panorama

What the Retreat Means to Us

John and I started the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat because there was nothing else for small fiber groups in Southern California at that time. There...

2014 Retreat is Scheduled! New Location!

We are so excited about the retreat this year that we nearly couldn’t contain ourselves until we signed the contract!

When: June 13-15, 2014

Where: Arrowhead Ranch Conference Center, Lake Arrowhead, CA

Arrowhead Ranch has cabins featuring real beds and private bathrooms, and come in different configurations that can accommodate between 2 and 7 people. There’s a large dining hall and plenty of indoor and outdoor space for our classes, and a pool, jacuzzi, hiking trails and more for your downtime! It’s a great location if you want to bring your family along for the weekend - Arrowhead Ranch is located in the natural beauty of the San Bernardino National Forest, just minutes away from  Lake Arrowhead.

Cost: $350 (shared cabin) if registered before May 15; $450 on & after May 16. Register & pay online via our store.
Contact us at info@griffindyeworks.com for prices for kids, partners, and families, or if you wish to attend classes but not stay on site, or for a private cabin.

The price still includes ALL food and lodging from Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon. This year, however, you we won’t be roughing it quite so much – you won’t need to bring your own bedding, rugs, or pop up tents for our outdoor tent city! No canvas tents – the cabins are all well-appointed, clean, and include private bathrooms, tvs, and wireless internet. You can see some photos of the cabins on the Arrowhead Ranch website! This event will truly be a retreat – not a campout!

Vendors

Vendors are welcome at the Griffin Dyeworks Retreat! Please contact us at info@griffindyeworks.com to learn more.

Teachers

Teachers are given a discounted entry fee based on the number of hours they are scheduled to teach classes. We’re accepting class submissions on our online form.

 

Store down for maintenance

Update 1/16: We’re back up and running! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you encounter any problems.

Our online store is having some difficulties, and it may be a few days before we’re up and running again — in the meantime, feel free to email us at info@griffindyeworks.com with questions or orders and we’ll do our best to help you out.

April 12 is our Spring Frolic!

Calling all teachers! We’re now accepting class proposals for our next Frolic, which will be held on Saturday, April 12 at the Monrovia United Methodist Church in Monrovia, CA.

April 12 Frolic

Teachers can submit a class proposal via our online form, and this post will be updated as soon as we have the usual downloadable form.

Is there something you’ve been itching to learn? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to find someone who can teach that class!

What the Retreat Means to Us

John and I started the Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Retreat because there was nothing else for small fiber groups in Southern California at that time. There were several Northern California conference and workshops, but not here. There were large conferences held around the state, but they were more formal and less hands-on. These many years later, other small conferences have appeared and seem to be well-attended, too. So we asked fiber friends if they would teach classes and got an enthusiastic response.

Retreat Panorama

With this encouragement, we starting looking for a venue. An Eagle Scout friend suggested a Tehachapi Mountains camp within easy driving distance of Los Angeles. We went to meet Ranger Terry Hall, camp director, and ended up selecting Camp Verdugo Oaks (CVO) for our first Fiber Retreat.The event was far more successful than we’d allowed ourselves to hope, which delighted us and encouraged us to hold another Fiber Retreat the next year. And the next. And the next.

There have been nine Fiber Retreats so far. We plan to continue for as long as there is an interest in attending a cozy, encouraging, friendly Retreat.This gives Retreat participants a chance to ask questions of the teachers, or even request an impromptu class in something not listed on the schedule. It is common to hear a teacher say “Class in naalbinding over here in 15 minutes!” Or even to have a participant show a hitherto unknown talent that they are willing to share.

 
Left, Dodder in a dyepot and dry, and Right, Scotch Broom in a dyepot

We have explored many dye techniques and materials, including the Scotch broom brought in by one participant. She stopped by the side of a freeway to pick the flowers, which must have startled passersby. Another dyestuff was dodder, a parasitic yellow web often seen in Southern California.

Ranger Terry is a Mountain Man, with a fine collection of vintage trade beads. He often joins the spinning circles to bead feathers or sew leather trousers. The fiber folk welcome him.It gives us immense satisfaction to stand under the moonlight and see the outdoor work areas filled with chattering, laughing, busy fiber folk, all too excited to go to bed. This is the creativity we love to have encouraged!

Ranger Terry, with some of his Indian trade beads

Since the camp is in the wilderness, we had Bruce the Bear trolling for goodies during the night, but we seldom saw him. Ranger Terry would run Bruce off with rock salt in a shotgun. Alas, all that is left of Bruce is a large green footprint on the lodge sidewalk, the result of his investigating a newly painted picnic table. Sparky, a black and white cat, is proficient at dodging all the wildlife at Camp Verdugo Oaks. Sparky likes to hide in vehicles. Fiber folk usually get only as far as the I-5 Freeway before discovering him, but others have carried Sparky all the way home.

The finest Retreat accolade started with a tragedy. John’s sister in Montana was failing, so we got a phone call on the eve of the Retreat to come quick. It was far too late to cancel the Retreat, so we contacted several of our teachers and asked them to take over. They agreed with alacrity, and ran the Retreat so well, we doubt if anyone missed us.

These wonderful fiber friends have been a mainstay in keeping the Retreat going, planning new activities, and finding guest teachers. They are so invaluable to us and to the Retreat. This is what makes the hard work of organizing such an event worthwhile!

Where do we see the Retreat several years from now? With the enthusiasm and hard work our amazing teachers and helpers are willing to put into it, the Retreat will continue for a long time. — John & Bjo Trimble

Retreat Wrap Up


Spinning wheels and looms at the 2013 Retreat

Our ninth retreat was two weekends ago, and I’m sure you’re all in the same boat as me – still processing everything you learned, uploading (and tagging!) photos, and maybe unpacking.

Bjo put it best when she wrote on our email list:

Wow! Our 9th Fiber Retreat was absolutely fabulous! It was very high energy, everyone learned something new (including the teachers), and there were some delightful surprises.

Pixies invaded the camp one night with a basket of crocheted flowers and butterflies. They proceeded to yarn-bomb the fence, several bushes, the Camp Verdugo mailbox, doorknobs, and vehicle antennae! Plus Ranger Terry’s own chair. We point no fingers.

  
However, many of us took at least one flower or butterfly home with us.

Our dye classes had a lot of people but there was no crowding around the dyepots. It looked as if everyone had a good time achieving various effects with tie-dyeing, mixed dyes, and color changes with mordants and modifiers. I have seldom had such a satisfactory dye session! 

Ercil was a wonderful cochineal teacher and her students were delighted with the amazing range of reds and purples they got.

  

Katerina again ruled the kitchen, assisted by her daughter-in-law, Taylor, and by Sarnat, who is short enough to wash pots in the Scout-height sink without killing her back.

Thanks to all our consistent Retreat participants who helped everywhere, some taking up impromptu teaching when asked. Several new folk added to the general fun. We sincerely hope they return again. Everyone assisted with tasks, and helped so well in packing up and cleaning the camp that we all got to go home hours ahead of time! We are very, very grateful. Thank you all!

Very high appreciation to our wonderful teachers, who always come through for the Retreat, making it a great learning experience! We tried to repay our debt to them with a selection of good books, but of course there are not enough books or other thanks enough to cover their amazing willingness to volunteer.
Thanks again, all, for coming and making this Retreat so memorable! — John & Bjo
We very literally could not hold the Retreats or the Frolics (like the one coming up Sept 21!) without volunteers both behind the scenes before the event and during them. Thanks are not enough!

Fall Frolic – Sept 21!

We’re excited to announce that we have a date for our Fall Frolic! It’ll be Sept 21 at Monrovia United Methodist Church. Class proposals are being accepted and registration is open.

There’s more information on our Frolic event page!

Caring for Naturally Dyed Fibers

Caring for your dyed fiber:
1. Rinse.
2. Wash in GDW Fiber Wash/Orvus, dishwashing liquid (without bleach or perfumes), or similar gentle product (NOT detergent) in tepid water. Work fiber, especially wool, 20 minutes to remove unattached dye & chemicals.
3. Final rinse: Rinse until water runs clear & soap is removed.
4. Neutralize: When satisfied, neutralize fiber in 1/2 c white vinegar to 1 G water for 20 minutes or overnight. Rinse really, really well, then rinse it again!

Indigo crocks (rubs off!) – this is natural but you can help by washing the fiber in very hot to boiling water with fiber wash.

Indigo needs the alkali in soap to not only set the color but to keep the color from turning an odd pinkish around the edges.

Synthrapol is not as much help as you might think since it was designed for commercial dyes, not natural dyes. However, any (bleach and perfume-free) dishwashing liquid will do if you don’t have our Griffin Dyeworks Fiber Wash or Orvus. Just do NOT use detergent. All detergents are designed to remove stains — such as natural dyes.

If the indigo still crocks (rubs) off, wash it in soapy water again, then soak it overnight or several days in plain water. That often helps. But indigo is just naturally a dye that crocks off. Original blue jeans that were dyed with
real indigo left whitish areas where the indigo is rubbed off.

Fascinating: Barns are red because of the physics of dying stars!

A red barn in Sweden, from Pixabay.comHave you ever noticed that almost every barn you have ever seen is red? There’s a reason for that, and it has to do with the chemistry of dying stars. Seriously.

Yonatan Sunger is a Google employee who decided to explain this phenomenon on Google+ recently. The simple answer to why barns are painted red is because red paint is cheap. The cheapest paint there is, in fact. But the reason it’s so cheap? Well, that’s the interesting part.

Red ochre—Fe2O3—is a simple compound of iron and oxygen that absorbs yellow, green and blue light and appears red. It’s what makes red paint red. It’s really cheap because it’s really plentiful. And it’s really plentiful because of nuclear fusion in dying stars.

Read more at the Smithsonian Magazine.

This is just one of the many ways that period pigments are a scientific and artistic endeavor! Try some today with our Pocket Pigment Kit, just $30 for twelve pigments and all the accessories you need to get started!

 

 

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.
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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)

Experiment!

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

Spinners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!