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Category: The Dyery

Vote for Griffin Dyeworks!

The Mission Main St Grants are open again, and I’ve entered Griffin Dyeworks! We can win up to $100,000 towards our business goals.

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Here are my goals for Griffin Dyeworks:
Short Term:
Increase attendance at our annual retreat and bring in “big name” fiber artists
Book 3+ offsite dye workshops in a year

Long Term:
Offer two retreats per year in different areas of Southern California
Host FREE dye workshops for low income women interested in starting a fiber arts related business
Sell lucet, kumihimo, and dye kits in local yarn shops

With the $100,000 Grant, I would also move up the timetable to accomplish these goals as well! In no particular order, and with no due diligence done (i.e. I don’t know what all this would cost yet):
1. Travel to Central and South America, India, Pakistan, China, and the Caribbean to visit dye suppliers.We would love to provide dyes from sources we have seen and verified as treating people humanely and within the limits of the environment.
2. Rent a warehouse space so we can purchase and sell dyes in bulk, direct from the sources. Our current space limitations do not allow this. We’ll also be able to offer workshops on site and begin dyeing yarn, roving, fabric, and clothing to sell. Hopefully the increased income would allow us to hire an employee!
3. Overhaul our catalog: Create new dye samples using different mordants; new professional photos of all our dyes & the dye results; update all the item descriptions; test all the dye recipes for accuracy. Create new kits for lucets & kumihimo.
4. Update our website with a better event management solution, so people can register & pay for an event, sign up for classes, and give us all relevant information in one place!

Please vote for us so we can move on to the next level and closer to reaching our goals!
Mission Main Street Grants

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!

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!

“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.

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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.

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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!

Back to Blogging!

 

After being distracted by Real Life and FaceBook for far too long, I’m attending to my own blog at last. Yeah, I know I’ve promised to do that before this. But I mean it this time. Really. Seriously. Honest.

We’re gearing up for more dye workshops and fabric painting workshops in 2013. Plus adding dye recipes to our catalog. And separating out our earth colors to its own catalog: Ancient Earth Pigments.

And lots of photos. Plus guest bloggers now and then.

Lots of reasons to keep checking back.