Up and Dyed
Last Monday at Pinehill Farm, my friend Anna-Maria was host to a group of school children from the urban elementary school where she is also a teacher. The purpose of the visit was to give the children, many of whom had never spent any time in the country before, the opportunity to visit a farm, meet the animals, and experience nature. The activities included nature walks, hand carding and spinning wool, and tie dyeing their own t shirts with a natural, plant based dye. I was in charge of the tie-dye workshops and showed the kids how to make basic tie-dyed designs and how to do the steps involved in the dyeing process- except for the actual dyeing part. I did that. For obvious reasons, we thought it best to keep the children away from the five gallon bucket of dye.
The natural dye that I used was indigo. Indigo is an interesting plant, pretty in its own right, with a long history of use as a dye plant all over the world. The dye is made from the leaves, and in its natural state, is insoluble in water. The dye must be ‘reduced’, a process whereby the oxygen is removed, and it can then be mixed with water. Jacquard makes a ready to use reduced indigo dye, which is what I used. The actual dye in the bucket was a nasty-looking green, and the tied up shirts came out of the liquid first a bright yellow-green, but then turned a deep blue as they were exposed to the air. This was fun for the kids to watch – like magic! After the dye had oxidized and the children rinsed and untied their shirts, they saw what they had created. This was my first experience working with indigo. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but results were quite beautiful.