An Ode to Woad – Part 2

So, as I mentioned last week in An Ode to Woad – Part 1, I now have a serious addiction problem.  Let me show you how that came to be…

After gathering at the lovely French General for the workshop, we all carpooled over to the park where our dyeing experience would take place.

Once at the park we got a delightful and informative overview of the history of woad dyeing from Denise Lambet, who flew all the way from the South of France just to create a legion of new woad addicts dyers.  After regaling us with stories of previous woad workshop students stripping down to their skivvies in an attempt to have just ONE more garment to dunk in the vats, she proceeded to explain how the process worked, and what we would need to do to have a successful dyeing experience.  Then we got to work.

We were each provided with a bucket full of water and a stick, and told we needed to get our items thoroughly wet – NO air bubbles allowed!  Air is not your friend when you are dyeing with woad. Not only will air bubbles in your fabric block the dye from bonding with it, they also cause the woad to activate to a blue color prematurely, rendering the batch of woad weaker.

In case you didn’t look at the previous post, here is what a fresh batch of woad dye looks like.  Delicious, no?

After a brief moment of hesitancy, we all started cautiously dipping our first textiles into the woad.

Then we progressively got bolder… 

Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Ahem.  OK, maybe not THAT bold.

Pretty soon we were plunging our hands in as well as our fabrics.  Thank goodness we were wearing gloves!

Well, most of us were anyway.  A few hardy souls decided to go into full on woad mode, leaving their hands a lovely shade of blue that will last them for weeks.  Badge of honor I guess.

That is some yarn being dyed.  I would love to see something made from it!

Sometimes, strange “creatures” would float to the surface of a vat.  Any guesses what that is?

As soon as you dyed something, you needed to hang it up so the initial yellowish color could oxygenate to the final lovely blue.  You could watch it happen as you ran to the line.  Pretty cool.

Here are a few of the items I dyed.  The depth of blue depended on the strength of the batch (they varied over the 6 or so vats available), the type of fiber, and the time you left it in the dye.

Soon the drying lines started to fill up, so they had to put up more line…

and more line…

until we ran out, and we started to use the rock walls.

This is one of those times when I wish I had an extreme wide angle lens, because I want to badly so show you how there was blue EVERYWHERE in sight.  It was almost 360 degrees of blue.  So beautiful!

People were dyeing everything from yarn, to lace, to small tablecloths, to these sneakers.  After lunch, I only had one item left to dye, and once I was done with that I still felt the itch.  So I did exactly what Denise Lambet predicted…

I took the clothes off my back and plopped them in!  That used to be an oatmeal colored organic cotton sweater I’m standing behind.  Now it is a gorgeous shade of dusky blue.  If there hadn’t been a little bit of a chill in the air (not to mention a few men folk around) I might have been tempted to see what else I had on to toss in a vat.

All in all, it was an amazing afternoon.   The wonderful folks at French General are hoping to offer this workshop again next year.  I’m not sure if I can wait!  That blue is so pretty, I want to dye everything in sight.  My sheets,… my curtains,… my towels,… my cat,….  Oh dear…

Hello, my name is Rachel Hulan, and I have a woad addiction.

Bet you would too!

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