Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Nuno Felting and Botanical Dyeing workshop

I had so much fun this week. The Prospector went to Reno with our son, his mom and sister. They had a great time and lost an appropriate amount of money. I held down the fort (the chickens and dogs) and did some playing around myself.
On Wednesday I joined two friends from our SCAT art group (MJ and Janice) and traveled to Loomis, CA. to take a workshop at the Tin Thimble, called Nuno Felting and Botanical Dyeing . The Tin Thimble is inside the old High Hand Fruit Shed.
 The three of us and another lady named Cindy, learned how to make a long scarf out of white silk and wool and then dye this scarf with Eucalyptus leaves. Our wonderful instructor was Sharon. She owns the store and she is the most positive and creative person I've every met.
The first day we laid out the silk scarf on sheets of plastic and added a thin layer of wool roving and pieces of silk, yarn and other fabrics to it. White on white... for the moment.
Looks kind of bland, doesn't it? We all did our patterns a little differently. Each of us had a different design.
We sprayed the silk scarves and wool with soapy water and carefully rolled them up on a PVC pipe. Then we wrapped the rolled scarf in a towel tied it with cut up tee shirt strips and they went into the dryer  to tumble ( no heat) for about 20 minutes. We did this about 5 or 6 times and in between each trip to the dryer, we unrolled the scarf and re-rolled it from the opposite end so the felting would be even . This is a different way to felt. I have always done it the "old fashion" way and rolled the item by hand. The dryer takes all the hard work out of hand rolling. It's really a great way to felt. When we determined that the scarf was felted enough, we squeezed some of the water out and started slapping the scarf on the table... kind of like making pizza dough. We took out any aggressions that we could think of as we pounded the scarf on the table... 25 times. "There, take that."... WACK and, " I really don't like the way you always have to be right?"... WACK and,  "This is for the people on Facebook who are always posting Photoshopped photos and outrageous statements... believing they are the gods honest truth."... WACK,WACK, WACK. See... it's the best therapy there is. Kind of like working out with a boxing bag. Well, I've never worked out with a boxing bag but I think I know how it would feel. It's probably more of a "THUD."
So, here we are, pounding out all of aggressions and feeling great about it. Some of us got into it and did a few extra "WACKS." and we all totally understood.
We did a finally rinse with some vinegar and towel dried the scarf. Then we put the scarf in water with some Alum, which would be the mordant that would allow the fabric to accept the dye and leaf prints. Potassium aluminum sulfate is the best alum to use for craft dyers and artisans. It was all pretty scientific and magical at the same time.
Before lunch we picked out the leaves we wanted to use from a wonderful assortment of Eucalyptus that Sharon supplied. I had no idea that there were so many different Eucalyptus trees. Most smelled wonderful. We also made a Tea from old pipes and rusty nails that we would dip our leaves into when we laid them on the scarf.
Oh, lunch was good. We each ordered something from the High Hand Restaurant and shared it with each other. Good, good, good. Shrimp salad with goat cheese and pears, crab cakes, pizza and a chicken burger with some kind of delicious cheese on it. We ate all this while we waited for the mordant to ready the scarf for our leaves.

After lunch we each carefully laid out the leaves in the pattern that we wanted. They were all  pretty amazing.
Then we dipped each leaf in the iron water and replaced them on the scarf.
All the fresh leaves accepted the iron water except this one. I was so sure that the leaf wouldn't "take" on the fabric, but our instructor Sharon told me not to worry and to use them anyway. She said Eucalyptus leaves have lots of natural dyes in them and would leave a good imprint. So I put them down in the middle of my scarf.
We had a choice of wrapping with an iron pipe or a copper pipe. she showed us the difference with examples of completed scarves. 

The iron pipe would leave a darker space at one end and have more black on it. The Copper pipe would be lighter and have a browner tone. We wrapped our scarves and leaves, carefully, around the pipes and tied them as tight as we could possibly tie them with rubber bands and heavy twine. 
You can see a leaf sticking out of mine, below.
They all went into a steam bath for one hour and into the tea of leaves overnight...  I think. I'm a little lacking on this information, but Janice wrote it all down and is making us a copy. So I will know in a week or so if I goofed. 
We left our bags, towels and "stuff"  in the classroom and headed home.
 This drive back to Jackson was almost two hours long. I was glad I didn't have to drive. "J" drove the winding country road home and I watched from the back seat to be sure she wasn't nodding off. She never did.
The second day I would be driving. I would go to bed early. Class would end at 2:00 p.m. instead of 5:00 on the second day. I knew that I could make the drive over and back because we would have beautiful, finished scarves and we would be all excited about the process... and I would drink lots of coffee before I drove home. We finished the first day in anticipation of seeing the rest of the dyeing process in the morning. Still... I kind of wished we had gotten a motel room there, near the workshop. 
The dogs were glad to see me and get fed. The chickens were glad too... I think... hard to know with chickens. After dinner I crashed. I was in bed by 9:00 p.m.  Unheard of.

Next time, I will write about the second day and all the excitement of unrolling the scarves.


  1. A very interesting post. You are a very talented person. Have a blessed day. Madeline

  2. I have been 'dying' to try this! I've seen many examples of the finished product but none of the actual process. Thanks Connie. Another project to tack on to the LIST.

  3. I'll echo Madeline...you are a very talent person and I'll throw in intelligent. All this has my head spinning! I've never even heard of felting, but I'm not a craft person :) Sounds interesting and look forward to seeing what they look like!

  4. Nice post, things explained in details. Thank You.

  5. This process/workshop looks like SO MUCH FUN! Good for you girls! I am anxious to see the final projects on display!


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