Friday, 30 October 2015

Gwlana 2015 Part One: Mood Indigo. . .

I've spent most of this week recovering from last weekend's Gwlana retreat which was so amazingly inspirational and such fun.  My head has been buzzing with ideas and projects and since I was basically running on coffee, profiteroles and adrenaline most of the time, I've had to catch up on some much needed sleep before being able to process it all.

Gwlana, which is Welsh for woolgathering, is a series of annual retreats run by Brenda Dayne of Cast-On podcast fame. It's a four day retreat held at a lovely hotel in the heart of Pembrokeshire and you basically spend four days knitting, attending great workshops, knitting, eating, chatting with interesting people, knitting, eating, making friends, buying yarn, knitting, eating, and jotting down creative to-do and to-finish lists that ae far too long. 

This autumn's theme was all things indigo, something I've been really keen to learn more about.  The workshops included practicing Japanese shibori techniques, learning how to hand dye with indigo,  incorporating colours into your knitting, and making do and mending with Japanese boro stitching and repurposing old clothing. 

We spent the first day preparing all sorts of material for the dye bath.  In terms of fabric, we were given a goodie bag in hemp (which could be dyed), a cotton tea towel and set of four napkins, and a silk scarf. We were also asked to bring a man's white dress shirt from a charity shop and anything else relatively small that we wanted to dye.  I grabbed nine solid colour squares from a quilting charm pack in light blues and various shades of beige and brown.  Below are some of the techniques you can use to resist the dye - I tied material around a pole, scrunched it into odd shapes held with elastic bands, clamped geometric shapes to crisply ironed triangles, and went a bit free form with running stitch lines pulled tightly to create folds and gathers. 

And then we also got YARN!!!!!!  From left to right: a skein of superwash merino Aran, a skein of 100% silk, one of cotton, and a laceweight merino too.

We soaked everything in cold water overnight, and on Saturday, we made our way to the Village Hall where Caerthan Wrack (isn't that a fabulous name), of Triskelion Yarns and our resident dye-master, showed us how to set everything up. 

It doesn't look the most appetising, but just you wait. . .

The lovely thing about dyeing with indigo is watching the object emerge from the dye bath as a shade of yellow and then as the oxygen hits it, it starts to turn various shades of blue.  I could watch this alchemy all day long.

Honestly, how much fun is this? The photo in the bottom right shows how my different yarn fibres took the dye and the different intensity of colour I could get depending on the number of dips and how strong the dye bath was. 

Here is a shot of my dyed objects drying.  I particularly like how the tote bag turned out - I just dipped the bottom third in.

I went a little crazy snapping shots of everyone else's dyeing too - you can really see all the different shades that can be achieved, especially with the yarn.  You could go from the palest, almost seafoam green, to the deep midnight blue of the darkest denim.

And all of our shirts were hung outside in the sunshine to dry.  People passing by must have wondered what the heck was going on.

I hung my yarn up to dry in my hotel room overnight.  After soaking and rinsing several times to get the residual dye off, the colours do fade a little, but I was still so pleased with the end results.  The skein on the far right was an extra one of a Masham/BFL mixture that was naturally a rustic grey and turned into a lovely blue-silver after soaking it in the darkest dye bath.

Whew - and that was only the first two days.  I'll show you some of the further outcomes and works in progress in my next post.

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