At Vogue Knitting Live Chicago last weekend I took an all day class called A Sheep of a Different Color with Rhonda Fargnoli. My expectations for this class was to see how different sheep breeds take the natural dyes of Indigo and Cochineal. That was not exactly what we ended up doing. First we started by winding balls of different yarns, from KnitPicks generic natural “wool”, to cashmere blends, silk blends and flax (why was it called flax and not linen? I always understood that flax is the plant, and when it is prepared and spun it becomes the fiber linen). This was all done while Rhonda talked and shared information.
Then, after a bit more talking, about an hour before lunch break, we started knitting little swatches. This part really could have started earlier, and allowed everyone to knit most of the yarn types up.
After lunch we returned and Rhonda made up a batch of Indigo and a batch of Cochineal. For 20 people in the class, it was really not enough, but we all took turns and made do. Here is the dye baths percolating, they were very beautiful.
The Palmer house meeting rooms are NOT a place to dye any kinds of fibers. No running water, and ill-suited bathrooms. I think that the lack of facilities really impacted the effectiveness of this class. Rhonda had quite a bit of knowledge to share, and she wanted to do it as a hands on class. The hands on aspect was limited due to the lack of water resources, and proper space for dyeing. I would take another class with her, but as my friend Jane said, who took a class from her the second day, only if there was running water and a proper heat source. I would really like a weekend natural dyeing retreat.
Here are my knitted samples from this class, there was a bit of difference in how the fibers took the colors, especially with the Cochineal. The linen really took both dyes lovely (bottom left). One of my cochineal dyes was corrupted by the over abundance of indigo in the rinse bath. Really should have had 2 different tables set up with their own rinse baths. And if you were not careful, it was very hard to figure out which swatch was yours. A better marking system, perhaps as simple as bread ties with names on them and the yarn end wrapped around that.
A couple of books were recommended that I have ordered, and I now have a source for natural dyes, Botanical Colors. My interest is really peaked in continuing to explore this process. Just in a different place. And call this class something more true to the nature of it.