Friday, January 30, 2015

- Wool gathering

Don's assemblage/homage to Hopi Katsina art continues to progress, with some amazing milk paint additions. He asked again if I was interested in weaving a sash to go around the middle, which I was of course. This picture shows the wools I ended up getting for the project, but the story of how I got them is well worth a post.


A fair bit of Google image searching led me to decide a sash of red, green and black woven wool was called for. Fortunately, during my early Colonial Williamsburg days as a needleworker I accompanied Kathy Smith in her exploration of 18th-century dyeing techniques, after which she went on to make a living creating colonial and early American textile reproductions (you can see a reproduction canvaswork pincushion using her wool here).

Going to her website I looked to see what shades she had. The first two choices, a charcoal gray and a dark green, were relatively easy to make. But which red to use? Brazilwood, cochineal or madder? Without too much effort I convinced myself I needed to get all three, the better to choose by having them in hand rather than trying to read them off a computer  screen.

Getting in touch with Kathy (aka Kathleen B. Smith, pictured here in 1982 after she left CW) renewed a long-neglected connection and we've enjoyed comparing notes about the children and grandchildren who have been born since our dyeing days ... including my recollection of the ironwork her husband Ed made for my Dad, who used it to craft a cradle for my daughters.



In spite of the snowstorm that just hammered her neck of the Massachusetts woods, Kathy immediately sent out a package that arrived today. Fortunately, she intuited that the green I chose might not be quite right and indeed, the extra twist of a lighter green that she tucked in was just what I needed. Although honestly, any of the colors could be made to work ...


I did find it very difficult to do the them photographic justice, even in shaded sun ...


So I took them inside to my usual "take a picture before you forget" spot ...


Then tried them in the fireplace cum kiva where they will eventually reside ...

The colors that made the final cut
Every shot is a little different, none of them perfect, but hopefully you can get a sense of how beautiful the natural dyes are. Or better yet, go to Kathy's website store and consider indulging yourself in some hand-dyed wool. The color variations are much more subtle than most variegated threads on the market ... and as the old saying goes, you have to see it to believe it.

6 comments:

Dana said...

What gorgeous colors! On Kathy's website I notice that she has Earthues as a source for natural dyes. Is that where she gets hers? I worked there for five years and still use their dye extracts. These colors will be perfect for Don's assemblage. I can hardly wait to see what you weave.

Liz Ackert said...

I was pretty excited when I opened the package today, for sure. Our reconnecting did not extend to a discussion of Kathy's current dye suppliers, but I'm sure she would be forthcoming if you contacted her to learn more. Her methodology thirty-some years ago was meticulous and her choice of suppliers exacting ... I'm sure that holds true to this day.
My biggest "problem" at this point is that Don is progressing pretty quickly and I've got a ton of projects in the pipeline. The good news is that the assemblage stands perfectly well on its own ... the sash will be icing on the cake.

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

the sash will begin the Dance

Liz Ackert said...

And my toes were a-tappin' so I started on it today. Soooo much fun!

india flint said...

those are very beautiful colours

Liz Ackert said...

They are a joy to work with ...