The Modern Natural Dyer: Rhinebeck + NYC Recap

We headed to NY mid-October for the launch of The Modern Natural Dyer - and as you might recall, when preparing for the trip I I was totally freaking out. I had not been to the East Coast in 15 years. I was afraid that no one would be interested in The Modern Natural Dyer. And I can be kinda shy and awkward so the idea of walking up to a group of people at Rhinebeck and saying hi seemed daunting. But really, everything went splendid, and it was amazing, and sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about my trip. I thought it would be fun to walk down memory lane and bring you up to speed. And to make the point, to myself, and in the case you find yourself thinking similar thoughts about your life, to nip all that negative self-talk in the bud!

Adrienne and I flew into JFK late on Thursday night. Met my Mom, who had just flown in from Minnesota, rented a car, got a good night's sleep, and then headed north to the Hudson Valley. There was a chill in the air - refreshing compared to the 80-90 degree temperatures we have been experiencing in Oakland. I felt grateful for my puffy, woolly, warm Francis I had knit, completing it nearly as I ran out the door to catch my flight. Plus, it made a great pillow on the flight.

As we drove out of the city, concrete melted away, trees filled the horizon. First on our tour was to have lunch with my editor, Melanie Falick. She has the most adorable, classic, Hudson Valley farm house. We went to the DIA, a modern and contemporary art museum, I have dreamed of visiting for twenty years. It was absolutely gorgeous and exceeded every expectation.

Late in the afternoon, and sated by an afternoon of great art, heart-felt conversation, and a delicious Bloody Mary, we said goodbye to Melanie, and headed north towards Rhinebeck. We stayed just north of Rhinebeck on a working organic-farm. It was absolutely lovely. When we arrived our fridge was full of farm-fresh, organic veggies. Coming from California, where a house is considered ancient if 100 years old, I was smitten with the Hudson Valley farm houses. The wood in the floor of our house had soft worn divets, from being walked on so many times, the earth settling after so many years, and the banister curved, from hands following it to make the turn at the to of the stairs. At first I felt wobbly, trying to take the stairs as if they were new, but once I merged into the path worn by others, I could quickly see the efficiency of the worn path, the wood in the house giving me a hint as to how to best make that turn at the top of the stairs.

Early Saturday morning, The Modern Natural Dyer trunk show in hand, we headed for the fair grounds - where the NY Wool and Sheep (short hand: Rhinebeck) festival is held. Considered a mecca by wool loving people, it was exciting to have finally arrived after so many years of watching from afar. I set up my table with samples, books, and a life sized shade card from my book (more on that soon). 


The doors to Rhinebeck opened - and I felt lucky and grateful to have uber-author Clara Parkes at my side, signing galleys of her upcoming book, Knitlandia. People began coming to my table and wanting The Modern Natural Dyer! It was amazing! I met so many people!

Like Bristol Ivy, here we are in our puffy sweaters.

I spoke twice at Rhinebeck about the natural dyeing process and my book, since I am still new at speaking about my book, this was a good exercise, especially since I feel like knitters are my people, so will allow me a bit of extra room for any blips or blunders. ;)

By 3pm, we had sold out of books. Which was bittersweet, as I hate to disappoint people, and am so excited that people want to learn more about natural dyeing. Luckily, the folks at Abrams were able to find a few more books in the Manhattan office, and brought them to Rhinebeck on Sunday. By 2pm, we were sold out of books again, so I took the opportunity to get out a bit and to see the show.

I watched as sheep were judged for their quality of fleece and their stature. Look at this beauty waiting for his time in the ring. He is smiling, right? I simply can not describe my love for the farmers who put so much care into breeding the best sheep, and who are vested in carrying forth rare breeds of sheep. Just like raising heirloom fruit and vegetables, avoiding mono-culture and supporting a wide plethora of wool-producing animals is good for the planet. We also walked through the barns where it is possible to find many types of breed-specific yarn, wool pelts, angora bunnies, locally-made beeswax candles, jams and jellies.

It was so cold it snowed!! Me and my fellow Californian friend Coco Weisenberger kept warm by hugging this fresh bag of hot kettle corn!

I was walking along - when bam! I saw Hope Spinnery. About 7 years ago, I somehow came across a set of naturally dyed yarn samples by Hope Spinnery - a wind powered wool mill, who practice natural dyeing, based in Maine, using local wool. I tried calling and emailing with no answer. In the back of my mind, the threat loomed, that one day I would drive all the way there and knock on the door. Before me stood a man in the sweetest elbow-worn hand-knit sweater, around him were piles of the most beautiful naturally-dyed yarn. I expressed my love for his work. I am sure I came on way to strong. Oh well! he admitted that he would probably never answer the phone and he would most certainly never answer an email. Though I have to say, given that he has an email address - I think it is cute that he will never answer it! He told me he rarely even drives. I find value in the internet as that is how I have met some my closest friends, though I can not fault him - he's pretty much living the dream. So I had no other choice than to create a gigantic pile of yarn to bring back to Verb. It will be hitting the shelves sometime this week. (Packing the Hope Spinnery yarn, looking annoyed that Adrienne had caught me in my habit of yarn hunting and gathering, trying to pack as she teased me that the bag was bursting open).

As the show came to a close, we made our way slowly to the exit. The bright red leaves overhead. Hugging friends that I had not seen in quite some time, and saying goodbye.

On Monday morning, we headed back to the city. We stayed in the quirkiest hotel, The Jane. Across the street from the Hudson River, once upon a time, The Jane was a place (flop house) for sailors to stay. Many years later, remodeled, The Jane has stayed true to its roots of very small, and for NYC, very affordable rooms. Staying in them is reminiscent of staying on a ship - in a Wes Anderson film.

Monday night, we grabbed a taxi and went to The Textile Art Center (TAC). I have been following their work since their inception. I adore how they support artists and children, guiding the use of textiles as a form of art and expression. At first, I was going to have a class at TAC but upon further thought, I decided to host an open studio where people could come for free to see dyepots in action, see the samples from the book, and ask questions. I made a dyepot using coreopsis I grew this Summer, and a dyepot using madder extract. That way people could see how to use whole dyestuffs and natural dyeing extracts. I also had a table set up where people could sit and practice shibori. People were so excited and it was so much fun.

Tuesday, October 20th, was my actual "pub date" as it is referred to in the publishing industry - to the rest of us it means that this is day my book hits the shelves. We walked the High Line, a fairly new outdoor park close to our hotel. And then we took the subway to the MOMA to see the Picasso sculpture show. It was amazing though the exhibition that I felt was particularly mind blowing was Walid Raad. Time was ticking, and before we knew it, we were rushing to get downtown because I was giving a hands-on demonstration to the crew at Abrams. It was great to visit this place I had called so many times - and to meet those that helped me put my book together in real life. 

Wednesday was our last, full day in NYC. We made a pilgrimage to Russ and Daughters for the world's best lox. Followed by a trip to Purl Soho. I was surprised and smitten to see The Modern Natural Dyer on display in the front window. So grateful. I had the opportunity to meet Allison, who works at Purl when in Rhinebeck, and she happened to be working that day. So we had a wonderful time chatting and looking at all the gorgeous things they have to offer. Just an absolute treasure trove of beautiful yarn and fabric. The projects, which they offer on their blog, are just as wonderful in person as they are in photographs.

Thursday night I taught a class at the Manhattan-based cooking school, Haven's Kitchen. I started the evening with a book signing. The lovely Suzie Meyers from Food & Wine came - and delivered a copy of their November magazine - where The Modern Natural Dyer is featured! Thank you Suzie! Also, a wonderful woman from Chile happened to be in town and came by. She and her Mother have a business raising sheep, and turning it into naturally dyed yarn. It is called La ovejita de Dollinco.


I developed a new class for Haven's Kitchen. Since they are focused on food, I concentrated on dyes which are food-related though have excellent light-fast properties. We worked with tea, onion skins, and cochineal. I was a little nervous, though I think it went really well! My favorite part of teaching is watching people's eye light up and sparkle as the process begin to make sense. It's as if I an see the wheels turning - as they begin to imagine how they will put their own spin on the process! This space was an absolute dream to work in. I wanted to fold it up, and take it home. If I had more time, I would have stayed to take a cooking class, they have some great offerings!

Before we knew it, Thursday morning was here, and it was time to board our flight for San Francisco. We had such a great time and everyone was so lovely. Thank you so much to everyone who joined us along this tour! It was wonderful to meet you and to see you. Hopefully, we will be back soon!

See! Nothing to be scared of!


A note about our new category: The Modern Natural Dyer

On the Verb blog, we have a series of categories to keep posts organized, knowing that people come to Verb for a variety of reasons, some people like to read about design and patterns (Stitch Exchange), others are interested in what we are doing in the dye studio (In the Dye Studio). I really thought The Modern Natural Dyer could live under the category of In The Dye Studio - but no, I have found to keep things neat and tidy, it needs its own category - so here we go - starting today, The Modern Natural Dyer will now be its own category on the Verb blog - where I will highlight projects, dye techniques, and others working with the book. In the Dye Studio will be dedicated to what we are making in the dye studio. When you come to the Verb blog, you can choose a tag - like The Modern Natural Dyer - and only get blog posts on that topic. Thanks for reading!


Join in on the fun! The Modern Natural Dyer book tour.

Upcoming: The Fibershed Fine Wool and Fiber Symposium

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