The Dye Garden - Garden Update

Posted by AVFKW Staff on June 02, 2014 2 Comments

Happy Summer!
Here in Northern California our weather has been warm and sunny.  This means a lot of exciting news around the garden.  Let's take a tour and see what is growing right now on our back patio.

In the raised bed to the right we have the madder growing strong.  It's about 3+ years old now and producing the most incredible reds.  With madder we use the roots of the plant.  They grow like long skinny carrots underground creating an amazing network of roots.  Madder is a rhizomatic plant that sends out underground runners in every direction creating new plant growth.  This past Spring we harvested more than 600 grams for a special order.  Friend and weaver, Adele wove cloth using natural colored and madder dyed Sally Fox cotton. You can see her work at Voices of Industry.  She has featured it in her Drawing with Madder limited edition garments.


In the new raised bed to left we have marigolds, Hopi black dye sunflowers, and Japanese indigo.  I anticipate the sunflower to grow up to 10 feet tall.  They have the most beautiful and strange, dark purple sunflower seeds.  The seeds are used with an iron dip to achieve an amazing black.  The marigold flowers have been used for the dye garden classes I have been teaching at the shop.  The flower tops give a bright orange.  The Japanese indigo are large leafed, herbaceous plants that we use for the color blue.  The leaves of this plant are harvested, composted, and then fermented to extract the natural blue hidden inside.  The plant will grow all summer long and we hope to harvest multiple times, gathering leaves as they mature.  

In the seedling nursery we have a variety of flowers and plants growing. We have started Weld, a plant that has a spiraled rosette of leaves and a flower spike in their second year.  We use the extract of this plant in the production studio for our electric yellows. We plan to pluck the leaves in the first year and then use the flowers in the following year. I planted a few cosmos and dahlias for their flowers. They both give a buttery yellow.  This year i planted a lot of coreopsis for its rich orange hue.

In a pot by itself, I have the prize of my garden. Are you ready for this?! It's my prickly pear cactus and it is infested with bugs! Not just any bugs but bugs that give a hot pink color.  The bug is called cochineal. It typically grows in Mexico and the Southwestern U.S., including at my parents house on a cactus in the Coachella Valley. Last month I went to visit my parents and collected a piece of their cactus with the bugs. I brought it home to AVFKW and now they are thriving on my plant! Eventually they will suck it dry, but in the meantime they are eating and growing larger. I cannot wait to harvest the big ones to dye with my own cochineal.  Typically we purchase them as an extract or as whole, dried bugs, that we grind up. So to say the least, this is an exciting addition to the dye garden.

Last, but certainly not least, we have another amazing addition to the garden. Another fermentation indigo vat! We acquired it after the Berkeley Art Museum show, The Possible. Kristine helped build, tend, and assisted other artists to dye in the vat as part of the exhibition. Like our other older vat, built in September of last year, it houses 55 gallons of fermented Japanese indigo leaves from a Fibershed project, grown 90 miles away and lye water we made from scratch, using hardwood ash.  We will watch closely these two vats and continue to learn more from them and share the wonders of indigo.

Take a class to learn more about dyeing with plants in

Growing, Gathering, and Dyeing with Plants, on Sunday, June 22nd

That is all the news for now, but I plan to post every week with a garden update. Until next time. Happy gardening, dyeing, and crafting!


Adrienne (Aday)

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In the Dye Studio: Community Indigo Dip

Posted by Kristine Vejar on October 28, 2013 0 Comments

Last weekend, we hosted a party for our fermentation indigo vat. Nervous about how much the indigo vat could handle in a single day, we limited the group to 25 people. Each person received a piece of fabric made from Sally Fox's organic naturally-colored brown cotton.

People came from far and wide with a tremendous amount of diverse backgrounds and interest in the indigo process. I am so grateful to those that share in the love of indigo and the cultivation of it and who took the time to spend the day with us. Yes, indigo is beautiful as a color, though the act of community coming together gives the process and the practice strength. It creates a bond between us, nature, communities around the world who practice indigo dyeing, and the color blue. 

What we will do with the indigo vat weighs heavily on my mind. How will we build upon and contribute to the work of Rebecca and Sally? How can these different communities be represented within this dyed cloth?

Until next time! -- Kristine


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In the Dye Studio: Remember to Blink

Posted by Kristine Vejar on September 03, 2013 0 Comments

In last week's installment of In the Dye Studio, I asked for you to weigh-in regarding how you would decide when a color had shifted enough to warrant a new colorway. And all I can say is - whoa! You have very discerning eyes! It was great to read through your comments and to hear about what you would do if faced with this decision.

A couple things to note, if you see a dyed yarn, in the shade you like, let's say a particular red at that moment, bring it home with you! We really don't know if a batch will change for good. And the age-old rule applies, try as hard as you can to get enough yarn for a project. Right? We all know that one. I have to admit, through owning the yarn store, it has been relieving to seeing the different variations from one colorway to the next from all kinds of vendors, even some who are very, very popular. I interpret it as meaning that the issue of reproducibility is one in need of ongoing management for everyone.

Our winner of this week's giveaway - for one skein of Reliquary II in Brick - is Deb S! We'll get in touch and ship this skein out to you.

Unfortunately, though I have had dyeing planned in my schedule. No dyeing has been done in the past week. Instead it has been one big ball of bookkeeping (which is too complicated at the moment to hand off to someone else - almost simplified enough to hand-off), analyzing our income and expenses, and more shop management (round of new hires / training). I hope and think that I am rounding the bend on that front and will be back in the dyeing studio by next week. It's amazing where the time goes.

Adrienne and Chris, my studio assistants have been steadily mordanting new yarn to dye, which is great, and which means that there is lots of yarn there for when I do get to start dyeing. Dyeing requires many small decisions. Even when using a recipe, sometimes the color is not going quite the direction you want it, and you can add more dye or more water, in hopes of it going in the right direction. I find that it I am overly tired or pre-occupied with things that are particularly time-sensitive or demanding, that I don't have the focus necessary to respond as consciously as I would like to when dyeing. So have learned that it is best to focus on things which are calling my name at that very second, then try to split my attention over the two worlds of dyeing and management. While the fact that I can't be in the dye studio makes my frisky, every time I have focused on management of the shop and created more infrastructure for the shop, it has only helped me to dye, uninterrupted for longer periods of time. I try to remember this when I feel like the management of the shop is about to gobble me up.

The dye garden is very alive and beautiful at the moment. Last Spring when Natalie Chanin came to visit, she sponsored a fundraiser at the shop. With those proceeds, we have been able to expand the dyeing garden with the addition of a new, long, raised bed and with pots of dye plants like coreopsis, black-eyed susans, marigolds, and cosmos.

As the flowers wilt, we remove them from the plant. Sometime we dry them. Sometimes we put them in the freezer, in a plastic bag, with their like kind. Here in the Bay Area, it can be cold in July and August, it is this time of year that things really warm up. I think in the new, raised bed we will plant indigo. In our other raised bed, the madder is going crazy. We have the intention of doing a run of dyeing with it in the next month or so. We've done some sampling and have gotten really good reds.

After everything is said and done, a bit of time with nature is always my best medicine. In Minnesota, spending time on the water, the lake and the tiny waves are mesmerizing. As I watch the expanse of water, after only 10 minutes, it is like my mind has been reset to neutral. The leaves of the aspen, trembling in the wind, can have the same effect. Here in Oakland, I have to be a bit more committed to finding time with nature though I've noticed, even the littlest moments count, like deadheading flowers for dyeing. Watering the plants and watching their leaves shimmer in the sun. So with that, I will leave you - and hope that you find a bit of time today in nature.


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Madder Meets The Great White Bale

Posted by Huelo Dunn on June 06, 2013 0 Comments

 Are you following The Great White Bale? If you love to read the stories behind the yarn you buy, Clara Parkes is the ultimate storyteller. Her Great White Bale project follows a 676-pound bale of Saxon merino fleece as it winds its way across the USA, a couple times, to become gorgeous, small-batch yarn.  Armchair Travelers can follow Parkes as she chronicles just what it takes to mill high-quality, domestic wool, and get a fascinating glimpse of the proud, yet dwindling textile industry in the USA. Along the way, she introduces us to iconic milling machinery, fluffy sheep, and an inspiring community of artisans who are fighting to keep this vital industry alive in our country.

Intrepid yarn guru Clara Parkes on both sides of the camera  

Intrepid yarn guru Clara Parkes on both sides of the camera

We've been following the Great White Bale since January, so imagine our excitement when Clara asked us if we'd like to be a stop on her wool's journey. 


Clara talks yarn at our shop in Oakland

We were so honored to hear her fascinating story, and get a glimpse of her inestimable yarn. To dye some of the Great White Bale was a dream-come-true for Kristine, who opted for the rich and varied red tones of the madder root.


Kristine snips madder roots for dyeing

Clara chronicled the entire process, complete with lots of beautiful photos, for members of the Great White Bale. If you'd like to learn more, it's definitely worth becoming an Armchair Traveler. More than simply a blog, The Great White Bale is a multi-media experience, from farms, to mills, right to our very own shop. And if any Explorers are reading, get ready for some luxurious, madder-dyed Saxon merino. -HD 

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Growing, Gathering & Dyeing with Plants -- May 27th

Posted by Kristine Vejar on May 20, 2013 0 Comments


Curious about Natural Dyeing?  Take the first step.

I invite you to take my class on Memorial Day. 

Here are the Details:

Growing, Gathering, and Dyeing with Plants - Memorial Day

Instructor: Adrienne Rodriguez

Discover natural dyeing and its wide world of color. Throughout time, the craft of natural dyeing has been created and upheld by cultures around the world, from South America to India. Now is your chance to become part of the tradition. Explore which types of plants you can grow and gather that can be used in the dyeing process.

This class will prepare you for natural dyeing on protein (animal) fibers. 

In this class, you will learn:

- Yarn and fiber preparation which will include helpful tips for a successful end product with emphasis on colorfastness
- Mordanting with alum for protein fibers (these are fibers that come from animals) to achieve colorfast results
- Dyestuff prep
- Actual dyeing of yarn samples
- Washing and drying your yarn
- Resources for continued learning
- How to create a dye garden
- How to use whole plants to create a wide variety of color

You will leave class with a colorful array of naturally dyed yarn samples.

No experience required.

Materials included: yarn samples, various dyestuffs

Materials Required: rubber gloves.
  Class is held on our outside patio.  Please dress for comfort, crafting, and weather conditions.

1 Session / 3 hours

Cost: $75 with 24 hour advance reservation / $85 walk-in

Date: Monday, May 27
Time: 2:30-5:30pm



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