The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Pathways to the Fishbone Tank

Posted by AVFKW Staff on June 08, 2016 1 Comment

Happy summer everyone!

As you may know, Kristine and Adrienne recently visited New Hampshire and are currently exploring the beautiful country of Iceland, experiencing the deep-rooted wool culture there, as well as the gorgeous natural landscape. You can follow along on Instagram!

Meanwhile at Verb we are continuing on with The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, and June brings us to the first indigo project of the year! 

Indigo dyeing is one of those processes that gets your attention. As you remove your piece from the indigo vat, a shimmering transformation takes place, from bright green to blue. This transformation grabs ahold of people and never lets go. There are natural dyers around the world that have devoted their entire life to working with indigo. Whole books have been written on the color blue and its history. It is an endeavor that easily encompasses a lifetime, as there are endless nuances, techniques, recipes, styles, and applications of indigo dyeing.

In The Modern Natural Dyer, Kristine has presented several projects to introduce you to indigo dyeing. The Blue Skies Tote and Indigo Wedge Cardigan teach you how to indigo dye on cellulose fibers and protein fibers, respectively. Further projects explore overdyeing with indigo, after dyeing with other natural dyes, as well as a variety of surface design techniques that work very well with indigo. June's project, the Fishbone Dress, is one of these - it explores indigo dyeing on a linen tunic that has been stitched to create a resist pattern.

You can use our sewing pattern, The Tendril Dress, to make your linen tunic for the Fishbone Dress. (If you have purchased a Phase 2 Kit, you have a copy of the pattern and enough linen to sew one for yourself!) We love the Tendril pattern - it's a simple dress cut on the bias which makes it easy to sew and wear. After sewing, follow Kristine's directions to stitch and gather the fabric in your dress. Once you learn the motions of this variation on a whipstitch, your gathering will go quickly. Then it's on to the best part - creating your indigo vat and dyeing your dress! 

For the Work-Along, Lis and I will both be working on shortened versions of the Tendril Dress - we're calling them Tendril Tanks. We're each following a different pathway with our project and are excited to see the similarities and differences. I will be following the procedure laid out in the The Modern Natural Dyer: first I will sew my Tendril Tank, then I will stitch, gather, and indigo dye it. Lis will reverse this process: she will stitch, gather, and indigo dye her fabric, then lay out her pattern and sew her tunic.

Lis has been practicing her stitch techniques all week and has settled on a unique grid pattern covering the middle of her fabric, which is a medium-weight white linen. Her stitching lines follow the weft and warp of the fabric, which means when she cuts out her pattern on the bias, these lines will be on the diagonal.

I am sewing my Tendril Tank out of our white, light-weight organic cotton chambray, grown in the Capay Valley (where the sheep that grow wool for our yarn Horizon live) by Sally Fox. I am so excited to be working with this fabric for the first time and I can't wait to wear my top with my Horizon sweaters. I will be using the same stitch pattern as in the book - but I will make sure to end my stitching early enough to leave a solid band of blue around the bottom of my tank.

We have many resources for you this week!

Sewing classes & tips:

+ To modify your Tendril Dress into a tank, Tasa recommends shortening the pattern by measuring 12" up (or more or less as you prefer) from the hemline, then drawing your new hem in the same curve as the original.
+ Our new class, The Tendril Tank, is full - but email us to be put on the notification list for the next time we offer it!

Indigo dyeing classes & tips:

+ Kristine is teaching Indigo + Shibori I at Verb on June 19th! There are a few spots left - grab one while it's available. Students will learn a variety of bound and stitch resist patterns and spend the afternoon dipping their pieces into the indigo vat.
+ We're excited to announce that today Creativebug is releasing a brand new video, Natural Indigo Dyeing. In it, Kristine teaches you how to create an indigo vat and several resist design techniques. This is great if you aren't local - or if you want to be able to refer back to her techniques at a later date.
+ Want to try indigo dyeing on your own? Pick up all the supplies you need from the shop or order them online.
+ Make sure to review all steps in the indigo dyeing process. Remember, you don't need to mordant - but you definitely want to scour! In The Modern Natural Dyer, see pages 131-137 for information on making and dyeing with your indigo vat, including tips on recalibration and avoiding crocking. The Fishbone Dress project starts on page 177.

We'll be back again next week with the results of our indigo dyeing. In the meantime, we'd love to see your progress! Use the hashtag #themodernnaturaldyerworkalong so we can follow your work!

 -- Sarah

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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Flowers at My Fingertips Sewing Kit

Posted by Kristine Vejar on May 04, 2016 1 Comment

Walk into your own front yard, wander through your garden, and at your fingertips there very well could be dye plants growing.

May's Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along project is the Flowers at My Fingertips Sewing Kit. Through this project, we explore how the garden is a source of dye plants, and how to take those flowers and leaves and print with them on fabric. This process is also referred to as eco-printing and in my mind was first popularized by artist and natural dyer, India Flint. Not all flowers are created the same in the eye's of the dyer, there are certainly some whose color and print are longer-lasting than others, and we cover those in The Modern Natural Dyer. That said, I have seen some really amazing, unexpected results from plants I wouldn't have typically deemed as "dye plants". Perhaps it is the fact that the flower is so intently pushed into the surface of the fabric.

Once the fabric has been printed, it is cut and sewn into a traveling sewing kit.

This is what it looks like folded; all of your tools ready for a journey. I don't know about you but there is rarely a time I don't have a sewing or knitting project in tow.

Here are a few tips when approaching this project:

+ Always mordant your fabric for the most long-lasting and saturated color.
+ I used wool flannel for my sewing kit, though, feel free to use other medium weight fabrics, like white cotton denim, and simply follow the directions for scouring and mordanting cellulose-based goods.
+ Turn to The Modern Natural Dyer's 20-page spread of dye plants to find those which will make great dye - and for ideas of what to plant in your garden this Spring!
+ Experiment with plants in your yard, you only have to scour and mordant once, you can keep dye many times on that piece of fabric - in case you would like to add more layers, or a flower fades.
+ Though I made this kit with the sewer in mind, it could easily be adapted for knitting tools.

To help you with sourcing the materials for this project, at Verb, we have made a kit. This is a great project for you to do with kids! It includes the scour, mordant, fabric, thread, and branch which you use in the dyeing process.

If you are in the area, I am teaching a class on eco-printing called Mapping Color. Join me in making your own eco-printed fabric! And if you are interested in growing your very own dye garden, join Adrienne for her class, Growing and Gathering Dye Plants.

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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: Depth, Texture, and Layers of Natrurally-Dyed Color with Alabama Chanin

Posted by Kristine Vejar on April 27, 2016 1 Comment


The typical pathway of creating an Alabama Chanin piece is to choose a sewing pattern, cut the fabric for the sewing pattern, stencil the fabric, layer the stenciled fabric over the a piece of non-stenciled fabric of the same size, stitch around the stenciled layers, cut the inside of the stenciled shape out, and then sew all the pattern pieces together. The last step is to add the neck and sleeve binding. Wait, the last step in completing an Alabama Chanin piece is to wear it...flaunt it? Yes, go for it, flaunt it.

When writing The Modern Natural Dyer, there were many experiments conducted, testing recipes, and fine-tuning projects. This process has provided us with an incredible library of naturally dyed yardage, yarn, and garments - like A.Chanin cardigans and tanks.

Some of the tanks have a bit of irregularity in the dyeing, as I have said before, there is always the option of embracing imperfection, and celebrating the movement of the hand, the aliveness of the natural dyeing process. Though, as an appreciator of the Alabama Chanin style of sewing, and one who finds the process of hand-stitching quite relaxing, I wondered what it would be like to add even more hand-work - to put two of the tanks together, and add the layers of stenciled paint, thread, and cut motifs, revealing another plane of naturally dyed color. I found this to be the perfect opportunity to try.

Both of the tanks I scoured, mordanted, and dipped into a wheat bran bath according to the directions for cellulose-based fibers in The Modern Natural Dyer.

Top Layer: Naturally dyed with weld in the darker of the two shades featured on p.98 of The Modern Natural Dyer
Bottom Layer: Naturally dyed with weld in the lighter of the two shades featured on p.98 of the The Modern Natural Dyer

Once dyed, both tanks were dipped into a bath of iron-infused water. Though I used weld, there are many other dyes and colors you can choose for your own piece.

Onto stenciling...

Stencil: Anna's Garden
Paint: custom mixture of brown, black, and a hint of bronze
Thread: Taupe

+ I added ironed a piece of freezer paper to the tank, for stability when stenciling, and so the fabric paint would not seep through to the other side.
+ When stenciling, I did not want to paint the binding on the neckline or on the armholes, so I taped over these areas.
+ If you do not own a spray gun to apply your fabric paint, using a square chunk of foam works better than a foam brush. The square piece of foam applies a thinner layer, more uniformly, so you will use less paint, and it will look more professional.
+ Paint the back first, so you can get used to the process. By the time you get to the front, you will be comfortable and confident. 
+ I applied the above principle to stitching. I started at the top of the back. Once I felt like I had warmed up, I moved to the front. Always making sure my seams along the side were pinned and did not shift while stitching.

I always get really excited when stitching, and have a deep desire to peek at what the finished cloth will look like, so I snip away some of the motifs before completing all of my stitching. Plus, I find it easier on my hands if I balance stitching with cutting. As you can see, I am not quite done with my piece, but it is going really well, and figure I will be done by the end of April. It helps that the garments are already sewn, as once I am done stitching, it is ready to wear!

I know natural dyeing can be a labor of love, and can involve a process akin to learning a new language, but when I sit and stitch this piece, I marvel at the beauty and the infinite intricacies of color and depth provided by nature, and am in awe and gratitude for the extra time taken to apply naturally-dyed color to this piece.

As we round the corner, out of April into May, we also say goodbye to Alabama Chanin April, though, really at Verb, it is always Alabama Chanin April. Don't forget, we have Alabama Chanin stitch-ins every month. We stock a full range of colors in Alabama Chanin organic cotton jersey, a full range of sizes in A. Chanin tanks and cardigans, are always happy to order you a custom DIY kit, (where you get to pick the colors of jersey, the stencil, the pattern, the thread color, and the kit comes stenciled and the pattern pieces come cut, very exciting, I'm dreaming of this one right now), and always have on hand a collection of Alabama Chanin garments, hand-sewn, representing the collection of sewing patterns in the line of Alabama Chanin books, in an array of sizes, for you to try on before, to help orient you in size, style, and fit, before embarking on a new project.

The tank written about in this essay will be on display at Verb starting May 1st, so stop by and check it out. This month has been such a delight to work in tandem with Natalie and Alabama Chanin, I look forward to seeing your naturally-dyed x Alabama Chanin-style sewn pieces.

-- Kristine

P.S. In May, we are focusing on eco-printing, dye gardening, and the project from The Modern Natural Dyer titled Flowers at My Fingertips. Stay tuned! We have some exciting projects in store for you.

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Stitch Exchange: The West Water Tunic

Posted by Kristine Vejar on April 12, 2016 58 Comments

You know how you hear about an event for years, and you see lots of photos of happy people at the event, and they make things you dream of making, and you hope that one day you might be able to go yourself. For me, this event is Squam. It is a pilgrimage of sorts. People from around the world, get in cars, buses, trains, and planes, and convene around a crystal clear lake in New Hampshire. They stay in quaint rustic cabins. And they take knitting, sewing, painting, weaving, and writing classes. I am so excited because for the first time ever, this June, I am traveling to Squam (car, bus, plane, shuttle) to teach indigo and eco-printing. The genius behind Squam is Elizabeth Duvivier. As Elizabeth and I worked out the classes I would teach at Squam she told me about a  new project she has been working on - a sewing pattern - named The West Water Tunic. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy and to start sewing!

I asked Elizabeth about the history of the West Water Tunic and how it came to be. She told me that her collaborator on the project is named Sam Lamb and she came to know Sam though Squam. One day, Elizabeth saw a photo of Sam wearing in this tunic, and loved the way it looked "very Audrey Hepburn meets artist chic" and asked Sam if she would be interested in working together on releasing the pattern. They began a correspondence. And voila now we have this amazing pattern!

I like the West Water Tunic - which I refer to as the Squam Smock - because it combines utility and beauty. I adore the idea that this is something I can throw on akin to apron but with a bit more style. When I asked Elizabeth how she styles her own West Water Tunic she said "I'm a total smock/tunic kinda girl. I love wearing a t-shirt and jeans. If I need to dress it up, I might wear more of a scoop neck t-shirt but mostly I wear tunics as part of my daily uniform. Super comfy and practical, especially if you have added pockets."

With this in mind, I began to think about when and how I might wear my version. I considered making one to wear in my dyeing studio, a place where I can never have enough aprons, and to make it out of a heavy denim. Though then, I remembered last Summer, when we grew a bunch of dye plants on a local farm, and how hot is was, and how I so desperately desired pockets to put my pruners. So I decided to use the garden and the field as my inspiration when making my tunic. I chose a neutral, herringbone linen as my main fabric, as linen is so breathable. And for the bias trim, I chose a fabric very close to my heart, made of 100% organic cotton and grown just 90 miles from my shop, by cotton breeder Sally Fox. In the future, I would love to use fabric I have naturally-dyed! Under my West Water Tunic, I am wearing a shirt sewing pattern we created here at A Verb for Keeping Warm, named Nell. I love how the two pieces go together - especially how the collars sit within one another. I decided instead of putting a button at the top, to use this beautiful, rustic pin made by Fog Linen, which we sell in our shop.

The instructions for The West Water Tunic are very easy to follow and have many helpful photos inset. I also like how there are many variations to this pattern; two different choices for the front, different types of pockets (inset or patch), and more! This pattern is great for all levels. You can purchase the pattern directly from Elizabeth. We also carry this pattern in our brick and mortar shop.

To celebrate Elizabeth's new venture, let's have a give-away, leave a comment - and tell us how you would wear The West Water Tunic - and what kind of fabric you would use - and you will be entered to win a free copy of The West Water Tunic. Contest ends Monday, April 18th, noon pst.

P.S. Elizabeth has a great podcast titled Morning On the Dock, which I imagine is named after the infamous dock on the lake, where happy campers gather to knit, sew, and swim, watch the sunrise (and sunset). I received the opportunity to be on her podcast and today, my episode goes live. So take a listen!

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The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along 2016

Posted by Kristine Vejar on December 14, 2015 3 Comments

I am so excited to announce our newest project: The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along. With my new book, The Modern Natural Dyer, in hand, I have designed a year long course of study to guide you through the book and through the natural dyeing process.

The goal of my book is to inspire as many people possible to try natural dyeing and to offer those who are dyeing already new techniques. The goal of The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along is the same.

I have found that project-based learning helps create a direct method for exploring technique. In the Modern Natural Dyer, there are 20 projects, each exploring a different part of the natural dyeing process. With seasonality in mind, the Work-Along is broken into three phases. In Phase 1, the focus is on the basics of natural dyeing and learning to use natural dyeing extracts.

Natural dyeing extracts are fine, concentrated powders derived from whole dyestuffs - like leaves, bark, wood, and roots. They are easy to use, and their compact nature make them easy to store. Because we are starting in the Winter, we thought this would be the best place to begin.

These are the projects we will work on:
JANUARY PROJECT: Northwoods Hat (or silk scarf kit) + Sock Hop!
MARCH PROJECT: Sandstone Shawl

The main correspondence of the work-along will take place on the Verb blog and on the Verb Instagram account. The first week of every month, we will post an overview of the project, lessons to be learned within that specific project, with tips and tricks to complete the project. The second and third weeks of the month are dedicated to doing the projects. The fourth week of the month, we will show progress photos of the projects.

By working on these projects you will learn:
+ the difference between fiber types
+ to naturally dye protein-based and cellulose-based fibers
+ to plan for projects
+ to work efficiently and effectively
+ to combine natural dyeing extracts to create a wide-range of color
+ to learn how fibers within the same type absorb color
+ to use iron
+ to dye garments
+ and more!

We are still working out some of the details for Phase 2 and 3 - but can promise that there are many good things in the works - like indigo dyeing, working with whole dyestuffs, and dye gardening - by completing Phase 1, you will be all ready to go!!

The Verb staff will be working along - showing examples of our work. We also plan to have guests along the way! Each week, we will be posting to the blog and instagram (#themodernnaturaldyerworkalong) about the topics listed. We plan to utilize Periscope, a new app, where you can watch me use natural dyes and ask me questions about the process. I will be teaching classes based upon the Work-Along during 2016, in the Verb dye studio and around the US. Plus! In January, I am releasing two online classes with Creativebug. So that way you can see the natural dyeing process in action!

January 12 - How to Dye Wool, Silk and Other Protein Fibers
January 19 - How to Dye Cotton, Linen, and Other Cellulose Fibers

Working within the same intention as when I wrote my book, to see people learn the natural dyeing process as easily and as thoroughly as possible, I created a line of natural dyeing kits in order to help people source the materials to create the projects in the books. Right now, we offer the following projects as kits: Northwoods Hat, Sock Hop, Flowers at My Fingertips, and the Waves Bandana.

For The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along, we are following the same practice and have created a large kit to cover all of the projects in Phase 1, including all of the scour, mordant, dye, and materials which we will dye (yarn, fabric, t-shirts, etc.) Click here to learn more

When you purchase the kit, you have the option of customization. We will send you an email with a series of questions. For example, in January, you choose between the northwoods hat kit or a silk scarf kit. And then, choose which color you would like: red, yellow, or purple.

Purchasing this as one large kit, rather than a series of smaller kits, you will save over 25%.

Plus, for the month of December, we are offering an even larger discount.

To celebrate the start of the Work-Along, we are giving the first fifty people who purchase a kit a FREE Verb Natural Dye Journal. Designed in our Oakland studio, and printed in Berkeley, this tool will help you keep record of your progress and help you learn.


We hope you will join us on this journey and participate in The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along. Please do let me know if you have any questions. This book is chock full of information - and I want to be here to help you dive in!

-- Kristine



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