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dyeing wool with avocado

As I begin to envision the next season of weavings I am dreaming bigger. Bigger pieces, more intricacy, more theme, more connection. My creative cycle is feeling very seasonally attuned and to me, this makes perfect sense. Most of my life is seasonal - my eating, my energy, my sexuality, my creativity, my thinking. I enter into a deep inner slumber/hermitage during the winter months and as the seeds begin to stir under the earth, so too, does my inner fire begin to be stoked. Ideas begin to flow, creativity reemerges, and I prepare for the planting season ahead. One of the ways I am preparing for this creative cycle is taking inventory of my fiber stock and dyeing for the projects I already envision. I am also taking time to learn from fellow weavers by watching their techniques, practicing it myself and finding ways of doing it that feel authentic to me. One thing I envisioned in my dreaming stage of early February was a rose pink wool to use as accents. I feel very drawn to working with animal fiber as it is - the color of the animal - but I also want to sparingly incorporate plant dyed fibers when it feels right. All winter long I saved avocados. And then one February morning the timing felt right. I lugged the giant bag out of the freezer and began the dye process.


for those of you who do not regularly dye, this is not a post on "how to", partly because dyeing is an art form and it takes years to learn how to get the colors you are after. AND partly because its all experimentation. Master dyers are in a constant state of inquiry "what happens if I do this..." they are scientists of a sort. If you are looking to begin your dye journey I recommend Rebecca Desnos and her wonderful work. Also, what I hope to show in this post is not how to replicate what I am doing in my artistic process but simply to draw back the veil slightly as to how I go about creating my art. I believe that the artistic process is deeply personal, which makes sense! It is how you enter into relationship with your craft, that which inspires your craft and ultimately, with your inner most self. But I also think that by sharing pieces of my process there will be greater appreciation for my work and for the earth which it comes from.


There is something very sacred about dyeing - to forever alter a fiber. I haven't dyed much wool, simply because in the past, animal fiber was not my medium, it was other textiles such as cotton and linen. I very much miss making my own clothes and my children's clothes, and boiling a dye pot really made me nostalgic for a version of my past life... maybe I'll start making our linen pants again.. who knows. But I did end up dying my cotton sheets for the bed in the camper - because well.. why not ha. I did a crumpling method with I always love the effect of - its not as harsh as the dye patterns using rubber bands and is very organic looking. It is also always a surprise to see how the dye will settle and what patterns will emerge.


I was really excited to get to work with wool because animal fibers do not require a mordant. I was also certain that the avocados Id chosen for the dye would yield the perfect pale rose pink and they did which is just... ecstatic. In my experience, its more common to yield a version of the color you envisioned or something else entirely.


Many people differ on when you should dye your wool - before or after it is spun so I did two things - a thick chunk of roving and then some more slender roving wool. I much prefer the results of the thicker roving. Its easier to spin and the stiffness of the thinner roving makes it more difficult to work with. In future I would like to use spun wool to see how it changes the texture of the fiber.


And so, this morning, on the eve of the Snow Moon, the last full moon of winter, a gentle and quiet snowfall covers the newly revealed green grass. And there isn't sadness or disappointment that snow has returned, but a reverence. And a joy, to see one last beautiful snowfall before the explosion of spring. I am grateful for Montana's slow emergence from winter, it mirrors my own rebirth and feels incredibly supportive. Spring is coming. And we look forward to her arrival. But we revel in these last days of winter and the slowness and joy of simply spinning wool.






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