A year ago, during my teacher orientation at Pratt I met Rachel Miller in the basement of Engineering. As we learned to navigate Pratt's system for uploading class assignments and grades, we connected right away in our desire for sustainability in our own lives, and in how to educate others on the subject. While I was hired to teach Foundation 3D (ways of seeing is a good way to describe it), Rachel was there to teach sustainability practices in the Fashion Department. We both only taught one day a week at Pratt at that time, but lucky for us, it was the same day, and over the semester formed a friendship that comes from these type of meetings, and stayed in touch via Facebook, where we quickly realized we had many friends in common.
Last week, she posted about an Indigo Dyeing and Ikat Weaving class she was teaching at Weaving Hand. I didn't think there was a class to be offered that sounded more up my alley than that! The techniques taught in this class are a perfect topic for this blog and I'll be sharing the progress over the next three weeks as I weave by hand for the first time, stretchy pot-holders not included, also for the first time dying with Indigo. I've noticed, if one goes into classes like these with no expectations (as expectations are resentments waiting to happen) it's amazing how much you can actually learn. In one class I've already found much more than I could have ever imagined. I always tried to bring more to the class than just the curriculum when teaching at Pratt (my best teacher's always did), and so I, as a student tried to as well, which in many cases means, just sitting back, observing, listening, doing.
Dying is a little bit like baking, and Rachel took us through the below process. Above is the Indigo we used. While Wikipedia states that India is the oldest supplier of Indigo in yesterday's class we discussed this briefly. I can not say from any point of authority, as this is not my area of expertise, but it seems that indigo was found indigenous in North America too. Cultures from Asia, Africa and the Americas came to dye indigo more or less all in the same way on their own. I found this great video on how the indigo plant is transformed into dye traditionally in Africa.
This is what happened to the Indigo when placed in water. It was a bit alive, similar to Kombucha.
After is was fully dissolved in the cup, it was added to the larger mixture.
We could start to see the color transforming right away, when the stick was in the water it was green, and within a few seconds out of the water, oxidation took place and was already turning blue.
The blue fabric in the photo above is an example of an Ikat fabric, likely from Indonesia. And Rachel showed us how to count off how many yarns per inch we were to make our fabric.
Then we warped, essentially we organized our thread for the next step.
We tied off each inch of yarn as we went along to help keep it all straight and organized.
Then we had to get the yarn off the warping board, and it was done with these sticks, again to keep it straight and organized. At this point we started to wonder how people have done this for so long. This process is amazingly laborious. I think once one has the full understanding of it; it could become meditative. Of course there were a lot less distractions back when this technique started, why not spend weeks making fabric for your dress? I think it's important to learn about these ancient techniques, and the amount of work that goes in to what we have consumed; ancient or modern. Today we don't have time for techniques such as this - or so we say - and then I see studies of how much time teenagers spend in front of TV and on social media, and I have to ask myself, if we are to parish will aliens come down and look at our civilization will they think of us as advanced or not? I digress...
We taped the yarns down to the table in preparation to make the resist.
Rachel showed us how to attach the Ikat tape to the yarn to make our designs. The tape covering the yarns are intended to resist the dye.
This is what I'm calling my Hopeful Hexagon. I've no idea really how it will turn out- we will know better next week.
As we got in to the groove of wrapping our yarns we started to share and laugh. We were a small group of women who may have never crossed paths, except we all decided on one of the coldest mornings 2012 has offered thus far that we might enjoying hanging out in the basement of what used to be a pre-school and started to learn an ancient technique of weaving and dying. So we did what women do when women come together like this, drink tea, eat cake, and talk about the opposite sex. If we'd been kitting this would also be known as Stitch and Bitch, but really we were not bitching. All of us seemed realitivaly happy with our situations in life, not to bitter, and Susan, the elder of us shared how she met her husband in a personal ad- nineteen years ago, a.k.a. from a magazine, in physical paper. Since she's retired now and seems to have traveled the world in search of every remote dying and weaving technique she had much to share, and she was great to listen to.
Then there was Mia, who is a harpist who wears black cat-eye vintage rhinestones glasses and lives in Greenpoint. She shared, that she has played with her fair share of musicians, and most have been a bunch of guys sharing way too much information on their thoughts of women. And went on to educate all of us what a Tramp Stamp is. Now, I thought I knew, but clearly there is more than one definition, and it seems to be growing. She educated us that it's also there for target practice. I'd not heard of this, so of course, I have to look it up, and there it is, #7. Well my Tebow ears! Tebow was also mentioned in passing conversation, and I didn't know who he was either, but I let that go, for the moment. [incase anyone cares, I have one tattoo. It is not a tramp stamp, and I think it's as old as most hipsters out there today decorating themselves. For sure it is older than their ability to have comprehend what one was when I got mine.]
Before drowning the yarns in indigo, we had to fully saturate them in water.
While in the bath of indigo, the yarn is green, and when it hits the air the oxidizing process turns the yarn what we have come to all indigo blue. A little easier to see here.
The yarn changed in front of our eyes from green to Indigo.
Here our yarns hang to dry for the week. Next Saturday we will start threading them on a loom, I will update on Sunday.
Weaving Hand is a beautiful studio filled with many fun things too look at...I highly recommend it for anyone curious about weaving or fibers or textiles.
After class I headed to my friend's couch and gained further knowledge of who Tebow is and Mr. Brady too, and watched the game. Couldn't have been a more perfect day. And I even got around the whole way on my bike!