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Fresh indigo leaves, ice and silk!

Indigo dyed silk hanging on the line

I had a great day visiting my indigo plants out on the farm.  That’s right.  I have some indigo plants out at a farm in Brodhead. I am the luckiest person in the world! 

It’s a long story that involves a possible Burning Man Global Arts Grant that was interrupted by the pandemic. N’uff said. I don’t like to dwell on the story because when I tell it, I sound like I’m complaining (because I am) and I don’t like to sound that way. 

ANYHOOO! Today I harvested a bucketful and decided to try out the blender and ice method of dyeing.  

Blender with indigo bits in it

I cheated in a huuuge way in that I measured nothing. I eyeballed it and it seems to have worked out fine so far. 

I took a small bucketful of plants and removed the leaves. Then I filled a blender with ice water and the leaves and blended it all up.  It reminded me of the green drinks I used to try to choke down during a very short and ill advised health food jag. I do love the smell of indigo plants, though.  

Indigo leaf slurry after being blended

Then I strained the liquid into a bucket. I froze the mush that didn’t go through the strainer to play with later.

I put some silk that I had scoured into water and then threw it into the juice.  I don’t know what types of silk I used.  A few months ago I bought a grab bag of silks from Dharma Trading Company to play with. It’s a variety pack of off cuts.  Awesome for experimenting with.

Fresh Indigo dyed silk, dyed using fresh leaves and ice in a blender

Anyhoo, I didn’t stir it around. I wanted a cool looking chaotic pattern and that’s what I got. If I had moved the fabric around more the color would have been more solid. I let the fabric sit in the juice for about 30 minutes.

After I pulled it out I gave it a quick rinse.

 

Fresh Indigo dyed silk, dyed using fresh leaves and ice in a blender

The color is so vibrant, I’m very happy with it. 

Fresh Indigo dyed silk, dyed using fresh leaves and ice in a blender

I really like this one, it’s soft and the pattern looks ethereal to me.

Fresh Indigo dyed silk, dyed using fresh leaves and ice in a blender

You don’t really need to be perfect to dye with indigo plants, you can play and have fun sometimes. 

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I Came Up With a Project

Indigo dyed fabric samples

Earlier this year, I came up with a project idea that I really wanted to do. My idea was:

Grow indigo. Make it into indigo dye. Teach dye classes. Teach sewing classes as we sew that fabric into quilts. Make a BLANKET FORT! and have a party in it. Clean and then donate the quilts to a homeless shelter.

I looked around for some resources and found some awesome grant ideas.  I applied for two grants.  One was through The Burning Man Global Arts Program.  Important detail: It’s not directly connected to the festival.  Here is their mission statement:

This program funds highly interactive, community-driven works of art that prioritize community involvement in their development, execution and display. We fund art that is accessible to the public, civic in scope and prompts the viewer to act. We like art that can be experienced in more ways than visually – art that is touched, heard or experienced as well as viewed. We prioritize funding art that involves the audience in its conception, creation and presentation. This program’s impact is driven by a willingness to take risks and be the first to give a grant to a project or to work with artists and projects that other funders might avoid, as well as a focus on community-driven processes that have effects far beyond the artwork itself.

Perfect! If I got that grant, I could offer the classes for FREE! I made it to the second round of applicants, which really got my back side into gear. I also applied to the Dane Arts Grant program looking for additional funding.  I connected with several local groups and stores and a maker space and was really making some exciting connections and plans.  I had locations for dye classes and sewing classes, a discount on fabric, helpers, a place for the party, plant growing support from a farmer, a community garden space, a band for the party, a consultant to help with her amazing indigo knowledge plus I connected with a ton of enthusiastic and interested, interesting people. I went to the Dane County Grant board meeting (you’re allowed to listen in when they review your grant) and they seemed very positive and enthusiastic. 

The indigo seeds needed to be in seed starter in mid-March and the grant announcements would be in April, but hey, that’s cool. I bought seeds and this really fabulous farmer name Dela, who owns Scotch Hill Farm – I met her because of all the Grant planning though this amazing group of women farmers called the Soil Sisters – was game to start the seeds for me for a small, really just token fee. She’s awesome. 

I LOVE teaching, I LOVE dyeing, I LOVE sewing, I LOVE connecting with people, I LOVE being able to offer FREE classes, I LOVE blanket forts! It was all coming together: Year of Jennifer!

You know what happened next. Covid has affected many other people worse than it hit me.

The Burning Man Global Arts Organization decided that they would cancel the whole grant program this year. Community projects are a big no go during a pandemic. The Dane Arts Grant required another funding source, but I had lost my biggest possible source so I lost that grant as well. Maybe I could have counted some of the in-kind donations of time, space and generous discount on fabric but since there would be no classes, those really couldn’t be used. If there was a way, I couldn’t think of one.

The indigo, on the bright side, was already sprouting. 

Dela and I planted out a small (to me big, but in a whole big picture on a farm way, small) field of indigo and my kids and I planted out a 10X20 plot in a community garden near my house in Madison.

I’m trying to think of ways to do my whole project without the Blanket Fort Party and with no in person classes but it’s kind of intimidating to think of a way to split up the indigo and ship it out and then teach a socially distant class???  I don’t know. 

But I’m learning a ton! I’ve had a first harvest of the plot near my house and I made indigo pigment from a frickin’ plant! I’ll keep you all posted on whatever happens next. I’ve made some posts on Instagram of the latest dye making processes but I plan to move all of the learning I’ve done over here. You may see some repeated info for just a little bit.

And I promise that I won’t make more posts with no pictures.  They’re the worst!

 

 

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Shibori and Indigo Dyed Class Samples

arashi shibori samples

Today was a cool fall day but I still got out and made some Shibori and Indigo dyed samples for my upcoming indigo dye classes at The Electric Needle.

Fall is coming again. Dang it. I thought summer would go on and on. For some reason (hope related) I always think summer will never end, not this year.  But I was wrong again.

arashi shibori samples
Tight on the left and loose on the right. Really it’s the opposite of how things should be: righty tighty, left loosey.  Oops

I’ve either sold or quilted many of my arashi samples so I knocked out a few more. I just love arashi shibori.  All of these were made by sewing the fabric into a tube that was then put around a PVC pipe and then NOT wrapped with string (ummm…if you’ve never done it before, trust me, that makes more sense when you see the process).  I love how organic and watery they look.  The wider guys are half yards.  One was a tight tube and one was loose, which makes such a dramatic difference!

Arashi shibori samples small

These skinny dudes are actually called “skinny quarters”. They are 9 inches wide. Each one was sewn into a bias tube and put on a tube. Only one was a tight tube and I’m embarrassed to admit that I can’t remember which is which. They are hanging on the line right now. I’m pretty durn sure that it’s the one with more white.

Itajime Star

I also needed some Itajime samples. I met some amazing dye artists last weekend at a Circle of Life Studio event in Eagle River.  They were all so inspiring. I followed the lead of Yukako Kadono of Slow Stitch Studio. I moved my blocks around and got these great color changes. I love this picture especially because you can see the green from the color change that indigo goes through on the left side of the star.

Katano Shibori

I did play a little but with some Katano Shibori.  It’s done with a sewing machine and can really look dramatic.  I haven’t done this one very much but I really enjoy it and plan to do more.

Itajime wrapping cloth

And finally this big one is a blank from Dharma Trading Company that I wanted to test out.  I think this size cloth (about 42 X42) would make awesome wrapping cloths for presents.

I dyed till I ran out of light last night.  If you scroll through all the pictures, you can kinda see the progression of the sun going down.

As much as I’m bummed that summer is ending (NOOOOoooooooOOOO!!!), I’m glad to get back into the Electric Needle Studio to teach. We’ve scheduled classes on the first Saturday of every month from October to May (not including January) and it feels like I’m going home again.  You can check my events page or just head over to the Electric Needle’s class page to learn more and sign up.

I’ll post more about last weekend in another post.  I’m still kinda processing how awesome it was.

 

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Great Class at Mill House Quilts

I taught another just fabulous class at Mill House Quilts last weekend!

Arashi Indigo Dyed Fat Quarter

The students were very interested in trying out new techniques.  Lots had experience with dyeing but not with indigo, which was super cool.

Stitched embroidery fabric

Chopsticks were very popular in this class.  It’s funny how different patterns will trend in different classes.  But the Mandala is always a popular pattern.

Mandala patterned Fat Quarter

You can still see lots of green in this one.  The indigo is still oxidizing.

It was a chopstick heavy day. They are so lovely!

As I always end up doing there, I tied the lines between two cars. 

Fortunately, this student’s car not only had a roof rack, but was also the right color.

Here’s the other end of the line

And that sky! 

It was hot and buggy but everyone left happy. I love teaching classes and try to get to Mill House at least once a year.  It’s not easy to travel with indigo but the back of the shop is pretty ideal for indigo: breezy and just shady enough in the afternoon.  

 

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So Excited!

I just got these in the mail: a dozen GIANT handwoven cotton scarves from Maiwa.  Guess what I’m going to do with them 🙂

Khadi Cotton Fine Handwoven Shawls
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Wearing a scarf ALL OF THE TIME!

The air is crisp, and twinkle lights are out all around the city lighting up the dark nights. True winter means you’re wearing a scarf ALL THE TIME! So, why not rock an indigo-dyed infinity scarf! Perfect for keeping the chill off.

All I Want For Christmas Is…..Deep Into Indigo!

Are you wishing that Santa helps you get your Christmas wish of a hot summer weekend of indigo dyeing in 2018, but want to know a little more first?
Here are some FAQs about the retreat:

 

Q: Can I bring my own fabric to dye?
YES!  While the retreat price includes all your materials, including fabric, tools, and access to prepared dye vats, you can bring whatever you want (as long as it’s natural fiber) to prep and dye during the retreat.

Q: Will I learn how to prepare different types of indigo vats?
YES! Jen will demonstrate how to do both natural and synthetic vats.

Q: What is included in the cost of the retreat?
Deep Into Indigo is an all-inclusive retreat. That means you get your lodging, meals (including wine and cocktails), instruction and all indigo dyeing supplies & tools. You can bring your own fabric, but only if you want to.

 

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Sponsor: Blue Bar Quilts

Get to know the Deep Into Indigo Retreat Sponsors!

We have a few and really want to thank them and ask for you to check them out.  They are all super awesome and have so much to offer!

Blue Bar Quilts is a brand spanking new and totally awesome quilt shop in Middleton WI.  They have a huuuuuge variety of fabrics, a giant classroom and (get ready for it) A DYE STUDIO!!!!!!!

They also carry my indigo dyed batiked and shibori-ed fat quarters and half yards in the front of the store.  They have my tunics, dresses and shirts in their consignment gallery.  They let me teach classes there too.  They just do everything right.  🙂

They have a super busy class schedule with a huge variety of classes and just…everything a quilter or sewing person could need.  They also happen to be super friendly, open, supportive people.

They’ve been kind enough to sponsor the Deep Into Indigo Retreat with my favorite quilting cotton to dye with: Moda Bella PFD.

And, yes, they do have an online store so you can order from them where ever you happen to be.

 

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Two Days Of Early Bird!

TWO DAYS LEFT!! For Deep Into Indigo Retreat Early Bird Pricing. Come and play with us. You’ll learn how to dye with indigo, shibori and batik as well as just have fun and chill with creative women.

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Sponsor: Mill House Quilts

Get to know the Deep Into Indigo Retreat Sponsors!

We have a few and really want to thank them and ask for you to check them out.  They are all super awesome and have so much to offer!

Mill House Quilts in Waunakee WI is a gorgeous and very well stocked quilt shop in a giant restored feel mill.

I’ve both taken and taught classes there.  They have great classrooms, tons of quilting fabrics, tons of notions and sewing machines, which they even repair.

They do sell online but if you go in, you get to meet their friendly, well behaved shop dog Chester.

Thanks to Kim and Kerry, the super friendly owners for sponsoring the Deep Into Indigo Retreat with the generous gift of a Bernette Sew N Go Retreat Ready Sewing Machine.

One of our lucky participants will win it as a door prize!

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Indigo Update!

Deep Into Indigo Retreat Westby Wisconsin Shibori

My plan for the Deep Into Indigo Retreat is to teach shibori techniques of many kinds, batik techniques and how to make henna, fructose and iron vats and to dye, dye dye!!! And also to -with the help of the awesome Jenina Mella - feed people well in a beautiful and warm environment and bring the fun!! I hope you'll join us. Early bird pricing ends on June 15th!!! Check my bio for the link. Today, I'm dyeing fat quarters on this beautiful summer day. #blog | June 08, 2017 at 11:04AM
My plan for the Deep Into Indigo Retreat is to teach shibori techniques of many kinds, batik techniques and how to make henna, fructose and iron vats and to dye, dye dye!!! And also to – with the help of the awesome Jenina Mella – feed people well in a beautiful and warm environment and bring the fun!!

I hope you’ll join us. Early bird pricing ends on June 15th!!! 

Today, I’m dyeing fat quarters on this beautiful summer day. #blog