Friday, March 13, 2009

Earthues: Dyeing with Color not Chemicals

Wow! I don't know if I'm tired, overwhelmed, exhausted, excited, in love, or what! I just finished a two day class with Michele Whipplinger, here at the shop with nine other wonderful women, three from Canada, one from Maple Valley, and the others more local. It was so intense, so colorful, so full of information! Michele teaches not only color in every class, but takes you on the journey that she has been on to get the dyes from indigenous peoples from South America and Asia. She tells you about the way the dyes are harvested, way the families live, how she lives with them when she visits and trains with them, how she has helped to make their lives more sustainable, by dyeing more safely.

Michele Whipplinger is the founder of Earthues, a natural dye company, that uses only alum as a mordant, safe kitchen grade alum. The dyes are absolutely colorfast, and brilliant. She has been a colorist for over thirty years, and has traveled the world to bring in dyes to dye beautiful colors for all fibers, protein and cellulose. This company does not used any chemicals in the dyes, such as chrome, tin, copper, and the like. Her motto is: "What comes from the earth shall not harm the earth."

A little history about how I became involved with Earthues, personally and professionally. I would participate in dye days at spinning events, but leary and never wanted to be involved in chemical dyeing on my own, so I never would buy any dyes (except from the lovely Judith Mackenzie McCuin, which are a WEAK acid dye). So I stayed away from dyeing for the most part. When I opened the shop I knew I needed to have some dyes present on the shelves for sale. So I started with the Louet Gaywool and Judith's Dyes. I've had more experience dyeing with Judith's than Louet, both are really easy.

I kept reading and hearing about Earthues Natural Dyes - Extracts. Time came to make the phone call. I place a generous first order to have many of the basic colors, kits, books on the shelves. Then I went to a dealer meeting at Earthues.

Do you remember the Road Runner cartoon with Wile E Coyote when he gets hit on the head and he looks into the camera and his eyes look like big round spirals, and his body is flopping back and forth?? That was me at the meeting! Good Grief!!!

Myself and other yarn shop owners, artists, farmer dealers from around the U. S. were in the meeting to study the effects of mordants on colors. It was just like when I learned how to spin! I was so jazzed, so excited, to have found a whole new world to play in! My insides tingled! I didn't know I would love this dyeing so much! I thought I would just learn about it enough to bring it into the store!

But, no, I'm so excited about this because it is SAFE dyeing. The colors are COLORFAST. This product helps SUPPORTS indigenous peoples around the world. The colors are BRILLIANT.

Once again, it's a "back to mother earth craft" for me. Like spinning is. It goes way back to the roots of fiber from long ago. Only this time, it's with color. Michele is teaching us, old skills brought to our modern world, to be appreciated and used safely. It is something that is tangible and fresh in today's world. Safe. Sustainable. Refreshing. Alive.

Thank you Michele, for your teaching and sharing of your world with us!

PS. Jennifer, a fellow student took wonderful photos and set them up in this photo display. See them here:


Blogger juliet... said...

Thanks Nancy for a great program you organized with Michele for last Wednesday's Whatcom Weavers Guild meeting! Looking forward to the Sarah Swett program at Nancy's Farm in April.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Long Ridge Farm said...

Hi Nancy! Fun to read your post about Michele and your hourney with natural dyeing! Will you be coming to Seattle this July again? Bet so!!!

6:10 AM  
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