I have mentioned and hinted a few times at the grand new adventure I have been embarking upon this spring, and today is the day to announce widely, and with the help of a contest, just what I have been up to!
My love of all things fibery has been one of my partners through several decades, beginning when I was five and learned to knit. In my early 20s, while taking spinning lessons and learning to weave Navajo-style, my teacher also introduced our class to natural plant dyes. I already knew I had a passion for plants, and had been studying herbology for a few years, so it was a natural step, and I have made many 'experiments' over the years. I did not instantly become a dyer or start a dye business... in fact, you will see it has taken a few decades of 'cooking' to come to the point of sharing this knowledge and love with others.
This winter, while pondering what to do in the current (read: dismal) economy, I realized I had a large parcel on our property that I could use to cultivate dye plants. From that tiny seed thought, I have spent the winter planning to launch the first Natural Dye Plant CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) venture that I have been able to find advertised anywhere. One impetus to act now was the localizing that has been taking place in my life for the past five years or so... I realized that while it has become much easier to obtain locally-grown food to eat in my region, clothes are another matter entirely. I could take one of my loves, gardening, and pair it with a need, for artists to have local color available to help re-clothe our region in locally produced garments!
Today is the Launch Day, meaning that if you go over and visit my new website, Nature's Cauldron, you can become one of my CSA subscriber/supporters by signing up for a share. My "community" of fiber fanatics is much bigger than just the boundaries of my county or state, so I am going to be drying and mailing out dye plants, as well as a few other goodies, over the course of the harvest season. You might decide that you and your knitting group want to purchase a share together, so that you can begin to explore natural color options for your future projects. As my gardens become more productive over the next few years, I will also begin dyeing and offering yarns in the prettiest of natural shades, as well as offering occasional natural dye workshops. Those of you who have followed my blogging for the past six and a half years will be watching my small farm grow from infancy. Though most of the farm posts will now move over to the new website, Sustainable Sunday will continue on this blog, sharing my general knowledge about living sustainably with all of you.
I will be growing a wide variety of plants, including Japanese indigo, madder, comfrey (olive green), yarrow (clear yellow), rhubarb (a mordant and pale orange dye), dahlias and hollyhocks, and gathering others from the hills and woods around me, including oak galls, lichens, and toyon. I live in a rich environment and plan to grow, pick and dry plants all summer in order to prepare four shipments to send to subscribers in the coming fall and winter. I also plan to include ideas and inspiration on what to make with these plant-dyed yarns.
Not all of my dear fiber friends will want to participate, or to take up natural plant dyeing. However, all of you have fiber friends as well, and just by tapping into that network of fiber artists, I know that I will be able to gather enough support for this first season of growing and harvesting. In order to spread the word quickly, I am also launching a contest today to build subscribers to my Natures Cauldron Facebook page, and to get the word out about my adventure. Each new "like" will be entered into the contest, as well as each individual who comments either here or at the new website. Of course, if you can get more entries in the contest, you have a better chance at winning the great prize package described below! So, if you refer someone else, have them tell me you sent them to visit me, and you will get additional entries.
The prize package includes a copy of Harvesting Color, the new book on natural dyeing by Rebecca Burgess of the Fibershed Project (this book will be included in the first of the four CSA shipments!), two ounces of undyed Blue-faced Leicester roving from A Verb for Keeping Warm (local Northern California sheep!), and some naturally-dyed yarns (watch for photos to come).
The contest will run for two weeks, until May 17th, at midnight PDT, so help me spread the word!