Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Times They Are A'Changing

I taught my last Renew for Cancer class yesterday. After three and a half years of teaching yoga for cancer classes, it's time for me to step back and renew myself. Renew classes are rewarding; the students are wonderful. Teaching and participating in these classes have given me more than I will ever be able to give back and I am most grateful for the opportunity. Teaching Renew is also challenging - for the most part, people do well, but sometimes, they do not. Their struggles become your troubles and a teacher has only so much to give before she needs to replenish her resources. A step back and a summer break will give me time to restore compassion and bring new ideas to the programme when I return to teaching in the fall. With that in mind, I am stepping out of the yoga world for a bit and back into the world of full time fibre work.

Plans for Fibre Week 2015 are coming along. I think I have all the fibre I need for teaching Level 4. I had a bit of a surprise on the weekend, when the seven students I thought I had became eleven and I had to scramble for more supplies, but that's sorted. I've reviewed the workbook and my class plans, packed my equipment. (Navajo spindles are great tools, but the fact that they're the size of Jedi light sabers means they don't fit anywhere.)  I've been brushing up on my dyeing - in general, I work with natural dyes and a take a "happy accident" approach to the process. In Level 4, we work with precision dyeing using acid dyes, so I need a bit of a refresher course.

Yesterday, I did some rainbow dyeing on mohair (no precision required, just sprinkle the dye powders into the bath):

The colours are more jewel toned than is evident in the photo. Today's work will be picking and teasing the fibres to open them which will allow them to dry more quickly and avoid matting.

After that, I ombre dyed a batch of commercial wool singles:

Ombre dyeing is a gradient dyeing process; as you can see in the photo, the colours deepen from right to left. It's a simple procedure; however, it requires the dyer's full attention, as the colours are controlled by removing the yarns from the dye pot at regular intervals. You can try ombre dyeing yourself: wind your skeins - I made six of them - and label them in order from 1 to 6 (in this case). The skeins do not have to be the same size. I wanted most of my yarn to be dark, so Skein #6, the last to come out of the dye bath, contains 100 metres, while Skein #1 contains only 20 metres. Set these aside to soak while you set up two dye pots. One pot will contain hot water and the chemicals and dyes needed for colour. The other pot, your processing bath, will contain hot water only. Prepare your dye stock solution. (I was using left over dyes, so I didn't mix a stock solution, but working with a stock solution will give you more control.) Add the dye, the acid (white vinegar) and salt as a levelling agent to the first pot. Add the wetted skeins to the dye pot. Do not boil the water in either pot. The temperature should remain at a simmer. Use a candy thermometer to assist in maintaining a consistent temperature.

Every five minutes, transfer one of the skeins in numbered order, 1, 2, etc., to the hot water processing bath. When you reach the final skein, you can leave it in the dyebath or transfer it to the processing bath, as you choose. Once all the skeins are transferred to the processing bath, continue to simmer them until the required processing time is complete. Check the instructions with your dyes, as processing times vary among manufacturers. Turn off the heat source, cool the skeins in the bath, wash them to remove excess dye and hang the yarn to dry.

You can play with the intervals between transfers. In the Level 4 exercise, we remove the first skein after 2 minutes, #2 after 5 minutes, #3 after 10 minutes and so on. I used a consistent five minute interval because I wanted very subtle shifts between skeins and because I wanted to turn my dye session into a mindfulness practice. Rather than setting a timer to remind me to remove a skein, I found tasks that I thought would require five minutes of attention and I removed a skein after each task. All those years of meditation must be paying off - I was able to time things precisely this way for every skein.

Who knew that mindfulness meditation could make me a more careful and attentive dyer? All sorts of wonders connected to meditation are mentioned in the Yoga Sutras, but I don't recall honing one's dyeing skills to be one of them. ("Dying," perhaps, but certainly not "dyeing," unless Patanjali couldn't spell.)



  1. Hi Deb! Love the colours and the ombre dying looks so interesting to do. What do you use to label your skeins? I am looking for heat-and water-proof labels for level one and no luck so far.



    1. Thanks, Wendy. Last year, Level 1 used surveyors' tape and Black Sharpie markers to tag the skeins. It works really well.