Month: May 2019

Maryland Sheep & Wool 2019

The most perfectly curly-haired sheep is sleepily lying in hay, one foreleg outstretched.
This sheep is the essential sheep.

It’s that time of year again! Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival was this past weekend. I went on Sunday, and although it was a rainy, muddy day, I had a fantastic time as I got to spend it with some good friends. One friend had never been to the festival before, so it was quite delightful showing her around (we spent a lot of time in the sheep barn admiring Jacob sheep).

It was a year of minimal purchases for me, as I’ve been faster on acquiring than on using. I noticed, also, that multiple vendors I had bought from in the past were no longer there. I knew that last year there were a lot of retirements and closings, but it was definitely noticeable this year. That said, I got a beater for my tapestry loom (so I can stop using a plastic comb), some maple cream, woad and weld plants for my porch pots (hopefully they will dye instead of die–I’m bad at plants), and some processed natural dyeing materials.

Oh, and I bought another fleece. Oops. I ran into spinning friends in the fleece sale, and a shepherd was trying to convince one friend to buy a lovely grey fleece. I had been looking for a colored fleece. I got caught in the crosswinds of the sheep fumes. I need to set aside a fleece processing day.

However, the most exciting part of the festival, for me, was on Friday. I took my first ever workshop at the Festival! The workshop was “Yellow and Blue Make Green,” taught by Jackie Ottino, which focused on natural dyeing with yellows and then overdying to achieve greens.

A workshop's finished product: greens and blues

We dyed six different yellows using different dyestuffs (for example, powdered weld, yellow onion skins, and red onion skins) to find a sample spectrum of yellows that we could get from nature.

Red onion skin dye bath

A spectrum of six yellows

The colors were all quite surprising. Weld was quite electric, while other dyestuffs were muted or even tan. There was even a subtle difference between the yellow and red onion skins, with one being slightly greener.

Once the yellows were dyed, we dipped skeins of the six different yellows into an iron bath. We took another matching set and dipped them into indigo. Six samples of the yellow were saved as controls. The iron bath “saddened” the yellows, giving us a variety of olive tones and even some “mushroomy” greys. The indigos gave us truer greens and teals, and we dyed a couple of skeins with¬†pure indigo just to have a sample.

The final spectrum


Jackie was a fantastic teacher who answered all of our weird and picky questions. She removed the fear of natural dyeing from me, and I’m looking forward to experimenting with this further — once I process that fleece!

Finally: I took a video of the indigo oxidizing. Enjoy — it’s magic!