Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Natural Dye Display at Oberlin College

Oberlin 1 Two members of the Lorain County Spinners and Weavers Guild and the Medina Spinning and Weaving Guild have been sharing their love of natural dying with their community in Oberlin, Ohio. Betsy Bruce and Karen Long created a display in a busy hallway of Oberlin College that features nearly forty examples of naturally dyed fibers, dyestuffs, and handwoven scarves using natural-dyed yarns. They explain in the accompanying text the variety of ways we can color our creative pursuits using materials found in the environment.

"Dyeing with natural dyestuffs is a consuming task. One needs to first gather the flowers, berries, fruits, nuts, roots, and wood, which are then cooked in water thus producing the dye stock. Fiber or yarn is prepared, most often measured and made into skeins, before soaking in the solutions of the particular mordant. Tied and marked, the mordanted skeins then simmer in hot, not boiling, dyepots for varied lengths of time."

This is Betsy's fifth fiber-related display on Oberlin's campus. She tells us this about her fellow guild member, Karen:

"Karen Long, a lifetime resident of Oberlin, has been interested in the fiber arts for over 40 years. She was 17 when she learned to spin and weave and soon thereafter to dye.

She is the resident expert in natural dyeing in the area, having attended multiple dye workshops, read numerous books on the subject, and demonstrated her craft for over 30 years. . . . During these demonstrations, Karen is often seen tending between one and two dozen pots over the wood fire; gently stirring, admiring the colors, removing skeins, adding more, straining the pots, and hanging the skeins to dry, all while teaching the process to many children and adults alike."


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