The Colors We Forgot We Had

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

The Colors We Forgot We Had | Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows, & Hedgerows - A Workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving | Caroline Goddard Photography | Hope State Style

Last September, I took a workshop at the Marshfield School of Weaving on dyeing with plants gathered from garden, field and forest. I headed up to Vermont right after quitting my job in publishing and could feel myself sliding into a different way of being. It seems significant that, through this workshop, I learned that an exquisite palette of colors has been sitting right under my nose for years. Plants that are often taken for weeds in cities can be sources of rich pigment, most of which were a staple part of existence in New England until chemical dyes were invented. How quickly knowledge is lost. It makes the Middle Ages after the glory of Rome a lot more understandable.

Natural color takes to wool beautifully, and generally with little more than a pot of boiling water and a good pair of clippers to chop up the harvested plant material. Some plants are more demanding than others- Indigo needs to be fermented in order to offer up its blue pigment, called indigotin, and the traditional way of doing this is with human urine. Other dyes take best to wool that has been mordanted with alum, a gentle chemical that can be purchased in the baking aisle of any market. But that’s about as dirty as it gets. After working with chemical dyes at RISD where I was assured that they were “only toxic if you breath them in” (um, great), pee sounds pretty refreshing. What’s more, in Vermont, preparing a urine vat is usually an occasion for celebration. No quicker way to fill a 5 gallon pail than by throwing a pee party!

It is inspiring and infectious for me to be around people who live with real intention, and spending a day with a group of women who were all mothers, farmers and/or homesteaders and healers was just incredible. The weekend in Marshfield was the kick off to my year of focusing on health, wellbeing and happiness, particularly by shadowing women who have found those things by living off the earth. Of course, my original ideas for the year morphed along the way – I didn’t end up as far away as I thought I would, but instead, found health in growing roots of my own, tending to the garden that has been outside my door this whole time…but that’s a story for another post. 

You can see more of my photos of The Marshfield School of Weaving here, and for information on upcoming classes at the school, including Natural Wool Dyes from Vermont Gardens, Meadows & Hedgerows with Joann Darling (the class I took with the same wonderful teacher), head here.

173 thoughts on “The Colors We Forgot We Had

  1. HI Caroline, Thanks you for your eye and skill in capturing the essence of that day last September. I hope to see you again at the school. Be Well Joann darling

  2. Lovely pics! I’m afraid the urine party might be a deal breaker for me personally, but it sounds like a hilarious time :)

  3. For a minute I thought it was going to be on things like “Caca Dauphin” (yes, it is a legitimate color, and it’s exactly the sort of color you’d expect it to be). Then I scrolled down…

    Natural dyes on natural fabrics. Isn’t it great fun to Do It Yourself? And the tiniest tweak – like a different mordant – magically changes the color!

  4. Loved the connections made with nature and the women who were with you in this venture. Sounded like a wonderful experience. I think the urine vat is a great conversation piece! I would be game….I think. Your photographs were so detailed and made me feel like rushing out and taking a class…I don’t know if Los Angeles would have one :)

  5. Wow! This is beautiful. You really know how to weave a story through pictures. The dyes turned out really bright! And urine to activate indigo, I never knew!

  6. i love that your title speaks not only to the natural hues of life around us that we stop seeing – but also perhaps to a rediscovery of yourself. the photos were richly steeped in both. thank you.

  7. I love finding new reasons to grow exotic and not so exotic plants so this post was fantastic! Nature is amazing and yet many people take it for granted. Glad to see there are others who marvel at the treasures our Earth provides :)

  8. this is just so amazing and taking into consideration that there are some things that the world hasn’t seen yet.this is a thumps up…A very beautiful narration

  9. To me this was more like how nature can heal us by just revealing itself.. We in our busy schedules do not explore what nature has to give to us but when we do we are amazed.. Lovely break..

  10. I stumbled across your blog in “Freshly Pressed” and I’m so glad I did. What a lovely batch of pictures – it took me a few minutes to figure out what I was looking at and I was delighted when I realized it was dyeing wool. I love “traditional” crafts and ways of doing things. I’ve spent some wonderful minutes here – and look forward to spending more. :)

    1. Thank you Iona,
      The urine vat is used to ferment the indigo, which is one plant that needs a little extra preparation in order to impart its pigment, indigotin, onto fabrics. Other plants really just need to be boiled in water, and mordanted with alum or the iron of a few rusty nails added to the pot, simple as that!

  11. That is just so great ! Unfortunately I am well to far away geographically to attend this school but I have just booked myself on a similar class in Scotland where I live … Now I can’t wait for August to come :)
    Your photographs are beautiful

  12. I discovered this on Freshly Pressed. It’s wonderful to see work like this being done without chemicals. So far as the pee is concerned – little could be cleaner. I’m told the actress, Sarah Miles, used to drink her own (haven’t gone that far myself!). An inspiring post.

  13. Beautiful, and your photography has a wonderful air of warmth and serenity. I remember as a child in the 70’s (in England) collecting rose petals with my sister, mashing them with water and salt and tie-dyeing T-shirts and cloths. You have inspired me to do more research and find I have a garden and larder full of colour to dye for!

      1. Ciao!!! :)
        ^.^”” Me toooo I want it!!! ;) colors are Amazing! I just started now blogging and photography…I put my first pics on my blog…Can u tell me what u think, please? :) I hope to improve soon!!!!

  14. Guys I’ve created a blog shedding light on student life and various interesting aspects of it . There is a piece on examinations , social conduct and a scientificly sound studying technique . Please please view it and I promise you will enjoy it. Leave your comments and your feedback is appreciated.

  15. Cool! I enjoyed reading your story. I had a similar experience the day I took a Ceramic class in College. I was hooked and amazed by the process, even I was transformed. Very therapeutic indeed.

  16. I’ve never had the opportunity to dye fabric or work with textiles like this. The way you’ve captured it is beautiful. It makes me want to work with my hands. Thanks for sharing.

  17. The pictureswere really interesting.It is really sad how we forgot our natural dyes like Indigo and accepted chemical ones which ahve so many side effcets on the workers producting the. Kudos for spreading the word about natural dyeing.

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