Tuesday, September 15, 2015

24-Dyepot Workshop with Carol Lee

Carol Lee held her 24-Dyepot Workshop on August 29th and 30th, 2015 at her home and studio in Encampment, Wyoming.  I was fortunate to get to attend.   My husband offered to drive me there from our home on the west coast of Washington state, 1229 miles one way!  We love the Rocky Mountain states and are always up for a road trip, so off we went!

Others came from Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, and Wyoming.  Carol, and her husband, Carl, graciously opened their home and studio to us, inviting all of us to stay with them through the weekend.   Their home is a remodeled school house with numerous bedrooms, 2 kitchens, at least 3 bathrooms, a large living room, a beautiful sun room (perfect for sitting and spinning) with a dining area, and sitting rooms galore.  Bookshelves line the walls of every nook and cranny throughout the house.  Spinning wheels (did Carol really say she has 52 wheels?) are tucked everywhere. Upstairs there is a great room, host to Carol and Carl's many weaving looms.  A rail on the right wall holds numerous, colorful skeins of Carol's hand-dyed yarns for weaving, an absolute delight to behold! This is the place where you will find both Carol and Carl during the winter, weaving rugs which can be purchased on their website:

Downstairs, the kitchen boasts an antique cast iron cookstove, which Carl lit off every morning for us to cook breakfast on.  Carol's extensive collection of cast iron cookware, every size and shape imagineable, hangs from the rafters.  Our meals were potluck.  Everyone brought food and helped with the cooking and cleanup.

Outside was where all the dye fun began.  Carol had already prepared most of the dye pots, some of which had been simmering for a few days, ready to yield rich colors.  The outside fire pit which held the giant indigo vat, the aspen leaf bath, the black walnut, logwood, and sage pots was nothing less than AMAZING!  Every morning, Carl rose early and stoked the fire in the pit.  I could describe everything for you, but pictures will better tell the story.

Indigo vat in back (stainless steel tank on legs);
 Fresh-picked Aspen-leaves in front (stainless steel tub on legs)
Black walnut (iron roaster pot);  Logwood (copper wash boiler);
fresh -picked sage (round copper kettle).
Making up our plastic sample cards for the dye pots.

IN WENT OUR SAMPLE CARDS!  We waited until everyone had their cards ready, then put them all in the pots at the same time so that everyone would get the same depth of color.

Stirring the Black Walnut bath (cast iron roaster).
Stirring the Logwood (copper wash boiler).
Fresh-picked Sage from the hillsides (copper kettle)
Giant Indigo vat with our sample cards.
Eight pots of color were simmering on the picnic table.
Lac in front; Echinodontium tinctorium in back.
Brazilwood in back; Alkanet Root in front.
Inonotus obliques, "clinker."
Hydnum imbricatom
Cochineal pot on the back deck.
Goldenrod, and Osage must have been outside as well, although I didn't get pictures of them.  Besides all of these outside pots, other pots were simmering away in Carol's dye kitchen, a camp trailer set up with big stainless steel sinks, counters, and lots of shelving for storing jugs, pots, and other dye stuffs. Madder root, Avocado, and I believe Cortinarias phoniceus, Hapalopilus nidulans, and Onion skins were all brewing in the dye kitchen.  My gosh, it was HOT in there with all those pots steaming away!  Maybe that is why I didn't stay in there long enough to get any inside pictures. Dog-gone-it! At least there will be pictures of the sample cards from these pots further down in this post.  A few of the pots were divided and the pH changed.  I can't even begin to imagine what colors we might have gotten with more pH changes and with over-dyeing,  With that many pots of color, the possibilities were endless.  But, alas!  Not enough time.


After the sample cards were pulled from the pots, the pots were open for us to dye any of the yarns, fibers, clothing, or other things we had brought with us.  Many of us also bought yarns and fibers from Carol's studio to dye or take home with us.

Carol's cotton table runner just out of the logwood bath.
This is so pretty, we suggested Carol should wear
 this as a shawl or scarf.

Bren's glorious silk yarns!
Alta's gorgeous embroidery threads.
Pallas' wool yarns from left:  madder, logwood, indigo, brazilwood.
Fibers:  mohair-logwood, silk hanky- Inonotus obliquos,
wool/silk blend- madder, silk roving-indigo, silk roving-logwood.
Wool socks-logwood, linen skirt-indigo.


Besides having the opportunity to see and use so many different dye plants at once (some that I may never have an opportunity to harvest), I learned these things:  to get really deep colors, Carol used about 9 parts plant material to fiber, rather than the 2 or 3 to 1 that most of the dye books recommend. More is always better!  Also, you can start simmering your plants days ahead of time.  Bring them to a simmer and let simmer for at least a couple of hours each day before turning the heat off.  This helps to yield more color into the dye bath.  Just be careful not to let things get to a boil, or that may spoil the color.  Carol was still getting great color from her pots and dyeing up fibers 2 weeks after the workshop was over!

THANK YOU Carol, for a WONDERFUL experience, and Ali, for all your help in getting things ready for us.


  1. The variety of colours you achieved is amazing, I have never seen such differences from one plant. Summer is nearly over here but I'll look for tin and copper pots for the next year. Thank you so much for charing your experiences!

  2. You are welcome, Birgit. Yes, it really is amazing the variety of color from one plant, using either mordants or changing the pH. I, too, am always on the look-out for copper, iron, or stainless pots. I would love to have an outdoor fire pit like Carol's.

  3. Wow! You have inspired me to go get a pot going today.....

    1. Thanks, Janice. So often when people learn that I dye with plants, they say,"Oh, you can only get beige from plants." Well, this workshop certainly proves that theory wrong!

  4. What a fantastic opportunity! thanks for sharing :)

    1. You are welcome, Quinn. I want the world to see what is possible. Carol Lee is still getting colors from these pots, three weeks later!

  5. Wow, what a great workshop. Loved seeing the different colors you got with different mordants.