I guess I should start with the dress story. The excitement of my impending trip to France inspired me to make a dress. Not really a dress, it's the Schoolhouse Tunic. It was beautiful, made from a natural linen and I loved wearing it. The first time ... and most of the second time.
The night of the wine and cheese pairing, we stayed out on the terrace, well primed for talking. I was telling some story, gesturing with my hands as I do and well, you know. Pffftttt! (which rhymes with what I really said.) There went my glass of wine, red wine, all over the bottom of my beautiful dress. Kind Laura from the kitchen brought out a bottle of Wine Away and I excused myself to get to work. It was nearly midnight. I did what I could but it didn't seem to be working. (Actually it was doing just fine.) I applied the magic formula again. Still there. Impatient and a little panicked, I got out my travel bottle of detergent and decided to assist with stain treatment. Finally, I went to sleep and got up two hours later panicked (again) and remembering that the detergent is probably too harsh for that unbleached linen. Sure is. So at 2 a.m. I was washing my dress in the sink. The wine was indeed gone, but so was the color. Pffftttt.
At breakfast, I could laugh about it.
All was not lost, I did have the option of cutting it to a shorter length (view 2 on the pattern), but I thought I might as well bring it with me to the woad field where we were going to dye all our prewashed linens. You never know. Wow, you would not have believed the volume of linens, cottons, wools, silks that we had accumulated for the day! There must not have been a single linen sheet left in all of southern France.
So. To the woad. So, so awesome! Woad is not indigo, but is a natural dye derived from organic woad plant material. The process and formula dates back to the 15th century and is particularly important to Toulouse and its history. Originally woad blue was reserved for the Royals and the color blue has special meaning throughout French history and language (sacre bleu!). Indeed, Napoleon's troops wore uniforms dyed roughly the same way as our pieces. Minus the male urine collected outside taverns. There's a work-around for that now. But they probably didn't have as much crazy fun as we did.
Susan showed us some shibori techniques which inspired a creative flurry of wrapping, tying and stitching before dipping our pieces into the dye bath.
Here's what happens. Denise and Annette prepared woad vats in advance. There's some feeding and fermenting that reminded me of sourdough bread-making formulas. It's complicated and I'm pretty sure I'll never do this again unless Denise is there.
A clean textile made of natural material is placed into the woad bath for a few minutes.
When it's lifted out, it's yellow then greenish. But as soon as the sunlight and air reach the fiber, the color changes to blue.
And then the process is repeated again and again (sometimes up to 7 times) until it is truly, madly, deeply blue. Forever.
We dyed everything we had. All day long.
I finally consulted with Denise about my dress. Given the damaged fiber, the fabric would take the dye unevenly and the bleach flaws might still show, so I decided to experiment with some rubber bands and pleats before dipping it. Good old fashioned tie-dye, also known as shibori.
Ta-da! So pretty, right? I love it even more than the first incarnation. And the story it tells is my favorite part.
And finally left the woad-wide web ....
To go off into the exquisitely woaded night.