I’ll continue to weave tale of Sea Island Blues here with this past weekend’s Indigo Retreat in Charleston at Rebellion Farms. I’m calling this event the Rebellious Blues workshop! This event marked the launch of Sea Island Indigo workshops and retreats in Charleston and the surrounding low country area (& maybe further!).
Here’s our swag bag which included a variety of fabrics, yarns and trim in both cellulose and protein fibers for each of us to dye. There were additional yarns and fabrics for sale and attendee’s also brought their own goodies.
The first day included a (brief) history of Indigo in the southeast US, a visit to the Charleston Museum and a demonstration from The Gullah Lady, Sharon Cooper Murray who showed us all the traditional technique of Rag Quilting.
On our second day of the workshop we all (around 20 of us total) gathered out at Rebellion Farms, just outside of Charleston. This farm is a special place where Donna has been nurturing a crop of Indigo just for this workshop. So we all headed out to the field to see the beautiful Indigo growing and to begin to gather leaves to learn the technique of Fresh Leaf Vats.
Above, Kathy collects leaves from the indigo growing on the farm. Below, the fresh leaf vat process begins with water.
We are all as excited as Donna to see this transformation from leaf to dye material. Below, the blue is starting to show in the water surrounding the indigo leaves.
Finally after a couple of hours the fresh leaf vat has developed the beautiful coppery sheen on the surface that tells us the vat is ready to be used for dyeing.
While we waited we stitched, bound and clamped our fabrics using various shibori techniques.
The blue that came from the fresh leaf vat was a remarkable vivid almost turquoise blue. Each type of Indigo and vat yields subtle variations in the colors hue and saturation.
Saturday was the final day of the workshop and we had several vats all going at once including the 1-2-3 Fructose vat and a couple vats each for dyeing cellulose and protein fibers.
The farm pigs kept us company…but since there was a hog roasting right next to us we didn’t get too attached.
And we stitched…
And we ohhhed and ahhed over the beauty of the vats…
We witnessed Sharon Cooper Murray create her indigo rope babies…
And we dyed so much fabric and yarn that we covered just about every available surface!
Finally it was time to wrap things up and begin to transform this make shift dye shed into a farm dinner extravaganza!
Within a couple hours we re-set the tables and adorned them with indigo dyed linens and farm cut wild flowers and indigo sprigs. Every place you looked there were indigo dyed textiles draped on tables, lines and more. It was truly a beautiful and magical setting!
We were practically drooling over the smell of the Ossabaw hog that had been roasting right next to our vats all day. This beautiful hog was donated by Holy City Hogs and roasted to perfection by Jeff Allen of Rebellion and his friends. We finally came to feast with farm and fiber friends on southern favorites like okra stew, cornbread, Carolina gold rice (from Anson Mills), butter beans and hash while celebrating old traditions brought back to life.
The evening closed with one last sunset visit to the field and the debut screening of Cotton Road, a movie about the global supply chain of cotton. We were mesmerized, filled and satisfied in our souls with everything we came together to experience for this workshop and this feast in celebration of some of the incredibly rich southern traditions that are worth preserving.
I left (& hope others did too) feeling sparked with curiosity and the desire to secure another string of our Southern American heritage. These are traditions that have brought farmers and artists together over centuries. They continue to teach us and inspire us through friendship and gatherings like this one-touched by a rainbow, magically blessed and hopefully containing seeds of both our roots and our future that will sail the winds and be planted and cultivated by many! I’m certain there will be many more great Sea Island Indigo events to come but this was the first and it was very special indeed!