I recently received an email from Tom Dennis of Tarndwarncoort, enquiring whether I’d be interested in running a workshop on botanical dyeing at the homestead while I’m home in Australia. Of course, I jumped at the chance!
Tom and his parents, Wendy & David Dennis, run a Polwarth sheep and woolgrowing enterprise on their historic Birregurra property ‘Tarndwarncoort‘, established in 1840 in Western Victoria. Polwarth sheep were developed by Richard Dennis at Tarndwarncoort in 1880 by crossing Saxon Merino sheep from Tasmania with Victorian Lincoln sheep. This progeny was then joined back to the Merino and bred to a fixed type. These un-mulsed sheep were named Dennis Comebacks and later renamed Polwarth after the local electorate and are considered Australia’s first breed of sheep. The sheep that Wendy and Dennis run are from the very same flock of Polwarths and produce very beautiful wool with the unusual combination of softness and lustre, something that makes it quite unusual and very desirable to spinners, knitters and dyers.
I was really excited to teach a class here at Tarndie because, ever since I started dyeing with plants a few yard ago, I’ve used Wendy’s fantastic Polwarth yarn and it takes up the dye so beautifully… You can see the lustre in these beautiful locks of fleece, as well as in the finished yarn once knitted up:
And so I know we’ll get the most out of the dye pots and that the yarn will highlight the dyes beautifully.
The workshop will cover all the essentials of dyeing with natural materials- we’ll cover the key aspects of dyeing with yarn and fabric; sourcing dyestuffs, fibre preparation, using mordants and modifiers before and after dyeing to achieve a wide range of colours from the same pot, preparing the dyebath and safe dyeing practice. We’ll also discuss over-dyeing to create complex colours, keeping records of dye experiments and other tips for dyeing with plants and other natural materials.
And, because we’ll be out in the bush, this class will be a little different to the classes I normally run- we’ll be dyeing with materials collected on the property and I’m really looking forward to using the local indigenous and weedy species (including some bush foods too) and taking a good walk around to get everyone familiar with identifying the plants used.
If you’re keen for the full country experience, you can also join me in staying overnight at Tarndie- it’s the most lovely property and I can’t wait to breathe in the fresh, Victorian air…
If you’re interested in coming along, please contact Tom at Tarndie. I look forward to sharing the day with you!