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Dear Ann,

Didn’t we have fun last weekend in Nashville?

I knew it was going to be great, but I’ll admit that I headed to LaGuardia Airport last Thursday in what can only be described as a blue funk. A few days earlier, I’d had a surprise session of oral surgery.

I had a flickering flame of faith that the life force would return when I got to Nashville, among my people. And it did! As it turns out, six indigo vats and an old bus maintenance depot full of knitters are just as good for a sore ex-tooth as a pillbox full of Tylenol and Advil.

Up top is a very blue slide show of our amazing two days with artisan dyer Jan Quarles, the pride of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This weekend was a special opportunity to learn from her about the art, science, and traditions of indigo dyeing—and so much more.

What did we do all weekend? We oohed and aahed over Jan’s trunk show of indigo masterpieces from all over the world. We twisted, tied, rubber-banded, and clothes-pinned wool sock blanks, to make shibori pieces to wear as cowls or knit into socks. We daubed Jan’s homemade rice paste through katazome stencils—traditional ones and also ones that came from the craft store—onto cotton tea towels that Chris Sharp had ironed for us, so that the images would render as crisp and clear as possible.

We dipped all these things in indigo. Jan set before us an opulent indigo buffet, with our choice of organic or pre-reduced vats, both of which we learned how to make. The shades of blue that resulted from the two types of vat were different from each other, but equally beautiful. We learned rules about where to drip, and where not to drip, and how to soak, how to rinse, how to minimize crocking and also: what crocking is. My brain is very happily full to the brim with new-to-me knowledge about indigo.

I can’t wait to get a vat going again, Ann. I consider an indigo vat to be a pretty basic amenity for this phase of my life. What have I been waiting for, you know? If not now, when?

On Sunday, as Ashley pointed a blow-dryer at freshly dyed tea towels and the workshop started to wind down, the vats were still very much alive. It was time for free play. People pulled t-shirts, yarn, and even bathrobes out of their bags and gleefully turned them blue. It was pure joy, a moment to remember.

I can’t wait to do it again.

The best part? The 17 knitters, from 12 states, who joined us. The small size of this workshop, necessitated by the one-on-one instruction and specialized materials needed for indigo dyeing, brought a bunch of strangers or near strangers close, quickly. Making new friends this way, with our hands and minds busy, fully present in the moment, was a rare pleasure.

When can we do it again?




  • Oh how I wish I could have shared in this exciting event!!!
    Sadly other commitments as well as price kept me away 🙁
    Perhaps someday I’ll have a chance to learn this gorgeous technique.

  • Sounds like the best kind of fun! Love your description, Kay. Hope your tooth pain has vanished.

  • I love this. My fave local fabric shop did this in a small scale, a couple hours in a Saturday. So much fun and yet an enduring link to the beautiful practice of indigo. Such things seem small in a time of such pain and outrage but they are in fact places of sacred healing and joy. Thank for sharing this, Kay!

  • Wow — it looks like a lot of work and tons of fun! I really, really wanted to be there, but today I leave for Morocco, so couldn’t afford the trip or the time away. Pure magic!

    • Have a fantastic trip Jan!!!

  • Yes! It’s magic yet basic

  • Thank you Kay, Anne and Jan! I had so, so much fun at this workshop. Add in the pleasure of meeting so many others with similar interests, and….wandering the aisles of the MDK stash. It was great!

  • Wow—what fun! And the final products look terrific.

  • This sounds fantastic, I would love to experience it . Maybe next time

  • Oh Kay,
    What a great description of our time together! I’m so thrilled by what I dyed that I took my yarn, dishtowels, sock blank and yarn to show at a dinner gathering last night! My grandma’s tablecloth is ready to dip into dye here at home for last-minute napkins as Christmas gifts. Thanks for the inspiration, the learning, the new friends and the beautiful textiles. You and Ann make magic happen!

  • I sure would love to fly to
    Nashville and partake in one of your workshops… saving my airlines miles this looks like so much fun!

  • Oh, I do hope you have another workshop! It looks like sooo much fun

  • Oh, I hope you do it again! I would love to attend. It looks like everyone had a fabulous time!

  • Wow! That looks like so much fun, and wonderful blue items created! I’ve been wanting to try indigo, after making some baby steps in dying linen for sewing pants and dresses. Your slideshow is pushing me to give it a go! Thanks so much!

  • Enjoyed seeing the photos…looks like it was a really fun weekend!

  • This was so much fun – cannot wait for the next workshop!!

  • Whatever the past tense of FOMO is, I’ve got it. I have had two vats of leftover indigo dye stored under my stoop since attending a French General class at the South Street Seaport probably 10 years ago. Always hoping (in vain) to have time to do more with them but also afraid the dye is unlikely to have held up (assuming rats haven’t gone for a swim in it—this is NYC). Does anyone know how long it lasts?

    • Depends on the type of vat you have, some last a week and the organic ones last much longer if fed and nurtured. But I think yours departed long ago. Time to start a fresh vat!

    • We were told one week, yikes! Maybe yours has reverted to the powdered form….

  • Absolutely wonderful. It looks like everyone had as much fun as you describe. I admire all of you.

  • A met an Indigo artist at a Quilt Show in NJ in October. If there are folks in the NE who think TN is not possible, you may want to consider Blue Fox Studio in NJ. She has beautiful product and teaches workshops.

  • Oh, Kay, what a lovely diary of our indigo weekend! It was pure joy to be part of the blue fan group and to be supported by you and Ann and every single hardworking person at MDK.

  • This looks like so much fun and all the lovely patterns! I’ve been wanting to learn/attend a workshop in indigo dying for a while… and this makes me want it more.

  • Please do it again! I want to join…

  • Alonso Suarez

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