Last summer, I wrote about our woad days at the chateau. I dreamt about being able to bring Denise Lambert, the master dyer, over to the states and have her teach the magical workshop here in Los Angeles to friends and artists that couldn't fly to France to learn the craft. We talked about it over lunch one day at the chateau and Denise said "Find me a group of women who are interested in woad and I'll come".
I've been talking about woad for a couple of years now, and everyone always looks at me like "what are you talking about - indigo, vegetable dye, Rit?" So - I decided it's time to find a group of interested women who want to know about the ancient craft of woad dying.
To my surprise and delight, Denise has agreed to come and teach. We are planning a full day workshop where one will be able to come and learn from the one of the few master woad dyers in the world - the world!
Woad, Isatis tinctoria, was known throughout Europe as far back as the Egyptians, whom used it to dye the cloth wrappings used for the mummies. In the Middle-Age, it was used for its medicinal and healing properties, and according to the archives of the city of Marseille, it was the Moores that introduced Woad to the south of Europe. In the beginning of the 15th century, Woad was found in England as well as in the northern part of Europe, where it was mainly used for dyeing. European Woad is the legendary blue plant dye from Europe and was prized by Napoleon to dye the uniforms for his army. Woad is the eponymous French Blue – a rich, soft shade with a touch of grey.
For our workshop, we will be dying in an old, historic area of Los Angeles - Elysian Park - less than a mile away from French General. In an old field, surrounded by trees, we will be treated to a lecture on the history and technique of woad and then, for the remainder of the day, we will dye together. Bring your old white linen, cotton or silks - anything that has seen better days that you would like to dye a beautiful French blue color. You can also bring skeins of yarn or ribbon - anything of natural material - linen, cotton, silk or hemp.
This promises to be a very special day and you will be amazed as you see your whites change from acid yellow to bright green and finally, by the time you hang your piece on the laundry line, a rich, deep woad blue.
I have dyed with Denise many times, and I still get excited about the process - it's not every day that one has the opportunity to learn a medieval craft. Class size is limited. Visit us at frenchgeneral.com for more information or sign up here for the workshop.