The StraitsJourneys team recently joined our Expert Lynelle Barrett (who I wrote about in a previous post) and Leong Minyi, founder of Mai Textile Studio, in leading a workshop for children at the Waldorf Steiner Education Association. This was an exciting way for StraitsJourneys to give back to the community, and also a chance to teach local kids about traditional textiles.
As Minyi specializes in indigo dye, the first session focused on teaching the small class about the chemistry and applications of this prized natural color. The students were guided to experiment with pH indicator paper and water solutions in order to understand the basic concepts behind the art of dyeing.
They were intrigued when Lynelle shared that traditional cultures created different recipes for indigo dye, which include a wide variety of organic substances to extract the blue colour from the green plant. Other natural dyestuff was passed around to see and touch, such as nuts, bark, roots and even cochineal insects in order to alter the expression of the color. Minyi then showed the students how to mix an indigo vat, as well as a shibori technique to create different patterns and shades of blue on fabric.
Lynelle began the second session with an engaging presentation on weaving. She introduced the children to the rich history of textiles, as well as to the different varieties of looms, fabric structures, types of yarn and weaving techniques, both basic and complex.
The children were then eager to try out the two looms that Lynelle brought to class. Each child chose their preferred color of yarn and prepared their shuttles. The atmosphere quickly became jovial and busy as Lynelle guided the children through the process of weaving their own souvenirs to take home. The grande finale was an enthusiastic presentation of a hand-painted thank you card, signed by all the students. The whole StraitsJourneys team was delightedby the comments, especially “I am so happy I dyed!”
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An Irish-American residing in Singapore, Laura Jane O’Gorman Schwartz is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and The Shanghai Literary Review.