Botanical Alchemy in the National Park (1/2 day: 10 am - 1 pm)

Botanical Alchemy in the National Park (1/2 day: 10 am - 1 pm)


If you are travelling to Cape Breton, or hosting guests, during the Celtic Colours International Festival, this is a fun day-time activity to do, set amidst the beauty of Cape Breton Highlands National Park, while gearing up for the evening’s concerts!

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~ About The Instructor ~

Mel Sweetnam is an ecological fibre artist, with particular expertise in botanical dyes. She is the founder of Mamie’s Schoolhouse, as well as the Cape Breton Fibre Trail, and is very well-known for a range of botanical dye techniques. She is a juried member of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design, and the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild.

~ Please Read All Information Prior To Registering ~

*** This workshop is weather-dependent, as the dye vats will be prepared on outdoor wood stoves at the campground. There will be outdoor and/or indoor tables to work at). In the event of a cancellation due to inclement weather, the full registration fee will be refunded. ***

  • When:: Sunday 13 October, 2019; 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

  • Where: Ingonish Beach Campground, Cape Breton Highlands National Park

  • Experience: beginner to intermediate

  • Fee: $50 + tax includes a half day of instruction and all supplies (dyes, fibres, dye records, etc.); does not include park entrance fee

    <please note: at checkout, this web platform only calculates tax for customers with a Canadian billing address; those with billing addresses in other countries, will be sent a separate invoice for Nova Scotia’s 15% harmonized sales tax>

  • In Person Payments: cash

  • Age: all ages; those under 18 must be accompanied by a participating adult

  • Minimum Registrants To Proceed: 6


~ Workshop Outline ~

In recent years, there has been a significant resurgence in interest in natural fibres and natural dyes, as people grow more concerned about the effects of their own, and the planet’s, exposure to toxic chemicals. Also, many people are motivated to rediscover crafts that are a part of our collective human heritage, connect us to our ancestors’ ways of life, and immerse us in a respectful and creative relationship with the natural world.

In this half-day introductory workshop, students will be introduced to the ancient history and current ecological practices for creating beautiful dye colours from readily available plants. Non-invasive plant material will be provided by the instructor from her own organic property. 

While the importance of, and methods for, mordanting will be taught, in the interests of time, pre-mordanted fibres (using natural, non-toxic materials) will be provided as part of the supplies fee noted above.

Students Will Learn:

  • about different types of fibres/textiles (i.e. protein vs. cellulose based fibres) and why they need to be treated differently (scouring & mordanting)

  • about growing and/or ethically/sustainably foraging plants with natural mordant and/or dye properties

  • how to prepare plant material to maximize dye yield

  • how to prepare fibres to maximize colour uptake, wash and light fastness

  • how to create a range of hues from a few, easily available plants, and from other natural substances (various mordants, assists and modifiers)

  • natural post-dye treatments to protect fibres

  • good record keeping so that dye results can be reproduced

~ About Registration ~

Payment Terms:

  • Payment is due at time of registration via this web site. At this time, we can not take registrations in person, by phone, email, etc.

  • Cancellations on or after July 31 receive a 50% refund.

  • Cancellations on or after September 30 receive no refund.

  • With permission of Mamie’s Schoolhouse, registration is transferrable to someone else nominated by the registered student (Mamie’s Schoolhouse is not responsible for finding a replacement if you are unable to attend).

  • Anyone registering for someone else is responsible for that registration, and will continue to be the point of contact on all related matters.

The Registration Fee Does Not Include The Following, Which Are The Student's Responsibility:

  • Accommodation

  • Transportation to/from Cape Breton, to/from the workshop each day, and all other local travel

  • Travel insurance

  • Meals