Wildcraft Colour

Wildcraft Colour


Learn to identify many common local plants (native + introduced species) that make wonderful dyes. Half of the day is spent outside, exploring the huge range of pigment plants at your fingertips, discussing ethical and sustainable harvesting practices, and collecting specimens. The second half of the day is spent in the studio learning to properly dye fibre samples with the specimens we collected.

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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, particularly her eco-print work. She is a juried member of the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design, the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild, and the South Haven Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers.

When: Saturday 22 June, 2019; 10 am to 4 pm

Where: Mamie’s Schoolhouse, 97 Rooster Hill Road, Goose Cove, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Class Size: max 8 to ensure intensive support for each student

Age & Experience: 18 years or older; suitable for beginners

Registration 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>

$120 + tax, which includes

  • full instruction (see outline below)

  • catered vegetarian lunch

  • all materials and supplies


~ Workshop Outline ~

This workshop is ideal for those who are particularly interested in being able to wildcraft their own all-natural dyes. Knowing exactly where your materials come from, and harvesting them yourself in ways that you know are ethical, sustainable, and safe, is a very satisfying practice and a beautiful way to celebrate regionally unique colour. It’s a return to the intimate, respectful, deeply wise relationship our ancestors had with the natural world for millennia. You, too, can become a member of the plant whispering clan, and ensure that these heritage skills live on.

Morning - Outdoors (rain or shine):

  • identifying plants common to most of north-east North America that produce reliable dyes (trees, shrubs, perennials, etc.) - this will include species native to the area, as well as species that have been introduced

  • ecology of different dye species, and ethical/sustainable harvesting practices

  • students will be provided with a handout with a photo list of species, along with their scientific/botanical and common names; as we explore each plant, students will write in key identifiers, plant part(s) used in dyeing, and other relevant details in the space provided on the handout

  • we will collect various dye plant materials, as a group, to use in the afternoon

  • the morning will take place on Mamie’s Schoolhouse’s 70 organic acres, which includes mixed deciduous/coniferous forest, meadows, riparian regions, and cultivated garden areas

  • at this time of year, protection from black flies is recommended - bug shirt, bug hat, etc. - along with protection from ticks - long pants, long sleeves, etc. - as we will spend some time in the woods and long grass

Afternoon - In Mamie’s Schoolhouse’s Teaching Studio:

  • dye studio safety practices

  • how to craft plant dyes using all-natural, organic methods

  • how to properly prepare natural fibres for dyeing (including scouring and mordanting methods)

  • how to use a range of natural substances to modify results to expand your colour palette

  • how to store harvested plant material for later use

  • while historically both ecologically safe and unsafe mordants and modifiers were used in natural dyeing, Mamie’s Schoolhouse teaches the most ecologically safe methods possible

  • students will take home small dyed fabric samples of protein (silk or wool) and cellulose (linen or cotton) , along with a dye record card noting all variables of the dye process, and a detailed handout of the workshop content

~ 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 before February 28 will be charged a $100 + tax administration fee.

  • Cancellations on or after April 30 receive a 50% refund.

  • Cancellations on or after May 31 receive no refund.

  • With permission of Mamie’s Schoolhouse, registration is transferrable to someone else nominated by the registered student.

  • 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 (other than the catered lunch noted aboe)

~ About The Venue ~

  • 25 minutes north-east of Baddeck (the nearest full service community), and one hour from Sydney (the island’s largest community and location of the nearest airport), Mamie’s Schoolhouse is located on 70 peaceful, organic acres stretching west from the North River and the world famous Cabot Trail, in the small, beautiful community of Goose Cove.

  • There is plenty of nearby accommodation, including an ever growing number of Airbnb options.

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With the exception of the Google Map, images © Mamie’s Schoolhouse.