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Oct 7, 2022

My Dyeing Days & Others on Whidbey Island

It all started in April with a Facebook message from a friend, Patti King, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years. I’ve known Patti since our kids were in elementary school together in Connecticut. She wove rag rugs the same way I decorated eggs – at a museum quality level. (If you’re not familiar with me as The Egg Lady, here’s a link to my best-selling book on the subject.) We easily picked up where we left off, with several decades of life and creativity in between.

She’d noticed my recent work online and asked to connect. A scheduled Zoom call led to an invitation to visit her home on Whidbey Island,* off the coast of Seattle. I suggested 3-4 days (we all know the rule about house guests and fish), but she countered with “at least a week.” I stayed nine days and we both loved our time together.

My time with Patti and her neighbors turned into a transformational odyssey. “By the way,” she added to the invitation, “my neighbor is a master dyer, Elin Noble.” 


I looked up Elin and wrote to her to see if she was offering a workshop. She’s busily preparing for a show in Fall River, MA in November, but she invited me to her studio for a lesson on working with the dyes. I brought white wool, and she provided everything else.

I was intimidated at first by the science behind dyeing wool: a protein fiber vs. cotton, a plant fiber, measurements in milliliters, the process of soaking the wool, adding chemicals to make it adhere to the material, getting the water temperature right, etc.

But I was determined, and Elin is an exquisite explainer. It made sense. She wrote things down for me and oversaw without hovering. By the end of the day Thursday, September 1, I had a bucketful of newly dyed wool pieces and an invitation to come work there again on Labor Day, the 5th, which I happily accepted.  


Here’s my new palette:


Before and between my dyeing days, Patti showed me her island and beyond. We had three studio tours –  just a few of Patti’s good friends on the island – where I drooled over the size of these artists’ spaces, their very cool storage arrangements and the vast creativity and breadth of designs I got to behold. 

Cheryl is working on a collection of great women of the world using her artform to depict them in portrait form. I was inspired by her vision of filling gallery and/or museum walls with her designs.

Meredith MacLeod, a multi-disciplinary artist, invited us for a tour of her waterside home. I marveled at the way she’s compartmentalized her skills so elegantly. This is only one of several spaces in which she creates. We caught her at a moment on her computer where she was finalizing a video for crowd-sourcing her recent passion (which I encourage you, especially if you’re an aspiring writer, to check out).

She taught herself how to do this self-promotional piece which felt encouraging to me as I seek ways to get the word out about my business. Having a newsletter, and finding women like Meredith to feature, is my preferred method of horn-tooting. 

Patti’s friend, Marcia Derse, also gave us two a tour of her fabric designing space a few miles up the road. Her entire downstairs is filled with creations she’s hand-dyed and hand-painted, which are then translated for production by Windham Fabrics. 
The sheer quantity of offerings Marcia has on her shelves left me breathless. It was like she waved her wand and demonstrated what it looks like to take up space. I’m envisioning new shelving and ways to increase my creative area in my apartment. 
Our longest field trip was to LaConner, WA where we visited the charming Pacific NW Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum. To arrive there, we traveled across Deception Pass, a site of incredible beauty. 
Honeychurch Antiques, in Mt. Vernon, WA, was home to a recent indigo dyeing class that Elin had given. Here’s Patti discussing (with co-owner John Fairman) the possibility of offering a different textile class in bojagi, the traditional Korean wrapping cloth she teaches and has mastered. Used to wrap or carry precious and daily objects, the art form has evolved and expanded in the contemporary textile field. Patti’s designs are beautiful examples of stand-alone pieces. 
I would be remiss if I didn’t share with you the guest room I was privileged to inhabit at Patti’s which is above her art studio. The rugs were designed and woven by her. 
I returned home the Tuesday after Labor Day, bursting with ideas, inspiration, a feeling of satisfaction and delight. I’ve been ordering all the equipment I’ll need so that I can do my own dyeing here in the city. This vacation refreshed my soul. Talk about an Artist’s Date – this trip was the equivalent of a semester’s worth.
Deep gratitude to Patti and her generous and accomplished community who welcomed me, taught me, shared with me, and encouraged me. I’ve found a new spiritual and artistic home. I’m not moving there, but access to it mentally is the next best thing.

Having seen Patti’s beautiful home, I sent her a gift of one of my hand-made pillows that I thought would look well with her décor. I’d say I nailed it, wouldn’t you?!

*more particularly, The Highlands at Langley, a sustainable cluster housing development as envisioned by the architect Ross Chapin.

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  1. Kim

    You nailed it for sure!!! I had the pleasure of visiting Whitney years ago, gorgeous, breathtaking! My girlfriend had a convertible, and driving one day, a bald eagle hovered/flew over us. Unforgettable. Blessings my friend!

    • Jane Pollak

      @Kim I can picture you two driving in a convertible and the bald eagle overhead. It’s that miraculous a place! Thanks for your comment! xo

    • Ran Tryggvadottir

      What a lovely and inspiring visit – wonderfully retold

      • Jane Pollak

        @Ran – Thank you! It was the vacation of a lifetime. I hope to go again late summer.


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