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Charleston 3-Day Indigo Retreat and Tour

September 18-20, 2014

Join us for a unique indigo retreat in Charleston, the ancestral home of American indigo cultivation.

Donna Hardy of Sea Island Indigo has single-handedly revitalized commercial indigo production in South Carolina and is offering a 2-day class on indigo dyeing using the same strain of indigo plants grown in the region over 250 years ago.  

Included in the tour is a hands-on quilting workshop at the Charleston Museum with Sharon Cooper-Murray, the renowned spokesperson for Gullah textiles and culture. Gullah are the descendants of the original West African slaves and retain many cultural and language traditions from the mid-1700s. Sharon will teach us Gullah rag quilting, a strip quilt technique that was developed on the plantations around Charleston.

A Gullah descendant dressed in period costume, demonstrating rag quilting

A Gullah descendant dressed in period costume, demonstrating rag quilting

Our retreat will be at Rebellion Farm, an organic farm where Donna is raising a field of indigo just for this workshop. Donna will teach us how to create a fresh leaf indigo vat, how to make indigo leaf eco-prints and other secrets from her own indigo dipping practice. We will work two days at the Farm, dipping and making beautiful Sea Island blues.

Saturday evening at the close of the retreat, we will be hosting a foodie extravaganza in the form of an old school South Carolina barbecue thanks to all the locals like Holy City Hogs donating a heritage bred Ossabaw hog, heirloom grains from Anson Mills, and of course our amazing friends at Rebellion Farm donating land, water, electricity and general support.

In addition to the music and our indigo successes and surprises, we'll have a lot to celebrate!



What you get:

Retreat and workshop

  • Two day indigo retreat led by master indigo dyer Donna Hardy. We will go into the fields to harvest indigo, create a fresh indigo vat and dip prepared fabrics and yarns.  We will also eco-print using indigo leaves.  Additional indigo vats will be available for larger pieces, shibori or tie-dye.
  • We will experience traditional South Carolina indigo as well as natural organic indigo varieties from Latin America and South Asia.
  • A package of unique fabrics and yarns to dip as well as instructions for bringing your own yarn and cloth. Unique scarves and shawls will be on sale at the Farm. (Thanks so much to Carolina bred designer Kee Edwards of Loup Charmant for donating heirloom cotton fabrics for the packages!)
  • Half-day Rag Quilting workshop with Sharon Cooper-Murray using indigo-dyed fabrics and held at the Charleston Museum.  Sharon will also join us at the Farm and regale us with Gullah stories, history and culture.
  • Screening of the (partially filmed in Charleston) Cotton Road documentary on the final night at the farm with director/producer Laura Kissel.

Museum Admission

  • Admission to the Charleston Museum in the heart of Historic Charleston

Meals

  • Lunch is included  Thursday, Friday and Saturday emphasizing the delicious cuisine of South Carolina and organic foods.
  • Celebration party and dinner barbecue at Rebellion Farm featuring local food, music and beverages including Holy City Hogs donating a heritage bred Ossabaw hog, heirloom grains from Anson Mills, and of course our amazing friends at Rebellion Farm donating land, water, electricity and general support.

Sea Island Indigo Facebook Page

  • Our Facebook page is live for all participants to view posts of the indigo crop as it progresses from tiny seedlings to a full-grown plant ready for harvest, plus updates of our retreat, natural dyeing in the news and everything Charleston.

Transportation

  • Transportation to and from Rebellion Farm for the retreat.

Cost

  • Workshops are suitable for all levels
  • Retreat fee $595.

Thanks to our sponsors!


The Backstory

272 years after the first successful indigo crop was planted in the Carolina colonies, Donna Hardy of Sea Island Indigo got this idea to research and track down the original strain of indigo plants that were grown in colonial Charleston.  Her research and persistence located a few remaining varieties in isolated areas that had been grown for generations: a pretty but humble shrub hiding its secret blue dye.

Armed with a handful of seeds and the offer of a plot of land and free goat manure, Donna started her first crop of indigo and was overjoyed when she tested them to see that they yielded a rich and particularly intense blue color.

Word soon got out about her indigo project and she attracted the interest and backing of the Carolina Gold Rice Foundation, an organization dedicated to the preservation of agricultural practices, grains and foodstuffs native to the Carolinas.  Their reach extends to other heirloom and historically important crops and in the 18th century, rice, indigo, sugar and cotton were vital to South Carolina’s economy.  Together, Donna and the Carolina Rice Foundation are working diligently to ensure that heritage dye and fiber crops are researched, preserved and revitalized.