Exploring tie dye at the Mill Museum

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Windham - posted Mon., Nov. 11, 2013
Evan (front) and Nicolas work on their tie dye t-shirts during a Nov. 9 kids' activity at the Windham Textile and History Museum. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Evan (front) and Nicolas work on their tie dye t-shirts during a Nov. 9 kids' activity at the Windham Textile and History Museum. Photos by Melanie Savage.

The children crowded around the folding table, t-shirts in hand. The rubber bands piled at the center of the table were good for more than just binding their t-shirts. The children giggled together as they held the bands to their faces, imitating a cat’s whiskers. Some looped the larger bands around their fingers, attempting cat’s cradle configurations.

“You never know what you’re going to get with tie dye,” said Windham Textile and History Museum educator Bev York, as she supervised the preparation of the t-shirts. She explained how professional dyers in factory settings had very precise means for measuring colors and dipping fabrics, resulting in consistent, precise results. “But we’re just playing around, so we have to be happy with what we get,” said York.

Later, while the t-shirts steeped in a hot pot of bright orange dye, the children donned their jackets for a trip to the building next door. “The word that you use for the big pot that you dye in is called a vat, V-A-T,” said York, explaining that the children would see photographs of factory workers using vats inside.

Also inside were a wide variety of machines used in the making of cotton thread. The children each were given a piece of cotton, and encouraged to attempt to draw and twist it into thread. “There were 40,000 different kinds of thread made here,” said York. She held up a spool of bright pink thread. “And after they made it they would dye it,” said York.

Back at the main building, the children waited as York rinsed off their t-shirts. Then they removed the rubber bands to reveal the unique, intricate designs within the folded fabric. “Now you’ve had a chance to do dying just like the factory workers did,” said York.

There are a number of events coming up at the Windham Textile and History Museum. The next event in the Mill of the Month series will take place Saturday, Nov. 23, beginning at 10 a.m. Meet in front of the tower at the Ponemah Mill located on Route 97 (Norwich Avenue) where it meets Route 169 for a tour of the Mansfield Hollow Kirby Mill, led by Sam Shrifrin. On Sunday, Nov. 24, at 3 p.m., join volunteers from the museum for tea and home-made desserts. The museum will sponsor gift wrapping at Eastbrook Mall beginning on Friday, Nov. 2, and running through Christmas. And on Saturday, Dec. 14, the museum will sponsor Gingerbread Holiday. Go to http://www.millmuseum.org/ for more details.

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