Tag Archives: Loup Charmant

Indigo Pals Go ‘Round the Outside:
Loup Charmant & Charleston’s Sea Island Indigo Retreat

Indigo, where have you been all my life?!

The incomparable Indigo plant at sunset

The incomparable Indigo plant at sunset

Repeated delays to our ticketed sunrise flight to Charleston this past Saturday for the wrap of the two-day, first-ever Sea Island Indigo retreat meant we went well into an afternoon arrival. But it was perfect timing, as friend and travel companion Kee (of Loup Charmant, one of the retreat sponsors) and I finally turned onto the gravelly dirt road of Ravenel, South Carolina’s Rebellion Farm on the outskirts of the Holy City around 4 p.m.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

The threatening skies of forecasted thunder showers began to clear and the smoky smell of roasting Ossabow Island hog wafted across the blue, blue, blue of clothes, fabrics and yarn drying everywhere as we drove up to the make-shift dye shed. The incomparable hue decorated nearly every corner of the outdoors, dripping off lines, draped across chairs, topping trunks of cars and farm equipment.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

We were more than ready to meet the makers, hungry for the heritage food farm dinner marking the finale of the retreat, which had been organized by Sea Island Indigo‘s Donna Hardy and Seattle-based Botanical Colors‘ Kathy Hattori, and eager to walk the fields of specially-grown indigo crucial to this workshop. As indigo grower and master dyer, Donna had been tending this retreat’s crop for over three months; she is almost single-handedly revitalizing indigo as an indigenous commercial crop of the Carolinas, having re-discovered the same strain from that agricultural staple dating 250 years ago, back when Eliza Lucas Pinckney first brought the seed to the Lowcountry. While this crop wasn’t from that seed, it’s an amazing thing she’s doing.

Donna Hardy

Indigo grower and dye master Donna Hardy, relaxing after the workshop finale

Retreat organizer and indigo farmer Donna Hardy with sponsor Kee Edwards of Loup Charmant

Retreat organizer and indigo farmer Donna Hardy with Kee Edwards of Loup Charmant, a retreat sponsor

Indigo leaves

Indigo leaves

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Master dyer Kathy Hattori and Kee

Twenty Indigo workshop participants had picked leaves from Donna’s crop earlier, then crushed them into fresh leaf dye vats, which were then used on fabrics from their swag bags, including organic cotton donated by Loup Charmant, as well as clothes they brought, bought or were wearing. Seattle-based dye-master Kathy instructed workshop goers in the intricate methods of Shibori dyeing techniques the second day, while rag quilting techniques were taught by The Gullah Lady aka Sharon Cooper-Murray on the first.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

The farm dinner meal boasted a heritage-based menu created and cooked by renowned Gullah Chef BJ Dennis. His sweet corn bread, stewed okra, pickled cukes, sweet corn and butter beans, chicken bog and pork hash rounded out the Ossabow hog offering donated by Holy City Hogs and roasted all day by foodie Jeff Allen, founder of Rebellion Farm, who not only rents out to Donna for small crop yields of cotton, okra and Carolina Golden Rice, as well as the indigo, but also raises hogs with care and compassion on another part of the grounds.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Gullah Chef BJ Dennis

Gullah Chef BJ Dennis in a reflective moment before the meal, a sprig of indigo at his chef coat tails

The meal paired respected southern food intellectuals — like University of South Carolina professor, author and historian David Shields, Charleston-based food writer Allston McCrady and former food critic turned farmer Jeff  — with the film-maker Laura Kissel and her documentary Cotton Road, enthusiastic fiber fans (many of whom had traveled from as far away as Colombia and California), and Carolina-born, New York-based designer and indigo-afficionado Kee. As for myself, my interest stemmed from a desire to learn more about indigo and meet the amazing ladies involved, but I’d jump at any chance to return to my Lowcountry roots. During the communal meal we touched upon dyeing, while dining on and dishing Southern foodie lore, surrounded by an evening that was blue and beautiful, bearing all the traditions of southern hospitality at its best. We learned of David’s recent involvement in a sorghum syrup boil (and got to taste some of his newly created sweet stuff), the state of sugar cane growth itself, the financial needs of the Sapelo Island inhabitants, and, of course, the blue star of the night — indigo.

Kathy getting her sweet tooth satiated with sorghum syrup

Kathy satiating a sweet tooth with sorghum syrup on corn bread

A twilight tour of the fields yielded a kind of call-and-response between the guys and gals regarding the source of the discovery of indigo’s blue (uric acid releases the blue tint from the leafs, so “who-peed-where-first” was just one highlight of our highly intellectual discussion). As if that wasn’t enough, there was a ridiculous rainbow before an equally ridiculously gorgeous mango/indigo sunset, South Carolina weather forecasters be damned.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Male folk on the right

Keep the men folk on the rightCotton growingDonna’s cotton crop

Cotton

Cotton boll

Cotton

Cotton flower

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Kee inspecting a cotton plant.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Indigo sprig at the end of the evening

Indigo sprig at the end of the evening

After a spirited response to the issues of cotton production and clothing manufacturing raised in Cotton Road and with the evening’s l’heure blue receding into a dark, streetlight-less murky night, Kee and I gave our grateful thanks and gracious goodbyes, then wound toward the marshes of Folly Creek, full of southern food and sustainable stories, plus an enviable education of the little green leaf that dyes things a blue shade sumptuous enough to rival any coastal Carolina sea or sky. Lucky for us, it was only as we pulled into the drive of our final destination that evening that big splats of Southern rain started. You know how you always hear “Y’all come back now!” in the south? Well, we definitely did and definitely will.

Indigo Retreat Charleston

Kee-Rav and I at the end of our long day’s journey into blue

Get Your Dye On during Charleston’s
Sea Island Indigo Retreat, Sept 18-20

For those of you following NYFW, you may be thinking of giving your own Spring/Summer 2015 style more of a DIY spin. Then hie thee down South to Charleston for the three-day Sea Island Indigo Retreat weekend September 18-20th, being held at the organic Rebellion Farm in Ravenel, SC! There you’ll learn the fine and historically-based art of indigo dyeing, using indigo from a field raised solely for this workshop. But hurry and sign up while there are still spots available. You won’t be sorry. Charleston will be gorgeous at this time of year and what an exquisite opportunity to explore ancient dyeing methods right at the source.

sea island indigo

Friend and colleague Kee Edwards, designer of the beautiful organic cotton-based collection Loup Charmant, is one of the sponsors, and has donated some of her exquisite organic cotton so that you can create your own pareo, scarf or wrap out of LC fabrics, learning to dye them Sea Island blues, an experience close to her southern heart.

Sea Island 1The indigo plant has a long and storied background in South Carolina and Charleston long ago served as home of American indigo farming. Sea Island Indigo’s Donna Hardy, a master dyer,  has been crucial in revitalizing commercial indigo production in South Carolina. And the dyes you will use during the retreat will be from the same strain of indigo plants grown in the region over 250 years ago! Kathy Hattori of Botanical Colors will be on hand to help you with the dyeing process, as well.

Among a slew of southern-style events, there will also be a hands-on quilting workshop at the Charleston Museum with Sharon Cooper-Murray, spokesperson for Gullah textiles and culture (Gullah, descendants of the original West African slaves, often retain much of their traditional Geechee language stemming from the mid-1700s, something I experienced first-hand after moving to Charleston in high school; in fact, I nearly flunked US History that first year because I had a hard time adapting to my teacher’s patois!).

A Gullah descendant dressed in period costume, demonstrating rag quilting
A Gullah descendant dressed in period costume,
demonstrating rag quilting, courtesy of Sea Island Indigo.

Be prepared for an old school South Carolina barbecue and bluegrass throw-down that Saturday night, thanks to locals like Holy City Hogs, who will be donating a heritage bred Ossabaw hog, and Anson Mills, who is contributing heirloom grains. There will also be a screening that night of the  Cotton Road documentary (partially filmed in Charleston) with director/producer Laura Kissel. 

Please find out more about the retreat and Donna’s research here. Hope to see you there!

donna hardy patchwork

Loup Charmant Opens Concept Shop Friday the 13th!

Can’t wait for this Friday – and I don’t want any of you to start suffering from paraskevidekatriaphobia.

Um, in case you’re suffering from logophobia (fear of words) or even Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – fear of long words – the above would be “fear of Friday the 13th.”

Instead, embrace it. The French consider it a lucky day. And so do we at Loup Charmant! So, come on out and shop with us! The Loup Charmant concept store will be open and ready for business at noon on that very, very lucky day. And will be open every day after that until the 24th of this month.

As designer/owner Kee notes: We’re bringing all manner of goods, collected from friends [moi! look for some of my 14k gold jewelry designs!] and fellow designers. Everything from Rugs to Perfume…along with special edition LOUP CHARMANT pieces to help you savor these last days of SUMMER and ease into FALL!

 

Hope to see you there!

LOUP CHARMANT POP_UP_INVITE