About Lesley

Professional folk arts instructor, custom natural dye artist, and natural dye supplier

Lesley’s passion for fiber and folk life has led her across the globe: from volunteering with rare-breed sheep in Wales; weaving in the attic studio of village elders who speak a dying language that predates modern Swedish; to hand-beading garments and storytelling.  In addition to growing and supplying natural dyes, she is an avid yarn spinner and raises angora fiber, knits, weaves, and designs historically rooted goods. 

Specializing in land-based and locally rooted practices, she teaches workshops for beginners and advanced students with humor while sparking their curiosity for fiber and folk culture.  Based in Nebraska, Lesley is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation.  She is a grower, a traveller, and an activist; a Fulbright awardee, and a dyer for Pattie Gonia, among many other endeavours.

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Clownfish dress covered in hand-stitched glass beadsClownfish Dress: Naturally dyed raw silk with handbeading.  Entirely hand strung and stiched glass beads and pearls.  Co-designed with Joelle Tangen.  2023.  Premiered at "Netflix is a Joke Fest" 2024.

Photo by Mike FernandezMeadowlark Dress: 200+ yards silk fabric naturally dyed with hand processed plants.  Bundle and resist techniques.  Co-designed with Joelle Tangen.  2022.
 wool handspun loom-less woven fringe shawl, 2019.

Quotes from past students:

"This was an absolutely fabulous program, and I'm still buzzing with excitement days later! I've bought more materials I needed for my wheel, and can't wait for them to arrive so I can continue to hone my skills!" (In-person spinning at ASI) 2023


"I really enjoyed the [spinning] class- everything about it was great.  You are an excellent teacher, and the atmosphere you fostered was so chill and pleasant.  We all learned and accomplished so much with very little stress and lots of support and good feelings." (In-person spinning at John C Campbell) 2024

"I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed our weekend class.  You answered so many questions for me! ... Having gotten a week's worth of valuable info from you in a day, I hope that some time soon I can catch a week-long class and get a month's worth of information." (In-person Dyeing at John C Campbell) 2024

"I didn’t know anything about Lesley but now that I have taken a course with her, I would regard it as very important to take another class with her. She is an awesome instructor." (Online class at ASI) 2022

Photo of Lesley holding a white angora rabbit

Rare breed of Swedish sheep, hand-tanned by the artist.hand-tanned Rya sheepskin, 2017

Lesley Darling is an instructor at:
John C Campbell Folk School (Brasstown, NC)
American Swedish Institute (Minneapolis, MN)
Vesterheim Norwegian American Museum (Decorah, IA)
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts (Gatlinburg, TN)
LUX Center for the Arts (Lincoln, NE).
Lincoln South of Downtown Art Hub (Lincoln, NE)
and others.

Contributing Artist Joelle Tangen
, our in-house sewist, is a recent honors graduate of the Textiles and Fashion Design program at UNL, with an emphasis on sustainable and zero-waste clothing.  Joelle has worked with Lesley on a variety of projects, including Pattie Gonia collaborations and others.  You can find her professional information here: https://www.joelletangen.com/