Growing madder alongside woad plus other ideas….

September has brought our community group together with a celebration of the rich Elizabethan colours that can be extracted from madder

We were lucky to have the expert guidance from our visiting tutor Jenny Oliver , she skilfully guided us through the various options. For example, adding different mordants, dipping the samples into citric acid, ammonia solutions or added sodium

We took the necessary precautions making sure that each sample , this is raw Wensleydale wool, had the correct conditions for the dye bath. As you can see we are in the lovely church environs. I don’t suppose we are the first to be bringing dye plants, wool and cloth into the church.

Thanks to the glorious Autumnal weather, we were able to take the more pungent materials outside into the churchyard

As a hands on activity, Jenny had us collecting dandelions in the church yard for a quick but effective plant dye experiment

We simply crushed the dandelion leaves flowers plus a madder leaf between a fold of muslin. The colours were immediate and effective to produce a lovely design

Another plant foraging session involved searching out an abandoned pond to collect some bulrush leaves. These we are hoping to dry in order to practise rush weaving.

We had some company on our adventure but unfortunately they were distracted by the stagnant water that surrounded the area we chose to forage in

Mucky dogs needed a prompt wash and rub down…..The shampooing and rinsing activity was enjoyed by the local stable occupants and NOT the mucky dogs!!

Here are some more dyeing efforts, thank you summer and autumn for such plentiful

and varied supplies….

golden rod

Onion skins

Mordanted raw wool

Please note we now have a stainless steel pot for dyeing the wool, thanks to a local charity shopđź‘Ť


Autumn bounty

We are collecting flowers, berries, hedgerow materials and thinking how we can keep our community learning going for another year.

I’ve cooked some elderberries and sieved them to preserve the amazing colour produced. It’s now safely in the freezer, alongside the damson juices that I collected earlier in the year.

I am yet to equip my studio with stainless steel pans. I need these to get an even colour when I next dye some romney wool.

I’m also wanting to purchase or make a peg loom to trial some wool weaving.

My search for purchasing some willow continues but thankfully, today, it has been possible to re engage with weaving. I remembered to take sharp secateurs on a recent dog walk and found myself dragging a supply of long bramble runners along the footpath. I stopped to have a catch up with the local park warden when I suddenly thought I needed to explain WHY I was carrying a bundle of brambles ha! The things we do for art!

This is the final outcome of weaving bramble runners. I love the colours and although this is quite tricky to make. It really is worth the effort.

This is a technique that can be used ‘ in the field’ , you would need to be carrying sturdy gardening gloves and sharp secateurs, but all possible.

The thorns on bramble are incredibly tough, to remove them I pulled the runners through holes drilled into pieces of scrap hardboard. This works really well, without damaging the ‘weavers’

For the handle, I’ve used a spare willow rod. This had been previously soaked and so flexible enough to make a curve across the width of the basket.

So this is a basket for collecting blackberries, made from the blackberry hedgerow itself. It feels important to have a purpose for any basket making. It brings a sense of function and also helps to think about ancestors who might have made something similar in times gone by.

Other material that is catching my eye at the moment, is the stunning fields of long grass that are glowing away in the late autumn sunshine.

I’ve collected 2 lots already and have them stashed away in the chicken house. It is dry in there and out of reach to the hens.

Planning to make more of this sort of thing….?

Colour from the fields, hedgerows and coastline

We are planning on working with an expert in natural dyes and she is going to share her passion for Madder. She is a chemist by training and holds a PhD, she is now researching the qualities of a number of plants traditionally used for dyeing.

I’m hoping she will help us identify this gorgeous plant, is it weld? Or woad?

If you are in Lydd and want to have a look at what we’ve been achieving over the last year. one of our parents and carers group has very kindly put together a display with laminated information sheets. Nice work Melanie!

Note to self, not to use aluminium pots

For dyeing, I wish I had realised this earlier, but learning from my mistakes.

I’ve now got to source some stainless steel pans for future use

back to the hedgerows for berries , these are gorgeous elderberries and are great fun to pick, they are very abundant this year and I think it’s ok to share with the birds