17 June 2008


Every year in May our guild is invited down to West Dean Gardens to demonstrate natural dying at their Wholly Herbs weekend. This was our 4th year there and four of us (plus one hubby) went 'down south' for the weekend - full of anticipation for another two days of playing with fibre and yarn.

The first of the two days was fairly grey and misgog and consequently quiet - We had a good day though with some pleasing results - in particular we were delighted with the rich, warm oranges and rusty colours on the batch of yarns that came out of the coreopsis dye bath.

There is a lot of preparation done in advance of the show, growing dye plants to sell, preparing kits for people to try spinning and dying, and skeining wool and mordanting it ready to be dyed at the show. One of our members skeined 30 sets of skeins, 5 in a batch mordanted with - alum, chrome, copper and tin plus one un-mordanted which we afterbath with iron. This means that we put 5 skeins into each dye bath and get 5 different colours out of each single dye bath.

The second day was a sunny spring day and there were a lot more people many of whom were very well informed and extremely interested. We also started an indigo vat on the second day and dyed several batches of un-mordanted wool yarn and fibre - and a pair of cotton trousers!

Among the dyes used were Avocado skins, weld, coreopsis, madder, rooibosh, daffodils, cow parsley, nettle, hopi black sunflower seeds, logwood, yorkshire gold tea, dyers chamomile, rhubarb root, juniper berries, dried lavender and several others that I can't call to mind.
I now have quite a bit of work to do as it is my job to turn all those skeins into a sampler for next years show - I crochet them up into 5 colour medallions which become, when joined, a sort of mini throw to go on our show table - the first two years I used a hexagonal patten from the harmony crochet book - last year, and probably this year too, I used a square pattern.

This year I thought about things in advance and got some fibre lined up ready mordanted with alum in 10g batches to go in some of the dye baths. I also had some un-mordanted fibre for the indigo vat. We achieved some lovely colours in both yarn and fibre and had a generally good time talking to people and visiting the other stands. It's also nice to meet up with people that we've seen in previous years - it's getting to be quite a little community in it's own right -in fact I'm already looking forward to next year.

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