Thursday, 23 April 2009

From Enys

Posted by Enys
Finally got the hang of writing in a blog. Should have been doing it winter when I actually had more time. Potted on 50+ of Chinese Woad last night. I can only work in the greenhouse early morning or in the evening - otherwise I'd get so hot Peter might come back and find I'd dissolved into a puddle of something or other!! This morning was reasonably cool so I got on with the Coreopsis and Baptisia australis.My evenings and dear husbands are spent watering in the greenhouse and watering the plants being hardened off outside - I'm sure they multiply during the night. Oh, and the rabbits have found my plants and are beginning their great pruning session so now I'm putting them on a frame out of their reach, trouble is I don't have enough of these frames. Have to get back to the drawing board.
I guess Helen has told you we'll be at Wonder Wool, I ll have some of my plants, so look me up if you are there.
Back to the plants.

Wonderwool Wales 25th-26th April at the Royal Welsh Showground

Posted by Helen

We,that is Enys and I are setting off to Wonderwool tomorrow.
If you are coming come and see us we shall be at N4. If you are a blog follower tell us and we will give you a blog follower discount of 10% . (Except for the special offers -such as 6x50g 0f merino for £20.00 as these are already discounted).

Natural Fibres Naturally Dyed
Natural Dye Inks
Dye Books
Dye Plants
Ceramic and Pottery Buttons

ps that is a back view of Enys at Woolfest !

These photos are of the Woolfest as the stall at Wonderwool last year was not too good. The reason for this is each stall is made up of a shell which has dirty white walls ( it is rather like being inside shoebox which is open to the top and at one end)! It was suggested to us by the organisers that you could hang meat hooks over the shell and then hang a broomstick from that. Sadly my stainless steel butchers hooks were too small, so it was a disaster as we had no way of covering the dirty white walls. This time however I am setting off sorted thanks to Debbie Bamford's John and DH and I expect the stall to look good, (or at least better). Furthermore I have loads more dyed merino than last year, indeed than ever before so should create a big splash of colour.


Saturday, 18 April 2009

From Enys
Just been potting on yet more seedlings, and looking at the ones I potted up last week, and thinking by this time next week they'll need to be put in bigger pots!! Trouble is I can't throw any plant away, Peter (husband) manages to be quite heartless and discards any of his plants that he thinks don't maker the grade. My problem is - all my plants are really strong so I can't bear to discard any, must try and stop anthropormorphising them (how's that for a big word) and talking to them, or one day men in white coats will take ma away!!
Enough for now.

Basket and Buttons

Posted by Helen
Today was Clwyd Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers friendship day. It was a lovely day, very warm and friendly with an extremely nice lunch so it was rather sad there were not as many visitors as was hoped for especially so as there were a number of good stalls (including mine). Just looking at the stalls made me realise what a wealth of local talent there is: Debbie Bamford of the Mulberry Dyer and her partner John (Debbie is currently running the Dyeing the Reds workshop on the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers), Andy of Blue faced, who sells lovely yummy fibres many of which are British hooray, Norweft which is a local minimill specialising in alpacas, as well as stalls selling handmade ceramic buttons, baskets and jewellery.

This is what I bought! :) A basket from Chris Jordan to display my buttons and ..... more ceramic buttons by Lynn Blanchard ... which I can't resist! (and also one of John's lovely big niddy noddy's) Although the visitors and members were select they were discerning buyers and bought a lot as well as buying all the plants, which Enys had let me have, within ten minutes of my arrival.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


From Enys
I've obviously got time on my hands, ot maybe I just need a break from potting on seedlings. I potted on what seemed like thousands yesterday, it was actually about 150, Anthemis tinctoria and Persicaria tinctoria. I'm now looking at the Chinese woad, got two more tray to pot on. At least it doesn't matter if it rains, I just adore being in the greenhouse. I could quite cheerfully move in there, nice and quiet, except when my almost 4 year old grandson comes with me, he manages to make himself absolutely filthy, but at least making mud is a quiet occupation! He is actually very helpful, he fills up the pots for meand can usually manage about 20 before boredom sets in!! All the plants that are now large enough are being taken outside to be hardened off, bit of a drag having to take them in and out for a few days before being able to leave them out permenantly. My Madder has at last made an effort and I now have a few to pot on to the next stage, really exciting - that makes me sound so sad!!
Dog and I are now going out to take in plants - it never stops.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sheep silk

Posted by Helen
I have been dyeing merino tops now for years firstly because I wanted to use naturally dyed merino tops myself in my own work then for my own workshops. I have had them for sale on my website but with a limited success mostly,I think, because the photography does not really do justice to the colours. However I have been selling more and more and getting lots of positive comments back so I have decided to have a big run at dyeing merino tops (I am so glad that I did not know till after I had been dyeing successfully fora number of years that -"you can't dye merino tops as they felt"). As my husband was working all over Easter I have had a free run in the studio. Apart form walking the dog in the glorious sunshine I have been happily dyeing and here are some of results.
Over the years I have developed my own technique for dyeing these tops with minimum felting. I am very proud of them and just love the feel as I run my fingers through the wool. I dye a lot of the 18.5merinos which is the finest wool we can get here and what I use for stoles and scarves.I feel most envious of India Flints 15 micron merino. What must that feel like? The 18.5 micron merino feels, as a friend of mine describes it, as the nearest to sheep silk .

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Plants in the spring

Posted by Enys
Finally got some time to write in the blog, having completely forgotten how it's done and having to e-mail Helen to remind me how to. The whole of one side of the green house is full of seedling at various stages of development (I have allowed my husband to grow his tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and various other plants, he's very long suffering!) although I must admit I seem to have at least 3/4 of the space. The persicaria is growing really well, Helen has taken photos of them 60 +, Chinese woad - 3 trays of 20 per tray, lots of Coreopsis, Anthemis tinctoria, Carthamus tinctorus - the first time I tried growing Carthamus it was a failure 3 plants which didn't thrive at all, this year all the seeds germinated and have been potted on. Three weeks of panic - no sign of the madder, three trays of compost greeting me and nothing growing until a few days ago and now they are sprouting up in all the trays, guess they just needed some of the warm sun that we've had this last week, so that's really great. The Echium vulgare are already potted on, and the Indigofera tinctoria -already 4 seedling showing. Gallium verum, Cosmos, Woad are also coming along well. Baptisia Australis has overwintered in the greenhouse so I've got some really strong plants to put out in the main garden, Asclepeas tuberosa also overwinted well along with Anthemis tinctoria, Coreopsis and one Weld which was growing on the floor, it's now in its own pot and looking very happy.
I kept 2 Chinese woad plants in the greenhouse for the winter to make sure that I would get seed and they are now flowering. The Chinese woad overwintered in the garden and promptly got eaten by the rabbits (3 of which are now in my freezer- the rabbits not the woad!) But it is growing again. The rabbits are a real pest, I have no problem with slugs, snails or any other pest except the pheasants in the Autumn when the gamekeeper lets out the young birds, they tend to eat the veg and some plants. We are now going to have to net a vast area of the garden- b....y nuisance. Fortunately my other garden behind the house has not yet been discovered by the rabbits so the Chinese woad was safe there. My wonder dog Cariad (German Shepherd) loves to chase them but being a sheepdog is not into killing just trying to herd them, they don't even have to run very fast to get away from her. Back to plants, there are not enough hours in the day now, , everything is growing so it's the busiest time, potting on, planting, watering. Weeds growing really well, turn your back and the dandelions are back. I've got a real problem with bindweed, not the big white flowered one, but the small pink flowered one, very pretty but not when it chokes my plants. Sadly rabbits do not eat weeds. Some of these plants (not the bindweed) will go into Helen's garden and I've just revamped a small part of mine approx. 40 metres x 4 metres, I'll take some photos and post them for next time. Back to work. Dog walk- plant - dog walk and so on the pattern of my days, + the odd days when I work in other gardens.


Posted by Helen
I don't often manage to do the workshops run on the UK Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers although when I do I always really enjoy them. However this month Debbie Bamford of the Mulberry Dyer is running one entitled Dyeing the Reds. Debbie came to the very first dyeing workshop I ever ran in 1995 and I think has been dyeing ever since. She now has a successful business and does a lot with the re-enactors market and over the years has built up a huge knowledge in the history of dyes, historical recipes and specialises in, amongst other things, dyeing linen threads. Now it is my turn to sit at her feet and learn. We started off with dyeing lac.This I have not done since went to my very first workshop twenty or so years ago when my memory was of a number of us pounding away at the sticky resinous coating to get the red dye and it always seemed too much hard work. Sticklac ,the crude form of lac was also very hard to get. Recently however I have used the lac extracts sold by both Tinctoria Dyes and Earthues (sold incidentally by the Mulberry Dyer) and loved them being slightly redder than cochineal.

Both lac and cochineal belong to the insect dye group, lac having a range between Tibet and China to Burma Siam and India. ( Gerber, Cochineal and the Insect Dyes). According to Cardon there are 13 different lac insects of the Genus Kerria but the common Indian Lac insect Kerria Lacca is still used on large scale, not for the red dye but for the shellac. Kerria Chinensis gives the best red dye (Cardon) The resin of lac is collected from twigs on which the insects grows shaping the resin to the twigs, and this it is called sticklac. After the dye has been removed the resulting shellac may be melted and dropped forming buttons (button lac) or poured out into thin sheets when it is shellac)
If you want to know how I extracted the dye following Debs recipe you will have to join the Uk OnlineGuildof WSD and join the workshops!

I found a 100g of sticklac I had bought from Fibrecrafts about 5 years ago lying at the bottom of my stash and I used this to extract the dye putting 100g of fibres in the dye bath. Reading more about it in Gerbers excellent little book I find that the dye contents is very low 1/2%-3/4% of 1% of the dry weight of the raw material.
I put cashmere and silk,camel and tussah silk, a handful of teeswater curls and two carrier rods in the bath. The camel and tussah silk came out very blotchy with the camel taking up very little dye and that has gone back to be over painted with more dyes. The teeswater curls is the reddest as you can see. it is probably better to dye just one type of fibres in the dyebath as one always seems to grab more dye than the rest.

I loved it however and as soon as I can get some more sticklac from Debbie I will dye more

Dominique Cardon Natural Dyes Archetype Publications isbn 978-1-904982-00-5
Frederick H Gerber Ccochineal and theInsect Dyes published by the author isbn 09601814-3-1

ps Debbie has a new blog A History of Colour

Friday, 3 April 2009


Posted by Helen
Last week I went round to Enys's house to have a look at the emerging dye plants mostly for the Woolfest in Cumbria in June but some will be big enough for Wonderwool Wales which is April 25th & 26th at the Royal Welsh ground at Builth Wells. The Japanese polygonum (Persicaria Tinctoria) has germinated well-over 60plants Enys said-plants like dyers chamomile (Anthemis Tinctoria ),coreopsis (Coreopis Tinctoria) and cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) are as usual romping away, and the woads are better this year than last. One of the plants that is doing much better than ever before is safflower, carthemis tinctorius. Enys was furious at the madder -the seed tray on the top left of the picture of seed trays as none of the madder had germinated after two weeks. Over the years she has tried various ways to get it to grow, she tells me, but it is always difficult. I lent forward to inspect the reluctant seeds and saw one just starting to push it's way through. Time for champagne? I suggested hopefully. We went back to celebrate with coffee.
Incidentally the nearly flowering woad is Chinese woad (Isatis Indigotica) and as mine is flowering too we should have plenty of seeds for next year. The Chinese woad we have planted this year is still from the original seed sent to me by Annee Silk in Canada who sent them twice when the first lot did not germinate. Chinese woad (Isatis Indigotica) produces more indigotin (about twice as much)as does the European woad (Isatis Tinctoria). The comparison data is here

While I was there Enys proudly showed me lots of robust Baptisia Australis-"what dye colour do we get from it"? She asked. My mind went blank. However researching through my archives I found I wrote a post about the Baptisia and you can find what I did here!

to my all new followers.