Saturday, 20 March 2010

Spring has come to the Dye Garden

Spring has Come!

As well as crocuses miniature daffs, catkins and the fabulous delicate dwarf irises spring means other things to the dyer! Yesterday for example I was able to work in the studio without having to light my wood burner, I could hang my fibres to dry on the line and finally something , which although it has nothing to do with dyeing , excited DH and I somewhat -we have frog/toad spawn (I not sure which) in our little pond. Last night we heard the gently croaking call of an amphibian-. The little pond had been around for four or five years and over the last two we have spotted an increasing number of frogs and toad although they are very shy. Last summer when we had been away for a week they had obviously colonised the pond and I saw a frog squatting on a lily pad but sadly the pond which is in our battered flagged patio (all the flags are uneven) is probably too near the house for them to lounge around at their ease. So we are delighted to see our spawn .
Other nice things happened. Last year my studio was open for an Open Art Studio event Helfa Gelf ( meaning Treasure Hunt) .The organisers ran a raffle, the winner having £500 to spend on art. The winner has chosen four artists who she wants to look at in more detail and she chose me as one. She came out yesterday and to have a look although she wanted either something like Tree against a Red Hill ( which you can see on my website) or a Waterfall both of which I have sold.

Then the BBC rang up to see if I was interested in a (very) cameo appearance dyeing with children on an children's programme.

On the dyeing front I am dyeing like a women possessed as I have so many workshops coming up for which I always provide all the materials in natural dyes. Increasingly in recent years I have been booked up by groups and this year I am really busy . On Monday for example I am teaching a small group of artists in mid Wales a workshop of mine called Felt beyond the Boundaries. A week today one I am running one called Felt Collars, here for the first time I will be teaching the students to felt a fine felt collar with lacey edges using the incredibly fine ultra fine 15 micron merino. Dyeing this without felting that been a challenge! Up and coming is another Felt beyond the Boundary for a group on the LLeyn Peninsular and Felt and Fabric Tote bags and Asymmetrical Bags in Gloucester both in May. In between is Wonderwool so the dye pots are constantly on the go and you can see why being able to hang stuff upon the line outside is such a relief.

The dark pink fibres on the line are cochineal extracted from the whole bugs similar to the recipe described by Leena on her fantastic blog on cochineal which you can find here. It saves the grinding but I am not sure that it gives such a bright pinky red colour as does grinding the cochineal bugs and soaking with cream of tartar. This is the method I have used in the past and comes from Trudy Von Stralen's book Indigo Madder and Marigold. I plan to grind some today but it will be Tuesday before I can dye with it

As revenge for me saying Spring has come the changeable British weather has now clamped down with a hill mist and heavy rain. Oh well at least the frogs and toads will be happy as the pond fills up.


  1. as always I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog this morning-our spring is beginning the same way-warm and sunshine yesterday and today winter is back-oh well-I am off to check out your links

  2. Beautiful selection of spring photos! I love having frogs in the garden, we don't have daffodils in flower here yet but my neighbour tells me her pond is full of frogspawn.

    I meet you and see some of your lovely dyed fibres for real at Wonderwool.

  3. Hi Kathy many thanks I am glad you enjoy the blog.:)
    Hi Dorothy nice to know you will be at Wonderwool it promises to be a good event this year. I will have a good array of fibres for both the spinner and felter including some yummy cashmere and silk

  4. Thanks for showing the spring pictures, it warms my heart to see flowers, my own are still under snow.
    It was nice to see that you had tried my recipe with cochineal, but it is so true that everyone gets a little different results even with a same recipe, my yarns were darker than yours, there are so many variables that affect.
    I really should try grinding the cochineal, but somehow I am stuck with the method with whole bugs:)

  5. Hi Leena I have just soaked some ground bugs and soon I will have a comparison!
    I am so glad we are not under snow but for us it is still cold.

  6. wonderwool, hm.... a member of our group is going and offered to bring me things I might like. of course it's no replacement for going myself, but better than nothing?:)) sounds like you're kept extremely busy - which is nice of course, but can also be annoying, when an idea hits and you can't find the time to do something about it. I am always glad to get deadlines etc. done to be free again for a while:)) we still didn't manage to do our pond, so no spawn - but we seem to have plenty of frogs around anyway:)) I think they overwinter in the tunnel or glasshouse, at least I always find them there, hiding in pots or behind buckets.

  7. I am so busy dyeing and running workshops that the landscapes have had to go onto a back burner. This is both annoying and a bit worrying as I really need to a have new stuff for the next Helfa Gelf Open Art studio in September.I also so want to do some more for my own personal satisfaction.
    I am thinking of not running any dyeing workshops this summer to give myself more space. I have workshops booked anyway in July and for three day summer school in August so not doing any more for a few weeks would give myself a little time to myself which would be good . On the other hand I have already been asked if I am doing a Dyeing the Blues Day again and this is very popular. Sigh. Not sure what to do.