Thursday, 1 July 2010


I am coming to after a hectic time. First we had ITV Wales filming the garden as part of National Garden Open in Wales. For those of you not from the UK this is a uniquely British event where people open their gardens sometimes just for one day sometimes for groups visiting . All the gardens are listed in a famous yellow book. The visitors fee goes to Charity. Most of the gardens are absolutely stunning and often very grand stately homes but also little tiny cottage gardens too. My parents were very fond of visiting gardens and when my father moved up here he and I went round gardens together although mostly I think because my father was very partial to the home made cakes that so often feature! Quite where I found the courage to propose the dye garden to the organisers I don't know. I think it came from the day when we opened the garden last year as "Shopping for Colour" and it was so obviously enjoyed. Someone said to me you should open under the National Garden Open Scheme and here we are. We are open to groups visiting when Enys and I talk about the plants and I talk about dyeing and then conduct them around the garden. The solar pots have been a very good way to introduce people to the colour of the garden especially the madder , birch and golden rod pots.
So last week -was it really only last week?- ITV filmed. I forgot to ask Enys to take pictures of me demonstrating woad dyeing and I only took a few of her but it gives you the flavour of the day. We both enjoyed it it very much and it was a fascinating experience. I picked woad leaves six or seven times while they filmed it from different angles-amazing that the woad leaves held up. I kept finding another little plant hiding under something else as it has self seeded around the dye beds.
Two days after that we loaded the car, squeezing an unhappy dog into one tiny corner and set off for Woolfest. "Don't buy anything will you" said DH "there is no room even in the top box". Not buy anything! Go to the Woolfest and not buy anything. The poor man obviously had sun stroke. Fortunately a good friend with an empty car came to the rescue and took back my two fleeces and a swift and I sold some big bulky items such as all my new solar pot kits complete with 2 litre Kilner Jars which took up a lot of space. We could have sold these twice over they were all gone by of the second day. Another great success of the Woolfest was my inks of which I sold a lot. These inks designed by me for painting and writing turnout to be excellent fabric paints too. I painted some pre-mordanted silk with them steamed and rinsed. No colour came out at all

In between ITV filming and setting off for the Woolfest my new Aura wheel, the fantastic new spinning wheel from Majacraft, which had arrived but was sitting tantalisingly in it's box was set up. My original vision was that I would sit spinning some fantastic textured yarn at Woolfest to advertise both my fibres, my packs and my new Beyond the Twist Yarns. A good friend ( I am very lucky in my friends) recovering from a hip replacement carded me some batts to spin and some batts to sell. Did I get a chance to spin? Well I expect you are smiling as you read this . Of course not- except for a few minutes here and there. Plus the fact that people bought the batts which were meant me to spin so at the end I had no batts at all! The wheel attracted a a lot of interest. I directed them all to poor Martin of PM Woolcraft who imports them and from whom I bought mine. I say poor because none of his ordered wheels had arrived. I was very fortunate to have mine as it is at the moment one of only three in the UK. What is so good about it? Well it spins like a dream. The huge flyer and fantastic threading system (no hook pulling the yarn through a tiny orifice) means it will spin from laceweight to bulky yarn. A hugely versatile tensioning system with two different tensions means it is very flexible. In the picture you can see some fine yarns ( some of my cashmere and silk plied with a laceweight merino) and an over the top yarn with teeswater curls spun in whole.
What am I doing now?Getting ready for the student coming on Monday for two days. Which means tidying up my studio. Sigh! (And I still have not fully unpacked the car)


  1. Hi, Really enjoyed your post-you are very busy-lol
    I would definately have purchased some solar jars from you. I went to town to get some this week-checked at bakeries and delis-no one uses glass anymore they told me-everything in plastic lined boxes-sigh!
    I even went looking for cheap solar tea jars which are usually made from glass and can be found in this time year-no such luck-so I am still on the hunt

  2. Great post Helen! Glad woolfest went so well.
    Love your spinning chair by the way!

  3. Hi Kathy I can put them on my website as kits without the jars but posting the glass jars is a no no-you will need to get your own. Over here I have found them in old fashioned kitchen shops that sell jelly bags and jam making pans. If you can hunt out a place like that you will find them, Otherwise jars of pickling vinegar or coffee jars work.

  4. They used to sell kilner jars in Dunelm Mills... not sure if they still do. Ikea sell them. If you have either of those nearby it`d be worth looking there

  5. Hi Helen, Thank you for your delicious description and photos! I really enjoyed your post very much.
    I so wish I could visit your dye garden but (sigh) I'm one of those not from the UK . Some years ago I was staying with my English friend in Milton Keynes and they took me to several open gardens. It was a discovery to me, and a lovely one: both the gardens and the home made cakes, hehe! I enjoyed these visits and can imagine would enjoy visiting your garden as well.
    I also love your spinning chair - was it made to order?

  6. Hi thanks for the tip about the kilners. Spinning chair is I think an Ashford-whatever make worth it's weight in gold. :)

  7. Hi Helen, in Finnish television we can see a British garden programme Open Gardens, so I will have to watch every show in the future so that perhaps I can see your garden there, too:)