During 2015, my Guild ran a year-long natural dyeing project with Winterbourne House, a local museum.
Each month, the gardeners at Winterbourne provided plant material (flower heads, bark, leaves, etc.) which the guild tested for their natural dye properties.
To explore the varied colours that can be achieved through the use of mordants and modifiers, eights small skeins of wool were treated with each dye (the first seven of which were pre-mordanted with alum):
- basic colour;
- light fastness test (kept by a window after dyeing);
- acid modifier (vinegar);
- alkaline modifier (diluted washing soda);
- iron modifier (created by soaking rusty nails in water & distilled vinegar);
- Over-dyed with madder;
- Over-dyed with woad;
- copper mordant (in place of alum).
The results of the project are on display in the Coach House Gallery at Winterbourne until 25th April.
Alongside skeins showcasing the colours achieved from each plant material, the exhibition contains a selection of projects created by talented members of my Guild. These projects showcase weaving, spinning, dyeing, knitting and felting – and the wool and silk used in the projects was also largely dyed with plants from Winterbourne garden.
I took part in a couple of the monthly dyeing sessions during 2015, and made a small contribution to the exhibition – a handful of knitted chamomile flowers included in the display below.
Winterbourne houses the national collection of anthemis (a genus which includes dyers chamomile). Yarn dyed with chamomile from the garden was used by Guild members to knit and crochet the flower heads below. The knitting and crochet patterns used were also designed by Guild members.
The exhibition is only small, but well worth a look if you’re local, and could be followed up with a visit to Winterbourne or to the neighboring Barber Institute of Fine Arts, which is a favourite of mine.
Carolyn, who led the project, blogged the results achieved each month on a dedicated blog.
P.S. If you live in the UK and are interested in trying weaving, spinning or dyeing, you can check if there’s a guild local to you using this online search.