Monday 21 November 2011

The Original Reenactors Market

We are just back and surfacing from TORM. I love going to this market - it's the first "big" market I ever did and it goes from strength to strength!

When I became a re enactor I quickly realized that this could turn out to be an expensive hobby (it doesn't HAVE to, but...) As the boys were young when we started I had to give myself something to do in a Living History situation, so I decided to become a 17th century embroideress. I learnt to spin and dye the threads I needed and was soon being asked where I got my embroidery silks, when I said I was making them myself I was asked if I would sell some. - Aha! Maybe this was a way of funding the hobby a little? I started trading at Sealed Knot events, made friends with many of the traders and was asked if I was going to be at TORM. "What's that?" I asked. "A market run by Anne Laverick" I was told.

I found the lady in question and after a very thorough interrogation about whether I could maintain a supply of goods, what else I could do and whether I intended to keep going, I was told I could have a corner in the Sports Hall at Blackbird Leys and she'd give me a go!

The market has been running now for 21 years, growing into and out of venues over the years, but seems settled at the Sports Connexion in Ryton on Dunsmore. For me it starts the "season" every year in March (the next one is the 16th, 17th and 18th March 2012), it used to end the season too, but that just seems to get extended nearer and nearer to Christmas!

It is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance - real artisans producing furniture, pottery, jewellery, clothing (from whatever period of history you fancy), arms and armour........etc, etc. 

I am indebted to Anne for giving me that chance and for all the work that she puts into the organising, advertising and promoting of the market.
So I'd just like to end with - Thanks Anne!

Tuesday 18 October 2011

A quick apology

I feel I have abandoned the blog, twitter and facebook - and in a way I have! Whilst working away in August we had a phone call from our neighbour in France to tell us that we had had a burglary. We dashed home to find doors and shutters destroyed - whoever wanted to get into our house was not going to be stopped. The place was a mess and quite a lot has gone. Lots of really precious personal things - of course they have no value to anyone else.....but........

I have gone into a strange vacuum - I am reluctant to put anything on the web - where I am, what I am doing, anything really. The Gendarmes think that whoever it was had been watching the house to see when we were away - do they watch the websites too? Someone has been trying to hack into my facebook account.........

I will get back to writing, but for now I am licking my wounds, dealing with officialdom and re - assessing how things are publicised.

Hope you will forgive me!

Sunday 17 July 2011

Le Lot et La Laine

Last weekend we travelled south to the beautiful countriside of the Lot.  We were attending the new fibrey event of Le Lot et la Laine. We arrived on Friday afternoon ready to start putting up the tent and awning - it was soooooo hot, took far longer than we even imagined to get them up due to the number of breaks we had to take to drink more water!!!! However we managed and were ready on Saturday morning and raring to go!

The really interesting part for me was running some dyeing workshops - in French! I had 3 two hour workshops, 1 on Saturday afternoon and 2 on Sunday. I would like to thank all the students for being so patient with me - getting all the basics of natural dyes across in 2 hours is quite a feat, to do it in french and it be understood is amazing! Merci a tous!
It always intrigues me the artistic talent that you get on this type of course. All students get the same facilities and information and everyone produces something totally individual!

The location for the event was the Musée de Cuzals just outside a beautiful village called Sauliac sur Célé. The valley is stunning - full of high crags and caves with the houses built into the cliffs along the way. (guess what I forgot to take some photos!)

Having driven so far we gave ourselves a couple of days to see a bit of the area so didn't get back to the north until Wednesday. Now it's back to reality and getting ready for the next events!

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Crikey! It's Giveaway time again.

 I can't believe it's the 1st June!  Where has the time gone? Apart from the fact that we've been away working so much the time just seems to fly by!

So it's time for the Summer Giveaway. On the 21st June we will be drawing a name from the hat and for this season we have chosen Linen Laceweight (16/2) dyed in our own Walnut Husks! The hank size is 50g, more than enough to complete a scarf like mine. 
The colour is quite a lush brown, and beautifully even, the linen has a lovely sheen to it, almost silk like! I adore working with this yarn - particularly for crochet, although it will knit up very well too. (Or if you're into historical textiles it's fabulous for finger braiding, lucetting and tablet weaving!)

We always have
 a good supply of naturally dyed linens on the stall, 8/2, 16/2 and 28/2 are our standard thicknesses, all are available in 25g balls, the laceweight and 8/2 are also available in 50g hanks. (undyed can be purchased in 100g hanks) Take a look at the Event Calendar on the website to see where we will be next! To purchase online take a look at the Knitsisters website.

To be entered into the draw simply "follow" this blog, "like" us on Facebook or join our Group if you're on Ravelry.

Good luck!

Sunday 8 May 2011

ISEND 2011 part 2

The International Symposium & Exhibition on Natural Dyes was held in La Rochelle, France from the 25th to 30th April. The organisers were Dominique Cardon (researcher and author) and Anne de la Sayette (Director CRITT Horticole).

Each day except Wednesday comprised of lectures in the morning followed by a 3 course lunch (with wine) then back to the lectures until 3.30pm. The market place opened at 3.30pm to both delegates and public, the delegates also had the option of attending various workshops and demonstrations until 6.30pm. On Wednesday there were a selection of excursions to choose from in the morning and then back to the lectures for the afternoon. Saturday the market place was open all day plus there were several excursions in the morning.

Lectures tended to be approximately 10 minutes, grouped into sessions, with a small amount of time allocated at the end for discussion and questions.

As I had taken a market stall I was unable to attend the workshops in the afternoon (or the lunches!), however many of them have been videoed and can be found here. Nor did I get the pretty screen printed bag or any of the paperwork, so only my own notes to go from!

I attended the "round table" on indigo with great anticipation, expecting there to be a good chance for discussion and looking forward to hearing the various lectures. The speakers were producers of woad or indigo and it was fascinating to hear their various production methods and their view of how they are taking their product into the future. Woad in particular seems to be looking forward with Woad Inc looking at the health benefits of the oil in the seeds - they have a range of  bath/shower gels, soaps etc. Bleu de Lectoure on the other hand are looking at cosmetics and wood preservatives not to mention the blue corn starch plastics that are being experimented with for recyclable bags, bottles etc. Indigo production in Bangladesh is not a commercial enterprise in terms of specific cultivation - it is grown in any "free" space small areas of uncutivated ground - then collected together and harvested as a co operative. El Salvador have worked out a method of extracting more indigotin and more frequently from their Indigofera suffructiosa and it's organic! Such positive presentations really inspiring!

But what happened to the discussion?

The session leader - when the last speaker had finished - turned to them all and said "do you have any questions for each other?" The main topic was then the "purity" of the product (indigotin) and could it be standardised? What a waste of promising discussion time! When it finally was available to the floor it was very controlled!

Dreadfully done!

The week has left me with my head buzzing and many new contacts and friends made. It is taking a while to assimilate all the information that was available there, some good, some as described above very disappointing. The overall feel of the symposium seemed to be that it was for industrial scale producers rather than artisans, yet those producers were feeling that their audience were the wrong people!

I have to agree with India Flint about the industrial scale production of natural dyes - we are going to have to have a balance between growing food and growing other things - there are already many countries who cannot grow enough food let alone turn their land over to growing dyestuff. In which case we have to collect from the wild and then ...........!

The industrialists were also missing the point that many of the small artisans have had to deal with the same cutivation problems they are going through - and work out a method to get over it, more discussion and less controlling would have been beneficial!

Overall I had a fabulous week and enjoyed it very much, came home absolutely shattered, but  VERY  inspired!

Wednesday 4 May 2011

ISEND 2011 part 1

I do believe there have been some Bank Holiday days over the past week and  half - oh and a wedding, but we didn't see any of it/them!!!!

On Easter Saturday we set
off for La Rochelle a 400+ mile journey through beautiful parts of France - Rouen, Le Mans, Angers, we did as little motorway driving as possible - not just to avoid the peage  (we do try to be sensible with our money!!) - but we like to see the scenery! I'm so glad we did on this occasion, we fell in love with the Loir region (just above the Loire) and were surprised by the part of the Charente we saw - so flat! (Photo is of La Fleche, taken on the homeward journey)
La Rochelle is in the Charente Maritime, very pretty in the old town and round the Vieux Port, quite boring round the rest - the landscape was very flat and over all I guess I was disappointed with the area -  so many people told me how lovely it was. As such a popular holiday destination I expected it to have more about it!

We camped! No posh hotel for us, just our trusty van as a bedroom and the Burgundian tent as out living quarters. To be fair it was very comfortable and the Municipal camp site at Port Neuf was fine (certainly not luxurious, but the water was hot enough to shower comfortably!!!) It was a half hour walk to the Vieux Port and about 40 minutes to Espace Encan - the venue for Isend. We walked everywhere, which was lovely, and got to spend time with friends old and new!

I attended ISEND 2011 as a trader only - a decision taken based on the price of attending. I was allowed to attend the lectures during the day, but not the workshops and demonstrations. Set up was on the Sunday, as was registration for all the delegates. I was delighted when Ulrike from the Online Guild came in soon after we'd started and introduced herself, then threw herself into helping with the set up! Thanks Ulrike!

Over the course of the week I got to see many of my old friends from DHA meetings, make contact with my "idols" like Dominique Cardon, Michelle Whipplinger, India Flint .... The biggest thrill of the week was probably talking to Michel Garcia about our water problem here, not long afterwards he appeared at the stall to say he'd take me through and give a demonstration of his indigo vat using sugar as a reducing agent - just me and the lady from El Salvador (whose name I have forgotten I am sorry to say!)  He then gave full details of how the whole thing works, plus the chemistry. All the official delegates had had to scrabble for a bit of space round his demonstration, most unable to hear what he was saying .........

Maybe it wasn't so bad just being there as a trader!

(Part 2 - the conference)

Wednesday 30 March 2011

The dreaded subject - Chemistry

When I started writing this blog post I soon realized that it would be very, very long – I have pondered long and hard about whether it should go here or I should try and get it “in print” – it’s not until you start writing that you realize just how complex it all is to explain!!! For this reason I have decided to split the whole thing up into several posts.

For many people indigo is magic but they are simply dyeing with it for the experience rather than wanting to take it further, a simple dye kit or 1 day workshop is great and will satisfy their requirement. For others indigo “bites” and becomes such an integral part of their dyeing repertoire that they really need to understand everything that is happening in the bath and how works. Sadly very few seem to! If you are a professional dyer and particularly if you are writing a book it feels criminal to me that you cannot explain properly how the colour blue is obtained. One of the biggest insults (and reason behind starting all this writing) is when I read (or hear someone say) that it is “normal” for indigo to rub off.


So here I am keeping my promise! I said I would lay my own neck on the line and give what I understand to be the chemistry going on in the “indigo” bath.-

Perhaps I should say here that I have no chemical training further than I took chemistry to A level way back in 1974 and failed it (well got an O level pass, but I already had the O level so......) From then until I took up natural dyeing the only links to the subject that I had were with the nutrition and food poisoning I had to study for my catering qualification. What I am trying to say is that this is a layman’s version, not a chemists!

I would like to start with clarifying names. Everyone talks about dyeing with “Indigo” but that is incorrect, the ACTUAL name of the blue dye chemical is INDIGOTIN (I don’t care how you pronounce it, but that’s how it’s spelt!) So throughout this ramble that is the term I will use when I am talking about the blue dyestuff. ( I feel that we would all get less confused if this term was used more often!)

I am not intending writing here how I use the dye but my understanding of what is chemically happening from the point at which you pick leaves from your chosen source plant and end up with a blue colour on your textile.

When doing a period demonstration dyeing with woad I start by saying::

“There is no blue dye in the leaves,- there is a “precursor” chemical and a naturally occurring chlostridia bacteria in there and when you tear the leaves up into little bits you release the chemical and bacteria into an environment they find suitable for the process of change to begin”

So let’s go through the best known of the plant sources and their “precursors” To clarify what I mean by this - there are many plants which contain a chemical within the leaves that can be converted into indigotin, the plants come from different countries, they are from different family groups and they contain a different chemical but ultimately they can make the required conversion.( I should perhaps also say that different methods of preparation can also be employed for the different plants.)

The Isatis family - Woads

It has not long been known that there is an Isatis family! This is currently under research - there seem to be more varieties than previously thought!

Isatis tinctoria (Woad)

Occurs in a wild state throughout Europe but is thought to originate in Russia. It was not native to England but was cultivated there as it was in Germany and Central Europe. It also can be found in Africa and Asia.

Isatis Tinctoria L. Var. Yezoensis (Ohwi)

 Found in Korea, China and Japan growing wild on hillsides

Isatis Indigotica (Chinese Woad)

This plant has not been found in the wild, only as a cultivated plant.

There are 2 major precursors in Woads – isatan A and isatan B. Indican is also present, but in a very small quantity, so is only a minor precursor for this plant. isatan B and indican are both converted by the same enzymes however isatan A requires a different enzyme. There are other precursors also present but in much smaller quantities and they have yet to be named!

The indigofera family.

This is the most important and largest of indigotin producing families – it is also found in most parts of the world. There are approximately 700 species occurring in sub tropical conditions – so they can be found in the Americas, Asia and Africa. There are no native species in Europe or Australia The ones most commonly known are:

Indigofera tinctoria

 this is sometimes called Indian Indigo Its origins are not known, but are assumed to come from India, although it can be found as far away as South America and Australia

Indigofera .suffruticosa

 Found in Central and South America it has been cultivated in many tropical countries due to its high indican content.

Indigofera arrecta

 Sometimes called Natal Indigo it is native to Africa particularly tropical Africa often at higher altitudes.It was introduced into Java and India.

Indigofera coerulea

 Is found in Sub tropical Africa from Mali to Somalia, also found in Algeria through Arabia to India. This plant was cultivated in the drier area to which it is well suited.

The Indigofera plants all contain the colourless precursor chemical indican in the leaves. The indican content varies from species to species, in the age of the plant, the age of the leaves and even the time of year. For example there is more indican in the young leaves of an older plant that in the young leaves of a young plant, there can also be more in the top leaves of a plant than the bottom! The dye yield from Indigofera arrecta is higher than from any other of the Indigofera species.

Persicaria Tinctoria - Dyers Knotweed

Also known as Polygonum tinctorium it is a native of Vietnam and Southern China. It was introduced in to Japan in the 4th Century AD and became the main source of indigotin.

Again the precursor chemical found in this plants is indican

Around the world there are many more plants which contain precursor chemicals principally indican and they are used by natives of their country. For a more thorough breakdown of all the plants please refer to Natural Dyes by Dominique Cardon her book is by far the best breakdown of what is known at the present time of all the indigotin bearing plants (in my humble opinion!) .

Copyright © Debbie Bamford 25th March 2011

Thursday 24 March 2011

Giveaway Results and Knitsisters

Home took a long time coming - I thought that I would get the giveaway result up on Sunday but packing down at the end of the market plus LD Lines cancelling our ferry - well actually they sailed off into the wide blue yonder leaving TranEuropa to pick up the pieces (from what we can gather), not very good customer service methinks! So my apologies for taking so long to get this up - the winner is Goddess Warrior who follows the group on Ravelry, my congratulations to her and as soon as I have the address the yarn will be on its way!

My other news is a fabulous new online shop started by my friend Heike in Ruthin - Knitsisters - I am very honoured to be one of the suppliers and hence a Knitsister! Heike is a beautiful knitter and an inspirational teacher of knitting and crochet. One of the things I miss about North Wales is going along to the knitting group started by Heike and Sian, not that I ever did much knitting.........!

Short and sweet, more news coming soon - I have lots of dyeing to do for the next couple of weeks ready for Wonderwool! Please go and take a look at Heike's shop - I'm sure you'll be inspired by something!

Thursday 3 March 2011

Spring Giveaway

I can't believe it's March already and I haven't given details of the Spring Giveaway! The weather is making me feel it is already spring - glorious sunshine, the forsythia is almost out and the daffodils also almost there!

This time I'm actually going to do the draw a day early - that is on the 20th rather than the 21st. This is because I will be at the Original Reenactors Market for the weekend and so I can get someone to draw the name for me on the Sunday. I'll post the results hopefully straight away.

To enter the draw you need to follow this blog or "like" The Mulberry Dyer on Facebook and I am now going to include Ravelry members who join A colourful History  group.

The Spring Giveaway is 100g of Pure Silk Boucle. This is a beautiful silk yarn, new to our collection and divine to knit or even crochet, has a beautiful drape for scarves and shawls, ideal for lacy items. The colourway is cochineal and indigo - very rich and lush as you can see! Retail price is £18 for 100g. Normal skein weight is 50g at £9.50.

There is no catch to our giveaway, it doesn't matter where in the World you are based if your name is drawn out of the hat I will ask you for your snail mail and the yarn will be posted out at no cost to you. I would ask merely that you tell your friends and yarny colleagues if you enjoy the yarn. It's a simple promotional excercise.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Having a Sale!

We are gradually working our way through all the boxes of "stuff" and sorting out - and I found a box of oddments! They are odd hanks - end of dyelots or even hanks I thought I might try and make something from - however they are sitting there doing nothing, so I thought I'd have a sale!

There are some really pretty colours and could be combined to make something stripey or different, Mainly there are just single 50g hanks but some colours have more than one. 

I have started listing them in the etsy shop under Sale Items - why not go and take a look at what's there?

There's more to add - so I'll keep them going up there over the next couple of days!

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Hope you haven't forgotten the walnuts!

Last Autumn I managed to collect some of the walnuts in their husks and put them to soak. Ethel Mairet recommends they soak for 12 months, however as I had a request for walnut dyed linen I thought I'd risk trying the "fresh" stuff out!

There were about 500g of the husks (many with their walnuts inside, it was easier at the time to just throw the whole thing in the pan to soak) the pan was filled with tap water a lid put on and then left under the bench to fester merrily. When I took the lid off they actually hadn't festered at all - no mould, no smell other than soggy walnut in fact I was quite impressed. I expect that they froze along with all the other dyebaths in December and January, but other than that they have been left to do their own thing.

I boiled them up and simmered them for about an hour, then left them to cool down overnight. Strained the liquor off and added 250g of mordanted linen plus 2 silk caps. Boiled and simmered again for about an hour and then left to cool. To me the yarn and caps look really dark an rich (picture left) , You can imagine how surprised I was to see how they dried! Not what I expected at all! Maybe Ethel has something in her idea of leaving them for 12 months! I have another pan soaking, which will definitely not be touched before October! (I should say that the very pale hank on the top of the pile was put into the exhaust liquor - so that was deliberate, it's the silk caps and hank underneath I thought would have stayed "chocolaty"!

What I also don't know of course is whether the water has had an effect on the walnut dyeing - it was tap water that was put in the pan, not rainwater.

Friday 18 February 2011

Spring in the Air?

I'm sorry to have abandoned the blog for so long - between a poorly computer and a holiday (yay!) I haven't managed to write about anything recently!
Today has been beautiful, the sun was so warm that we decided to have lunch outside, and then our afternoon cuppa....! I can't believe we have been here a year already!

We have done lots of things - like create a dyehouse and John's workshop (twice!), build stairs so there is a workroom above the dyehouse, build Mulberry Lodge. There's lots we still want to do obviously, but that is principally in the house to make it "ours". I have tried to keep tabs on what is growing in the garden over the year, it has been really interesting watching what was coming next, but this year I want to start making my own choices too!

At the moment the snowdrops are fabulous, the primroses have loved today's sunshine and the nettles and lady's bedstraw are definitely showing their faces. The biggest sign to me that spring is on its way though was the daisy just by the chair I was sitting on and the buds on the "unknown" tree out in the garden!

 So onwards! Spring cleaning time is approaching and I have decided to try and keep this blog to dyeing and VERY related topics I have a separate blog for life in France and the Walnut House. There are lots of things that I want to write about both, so it seems a good time to split them up. I hope you think it's a sensible idea too!

Tuesday 18 January 2011

Having a chemical breakfast

Considering it's January there is a bit of excitement in the air! This morning I am linking up over skype with two friends to have a "chemical breakfast" It is 100 years ago today that Marie Curie won her nobel prize for chemistry. Women all around the world - well in 37 countries to be more precise are getting to gether and linking up to have a chemical moment in time. Australia has already kicked off and Indonesia.

Meetings are happening with networking sessions and discussions. Many people are using twitter to let others know what is happening. Prestatyn High School were linked up and the OU as well as a group in Prague - look up #IYC2011 or #chemhandshake to get an idea!

This is part of the International Year of Chemistry which is officially opened on the 28th January in Paris. I'm hoping to be running some workshops during the year for schools in support of this - I'll keep you posted!

Radio 4's Women's Hour is also doing a feature

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Facing January!

I hate this time of year! I try very hard not to - each year I try to think of good things to do in January but I never succeed in shaking off the "depression" of the long dank dark January.

BUT I am really enjoying having fires again! There is more than just warmth to them, they are cheerful and require a bit of excercise to keep them going!

We have a lovely log burner in the main lounge and a small "Godin" log burner in the fermette living room. We put the heating (oil fired) on in the morning for about an hour and a half. It's so nice to have a warm bathroom for a shower etc, then we light the Godin. For the rest of the day when not outside in workshops we are in the fermette near the Godin which is so lovely. At night we light the log burner in the lounge and sit and relax with books and the TV, the warmth is fantastic.

This has got me thinking - is it healthier to have fires than central heating? I certainly feel better - not snuffly and " heavy headed".! Today John and I were out moving logs and wood around under the skeleton barn so that the wood dries out etc, (I was also clearing up more Walnut leaves, buit that's another matter!) We started discussing the fact that when you have central heating you no longer think about the effort required to get the wood ready to burn, or take in by the fire etc, the excersise has got to be beneficial and being out in the fresh air even if it is cold! The effort is definitely paid off in the pleasure that goes with having a fire giving it's warmth and comfort.

Maybe this January is not going to be so bad...........!