Monday 1 December 2014

An Update

This summer has I think been the busiest we have ever had - certainly travelled the most and we've spent quite a bit of time at our UK base. Internet access there is not good! Hence a distinct lack of keeping up with posts. Facebook is a little easier as I could take a photo and post to the page, so that's what I have tended to do. It is actually quite difficult to keep up with all the different social media places we can post and also to know which is the best to maintain.

It is also time for a change - the website is very old and clunky and I can't add in pictures anymore, so I'm thinking of trying to design a new one over the winter, I have no real experience of this so it will be a real learning curve. Logic says I should also try and combine the website and blog together, so I may have to start afresh as they say. Until then I will try and get back to writing here!

We are now having to go for a walk every day. John had a heart attack 3 weeks ago, he's come through fine, but obviously he has to excercise and think about what he eats so we are having to look at changing a few things. At the start of the year I had an idea of walking and photographing the seasonal changes and then using the pictures as inspiration. Hopefully a bit late I will be able to do this!

Afternoon Tea has become a big feature of our life - it isn't every day (it can't be as we have 2 starvey days a week) but we try to have tea and cakes at all the markets and also when we are doing demonstrations. At home they are also important - watch out for the stock that is always in the picture, YOU may be inspired!

Looking forward to getting back to putting thoughts and experiences down here.......

Saturday 21 June 2014

WW1 and Khaki

If you follow me on Facebook you'll have read that this year we have lots of demo work commemorating the Centenary of the start of WW1.

In the past I would have said "ugh chemical dyes, no way!" But having started researching the colour Khaki not only is the subject fascinating I've discovered they used lots of natural dyes too!

In the age of "let's patent that" we appear to have a patent for every variation of recipe that they could come up with to produce the colour.

Actually I should perhaps clarify Khaki a little! The word I understand comes from Urdu and means earth or mud. The colour itself can be anything from a tan to brown to olive to grey. It is attributed to Sir Harry Lumsden in Peshawar India where In 1846 he was trying to raise a troup of Guides. He was apparently told to make sure they were "loosely, comfortably and suitably clad" Not a thin red line then! He went to the market and bought white cotton cloth then took it down to the riverbank, wet it out and then rubbed mud into it. He dried and ironed the cloth and made shirts and pants for his troups - hey presto they blended into the hills around!

This colour was adopted officially by the British Army not long afterwards.

So far I have tried a couple of recipes - 1 for cotton and 1 for wool. The cotton definitely looks "khaki" but the wool is not what I would have thought of as that colour. The recipes are different but both are based on cutch and fustic with the use of chrome (eeesh devil's mordant!!!) The wool is also fascinating in that I dyed both Blue Faced Leicester and Merino together in the dyebath - what a difference in the way they have taken the dye!

We will be selling cotton bags, yarn and bookmarks during the year and making a donation to Help for Heroes from the sale of each.

Friday 20 June 2014

Don't throw it away!

2 days ago I decided I needed to use a boiler, lifted the lid and immediately held my nose! There was liquid in there that ponged, had a scum of mould on the top and the liquid (when I got through to it) looked colourless.
"That's going" thought I so started scouping out the liquid into a bowl to throw into my waste liquids tank. When I got close to the bottom there was a thick layer of gloup - sludgy, squidgy gloup!
I scouped this out but then thought "wonder what happens if I dye with this?" Found a pan and poured it in.
Rooted though mordanted stuff and found 100g shetland tops and worked it through the gloup. I heated the pan to almost boiling - must have been about 90 degsC. Simmered for about 1/2 an hour and then left it to cool down. When I took the tops out I was stunned at the depth of colour there!
The I added 100g yarn and reheated - well basically did the same again, still more colour but slightly paler.
Haven't added anything else yet, but I don't think it's exhausted!

I should add that this was originally a madder dyebath in use about 6 months ago - I'd used a different boiler to my normal one and then forgotten it!
Just shows you shouldn't throw anything away certainly not without checking it out!

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Textile Tidings

It's taken a while but I've finally got back into my account! I will endeavour not to forget my password again.

So - what is the title about then? Well over the years when I've gone to Guilds and Museums doing my demonstrations and talks about "The Life and Times of the Mediaeval Dyer" or Roman or Tudor or Geargian and now World War 1, I have frequently been asked whether I have written a book with all the information in that I've been talking about.

The answer has been always "No!" However it has occurred to me that a compilation of period textile "facts" would help me no end - getting older and the brain being slow, if everything was written down in one place then it would be easier to refer to, so I've decided the time has come to start this compilation.

The title will be Textile Tidings hopefully a mix of interesting little facts about anything to do with dyeing, spinning, weaving, fibres, sheep, silk, etc, etc.In the paper version all references, primary sources etc will be annotated with the "fact" so it can be verified.

However I also thought it would be fun to put facts out into the big wide world as a bit of a game. So on twitter and facebook if you see #TextileTidings please join in and say what you think something might be or when it was or what it was.  I won't be able to do one every day - we don't always have the use of computers and phones when working (Mediaeval Dyers didn't have them!!) But they'll be out there as often as possible!

Watch out for #TextileTidings!

Monday 6 January 2014

Slow cloth

Does anyone understand this "slow cloth" concept?
I've just been reading things on the "slow cloth" fb page  and am somwhat baffled.

appropriate time, Well I am a great advocate of appropriate time - why oh why do people want to rush doing something that needs to be done properly?

skill and mastery, I have spent years studying and doing my best to learn from the old master dyers who wrote their work down.

Ethic of quality I definitely go along with, I try oh so hard to make sure that my work is the highest standard I can make it, don't understand how others can sell something that they know is inferior. I do testing on my dyeing, wash and light, I experiment, I do sample dyeing and I reject what is not good or I will put in the sale box with an explanation of why it is there!

Diversity and multiculturalism, well I work primarily from a UK perspective, I look at what was imported dye wise, when and where from. Then I look at how it can apply to the present. I work with suppliers from wherever is appropriate to a product if I can.

Fostering community not quite sure I get this bit, am I supposed to get everyone in the locality to grow the dyes for me and work with me?

A commitment to teaching. Yep definitely! Have plans in store for even more teaching than I currently do!

Joy The whole process fills my soul - I love the smells, the textures, the colours, the methods......even the tastes!

Contemplation there is no rushing with natural dyes, you have to allow them to work in their own time to get the most from them, this allows time for contemplation of what is happening, how, whether the colour is what is wanted how to change it........oh so much contemplation!

beauty  what isn't beautiful about working with nature? (even if they are chemicals!)

expression my colours will not be the same as another dyers for many reasons, but they are an expression of MY work!

Sustainable use of resources I do my best to follow this - I went into getting organic certification for my dyeing and came to the conclusion that my standards are higher than GOTS so I stick to my own, I waste as little as possible and rarely any dyestuff!

Appropriate materials Doesn't this come back to having studied and researched and learnt to do the job properly, thereby knowing that the dye is appropriate, the fibre is appropriate and the mordant is appropriate and that they all work together properly?

Pleasure  Oh yes I LOVE MY JOB!!!!!!!

So am I a slow cloth person then?

I can't say it's something that I want to be, the terminology feels much more negative than positive, it implies that I sit around doing nothing waiting for the colour to happen and that it is shoddy - not well dyed,bright and cheery. I knw that that is not what is meant but it's what it says to me!

I have been working to most of the above since the early 1990's when I started, but suddenly someone comes up with a term and everyone is supposed to buy into it, is that the idea?

 I want to be someone who has done their best to master the historical dyer's skills and pass it on to future generations so that we never again lose these skills, not just someone else who comes under some arty farty terminology! I never went to art college to learn how to waffle and get huge grants for nothing, I just get on with the job!

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I've just been out for a wild windy walk , just our village area not far, but I was inspired by the scenery around me and thought I'd share my thoughts here!

Our house in France is in a very rural setting, the village is straight ahead of us but in all other directions is farmland, much of it is agricultural, huge great fields that over the year carry a range of crops.

I thought it might be interesting to follow the fields and locality through the year see the different crops and changing colours and allow this inspiration to influence the colours and shapes of my work. 
I would like to re- visit embroidery which I haven't had time to do for many years so the designs for this will come from these images too!
To the best of my ability I will show a monthly update of how these images change, lets see what transpires through the seasons of 2014!