Monday, 29 June 2009

Madder Project

We love Madder. It has an ancient history, and the colour red itself has many associations in so many cultures. It takes time and patience to produce good reds however, and is one of the more expensive dyes.
As part of the 'Real Colour Show' exhibition that we are taking part in, in October, we are working on a Madder project. We hope to try various old recipes, cold dyeing, controlled heat, experiment with mordanting and seeing what effects, if any, our three water sources have on the colour. We are not scientists however so this is a craft experiment, with controls as good as we can make them!
Our three water sources are the tap water here in our Talgarth studio, spring water from our land 3 miles down the road, and water from our watermill in Ceredigion. The latter will be water that leaches from the mill pond and filters a short way through the ground. We know that we can get great reds from our Talgarth tap water; the soil at the mill verges on acid so that may be interesting, and I don't know what to expect from the spring water.
Heat affects madder a great deal. Above about 60 C the reds start to turn brown, so we shall try 60, 80, and 100 C, and maybe slightly above 100C. The cold dyeing will also involve time - leaving 7 skeins to soak and removing them 0ne by one at intervals.
There's a huge amount one could do, but this has to be fitted in with all the other things there are to do round here - including keeping customers happy! - so we shall confine ourselves to using our Madder extract for the most part. If there's time, we'll try using some Madder roots, too. Experimenting like this also takes up rather a large amount of material.......

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Monday, 22 June 2009

Natural Dye Exytracts

We have added our natural dye extracts to our Coriandr shop - see left for the link. These are very high quality dyes produced in France and are certified under Global Organic Textile standards; these are the same dyes that we use for our own Soil Association certified dyeing.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Knitting in Colour

I've always loved knitting Fairisle type patterns. There's much debate over the name - probably better to describe it as stranded 2 colour knitting. The label 'Fairisle' should really only be used by Fairisle knitters, but it has come to be used as a generic term for this technique. There are many cultures around the world with traditional patterns knitted by stranding 2 colours in a row, and what we recognise as traditional Fairisle is just one.

Following my principle of using mostly undyed yarns, I've been working on some colour schemes for pullovers. In choosing the colours from our natural dyes, I aim to use those ones together that will still be defined after the colour has mellowed. This presents a challenge, as often the ideal combinations may not work in this way, and so compromises have to be made. But by using the undyed shades as a base for dying, the range is not as restricted as you may think. It just takes time to get it right when one has to go back to the dye pots!

The photo at top should, of course, be horizontal - just got to figure out why it insists on being vertical......the colours here are natural grey and brown with cochineal purple, cochineal and brazilwood pink, with a bit of oak and coreopsis for greeny colours.

The one below, faded hydrangeas, has white with oak, light cochineal on brown wool, and coreopsis for the gold.

St Fagan's Open Air Museum

We decided we deserved a day out - well, an inspirational day out at least, so we could still justify it...
St Fagan's, just outside Cardiff fitted the bill perfectly: buildings of historical interest re-erected amongst trees and fields, the Castle and gardens, and indoor galleries containing all manner of items relating to past ways of life, including a costume gallery. And being part of the Museum of Wales, it's all free!

The guide book reckons that most visitors take between 2-4 hours to go around - we got there at noon and by 5pm had only seen half; we didn't make it to the Castle and gardens, or all the houses, but we did 'do' the costume gallery. Standing inside the old farmhouses, cool and dark on such a bright sunny day, was strangely calming. The simple furniture and lack of adornment makes you realise how busy our modern lives are with trivia. 400 hundred years ago, life was undoubtedly harder than now, but I can't help feeling that we have lost something along the way.
Anyway - do visit if you get the chance, and do take longer than a couple of hours to really absorb the atmosphere of the buildings.

The photos here are of some details and textures, especially the undersides of roofs. Old buildings didn't have the underfelting and insulation that we have today of course, and it's really interesting to be able to see the construction.

layers of stone in a wall

Wattle on a barn

Underside of thatched roof

contrasts against the blue sky