A woad-bearing visitor

Just over a week ago we had our first non-family guest to stay for a few days and we very much enjoyed this visit from Chris Dobson, a dear friend of nearly 30 years. Chris is a true kindred spirit and we have shared many happy hours engaged in various textile-related activities, especially natural dyeing, so I wasn’t surprised that she arrived bearing a large bag of woad leaves from her allotment.

We soon got down to making a woad vat and the leaves performed their magic, even though they had been in a plastic bag for nearly three days before we used them. Chris, who is also a horticultural expert and source of information on all botanical matters, told me that, as long as the leaves are stored slightly damp in a little water in a plastic bag in a cool place, there is no reason why they can’t be picked a few days in advance and still give excellent blues. (I think the reason why we failed to get blues at Stanmer Park (see earlier post) from the stored woad leaves was probably because they had been stored in a fridge and the temperature had been too low.)

The following photos show some of the stages of our woad vat.

The leaves soaking in just-boiled water. Note the metallic sheen appearing on the surface

The chopped leaves soaking in just-boiled water. Note the metallic sheen appearing on the surface

 

 

The blue froth formed after adding washing soda & whisking the woad solution

The blue froth formed after adding washing soda to the strained-off solution and whisking to incorporate oxygen

Scraping out the last of the froth that contains the blue pigment

Scraping out the last of the froth that contains the blue pigment

Adding sodium hydrosulphite to the solution

Adding sodium hydrosulphite to the solution

The vat nearly ready to use

The vat nearly ready to use

Gently adding the skeins to the vat

Gently adding the skeins to the vat

The skeins in the vat. (Notice the blue froth still lingering on the surface)

The skeins in the vat. Notice the blue froth still lingering on the surface, even though we have tried to gently stir it all into the solution

Removing the dyed skeins

Removing the dyed skeins. Next to the vat is a bucket of water, into which the skeins will be immersed after they are removed from the vat. This will get rid of any loose particles of indigo pigment, which might cause blotches.

Some of the dyed skeins drying

Some of the dyed skeins drying

8 Responses to “A woad-bearing visitor”

  1. Ladka says:

    Lovely blue! And what are the two shiny skeins on the right?

  2. mjm says:

    what beautiful color. I must try to grow woad next year.
    the only ‘blue’ish color I have managed to grow has been black hollyhock

  3. Helen Melvin says:

    Thank you Jenny that information about storage of woad leaves is very useful. |Great blue too. best Wishes Helen

  4. Jane says:

    And what a nice sort of visitor to have!

  5. Incredibly interesting and informative – thank you so much for sharing…

    Best wishes
    Shani

  6. Marian says:

    I can not wait to try this next year with my own woad leaves. THose yarns look beautiful with that deep blue!

  7. WOW – you’ve inspired me to go and pick my woad! I have a friend coming round tomorrow to do some dyeing – hope we get such good colours with ours.