Problems viewing my blog?

Two people have told me that they have recently been experiencing problems viewing my blog, so I wonder whether this has affected anyone else?

In an attempt to improve the situation, the settings on my blog have been changed, so only six posts, instead of ten, can now be seen on the first page. This should speed up loading the site.

Perhaps anyone who still has problems could let me know and give me more details, so I can try to sort things out.

Workshop at Denny Abbey

I lead very few workshops away from my home, as my physical capabilities are becoming increasingly limited by arthritis, but for the last few years I have taught two one-day workshops each year at The Farmland Museum at Denny Abbey, near Cambridge. (  This is a lovely setting for courses and the familiarity of the set-up, plus the support I am given, means I have been able to continue these courses again this year. The number of students is limited to eight, so there is ample opportunity for people to ask questions and for me to concentrate on the individual needs of each student as necessary. The courses tend to be intensive, as we cover not only the basics of mordanting & dyeing animal and vegetable fibres but also colour modifiers and indigo dyeing. However, there is usually enough time for students to explore the grounds and look at the dye garden in between setting up the dye baths.


This shows some of the colours from one of this year’s workshops. The dyes shown here are: Left top row – indigo and weld. Left second row – rhubarb root. Right top row – buckthorn bark. Right second row – madder root. On each row there are also samples of each dye over-dyed in indigo. The samples on the bottom rows are from weld and madder.

A Red from Goose Grass?

Yesterday I received an email from a lady who had been clearing goose grass or cleavers (Galium aparine) from her garden and had collected three barrow-loads of these plants. She had heard that they give a red dye and wondered if this was true and, if so, how to go about dyeing with them.

I’m afraid my advice to her was to put the goose grass on her compost heap and concentrate on growing a true red dye, such as madder. Goose grass or cleavers is in the madder family and I, too, have read that it should be possible to extract a red dye from the roots. The roots in question are not the thin roots one tends to pull up when weeding but, rather, the thicker roots which are much deeper in the ground. However, I have never managed to extract a red dye from the roots of goose grass, nor have I ever met anyone who has done so and was able to show me the results. Of course, these successful dyers may exist but sadly I am not among them. I suspect that the red dye from goose grass is another of those “facts” found in the natural dyeing literature, which are based on theory rather than on proof by experiment. Another such “fact” is that a purple dye can supposedly be extracted from the roots of the dandelion. I have never achieved this dye colour, nor come across anyone who has. I’d love to hear from anyone who has been successful with either red from goose grass or purple from dandelion root.

“Wild Colour” Facebook Page

Mary Walker of  Weaving in Beauty ( has very kindly arranged a Facebook page for “Wild Colour”. Her idea is that, if enough people express an interest through the Facebook page in a reprinting of the book, this may help to persuade the publishers that there is sufficient interest to make a reprint viable. The link to the page is:

I am extremely grateful to Mary for not only coming up with this idea, but also for organising the page. I could never have done it for myself, as I’ve had no experience of Facebook whatsoever. I really had no idea when I started this blog that I would be learning about so many new skill areas! I have been quite overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people in supporting me in so many ways and I really do appreciate it.

Update on my books

Sadly, my efforts to persuade Mitchell Beazley, the publishers, to re-print “Wild Colour” have not been successful. So “Wild Colour” will not be re-printed in the foreseeable future, although the situation may be reviewed in a year or two. I shall certainly try again to persuade them, anyway.  It’s so frustrating to know how many people would love to see this book reprinted and yet to be unable to do anything about it myself, because I don’t own the copyright.


My latest book, “Colours from Nature”, has recently been re-printed by Search Press, who also publish my “The Craft of Natural Dyeing”. Search Press have added “Colours from Nature” to their list, so it should now be available in many parts of the world through suppliers of craft books. The contents remain exactly the same but the book has a new cover and a new ISBN number. (978-1-84448-468-3)

“Colours from Nature” is still available directly from me and the cost, including postage, is £11 within the UK and £13 overseas. (Click on “My Books” on the homepage for more details.)

Blog Awards

In the last few weeks I have been nominated for three blog awards and I really appreciate the generous words of those who have nominated me. I must confess that I don’t know anything about the protocol surrounding such matters and my technical abilities do not stretch to knowing how to “accept” awards. I believe that in some cases the recipient of an award is requested to nominate other blogs for similar awards and I must apologise for my unwillingness to do this, especially if this means I’m “breaking a chain”. I read several blogs, mostly those connected with natural dyes or textiles in general, and I always follow any links I’m given to other blogs; each blog has its own special characteristics and appeal and each has different things to offer. However, I don’t feel in a position to be able to nominate one blog rather than another for an award.  I do hope this doesn’t cause offence to anyone but please forgive me if it does.

Spring is Here!

It really seems that Spring has arrived. The woad seeds have germinated and I also have seedlings of basil, tomatoes, calendula and zinnias. Only the weld has so far failed to germinate but I will be patient a little longer. 

Here are some photos of my garden as it is this week. Just to see the lovely Spring colours and to smell the fragrance of the flowers as I walk through the garden lifts my spirits.
















A Jacket for Milly

img_1981xxThis is a jacket I knitted to match the dress I made for my granddaughter, Milly. ( The photo is somewhat out of focus, I’m afraid, for which I apologise.)

A Useful Purchase?

Last week a friend invited us to a preview of the items she has collected in her garage for a sale next month. She is planning to move house soon, so she has been clearing her house and attic of all the things she has decided she can live without in her next home. As she has been a museum curator and the wife of an antique dealer in past lives, the items for sale make a very interesting collection, especially for those of us who are addicted to weird and wonderful – and sometimes useless – artefacts from the past. So the question is: Do we have room for a full-length sabre in its sheath or two replica Cromwellian helmets or a 12-foot long wooden  paddle for putting loaves of bread into and taking them out of the baker’s oven? Well, perhaps not, but I may just find a home for a wooden hat block in the shape of an old-fashioned bonnet and I do have room for a large old iron cooking pot on legs, which has a layer of rusty iron pieces in the bottom. And my husband will certainly find space on his bookshelves for two volumes of British history, especially as the date inside them is 1794, making them very old books indeed. 



  So what possible use will I have for this large iron cooking pot?




 Well, first of all I shall remove all the rusty bits of iron from the bottom and put them in a large container and fill it up with a mixture of 2 parts water to 1 part clear vinegar. This will then be allowed to stand for a few weeks and then become my next supply of iron water.


 This image shows the pieces of rusty iron ready to be made into iron water.




As for the pot itself, I shall first check that it’s waterproof. If it is, when the weather is warmer it will be the basis for some outdoor dyeing experiments to see the effects of dyeing in an iron pot, using unmordanted wool.

And if it’s not waterproof? Well, that will be a shame but I’m sure the pot will look quite impressive with some plants growing out of it.

A New Dress for Milly








  At last I have finished knitting the dress for my 9-month-old granddaughter, Milly. It’s now in the post and I hope it will fit her and that she will enjoy wearing it. More importantly, I hope that my daughter will approve of it, as I doubt whether Milly really has much fashion sense yet. In fact, I think she’s happiest when wearing as little as possible!

As I prefer to devise my own knitting patterns, I designed the pattern for the dress myself. The buttoned opening is at the front and I hope my daughter will be able to put the dress on Milly easily and without too much resistance. I usually write the pattern instructions down as I proceed, making adjustments as I knit, and then when the garment is finished I type up the instructions for future reference. I really enjoy working out my own designs and watching them develop, even if I sometimes have failures and have to unravel whatever I’m making and start again.

My next task will be to knit a jacket to match the dress.