Musings on my inactivity

It seems such a long time since I last posted and I have still not managed to get down to much dyeing. The reasons for this are various: I have been spending a great deal of time with my granddaughters and this leaves me with little energy for much else. The time and energy I have remaining have been devoted largely to developing our new garden. I am also finding it more difficult to get used to not having an area in the house dedicated to my dyeing activities and it seems such an effort to set things up unless I have a real incentive. Sadly, this incentive seems elusive at present.

However, last week I spent a day here with Sussex basketmaker Jackie Sweet, experimenting with using natural dyes on basketry materials and I hope to write about this as soon as I have some photos to show the results, which were encouraging.

A little while ago I also completed my latest set of experiments following what I loosely call "Anglo-Saxon methods" and now I need to take some photos so I can write more about this. Basically, these experiments tested the classic dyes, madder, weld and dyer's broom, plus some tannin-rich dyes, using only mordants and other materials generally regarded as being widely available at the time. The results were interesting and suggest methods possibly of interest to today's dyers.

Otherwise we have done a little more exploring locally but, as my increasing problems with arthritis mean I can't walk any distance, this has been frustrating for my husband, who loves walking. I think these physical problems also have an impact on my lack of incentive to do much dyeing, as the effort involved can be too much at times.

This photo shows the tower of Sompting church, near Worthing, which is the only example in England of a type of tower known as "Rhenish helm". The church is set in a lovely spot not far from the Downs and even with the scaffolding is well worth a visit.

Autumn Musings















I love the Autumn. I love the final harvests of fruits and vegetables grown throughout the Summer and the feeling that the hard work earlier in the year has usually been worth all the effort. Of course there will have been failures, such as the courgettes this year, which got burnt by the sun when I left them in the closed cold frame during a brief hot spell. Or the potato crop, which was pathetic in comparison with last year’s harvest. But even the failures have their uses and teach me some important lessons. And I love the glowing Autumn colours in the flower garden and the occasional perfect rose or interesting seed pod.



A selection of the more interesting tomatoes we grew this year






The last spray of the rose, “Deep Secret”






 A seed pod from my tree paeony






My dyer’s broom, rhubarb leaves and dahlia flowers and leaves have been cut, dried and stored for later use and the walnut hulls given to me by kind friends are soaking in tubs of water. However, I still have to harvest and use my woad leaves, so there are pleasures yet to come.

But eventually the frosts will come and strike down the remaining Summer flowers and it will be time to plant the bulbs. Eventually the garden will be ready for its late Autumn tidy-up. Trees need to be pruned and some plants will be divided or moved to new positions. And then finally most of the work will be done and it will be time to light the wood-burning stove and settle down in its warmth to plan for the next year.

What do I actually do?











Roses Fantin Latour (left) and Veilchenblau (right) in my garden


 One of the joys at this time of the year is to welcome the return of favourite perennial garden flowers, such as roses and delphiniums. Each bloom is a natural work of art and fills me with wonder. As I sit in the garden and look at the beauty around me, I think about all the other sources of inspiration I have found, particularly in the websites & blogs I have come across about natural dyes, dyeing and textiles in general. I am full of admiration at the range of skills and real creative talent of craftspeople all over the world. The more I become aware of what others achieve, the more I have to ask myself what it is that I actually do. So many people produce beautiful items for sale or exhibitions, while I seem mainly to add to my ever-increasing stock of dyed samples.

The other aspect of my activities has been teaching others about the magic of colours from the natural world, either through my books and articles or through workshops. In the past I spent many weekends each year leading workshops or giving lectures on natural dyeing. I ran some workshops from my home and travelled widely to tutor courses elsewhere in the UK, including several summer schools. I have also led courses in Spain and worked on a natural dye project in Zambia. Nowadays, my activities are limited by the arthritis that has restricted my physical capabilities, but my passion for sharing my experiences with others has not waned, so this blog has proved a useful outlet for me.

So, what do I actually do? Well, I am still full of curiosity and keen to learn more about natural dyes, so I continue to experiment and write. To reduce my stash of dyed yarns, I knit for myself and for my family and friends. Occasionally I dye yarns for other craftspeople or for museums or research purposes. I also love to work with wool, starting with the raw fleece and spinning it on my spinning wheel. I’m not a particularly good spinner, and I’m not the sort of spinner who wants to spin very fine yarns that look just like commercially-spun ones, but I produce yarns that please me and suit my purposes. So I suppose I am creative in my own way, but I could never match the talents of the creative artists whose blogs and websites are such an inspiration and source of pleasure to me. And I do spend many hours in my garden, pottering or just looking at the natural beauty around me.

Musings again

This is turning out to be a much better experience than I had expected, mainly because so many lovely people have responded so positively to my presence on the web. I still find it hard to believe that my books are known in so many countries around the world.

Also, I’ve been directed to some other natural dyeing blogs or websites & I’m discovering a new world of exciting colours & images. When I added my “favourite” websites to my blog, I was thinking of sites that might be useful to other dyers, more as sources of dyes & materials than as links to other blogs. It was Helen Melvin who kindly pointed me in the direction of Leena Riihela in Finland, whose website & blog have really inspired me – not least to order some Finnsheep fleece & some wonderful mittens (among other things) as my Christmas present from my husband. I’m beginning to realise just why so many people become addicted to the web! All the websites & blogs I’ve visited seem to have so much to offer, that I fear I shall be sorely tempted to spend time reading & looking, rather than adding to my own blog.

So thanks again for all the responses I’ve had & all the directions to the delights to be found on the web. You can share some of these delights by clicking on the links given on the “Comments” pages – but I expect you know that already.

More Musings

I’m amazed at the number of comments I’ve received on this blog. Fantastic! I had imagined I’d write posts for months before I had any response & that it would probably come from a friend who felt obliged to give me some encouragement. How little I know about the world of the internet! Also, it is wonderful to realise that people both near & far have read my books & found them useful. As an author one hopes this may be the case but to get some feedback is really great. I do so appreciate it. And so many links to other websites! I fear I may never find time to write my posts, if I allow myself the luxury of looking at them all. How do people do so much? However, I’m now faced with a quandary regarding “blogging etiquette”. Will I be considered rude if I don’t reply individually to each comment I receive? This is what I’ve tried to do so far. But will I find myself in the situation of thanking people for thanking me for thanking them? I can see that this might become irritating for all concerned. Perhaps the correct thing is to issue a “General Thanks” post from time to time & to only reply to comments that ask for a response or raise a particular issue? And of course, in order to write posts I’ll need to find time to do some more experiments so I have new things to write about. This will clearly require some careful thought!

Musings 1

If anyone had told me two weeks ago that I would be writing a blog, I’d have thought they were crazy! I’m still not sure that it’s a good idea but my husband has encouraged me so I’m giving it a go. I just can’t help wondering who on earth would want to read what I have to say. I have to confess that I’ve only ever glanced briefly at about 3 blogs so I suppose I don’t know enough about them to be able to judge. However, I can see this might be a useful way of recording my activities & thoughts, for myself if for no-one else. And of course I shall be learning more computing skills at the same time – at least I hope so. I’ve now mastered the art of adding photos, so I feel pretty pleased with myself!