Dyeing at Denny Abbey again

For several years I have been tutoring  two workshops each summer at The Farmland Museum at Denny Abbey in Cambridgeshire and, even though the journey from Sussex means getting up about 5.30am, I was keen to continue the workshops this year after our move. I always enjoy working at Denny Abbey, not only because the setting is so beautiful but also because the atmosphere there is so peaceful.  I also love to visit the dye garden at Denny, for which I supplied some plants from my own dye garden several years ago. This year was especially poignant for me, as I no longer have my own dye garden, so it was good to see the plants I had supplied thriving and flourishing.

The workshop followed my usual Denny format, starting with an introductory talk . Then in the morning we dyed wool and cotton samples, using two substantive dyes (rhubarb root and buckthorn bark) and two adjective dyes (madder and weld). We then used four colour modifiers on some of the samples, which meant we ended up with five different shades on each fibre from each dye.

In the afternoon I made an indigo vat and we dyed some wool and cotton samples and the students were then able to dye some of the materials they had brought with them. The day finished with a session round the table, assembling the 22 wool and 22 cotton samples on sample cards and dealing with any further questions or observations.

For me the high point of the day is always when the colours begin to emerge and I can see the students’ delight and hear their excitement at the range of beautiful colours we are achieving. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I teach similar workshops, the magic of these moments never fails to fill me with pleasure.

Dyed samples drying outside

Some of the dyed samples drying outside on pieces of old farm machinery

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