Why rain water is used for our natural dyes

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Dye House News

The wonderful news is that it is raining! For the first time since Christmas. Tap, spring and even river water (I've tried them all) in our part of the Pyrénées are very very hard. While some natural dyes positively glow in this, dyes such as brazil-wood, logwood and cochineal do not and these we usually dye in rain water. We are running very low in shades produced with these natural dyes, so we are very relieved to see the rain.

Crewel Wool

As always at this time of year demand is increasing and I have had my fingers crossed ...

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Madder Plants in our natural dye garden

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Natural Dye Plants

This madder is only a few months old, in 2-3 years it will have covered all the ground and the roots will be ready to harvest that Autumn.

Madder seems to grow well in this area of France, where the summers are hot but not too dry. There has been a recent attempt to grow it in Provence which was abandoned, I think because of lack of water.

Madder Plants

However in Holland where madder was grown traditionally, a new company was launched last month called Rubia. If you are looking for madder extract it is worth looking at their site.

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Red Sorghum as a dye

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Natural Dye Plants

Sorghum was one of the dye plants I grew last year. It grew very well on our dry southern slope. One night the wild boar came to invest it and pulled some down.

They neither ate it or returned, no doubt knowing at the first sniff that it is poisonous. Unfortunately, this year I didn't have time to work with this fascinating plant, but I have kept some seed and plan to sew it this year as a combined dye crop, shade and wind break. It is very drought resistant, its leaves contract around the stem conserving moisture as ...

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Two beautiful samplers by Irene Dunn

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Your Gallery

Two more wonderful samplers from the creative needle of Irene Dunn, here described in her own words.

"The sampler which I made for Marguerite and Malcolm I think is rather similar to the one I made for you, which can be viewed in the gallery on the main Renaissance web-site. Many of the patterns are similar but the wording comes from COLBY Averil-Samplers (published in the 1960's)"

Irene Dunn sampler

"The unframed sampler I am very pleased with. It is a 'band sampler', very popular in the 16-17th centuries. Called a band sampler as the patterns are worked across.

The needlewoman would ...

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Collecting walnuts husks for natural dyeing

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Natural Dye Plants

In our coffee breaks, Fleur, our border colley and I go walnut-hunting in the garden and surrounding meadows. This is the time of year that the slowly ripening nuts fall one by one from the already yellowing trees. Leaving the green husked youngsters on the trees we collect the black wizened ones from the dappled shade beneath. The walnuts in the photo are fully ripe and ready to harvest for dyeing purposes.

Once collected I leave them to dry and then wearing rubber gloves unless I want to sport very tanned hands for a week or two, I separate the ...

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A look at Sunflowers and their Natural Dye properties

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Natural Dye Plants

Sunflowers have been used for centuries, if not millennium by the Hopi Indians to dye a range of reds, purples and blues. This summer has been especially good for growing sunflowers anywhere in Europe.

These de-flowered seed heads below are a variety called Van Gogh. As you can see the wonderful whirl of seeds are purple when young, turning to purply black as they mature. Although all the seeds I sowed looked the same, some plants have grown with several flower heads to each plant these having the purple natural dye producing seeds shown below.

Van Gogh sunflowers

However some are giant one ...

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Woad/Pastel, grown for dyeing in the Ariège, France

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Natural Dye Plants

This is a single woad plant (pastel in french) flowering in my garden here in the Ariège. Strange is it not that a plant that dyes so blue should have such yellow flowers? I have removed nearly all the other plants as I do not know how invasive it is, but this one I will let go to seed, to sow in August for plants for next year.

Near Pamiers on the road to Pujols there was a field of woad/pastel that has just been harvested as the seeds were ripening. A whole field of purple teardrops which are ...

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Racaire Medieval Embroidery

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Your Gallery

What a strange world we live in where people not only still have the medieval skills but can share it with the whole world at the same time. Anna and her friend Anya have set each other the challenge of completing a medieval embroidery in a year and a day. Anna chose to make hers in naturally dyed crewel wool in keeping with the embroidery she is working on.

You can watch this beautiful embroidery grow at Racaire's blog .

Racaire Embroidery

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Weaving with Renaissance Dyeing naturally dyed Crewel Wool

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Your Gallery

While at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show, We were visited by one of this year's course participants, Christine Holman. She brought with her a beautiful blanket that she had woven with the Renaissance fine 2/24 wool she had dyed on the course with varying depths of indigo.

Here it is on her loom, she tied up 1300 ends and not one broke during the weaving process.

Christine's Weaving

One feel of this wonderful piece of weaving spurred fellow weavers to buy wool for their own projects. Thank you Christine, for sharing this with us all, also for the help ...

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Lace Knitting with naturally hand-dyed yarn

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Lace Knitting

I thought that today, being Bastille day here in France, would be perfect to launch the lace knitting page. Yes, Renaissance naturally hand-dyed crewel wool has been discovered by the lace knitters!

Young American knitting designer Miriam Felton has been busy adapting her impressive Mountain Peaks design to be knitted with Renaissance wool. You can view and buy the pattern here. The shawl below is knitted using 3 x 250m hanks of Dark Green (1511). The pattern for the shawl is inspired by the magnificent Rocky Mountains where Miriam lives.

Miriam wearing shawl

This is what Miriam has to say about our naturally ...

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