Category Archives: Blog

Madder Experiments

In the spirit of chasing lines of enquiring long considered, a few experiments with Madder are taking place at The Outside. Firstly to get an idea of the range of colours which can be produced from a change in pH. Many different shades of red, orange and pink can be produced, all different but all recognisably Madder.

We also hope to soon test other parts of the Madder plant, such as the berries, for their dyeing properties.

 

Squash and Pumpkin festival

Festivals run by Tolhurst Organic are always very convenient for us, as we can open our shop without even leaving the garden! It’s lovely to invite people in to our workshop space.

In addition to our naturally dyed products, we had Winniepegs tie-dye and a small jumble pile, which were also both very popular. Beautiful autumnal weather meant that the event was very popular, with over 2000 people on the day.

Boomtown Fair – Boom and bust!

Being offered a pitch at Boomtown Fair, a major music festival was a new adventure and we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. We were sharing a pitch and a fire with Hempen, our neighbours at home and now our neighbours in Whistlers Green.

Firstly, we discovered a awful lot of mud! The rain had made the tracks a quagmire and many vehicles were being towed out by tractor. There wasn’t much we could do to set up before the first day of the festival as the water levels were too high, and paddling around in standing water would have disturbed the ground and made it more difficult later.

After a dry 24 hours and lorryloads of chippings, the site had improved just in time for the start of the festival.

Whistlers green, the area we were in, was chilled out with various crafts and relaxation activities available. We were right next to the windmill stage and got to see several artists (including morning aerobics) each day which was great.

Despite the rainy start, it was an exciting and interesting event which we are glad to have experienced.

Jorvik Visit

Jorvik Viking Centre kindly invited us to have a tour of their new visitor centre and museum.

It was lovely to see our wool out on display in the newly reconstructed Jorvick town, as examples of dyeing and on a two bar loom to demonstrate weaving. We are also looking into doing some skill-sharing work with their staff and volunteers, and returning to visit the Coppergate textile finds in the York Archaeological Trust stores.

Some fascinating objects on display in the new museum gallery, including a lovely naalbinded sock and some recordings from our friends at Ancient Music.

Card Payment

Starting May 2017, we will be able to accept credit and debit card payments (chip+pin, contactless and magnetic strip) when you meet us in person at fairs and markets. Do make use of this where possible, the limiting factor will be the availability of WiFi or 3g / 4g signal. Please bear with us if this is not available in some more rural events.

Lycopodium (clubmoss) mordanting for Jorvik.

We are very pleased to have been asked to contribute some naturally dyed wool to Jorvik Viking Centre, York. This is part of their redevelopment after the devastating floods in 2015.

Basing some of these on funds from the Coppergate excavations, we have experimented with mordanting with Lycopodium clubmosses. Below is a photo of a range of colours dyed over lycopodium mordanted wool.

The single bright yellow is Alum mordanted as comparison.

Salisbury Cathedral Craft Fair

The Cathedral craft fair was a brilliant event for us. We were very busy all weekend and had a lot of very interested people passing through our workshops and demonstrations. The event organisers were understanding of our requirements for water etc., and very accommodating of our unusual set-up.

It was a privilege to be set up in the cathedral green itself, with a beautiful “Constable view” of the west end of the cathedral itself. We feel that this atmospheric environment added to the success of the fair.

As an additional interest for us, we parked our large red van in the stonemasons yard behind the cathedral, where many pieces of sculpture were being stored. Many of these were suprisingly large – as they needed to go on the top of the cathedral tower!

We would very much like to return to this event in the future, hopefully it will become a regular fixture for us.

Woad Experiments

The use of woad to tattoo / paint / stain skin has long been disputed. Caeser (The Conquest Of Gaul) recorded: “Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem.” – “All the Britons dye their bodies with woad [or glass] , which produces a blue colour…” Pliny backed him up by saying that the colour resembled “…that of Ethiopians.” But is this really woad?

Woad makes a poor paint as it has to be mixed with something else and tends to flake off flexible skin. It makes a worse tattooing ink!

So here it is, a woad dyed foot. Designs made with beeswax resist, in a similar way to batik. Who knows if anyone was doing this in 50 BC, but it’s certainly something to add to the possibilities!

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We shall see how it fades or wears off over the next few hours and days, watch this space! (and these toes…)

UPDATE:    The morning after…

No wear overnight and looking bluer in daylight:

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UPDATE: Blue feet on the BBC

We’re 2500 years ago, on the banks of the Thames near Reading…
Cut to 16.50 for woad dyeing.

“Making History” BBC Radio 4, 23/08/2016

Chalke Valley History Festival 2016

Chalke Valley, Wiltshire

Large multi-period festival with many expert speakers and living history encampments from the Bronze age to WWII. Held in a beautiful bowl valley of rural chalk downland with some fantastic wildlife.

Lovely to see so many dedicated reenactors from so many different periods in history. One of the charms of Chalke Valley is the unusual combinations of people from different times interacting – Romans, Vikings, Tudor and WWI soldiers conversing while a Spitfre flys overhead. The kindness and co-operation between the participants was particulaly overwhelming this year. We had several offers of assistance to move our tent, stock, etc. and many sympathetic conversations about the ankle-deep mud in our area of the site!

Unfortunately we were unable to stay for the second day, as the mud and flooding in our area of the site had become unmanageable. Luckily our wools and tents survived!

Chalke Valley History Festival

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