Category Archives: Blog

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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Wood Fest 2016

Ipsden, Oxfordshire
We’re  back again at our lovely local festival: WOOD Festival!

The plant fibres workshop was very popular, preparing flax, nettle and other fibres ready for spinning, into thread and weaving into cloth. Many people made their own nettle string to take home.

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We were also spinning yarn(s), weaving all kinds of magic (including 2:1 twill on the warp weighted loom) and dyeing socks every colour of the rainbow. New dyes from the festival field were used, including nettles and burdock, and bracken collected from welsh hills. These dyes make beautifully soft greens, yellows, greys and browns.

Highlights of the festival were the harmony singing workshop led by Katy Rose Bennett, food from Taste Tibet and music from the Owiny Sigoma Band, and Sam Lee & Friends. We don’t get out of our workshop tents much during the day but really enjoyed everything we heard drifing over from the main WOOD stage!

See you again next year, WOOD Fest!

Pitt Fest (Video)

Pitt Fest is the Pitt Rivers museums annual festival. Each year has a theme and 2015 was: Handmade!

We were demonstrating natural dyeing, drop spindle spinning and the warp-weighted loom. it was really exciting to be able to relate our crafts to objects in the museum.

A video about the event has been published by the Pitt Rivers, we are featured from 02:07.

Pitt Fest: Handmade! 2015 from Pitt Rivers Museum on Vimeo.

Hopefully Pitt Fest will continue for many years to come!

http://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/

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Our stall and dyeing area on the lawn outside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Salisbury Archaeology Festival

Salisbury Museum held an Archaeology festival around their new Wessex Gallery. We were demonstrating wool crafts next to our good friends Ancient Music.

It was a very hot event, and many people were realising some of the drawbacks of what we imagine as traditional historical costume. It got us thinking about what people would have worn when the weather was so hot. It’s certainly possible that they only had a few light coverings of linen, to prevent sunburn while keeping as cool as possible.

We greatly enjoyed this event, there were very many interested people there, and many experts in their respective fields. We certainly enjoyed watching the other expert craftspeople plying their trades.

We were also featured on BBC Radio Wiltshire, while we were combing some wool. Listen below:

Museum handling objects

We have made a range of items for museum handling collections. These have been made to show ancient crafts and creative techniques. Being able to hold and use something can really bring archaeological artefacts to life for students. They can also represent the mass of organic objects which haven’t survived, to supplement museum objects. The objects are resiliant enough to be used and handled by groups, and being modern, are easily replaceable.

 

For Wallingford Museum we have supplied hand-made ceramic-weighted spindles. These will be a part of their handling collection for school visits and other groups. The spindles are very similar to some archaeological examples which the museum has on display.

 

 

 

For the Ashmolean Museum we have suppied a range of items for their new Bronze Age education sessions.

For their handling collection: Birch bark containers, lime bark cordage and nettle cordage.

For an activity or demonstration: the base plate and willow withys for wattle weaving.

For the Pitt Rivers Museum, we have supplied a range of natural dyestuffs and dyed cloth for a matching game, part of an education session on light and colour. This is part of the Need Make Use / VERVE project at the Pitt Rivers.

Dyes and Pigments matching game for the Pitt Rivers Museum.

Wood Festival

This year we ran drop-in workshops on weaving, spinning and grinding wheat in the morning, and in the afternoon, we ran natural dyeing demonstrations. The workshops were as popular as ever. Some people stayed for hours peacefully weaving, we really enjoyed seeing them progress. The dyeing intrigued passers-by all day, we got lots of questions! It was gloriously sunny, Wood Festival always means that summer is on its way.

The dyeing was very successful, especially the cochineal, and we even tried ochre as an experimental dye. This year was a little windy and one of our newly dyed green and yellow scarves blew into a tree. It was so well disguised that we nearly left it behind!

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Buster Ancient Farm – Beltain Festival

We had great fun at Butser. Firstly, it was wonderful to be able to demonstrate spinning, weaving and natural dyeing in a newly built Neolithic Longhouse. We were kindly invited to the event by Ancient Music as part of our new partnership. Alongside them, we were also part of the Mumming group, performing the travelling play during the evening. Mumming has a long tradition and is related to Morris Dancing. Each character is always the same and the plot is similar every time it is played. Thanks for you lovely feedback. Many of the visitors also seemed to enjoy meeting Knobbin ‘Oss, who loved eating the garlands from ladies heads!

Not suprisingly, the event was very popular, thousands of people were there to watch the Wicker Man burn down to the sounds of Pentacle Drummers.

http://www.butserancientfarm.co.uk/beltain-festival-2015/

The two knights, St. George and Turkey Snipe, with Beelzebub and Little Johnny Jack behind. Photo courtesy of Emma Sumpster.