Category Archives: Blog

Purple loosestrife

Just before the skies darkened with rain I went out to gather purple loosestrife. It is a beautiful riverside plant that contains salicylic acid as reflected in its Latin name ‘Lythrum salicaria’ and in the name ‘loosestrife’. It also dyes warm orangey browns with alum and iron.

Purple loosestrife growing by the Thames. I didn’t harvest any of this plant because it was too beautiful and I felt it should be left for others to enjoy. I also never harvest more than a third of any plant to make sure there will be plenty growing for years to come.
Heading home. Some jobs are impossibly beautiful!
Purple loosestrife and other dye plants hanging up to dry in the real tennis court.


Coreopsis in full bloom
Ready for bundling and binding with string
Coreopsis drying with a sheet beneath to catch seeds

The whole Coreopsis plant dyes beautiful deep oranges on wools and silk.

Woad extraction experiments

Woad plants in the garden ready for harvesting. One kilo fits nicely in a bucket. This then has water at 80 degrees centigrade added. The leaves are steeped and the liquor cooled as quickly as possible. The liquor then has an alkali added and is aerated. After this the liqor is put into demi John’s to allow the indigo Pigment to settle. The liquid on top is siphoned off and the indigo rich sludge put into measuring cylinders. After settling again, the top liquid is siphoned off again and the sludge is decanted into trays to allow the last moisture to evaporate off leaving dry indigo Pigment with varying impurities depending on the alkalis and acids added.


Meadowsweet growing in the damp earth of an old route of the Thames by our garden
Meadowsweet heading homewards
Fleece in the meadowsweet dye vat
The golden fleece…


Proud mum Flora with Freddie and Felicity born on the 11th of April. They’re doing well amongst the blossom and sunshine.