Friday, 20 October 2017


Samhain (pronounced Sow-en) is the third Celtic harvest festival that marks summer’s end and celebrates the gathering in of fruits of the earth such as pumpkins, gourds, turnips, parsnips and swedes, the storing of nuts and dried herbs and, in past times, the slaughter of those animals that could not survive through the long, cruel winter. Situated between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice, it incorporates All Hallows Eve (October 31st), All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd). Before it became commercialised, Hallowe’en used to be thought of as a time when the veil separating the living and the dead became thin, so that the ancestors drew closer and the dead were remembered. Bonfires were lit to counter the waning power of the sun, as the days became shorter and colder. Many local customs involved playing tricks or making mischief whilst processing door-to-door and also divination or scrying, to see into the future. These have now been reimagined in the children’s pastime of ‘trick or treat’. All Saints’ Day, commemorating the Christian martyrs, dates from the fourth century and was fixed on November 1st by about AD 800. All Souls’ Day, which falls on November 2nd and is an occasion on which to remember our dead loved ones, is more recent, dating from AD 998 when Odilo, Abbot of Cluny, held a mass for all dead souls. It used to be believed that both the saints and the living could intercede for the dead, who were thought to be in Purgatory atoning for the sins they had committed during their lives on earth. Intercession would speed their progress towards Heaven.These beliefs lost ground after the Reformation, but were revived in the nineteenth century and are now standard feasts in the more sacramental churches. All Souls is a sombre festival at which the names of the departed are recited; All Saints is more spectacular and colourful ceremony at which the lives and example provided by saints and martyrs are recalled and celebrated. My Samhain weaving takes its colour palette from the fruits of the earth and its textures from the bark of trees.

Thursday, 21 September 2017


Mabon is a Celtic Fire Festival celebrated on September 20, 21, or 22, depending on when the Autumn Equinox falls and the length of day and of night are once more in perfect balance. So like its polar opposite, Ostara, Mabon marks a turning point, only instead of turning outward towards the coming Summer we begin to focus inward, as we prepare for the long, dark Winter to come. Mabon is the great festival of Autumn’s end. From now on the days will get shorter and the weather colder. Astrologically, it occurs under the sign of Libra - the Balance - my own birth sign and a fitting symbol of balanced light and darkness. In Rome, this equinox marked the festival of Dionysus, the God of Wine and Revelry. In Celtic times, Mabon conceded with the festival of Harvest Home, remembered in today’s church liturgy through our own Harvest Festival services. Mabon celebrates the end of the second harvest of nuts, apples, grapes and berries, and harvest berries and drupes feature in the weft of my Mabon weaving.The dyestuffs in my Mabon weaving include Weld, Weld over dyed with madder to give me orange, Coreopsis and Dyer’s Coreopsis, Tansy, lots of different colours obtained from the French Marigolds that are currently running riot on my allotment, Yarrow, Acer Buckthorn, Flowering Currant, Elderberries, cultivated and wild Blackberries and Sloes. The weft pattern of interlocking purple and gold represents the balance between light and darkness.

Thursday, 14 September 2017


Also known as Lughnassa, Lammas, celebrated on August 1st, is the Celtic festival of the first - i.e., grain - harvest of wheat barley rye and oats. The power of the sun goes into the grain as it ripens. It is then harvested and made into the first new bread of the season, which is taken to church, laid on the altar and dedicated during the Loaf Mass, hence Lammas. At this time of year, seed grain is also saved for planting next year's crop, which lies dormant underground during the Winter and rises again in Spring, when the new green shoots sprout, as the sun also rises in the sky. So Lammas is also a time to celebrate resurrection. As well as celebrating the first fruits of the grain harvest, Lammas recognises the fruits of our labours, and seeing the desires that we had at the start of the year unfold. Colours associated with Lammas include gold, yellow and orange. My Lammas weaving is a simple plain weave ombre in tones of greenish gold, dyed from French marigolds, coreopsis, weld, dyer’s chamomile, cosmos, golden rod, St. John’s Wort flowers, alder bark, barberry bark, artichoke leaves, apple leaves, rhubarb leaves sage, domestic carrot and yarrow.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Look what I've made!

I've now filled another drawer with thirty lovely early autumn colours from plants sourced locally in Loughton.

Yarrow and Blackberries

More lovely, yummy early autumn colours from the allotment and the hedgerow.

Monday, 21 August 2017

The Dye Garden at Peak Production

From not having had a great many plants to dye with, I've now got a glut of just about everything. I've been freezing batches of French Marigolds to preserve them for later in the year but the more I cut them, the more they come into flower.

The same with the Golden Rod. I've taken a crop of these already, but they have come back into flower.

So have the Cosmos.

My Madder is growing well, but is too young to harvest, as I need to take the roots.

The Gypsywort is growing strongly, but I have not harvested it yet. It is supposed to produce a black dye.

The Woad and the Weld are both doing well. I should be able to take a small crop soon.

My Mallow plants were so small when I bought them that they got lost in the weeds, but now they are rampaging though the plot!

I've already taken a crop form the Rudbeckia, but it is back in flower again.

I took a harvest from the Tansy yesterday, but it has lots of buds coming along.

The same is true of my Yarrow plant.

The only plant that is still to flower is my Coreopsis. The plants in the garden have already given me a crop, but these in the allotment were planted this year as plug plants, and they are only just beginning to flower.

It is so lovely to be able to pick plants that one has grown, and make dyes from them.

Thursday, 17 August 2017


I went foraging for sloes yesterday, to add to my palette of late summer skeins of naturally dyed wool. Some blackthorn bushes were loaded with drupes, but others were completely bare. Fortunately I was able to gather sufficient for three skeins. I'm pleased with the lavender and grey shades, but I'm guessing that they won't be completely colourfast. From the left, mordanted with alum, with copper and with alum plus tin.