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.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Taking Stock

The year 2017 is two-thirds over already. How time flies! It is time to take stock of where my natural dyeing project based on the colours of Loughton (my home village) has led me. I have finished four weavings (Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane and Litha), and I still have another four to go (Lammas, Mabon, Samhain and Yule). I should have finished Lammas by now, but I'm a bit behind due to having organised a Scarecrow Festival in Loughton and then taken a summer holiday.

The maths is simple. Each weaving comprises 26 warp colours and 26 weft colours. That's 52 skeins per weaving, the same as the number of weeks in a year. Therefore, I need a minimum of 208 skeins to complete the project. I have already wound another warp, reducing that total by 26 skeins, to 182 skeins.

Over the last couple of days, I have wound all the remaining skeins in my stash into balls and sorted them into trays by colour palette. Here they are: 30 x brown and olive green (mainly modified with iron water), at least 30 x madder and woad; 22 x shades of yellow, mostly recent and dyed from late summer flowers; 26 shades of greenish yellow dyed in one step from various local plants and finally 15 x 'Lincoln green' made from various yellow skeins that have been over dyed with woad. That's 123 skeins altogether. I still need to dye another 59 skeins by the end of the year, which seems do-able. I shall be out foraging for blackberries, sloes and elderberries this week in order to make a start.