Monday, 9 November 2009


I haven't been blogging for a while- you may have noticed! There are lots of reasons some of which are being very busy and having severe asthma for six weeks but these are boring -the real reason is the combination of a brand new laptop and my springer spaniel. My springer spaniel, called Walnut because the brown of her coat is the colour of the dye given by walnuts, hates me being on the computer. Every time down I sit down at the computer desk she pats me commandingly with her paw which usually means "stop wasting time doing that and throw a ball" but sometimes means "feed me" but more usually just " I am a poor pathetic deprived and ignored dog give me some love ".

I love gizmo's, computer technology and all that and so have long hankered after a lap top consequently when I sold a picture while I was open for an open art studio event in Septmeber -Helfa Gelf definitely on next year- I brought a laptop. Hooray! One of the events I was also being busy over was the Real Colour Show, a ten day feast of natural colour, talks, workshops and lectures in mid Wales in October . It was a fantastic event-hopefully on next year- and as I had promised over six months ago to give a talk at it about how I paint with fibres via a laptop and digital projector, I had to get a laptop, work out how to use it, down load all the free share wear I use(thank you Leigh Tate who showed me how to do that) devise the talk, import pictures from my pc, work out how to do a digital presentation all in the first week of the event -hence not blogging about it -my original intention. I did my talk -to all of about 12 people which was a bit disappointing.However other demo's presentations and workshops were much better attended.

After all this I decided to take November off. Goody goody I thought I shall blog in bed first thing in the morning or last thing a night on my lovely new laptop. This is where the springer spaniel comes in. I start to blog- a nose appears then before I know what has happened a nose and a paw are laid on the lap top. That is why I have not been blogging.

We have been working hard on the dye garden or rather Enys son-in law, Jamie, has as he has a landscaping business. He has been clearing trees, trimming hedges and in the summer helped John put up a new summer house. (AKA The Man Shed) In the photos below you can see him and his brother demolishing a rather hideous raised bed and incidentally entertaining the dog who tends to think all this is being laid on for her benefit.

In the raised bed there is a madder plant visible in the foreground of the second photo. This is now three years old so after the wall had been demolished Jamie carefully picked out all the madder roots for me. All 2.8 kilo's of them. Some of the roots are 1/4 inch thick and are bright orange. If you break them and expose the orange root to the air they turn red.

The bed had a tendency to be a bit dry even in our wet climate and was overshadowed a bit by a large ash tree. Apart from the odd bit of organic chicken manure that is all the plant has had. However it was obviously very happy and healthy and rambled all over one half of the bed.The other half was full of golden rod which was not so keen on the drier conditions and flourished better in other parts of the garden

The new beds will be filled with dyers corepsis-it took my entire dried crop to make 8 bottles of a fabulous orange ink , and dye 200g of merino to a burnt orange, so I want more and persicaria tinctoria and chinese woad. I ran two dyeing the blues workshop in my studio last summer and could have run more if I had had more plants!

Welcome to the new followers- I do usually blog more than I have been recently and now things have quietened down a bit I shall be back to blogging form! The next thing is to dye with some of the madder and dry the rest and leave for a year. So hopefully next year I shall see whether it is worth drying madder. It is supposed to bring out the reds.


  1. Don't worry about not blogging often.. at least I try not to, when I don't have enough time.
    It is always good to read your blog, even once a month:)
    My madder is now two years old, and I look forward to seeing what color your madder gives.

  2. I am so jealous of your madder. Looking forward to seeing it's color.

  3. Hi Leena -thank you.For some reason I felt quite guilty which is absurd I see!
    I am dying to try my madder out but I have to put it on hold for a bit as I a want to do soem careful experiemnts with it and right now I am quite busy.

  4. Thanks for reminding me that I have to turn out one of my 2-year-old madder buckets! We are currently having severe rainstorms though so I'll have to wait. Are you able to chop the roots after they dry? I find it hard to chop them fine enough even when they are fresh and nearly impossible later.

    Don't feel guilty about not blogging. It's ok to do it only when you have both the time and something to say!

  5. Hi Louisa- I made sure that I did it with a friend and we both sat down with strong secateurs. However the roots of this madder are much thicker than the previous ones I had. (and there are more)

  6. I used a hammer last time (2007) on 3-year-old madder to help break up the big chunks. It went flying everywhere but was effective! Madder is quite tedious to process, isn't it? Pretty colours though.

  7. Hi Louisa that sounds as if your madder was very hard.Mine is more springy and bendy. Interesting. sometime with madder I could scream with frustration as like indigo it always seems to have a surprise for me.( and I find i thard to get reds)