Category Archives: stitched textiles

My textile work

From Seed to Stitch

best stitch smaller

I am passionate about working with cloth and yarn dyed from plants you have grown yourself.
I gave a talk yesterday to the Chelmsford Embroiderers’ Guild.
I had a lovely evening. Thanks to Angela and June for inviting me and for your hospitality.
As follow up, here are some pointers for supplies and books I promised to share online.


Mordants and Natural Dyes
Earth Hues for extracts
George Weil  for plant dyes and mordants; especially aluminium acetate mordant for silk and vegetable fibres
P&M Woolcraft  very friendly and good prices
Wild Colours sells woad powder, dyes and provides lots of information
Fiery Felts  I forgot to mention this supplier in the talk but Helen is very good for dyes especially dried flowers hard to obtain elsewhere. Her booklet on indigo is also excellent.

Dyed threads as well as dyes and mordants
Renaissance Dyeing – based in France
Mulberry Dyer run by Debbie Bamford, a pre-eminent historical dyer who sells at re-enactor markets and also via etsy shop.

Books and blog

Jenny Dean  Doyenne of Natural dyeing in UK. Her landmark book is Wild Colour (2010) but all her books are excellent.

Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times (1996) by Elizabeth W Barber

The Story of Colour in Textiles (2013) by Susan Kay-Williams

Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge Sampled Lives till 7 October 2018


Red is the colour

TG red river quilt small

Norwich Red was a plant dyeing process for madder invented by Michael Stark in the 19th century. It was special for producing exactly the same shade of red on wool as on silk. Sadly the recipe has been lost. Otherwise I would definitely have tried it out for the quilt shown here. The decorative upper section is made from layers of silk/wool gauze dyed with madder. You can see how these shades differ to the pillar box red of the river – which consists of 100% wool.  The quilt was inspired by the sumptuous woven shawls exported from Norwich to royal courts around the globe in the Victorian era. The weavers themselves were often on the breadline. The Wensum is a chalk river, making it ideal for madder dyeing and it was reputed to have ‘run red’ when the many dyehouses in the city centre emptied their vats.

I have no evidence that there were any dyers in my family tree, although my family has been in Norfolk for many generations. It’s probably pure coincidence that I have the perfect name for what I am doing. I’ve spent most of my life embarrassed about having a name that sounds like an instruction to ‘keel over’ and ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’. I like my surname a lot more nowadays.