It was fantastic to meet Jenny Dean again and link up with other dyeing enthusiasts from across East and West Sussex. Jenny started by telling us what is known about how fibres were dyed during the Celtic period. Apparently the Romans had said that they found the Celts' (from the Greek for barbarian) clothing to be brightly coloured, and you can see why from the amazing results we achieved (below).
Jenny divided us into four groups, each responsible for the dyeing workstations of weld, woad, oak bark (our tannin source), bedstraw and lichen (Ochrolechia tartarea, known as Orchil or Cudbear). We didn't use madder as the plant does not appear to have been introduced into this country until after the Romans had left. There is evidence of its use before then, but not of its cultivation.
These are the undyed samples we started with: white, grey and a brown Shetland. By overdyeing some of the samples and modifying with solutions of iron and copper, we produced a fantastic range of shades and hues, as you can see.
By lunchtime, we'd dyed and overdyed the weld, oak and lichen. Time for a picnic in the warm sunshine
before using the woad in the afternoon.
Just look at the divine colour from the lichen which seems, sadly, to grow only in Scotland and parts of Ireland.
Once we had hung out all our samples to dry outside and taken photos, we sent round samples of each colour round the table so that we all had a comprehensive colour chart.
I know I shall treasure mine.
Jenny had brought along some of her own precious samples, including the Xanthoria Parietina (above) the sort of yellowy green mossy stuff that most of us can find on our rooves. The purple tones had been dried indoors and the bluey-grey in sunshine, which is extraordinarily interesting I think.