Al and I had a wonderful day with woad on Saturday when we joined Ian and Bernadette Howard for one of their Woad Workshops. We followed a series of country roads, which were getting narrower and narrower until there was actually grass growing in the middle and ended up at The Woad Centre in deepest Norfolk, the countryside that would have been familiar to Queen Boudicca and her Iceni tribe who are believed to have painted their faces with woad before going into battle. Ian explained that woad has antiseptic and healing properties and it might have been against potential wounds as well as to frighten the enemy that the indigo blue dye was applied.
After coffee and learning all about the production of woad, which Ian grows in his fields that used to be a standard arable farm, it was time to make the dye bath and for the mess and excitement to begin. We used silk to make a small hankerchief trial piece, tying the fabric and adding various items to create areas where the indigo dye wouldn't adhere and so the fabric would stay white.
Happy with our small pieces we started work on silk scarves. This time Al made a very controlled design (not like him at all) and I went for random (so unlike me). These pieces stayed in the dye bath for a longer time and we had the opportunity to learn more about Ian's woad business developments and his future plans. I encourage you to take a look at the website, woad-inc, where you can learn more about the history of woad (the last woad mill in Lincolnshire closed in 1932), read all about what they are doing at the Woad Centre, see (and buy) the gorgeous products they create and study the science bit too.
Time to go back to the dye house and see the magic again:
Our final stop of the day was in the woad showroom. This is the result of the creative talents of Bernadette. Do you think I bought anything?