Sunday, 15 May 2011

Wonderful Woad

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.

Even though we knew it was going to happen it was still like magic to see the fabric come out of the dye bath looking yellowy green and then develop into a beautiful blue as the oxygen in the air reacted with the dye.
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:

Now I love those earthy shades that appeared in my scarf but according to Ian and Bernadette they shouldn't be there and none of us could work out where they came from.  Nothing I used to tie my cloth could have rusted and I didn't spill my coffee.  Whatever it is it adds to the uniqueness of what I created and I love it.
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?


  1. Looks like you both had a lot of fun!
    I'm sure you bought something, there had to be lot's of lovelies to choose from.

  2. Once we had a kindergarten class do this and all the blocks were sewed together into a quilt for an auction. It was a beautiful and popular item.

  3. What a great day, thanks for sharing! Hope you are goingto post photos of your shopping (you did buy, didn't you???)

  4. Funny this is the type of dyeing technique I was discussing with a SWD Guild member on Saturday - then I went home and had a little play session - super - opens up so much with creating patterns - not the usual tie dyeing

  5. So glad it was such a fun day. The end results are stunning. Going to have to have a go again.

  6. wow, that looks brilliant, wish I had been there, will sort out follower problem, sorry, love tina

  7. wonderful, thank you for the inspiration!


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hugs, Lis x