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The Dye Shed

Words by Helen Pritchard, the talent behind the plant dyed eco-fabrics available in the B&F shop, giving us a window into her dye shed in spring.

My dyeing shed hibernates during the winter. It’s too cold in there to enjoy the slow process of plant dyeing. I have a clean up, shut it down early November then start peeping in around the beginning of March, just to see what’s going on. I’ll check to see what jars still hold flower heads, pips and foliage and to remind myself of just how many onion skins I’ve been saving, quite a few, as it happens!

March is still too early, for me anyway, so I check with my husband - he’s the gardener, as to what to expect from the garden in the coming weeks, then nip across the road to the bankside out front to see how my woad and madder plants are doing amongst the brambles and nettles. Talking of nettles, I’ve already harvested some new shoots as these give the greenest colour, and used them recently for some eco fabric bundles for Bohemia & Flower.



I’m impatient and eager to get going again. So this year, around the end of March, I checked out my fibre stash for inspiration and found a lot of yarn I’d spun from fleeces given me by my farmer neighbour over the past few years. In my recent move towards fabric dyeing I’d almost forgotten about the yarns. My creative urges were well fed for a week and this is what I made.

Looking at the photo from the straight top, down to the scalloped edge, I’ve used: a blended yarn comprising chrysanthemum, red poppy, purple hyacinth, dahlia then a dark band of coffee grouts with added iron and copper, more dahlia, elderberry stalks, avocado pips and finally euonymus leaves.



The pattern is called Wheatsheaves Scarf by Elizabeth McCarten and is available as a free download from Ravelry. It lends itself nicely to a palette of colours but also looks stunning as a solid colour and I’ve knitted it umpteen times now. It’s very straightforward, easy to follow and the small version can be knit in three days, the larger within a week. It looks a little scrunched up when finished but once blocked out and left to dry you start to see the beauty. A very rewarding piece of knitting.

I spend the remainder of March drying the deadheaded daffodils from our spring garden, my neighbours gardens and from anyone emptying their vases. It’s a beg borrow or steal time of year and I’ll gather whatever I can in readiness. My husband watches like a hawk, as you can imagine!

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