Monday, 4 October 2010

Natural Dyeing

The speaker at our September meeting was Helen Melvin (Fiery Felts) who spoke on natural dyeing. Beginning with her own early recollections of squeezing colour from crepe paper she enthralled us with the history of dyeing: from the earliest recognizable ‘dyed’ fragments from 30,000 years ago thought to be earth colours rubbed onto fabric, Queen Elizabeth the First’s remarks about ‘nasty, pernicious dye’ following poor attempts at a black to ‘modern’ colours from the other side of the world using eucalyptus.

Helen showed us vibrant examples of yarn and fabric dyed from plants in her garden which included coreopsis, cosmos, indigo, dyer’s chamomile and many others. Examples of a variety of techniques for dyeing fabrics such as silk were discussed. Sun dyeing in kilner jars, fabric rolled up with coins, rusty nails or different flower heads even burying fabric in the compost heap were among several exciting possibilities.

Helen makes wonderful landscapes of North Wales from dyed felt embellished with stitching and textiles. She displayed some of her work and sketchbooks.

New, this year, to the National Garden Scheme of gardens open for Charity Helen’s dye garden may be visited by groups. Contact Helen for details of the garden and dyeing courses at or find other gardens in the area through (North East Wales) Blaen Wern, Bodfari, Denbighshire, LL16 4BT

If you are in the ITV Wales area you may have seen Helen’s garden on ‘ Little Pieces of Paradise’ or the BBC children’s science programme ‘Nina and the Neurons’.

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