I’ve been dyeing yarn for decades, much of that time with washfast acid dyes. Eventually, out of curiosity, I gravitated to natural dyes. Once I dipped my toe into that pond I was drawn to studying and working with historically important dyes and methods that were important in the centuries prior to the development of synthetic dyes.

My specific area of interest is the grand teinte dyes of 17th France during the reign of Louis XIV. These were highly regulated because of their importance to the textile industry, and therefore key to Louis’ ambition to supplant Spain as the world leader in fashion exports.

Dyed fabrics of the highest quality came to form a substantial component of France’s international trade, and standards were strictly maintained through which dyes and methods were licensed.

Making a Madder bath
Making a Goldenrod dye bath

I was fascinated to learn that many of the plant sources for these dyes were either already growing in my area of Southwestern Ontario, Canada, or capable of being cultivated here.

Harvests from the forest, garden and meadows of the farm yield a wide variety of colourfast dyes. I am unable to grow is Indigofera tinctoria, the deeper denim blue, and am happy to have an ethical source for it to supplement the Woad harvest from the garden which yields a softer, less intense blue.

I am an avid sock knitter, so dyeing fingering weight yarn is my favoured time at the dye pot. I work alone with fibre from my small flock of sheep including a variety of breeds such Columbia, Shetland, Gotland and Wensleydale, I also source other fibres, from ethical sources, to work with from breeds not resident in my flock.