Colourful clothing the Georgian way

Hi,

How do you dye your clothes like a Georgian?  A group from Styal Primary School found out as part of their regular allotment club here at Quarry Bank.

One of the plants grown here in the Apprentice House garden is woad, which can be used to dye fabric blue.  Miriam who usually works in the Mill, demonstrating the machines, took some time out to show the children from Styal Primary allotment club how a plant can be used to colour fabric.

Woad, a tall plant with small yellow flowers, growing outside the Apprentice House
Woad growing in the Apprentice House garden

Miriam stripped the leaves from the plant and steeped them in boiling water, before straining the liquid (dye liquor) from the leaves and showing the children how to activate the colour.  This involves using a chemical process and agitating the liquor.

.

Woad leaves being strained.
Straining the leaves after boiling them.
Agitating the liquor by pouring in between the basins
Agitating the liquor by pouring between the basins
School children pour liquid from one bucket to another
The children from Styal Primary found this part of the process a lot of fun.

Once it was ready, the pupils needed something to dye.  As the school wouldn’t have thanked us for changing the colour of their school uniforms, they were given some small bags instead.

Dipping the bags in the dye
Dipping the bags in the dye

Once they had been dipped into the dye liquid, they were hung on the line to dry.

Miriam helps two pupils to peg the bags to a washing line
Hanging the bags on the line to dry.

The pupils seemed pleased with the results.

Thumbs up from a member of the allotment club
Thumbs up from a member of the allotment club

As well as drying the bags, hanging them on a line also exposes the bags to oxygen, which helps to develop the colour from the pale green seen here, into a beautiful blue.

The pupils had to leave before the final colour appeared, but here is some blue wool Miriam also dyed using woad, alongside some green wool, which she created by over-dying the blue wool in a dye liquor produced using onion skins.

Blue strands of wool from the woad next to green which have been over-dyed using onion skins
Wool dyed using woad.

Although perhaps not quite as eye catching as the main gardens, with many interesting plants, including vegetables and herbs used in dishes served at the cafe, the Apprentice House garden is well worth visiting when you spend time at Quarry Bank. There will also be an opportunity to see some examples of natural dying at the Autumn Fair in September.

Thank you to Miriam and Styal Primary school for the pictures used in this blog.

Kate.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s