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.
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.
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.
Once they had been dipped into the dye liquid, they were hung on the line to dry.
The pupils seemed pleased with the results.
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.
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.