The original blueprints. One of the fun things I get up to in France. It’s more of a photographic process than actual dyeing. You need some scary-sounding chemicals (Potassium Ferricyanide and Ammonium Ferric Citrate) which turn out to be harmless if you are sensible (i.e. you don’t start inhaling or eating the stuff). I treat the fabric then add whatever plant material I have collected – oak and bracken seem to work well. I make a sandwich with an old window pane we had lying around (I’m sure some people would get glass specially cut to size) The fun part is, all this has to be done in the dark. My dining room in France has no proper windows, so it is perfect if you have the place to yourself. If there are children around, though, it’s not so great – the dining room is also a sort of corridor with doors each end and a certain amount of yelling might be necessary to prevent disaster. The last stage is simply to get the glass sandwich outside and leave it to develop in the light – this can be very quick – the French sun has real power! The plant material must be firmly kept in place – it acts as a resist. Then everything is washed and dried.
I used to be concerned that the cushions would fade – they don’t! The examples in the picture were my first attempts (hence the photographs) over five years ago. I wondered about adding cyanoprints to my Etsy shop because they are a bit different, but I’ve decided I’d rather be free to keep experimenting and not have to worry about a professional finish!
With a chance to avoid the motorways this time. The route bleue (N7) and the wine territories have a much greater appeal. It does take a lot longer – but we wandered through dozens of timeless hamlets and past some extraordinary buildings tucked away in la France Profonde. (And yes, the sat. nav. can’t always cope and I did get us just a little bit lost…)
An overnight stay in Chateaudun (a town with medieval buildings that we are always keen to revisit, although we sometimes feel we should explore more adventurously) and an early morning visit to the chateau – perfect, we were the only people in the whole place, apart from a young woman energetically hoovering the ancient stone floor of the Sainte Chapelle – what a job!
I think this is the most northerly of the Loire castles (so the first you get to driving down from Paris) and it seems to be less well known to tourists. Definitely worth a trip though. There is an interesting connection to Joan of Arc. The buildings are from the 12th to the 16th century – and too close up for me to get in a single shot!
There are tapestries and furniture:
Architectural details, linenfold and – always my favourite – FIREPLACES!
But, as usual, what really caught my eye was the play of light, angles and exciting intersections:
This one gave me a shock – no idea I had taken it, but it is my ghostly shadow sneaking its way in!
Got to start with the blossom: blackthorn, plum, peach, rosemary – and the tiniest glimpse of the stunning pink quince we won’t actually get to see:
Wild orchids, violets and cowslips:
Plenty of these little fellows scuttling around:
The best wood burner ever (came from the Far East!):
Bitter black coffee in my favourite china…
And finally can’t resist this picture:Because it is so crazy – it’s the reflection of a tree in a muddy puddle. (Yes, there was a LOT of water around). I am working out how to get those colours together…I feel another dyeing session coming on as soon as I get home – maybe silk and alpaca for that one?
The rather magnificent piece of furniture (see other picture below) is a cope chest – obviously, you don’t want to get your copes in a twist! I was told that it is certainly medieval, probably as early as the 13th century and, apparently, one of only seven surviving. I have seen a similar chest in Wells and another in York Minster but I think this Salisbury one is my favourite. Anyone know where the other four are lurking?
Yes, the colour that I need to include in every dyeing session is BLUE – all shades from aquas to violet purples and real indigo – someone will buy it!
But over 150 miles west, along the rather amazing Jurassic coast, just over the border into East Devon. We spent a week there last month, in a pretty little fishing village called Beer. Apparently the name is not derived from the drink but is an Old English word which has something to do with forests.
I realise that I much prefer to visit these places out of season. Then you get a real sense of community, as well as, in this case, a lingering nostalgia for the days of smuggling, stone quarrying and lace making (the locals claim that Honiton was merely the marketplace for their own labour – all the famous lace was actually made in their village of course….!)
By sneaky detours we scored two cathedrals en route:
Exeter, with its fabulous fan vaulting
and Salisbury, just before the recent dramas
Any idea what this is ? I had to ask. Obvious once you know though….
I’d better answer a few questions next time! But it might have to wait – I’m off on my travels again tomorrow. Rural France, probably very dodgy internet, so may be some while…. Have a good Easter.
Because it doesn’t sell!
It seems that few people (apart from me) are impressed by yellow socks…. or cowls, or mittens. But that doesn’t stop me gazing at my daffodils every Spring and thinking why not…?
This yarn above was achieved by a combination of dip dyeing and hand painting .
This plum and lime one has more intense colour sections and was done by injecting the dye in several stages.
The yarn below (a rather subtle colourway called crocus – note the sneaky touch of yellow…) was almost entirely painted by hand, using a small brush.
If you are curious, take a peek at my Etsy shop (button top right) to see some other techniques.
PS. If yellow is the least popular colour, which set of shades do you think regularly flies off the shelf – and not just off Etsy? Please comment with your guess.
Answer next time!
Perfectly formed and stunningly simple, despite the snow and high winds.
My batts, however, are neither of those things – nothing to show at the moment as I haven’t quite dug my way through to the drum carder.
But I have been dyeing – five different techniques over the weekend. Several batches currently drying – pictures to follow!