As well as natural fibres, I also use natural dyes to obtain the Bonny Claith colour palette. The natural palette has an underlying warmth and gentleness which is very easy to wear.
I use traditional dyestuffs, such as madder, cochineal and indigo, and up-to-date ecologically sound methods to achieve strong and vibrant shades. I’ve taken this route because I am deeply concerned about the pollution caused by synthetic dyes in the textile industry: I choose to do things differently.
I cannot claim to be much of a gardener, so I buy my dye materials from ethical suppliers who share my values and prioritise sustainability and fair trade. Since people first traded, they have traded in textiles and I relish the fact that cloth was such an important and valuable commodity to our ancestors.
I also love the connections across cultures which we can make through textiles. Around the world, for instance, people have found sources for blue in indigo-bearing plants, from Scotland’s traditional woad (Isatis tinctoria) to the tropical Indigofera tinctoria and many other varieties. And each culture has developed different methods for working with these plants: diverse processes which are nonetheless fundamentally the same, because the underlying plant chemistry is the same.
Although I am primarily a weaver, I feel very fortunate to have had opportunities to learn from experts in the field of natural dyeing and to be practicing the craft at a time when knowledge about dyeing processes is being widely explored and shared.
One dye plant I do have close to hand is a walnut tree, just outside my bedroom window, whose harvest provides the most delicious shades of dark brown. And I may also have bought a few seeds, so never say never….