Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

Madder and goats at Leewood


This week Jane Deane and I continued our research into natural dyes on fleece, working at Leewood in the Dartmoor National Park. On our last session we used weld: this time we dyed with madder.

We have chosen to use natural dye extracts to begin with as these have greater consistency in colour from batch to batch. At the moment our research isn’t so much about finding answers as knowing which questions to ask.  We realise we may need to retest the whole sequence of five dyes using raw dyestuff,  different water, altered mordant proportion etc.

Here are images from the day’s work showing how colour developed, the colour on fleece and the jars at the end of the session.

The sessions at Leewood are open to the public and yesterday we welcomed two visitors, one of whom was Robin Paris. Robin is a well-known and respected local batik artist whose concerns with sustainability have also led her to research the use of natural dyes with wax. You can read about this part of her work work here. Robin works mostly on cotton, a cellulose fibre, and because of this some of the problems she faces are different to mine using silk or wool, which are proteins. But there are also several common issues. I wrote here about some of them.

In May we will be working on cochineal at Leewood. We have had to change our published date of 16th May and this will be updated on my Leewood page as soon as it is confirmed.

The Leewood goats and  kids formed the cabaret as dye-day lengthened: goats are definitely madder than most animals.

4 thoughts on “Madder and goats at Leewood

  1. Loved the part about the goat cabaret… We have only squirrels and raccoons and they really need a new act or a new agent..

    The dye info was pretty cool too., Isabella…

  2. Enjoyed seeing your experimenting and hearing your thought processing last Thursday, thank you for making them ‘open’. I look forward to discovering your wider findings in due course. What a beautiful inspiring place Leewood is to be working in!

    I also like the way your photo captions pop up!

    Thanks for the link too

    • Hi Robin, It was great to see you. Leewood is really lovely and you wouldn’t believe the transformation that has taken place there over the past year. Lots of hard work, imagination and commitment from Nick and her team.

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