Thursday, 29 May 2014

Rainbow Secrets by Catherine A. Jones - Part 2 Heather & Bracken

Thank you to Sarah at the Weaving House for pointing out the Beryl Pooley painting of The Dye House that shows how the wool might have been hung out to dry on Foundry Meadow, as I was pondering in my previous post.  In the painting below perhaps they had been dyeing with heather to create the yellow and green and maybe dyeing with logwood for the blue.

A painting of The Dye House, Kings Road, Haslemere
by Beryl Pooley
reproduced courtesy of Sarah at the Weaving House

Another page of Rainbow Secrets outlines how to dye with heather and bracken, ingredients that were plentiful in Haslemere at the time I expect.

"Yellow, with Heather

The heather should be gathered just before it flowers.
Mordant.  For 1lb wool:
                 2 oz Alum
Mordant wool in usual way (for former recipes).
Dye.  3lb Heather tips

Put Heather into pan, cover it with wire netting to prevent it sticking to the wool.  Put in mordanted wool, fill up with water and boil for three-quarters of an hour.  This should give a good canary yellow.

The colour can be deepened by soaking in dye all night.

Wool previously dyed with Logwood, if steeped all night in hot solution of Heather, will turn green.

Jones, Catherine A., Rainbow Secrets, The Peasant Art Guild

Golden Yellow, with Heather

Mordant.  For 1lb wool:
                 1 oz. Bichromate of Potash
Dye.         3lb Heather

Process of dyeing same as for light yellow, but half an hour's boiling is sufficient.


Deep cream or buff can be obtained by boiling 1 lb wool mordanted with 2oz Alum with 6lb young Bracken leaves.  (Same process as used for Heather).

Pale yellow green results from using 1 oz. Bichromate of Potash for mordant and same amount of Bracken."


  1. It stands to reason they would have used what was readily available as dyestuffs (e.g. heather and bracken) and I think that would also fall in well with their natural approach to everything they made. Oh, how I wish I could have been there for a few days when they were at work . . .

  2. Yes a pretty resourceful bunch, making the best of what they had. That's the peasant way! It certainly would have been interesting to see them at work.


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