Natural Dyes and Dyeing

Published on: Author: sarahfoskett Leave a comment

By Anita Quye, Lecturer in Conservation Science.

When I invited Gwen Fereday, senior lecturer in fashion and textiles at University of Middlesex and an experienced dyer, to spend a week dyeing at the Centre with natural dyes to enhance our teaching and research resources, her reply was an immediate and enthusiastic yes.

Over the course of the week, Gwen has created a set of colourful wool, silk and cotton yarns and fabrics from selected natural plants, dyewoods and scale insects to demonstrate the range and intensity of historical mordanted colours, and we now have a rainbow of samples made from madder, weld, cochineal, lac, kermes, catechu, old fustic, alkanet, dyer’s greenweed, oak galls, sandalwood, logwood and indigo with alum, iron and tin mordants.  The students have enjoyed watching the wonderful colours emerge and were fascinated by a talk Gwen gave about her background, research and practice.

Gwen removing alum mordanted wool dyed with logwood  from the dyebath Gwen with logwood, cochineal, weld and madder dyed wool


Gwen has also been helping to prepare essential research references with botanically accurate dyes for analytical research with our new ultra high performance liquid chromatograph (UHPLC) and for fading experiments with our Q Sun light ageing chamber. PhD researchers Jing Han and Julie Wertz are tapping into Gwen’s extensive knowledge as well, discussing and exchanging ideas and expertise about their dyeing experiments with historical Chinese dyes and Turkey red. Their research  is showcased  in the latest ‘Horizons’ e-magazine and will also be the focus for future blogs.

We have also met with colleagues from the University’s Scottish Business Archive and the School of Chemistry to get creative with public dyeing workshop ideas based around historical dyed textiles and conservation science. Watch this space for more information in the forthcoming few months.

We indebted to the Textile Conservation Centre Foundation for financial support for Gwen’s  visit.


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