Dyer’s Takeover: Fiona Eastwood

What is your favourite dye?

It’s hard to say which is my favourite dye stuff but I love indigo. I grow woad and Japanese indigo and it’s always magical watching the colour develop as the yarn comes out of the vat. There are many methods for making an indigo vat but there is a method for dyeing silk that doesn’t require a vat and is not as complicated.

Can you share the method with us?

Here’s Jenny Dean’s recipe for the Salt Method of dyeing silk with (Persicaria Tinctoria) Japanese Indigo:

  1. Scour silk scarves
  2. Harvest the indigo leaves & place in a stainless steel bowl with a little water
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of fine salt
  4. Knead the leaves until they begin to shrink and produce liquid
  5. Add the scarves and knead the leaves and scarves together
  6. The longer you knead the darker the blue
  7. Rinse wash and rinse again.

How does Ethel Mairet inspire you?

Fiona’s Japanese Indigo plant

I have been inspired by Ethel Mairet’s enthusiasm for natural dyed, hand spun yarns, her passion for colour, fibres and her use of the traditional dyes; indigo, madder and weld. With these dyes she was able to produce a range of strong bright colours but she also experimented with plants she collected locally.

She believed a weaver should be intuitive and respond to the colour and texture of the yarns rather than weaving patterns and complex structures which I find a very good approach in order to make the natural dyed and hand spun yarns the focal point of the weaving.

Annie Albers is another weaver I have been influenced by. She produced many beautiful abstract wall hangings. She had an experimental approach to weaving and expanded the possibilities of making textiles on a loom.

When I attended Jenny Dean’s natural dying course last year I was very inspired by her extensive knowledge of plants and dyes and her enthusiasm for experimenting with, and exploring the possibilities of her subject.