The Natural Dye Symposium 2022 at The Loom Shed

12th March 2022

Louise and Liz had been welcoming speakers and delegates to The Loom Shed since 8:30am, and there was a palpable air of excitement in the room as the clock approached 10 o’clock. With final tech checks and plenty of tea and coffee, Louise opened proceedings, welcoming everyone online and in person. The adventurous set up of both online talks and in the flesh presentations to live audiences went seamlessly, all due to the great preparation Louise and Liz had done prior to the day.

The first speaker was Debbie Bamford who talked about the ‘Life and Times of a Mediaeval Dyer’, delivering the talk in an authentic costume explaining its creation and the dyes used. I loved hearing about the names of garments, colours and processes used in medieval times. Who knew what a liripipe was and where the word scarlet came from or the phrase “taking the piss”? Debbie shared her in depth knowledge of how commercial dyeing of the time was done with the three principal medieval dyes of woad, weld and madder with lots of props and plenty of humour.


Next on were Susan Dye and Ashley Walker from Nature’s Rainbow. They made a fantastic double act. They talked about the Spring jobs in the dye garden. Giving tips on what seeds to sow now and which ones to hold back. Susan gave an enlightening presentation brilliantly illustrated with pictures from their very productive dye allotment while Ashley gave a hands-on demonstration of his way of sowing weld seeds which many people have difficulty with. Ashley, if you want a new career, I could highly recommend you to “Gardener’s World”. Your presentation style was spot on, very informative and laid-back.



Over a wonderful lunch people in the Loom Shed had the opportunity to mingle with each other and have a close look at the dye related items brought in by the in-person speakers to illustrate their talks and purchase plants, seeds and dye-stuff from Brian and Richard from Badger Crafts.



After lunch Jenny Balfour-Paul shared her perspectives of her ‘Journeys in Indigo Devon to Denim’. Her stories from a life of global travels following her passions and interests was illuminating. Hearing about the place of indigo in cultures, from the Middle East to Central America to Yemen to China, was fascinating. She explained about the different plants they used and the meaning of indigo in their lives. Jenny also talked about some of her research such as the life of Thomas Machell in the 19th century a British trader in indigo captured in her book “Deeper than Indigo”.


The final talk was by Helen Melvin she talked about Solar Dye Jars and ink making or as she put it “having fun with colour”. Helen has developed her own techniques of solar dyeing using both a mixture of dyes and fibres. She loves seeing the pots change and mix over time and uses the end product in her felting. She demonstrated how she puts together a typical solar jar and also how to dye paper using the inks she has made. It was fascinating to see Helen’s creative process in action.

The day passed very quickly a good indication of me enjoying myself. I can’t wait for the Loom Shed’s 3rd natural dye symposium.