walking from the car park to Hat in the Cat Textiles Centre in Newburgh, Fife, there is a view of a wide estuarine river, the Tay, and every morning it is at a different stage of its tidal cycle. often about twenty or thirty swans can be seen in a line on the far side.


how I wished I could find a swan’s wing feather.


I was there to take part in a weekend workshop with India Flint, Australian plant dyeing guru, teacher, writer, image maker, artist and stitcher, and many other things besides.


it was as rich and rewarding as I expected.


after some stitching, following India out from the converted stone church of the Textile Centre, under her guidance we gathered windfall leaves in the steep grassy riverside park (the site of textile factories which were burnt down, and the community decided to turn the area into the park), full of mature trees which kindly had dropped a few leaves, enough for our tsunobokuro bags made of silk mesh (from Beautiful Silks in Australia), we picked up some Tay river mud to help the colours


made bundles with the leaves


next morning they were retrieved from the dyebath, and later India showed us how to make the bags, a type of Japanese sack made with narrow woven strips spiraling around in a stretchy kind of duffle shape.


here’s mine. I had maple and oak leaves, copper beech, and cherry.


we also had silky merino jersey tube lengths to make into versions of infinity scarves, and some lengths of different threads to embroider them with. for these we went gathering riverside weeds and flowers. I found himalayan balsam, japanese knotweed and ragwort, all invasive weeds, and nipped some short lengths of phragmites australis, one of the local reeds, meadowsweet, st johns wort and wild rose, all growing along the edge of the Tay, and a twig of alder, a water-loving tree.


some lovely colours and marks, especially from the st john’s wort


himalayan balsam (there’s some tansy there with left yellow imprints too)


and the reed flower.


other people had different leaves and different results. it was good to have a different perspective on bundling, plants to use, and all without any mordant or post dyeing dips. some things will repay having another try, but mainly the workshop was inspiring from a more personal point of view. poems and pieces of knit and embroidery design have floated up from under the surface, and those reeds have another use, as I found out this week in the drawing workshop with Larry Thomas (see my next post).

1last bundle

at the end of the day there was enough dyebath to make a few more bundles with our suplus plant material.


an example of how water influences colour – the dyebath on the left used water from the local loch, peaty and acid no doubt, but without the chlorine and other additions of the local tap water ..


water is the key to quite a lot. the Tay has a catchment of about two thousand square miles, and it originates only thirty miles from the west coast of Scotland, draining much of the lower highlands region. but the tide makes it run the wrong way twice a day.