Our dye garden is a patch of waste ground and we’ve had a few challenges with the site. These have mainly involved rubbish (a fine crop of crisp packets and takeaway containers have been dug up) and sycamore shoots that needed removing. Our raised beds are going in and we’ve snatched the moments between snow storms and torrential rain showers to continue weeding.
Our first group of gardeners seems to be undaunted by this and is keen to get going.
This is wool compost, kindly donated to the project by Dalefoot Composts. There is a nice circularity in using a by-product of the wool industry to grow our seedlings, which we will then use to dye our wool. This product is made from renewable resources, is peat free, and is made using a traditional recipe.
We’ve planted our indigo seeds, and our first horticulture session with Bradford Community Environment Project will happen later in the week. Looking forward to showing some green shoots very soon.
This week we’ve been out and about around Bradford getting started with new groups and delivering taster sessions to other possible participants. Our focus has been on the Indigo plant and the importance of it to the Bradford Trade.
Indigo had a specific function in the manufacture of black and dark-coloured cloth, a Bradford specialism. It was used to ‘bottom’ the fabric, a process where two dyes are used to deepen the shade achieved. The fabric was then ‘topped’ with other dyes and modifiers to create good blacks.
In the 1880s Indigo arrived in Bradford at City Road Goods Station, at the Aire and Calder Navigation Docks from Goole, and at the Liverpool Canal Wharfe. The imports would be largely from India and arrived as four inch cubes that were then crushed and processed using specific machinery in the dye houses.
By growing the plants and using the dyes in workshops we are hoping to give participants a fuller understanding of the origins of colour in our textiles, and how the dyeing industry was crucial to the development of Bradford during the nineteenth century.
Participants at a group in Manningham prepared patterns before making an indigo dyed book bag. Our new Dye Garden group will be planting Japanese Indigo seeds next week, and hoping for a good growing season.