August dye garden

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Sun and rain in abundance has given our dye plants a great boost.

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The yellow bed is full of blooms and we are regularly collecting them for drying and dyeing with later in the year.

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It has been interesting to see the habitat for insects and birds develop – we have lots of butterflies and bees, goldfinches and a pair of magpies who particularly like the red bed.

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To enhance the habitat further a group at Hive put together an insect hotel.

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Weld plants flowering in their first year. As a biennial plant this is a bonus crop for us.

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Flax, indigo and woad are thriving.

We welcomed visitors from the Society of Dyers and Colourists and Bradford Textile Archive to the garden last week. Both organisations are partners in the project and have kindly provided sessions for some of our groups. It was great to be able to show them how much the project has developed and also to use some of the plants to do some indigo dyeing.

Dye garden in July



Indigo, flax and woad.



Violas in the blue bed.



A kind volunteer made us some new plant labels.



Teasel, one of our collection of plants related to the textile trade generally. They were used for carding wool.


Looking up at the elder, soon to be a wonderful crop of berries for the birds, and for our dye pot.

We are having some wonderful weather in Yorkshire and it is a busy time in the dye garden. Watering and harvesting flowers is a daily activity and we are looking forward to starting some on site dyeing very soon.  If you are interested in getting involved with the project please get in touch with

A day in Saltaire

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Dye workshop for the day, a shelter in Roberts Park.

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Students using the indigo vat.

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Discovering designs on fabric.

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Logwood dyed samples on the line.

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We spent the day yesterday in Roberts Park, Saltaire, as part of a personal development day for Year 7 students at Titus Salt School. The day was designed so that students at the school could learn about the textile heritage of Saltaire, and about the dyeing process in a fun hands on way. As part of the experience students had a heritage walk around the village, planted dye plants in the park that will become part of the permanent display, and designed and dyed fabric samples using dyes with a strong connection to Salts Mill and to the park itself.

A new growing space

Yesterday we spent an afternoon at Midland Road Nursery School and Children’s Centre. The nursery is in Manningham in the heart of Bradford, surrounded by buildings, and in the shadow of Valley Parade, home of Bradford City FC.

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The building is in a very urban setting but has a fantastic outside space where forest school activities run every Wednesday afternoon and the children (aged 0-5 years) can freely play in a woodland setting.

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We have planted this raised bed with dye plant seedlings and will return to run some sessions about natural colour with children and their families later in the project.





June dye garden


Our Hive based group hard at work in the dye garden this morning. We have divided our plot into three raised beds – one for plants that make yellow dyes, one for red and one for blue.

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Japanese indigo in the blue bed.

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Madder in the red bed.

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Weld in the yellow bed.

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Elder flowering. The tree was already on site.

Suffragettes and dyestuffs?


This week marks the centenary of the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison after a collision with the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. The first week of June 1913 also saw an event in Bradford attributed to suffragette activity with an interesting link to the dyeing industry. The Fabric of Bradford project is exploring the textile dyeing heritage of the city between 1800 and 1913 so this just fits in our timeline.

The suffragette movement in Britain had become more militant in their activities in 1912, following the rejection of a bill that would have given women limited rights to the vote, originally supported by then Prime Minister Asquith. Bradford suffragettes were very active and earlier in 1913 had dug up the 2nd and 12th green at Bradford Moor Golf Club, replacing the flags with the purple, green and white flag of the Women’s Social and Political Union.

Mark Keighley writes in his excellent history of the Bradford textile industry in the 20th Century, Wool City;

“In June 1913 reservoirs at Chellow Dene, Bradford, turned a rich shade of purple after being discoloured by wool dyes. It was believed to be the work of suffragettes, although no literature or suffragette symbols were left behind. Floating on the water were a number of paper bags, one bearing the name of a Manningham confectioner, and a Dorothy handbag. These were recovered and found to contain traces of dyestuffs used in Bradford Mills. From the size of the bags, the police deduced that at least a stone (14lb) of the colouring mixture had been used to contaminate the water, but admitted they had few clues to work on.”

The newspaper clipping shown above came from The Marlborough Express – a newspaper published in New Zealand – showing that this was quite a news story one hundred years ago.

West Bowling and Ripleyville

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The Fabric of Bradford has been working with a group based at St Stephen’s Church in West Bowling. The location of this project is significant as the area was once the site of the largest piece dyeing works in the world. Henry Ripley, owner of Bowling Dyeworks, also created a model industrial village for his workers called Ripleyville, now largely demolished. Pictured above is the Newlands Mill Memorial, commemorating the lives of the 54 mill workers killed when a chimney collapsed at the Dyeworks in 1882.


The group has been learning about the industrial heritage of the area through reminiscing activities and  textile based workshops. They have also planted a traditional dye plant bed as part of a community garden. We will be exploring the colours created by these plants and their links to the local textile heritage as the project goes on.