I remember the first time I saw Elisabeth Beverley’s Plant Dyed Yarns back at Unravel – they felt like a painters palette, skeins hanging in clusters – no fancy twists, plaits or labels, just beautiful colour, handwritten labels and each colour identified by dyeing material and year and month of dye. I later learnt from Elisabeth that the weather has an impact on colours, the garden plants – which of course makes sense now, but this just adds to the appeal. Nothing is truly repeatable but this adds to their allure.
Here is how Elisabeth describes her process here:
I dye using simple traditional methods and local and wild garden plants – leaves, flowers, nuts and twigs. The colours from freshly picked plants capture the moment and reflect the progress of the seasons. Spring begins with daffodils, the gentle shoots of dog’s mercury, nettles and cow parsley and leaves of comfrey, dock and elder. By summer there are wild and garden flowers, ox eye daisies, chamomile, hollyhocks, golden rod, dahlias, ragwort, yarrow. Autumn brings walnuts, toadstools and berries and the year ends with ivy, winter twigs and bark.
I grow woad and madder which produce blues and pinks, but in general the natural colours produced by native plants are the earth colours – greens, yellows, greys and browns. The challenge and pleasure for me lie in expressing the range and subtlety possible within this spectrum. Accurate reproduction is impossible. But while there is infinite variation there is also a satisfying empathy between the many colours that can be expressed. The unpredictability inherent in the plants and the process add to the interest as well as making these colours unique.
That is it, right there, an honesty about colours, difficulties, limitations, exactly like the way I would limit palettes to tones and colours when working through painting ideas. It is exactly for me as if these plant dyed yarns are created by a painter, using things found around them. I remember when I first submitted Seaside Sundae to Pom Pom Quarterly, using the plant dyed yarns that I had brought from Elisabeth some time before and then when I went to visit there was no lichen available or that particular cochineal but that’s part of why I love these yarns. The infinite way that the same plant can produce multitude of variations, that each particular colour is very limited. The design in my head was not limited to my original colour ideas at all, it is about using the design and creating the same blanket but using colour to recreate something that can look so different from the one before – I have made another sample of the blanket but that post will follow shortly.
Yesterday I went to visit Elisabeth, following an email from someone requesting yarn to create the blanket. Elisabeth and I started with finding all the main colour yarns (we need 4 skeins of those) and then spent an absorbing afternoon delighting in colour and differences.
This was the final selection en masse:
Then we put them back together in their groupings, originally working up ones that still had the seaside theme and ice cream colours and then working towards the last two sets which were more tonal but still absolutely beautiful. I would love to make one of these now. These blanket needs a total of 7 skeins, the colour on the right of each box below is the ‘main’ colour.
Elisabeth does not sell her yarn online but if you are interested in any of the selections above please contact Elisabeth and she will arrange to send them to you or leave me a message below. THe costs for a box of these gorgeous yarns are £92, £87.50 for the wool plus £4.50 p&p. Alternatively you can see Elisabeth’s work at the West Dean Design and Craft Fair, between Midhurst and Chichester in Sussex, June 20th – 22nd, 10am – 5pm or at her studio by appointment only.
A beautiful box of plant dyed yarns, no1
And just in case you are wondering, these are not the only colours, there are many more and also the luxurious cashmere too. Beautiful.