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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Oh Woad Is Me!!

Yeah, Ok, you've heard that one before.

Today I harvested my woad - all 3.25 pounds of it.  I've never had this amount before, so was hopeful of getting some nice blues.  Tammy came up for the day and we had a dye session.

It started quite early this morning with me picking leaves in the rain - first rain in a while. Then we washed and chopped the leaves

and poured boiling water over them.  They then had to sit for an hour before the next step.

Missed a few opportunities for photos here.  Lunch happened instead.  But the next step was straining and squeezing the leaves to get as much colour from them as possible. Then we heated the dye liquid to 50 deg C, added washing soda until it turned a greeny shade, and whisked it with an electric whisk to incorporate air into the mix.  Amazingly, the froth on top started to turn blue almost immediately, so I whisked for about 5 minutes just to make sure.

After that we re-heated to 50 deg C and sprinkled Spectralite (sodium hydrosulphite) over the top to remove the oxygen.  After sitting for 45 minutes, it was then ready to use.

First dip looks promising :-

Second dip :-

Eric thinks they look like Blackburn Rovers scarves!  I've left them with white stripes because I want to  dye them a different colour.  I've left some merino fleece and another skein of yarn soaking in the dye bath overnight but that'll probably be all I'll get from this batch.  Hoping to have another harvest in a month or so if the weather holds.

Oh, and two more cotton bolls have started to open, small ones again, but bigger than the first.

Three down, 30 or 40 to go!


  1. Great blues - I'm envious! I grew woad for the first time this year and recently tried extracting blue from it. I probably wasn't doing it right because I whisked and whisked, and the froth never turned blue. But encouraged by you post, I will try again with a second harvest of leaves soon!

  2. where do you purchase seeds?

  3. Hi Heidi,

    Just read your blog posting about your experiences dyeing with woad. Really don't know why the froth didn't turn blue, but I think I'd have been tempted to sprinkle on some Spectralite anyway and give it a go. I used Jenny Dean's instructions also, and the only thing I did that you didn't was to get the temperature just right. Hope your leaves are growing well enough for a 2nd harvest!

  4. Hello Anonymous,

    I normally let last year's woad plants flower and then save seed from them. But, if you're in the UK, you can get them from Chilterns Seeds in Ulverston -
    Good luck.