My Grandfather may have been Gaffer in a Cotton Mill in Lancashire, but I was not going to have anything to do with Textiles when I grew up!!! My Mother taught me to knit and sew, but it wasn’t until I joined a Re-enactment group that I decided was something positive I could make use of! I took a City and Guilds course in Art and Design – Embroidery, thinking that I could become a 17th Century embroideress, however I then discovered that I couldn’t obtain the type of embroidery silks that I needed, so I learned to spin silk and to use Natural Dyes. From there The Mulberry Dyer was born, I was asked where I was getting my silks from, so I started producing them for sale. The business has now grown with a wider range of products, what isn’t actually available we can often produce on a Commission basis, so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t see what you need. We attend TORM (The Original reenactors Market) twice a year plus most weekends during the summer we demonstrate period dyeing somewhere in the country (or even Europe).
Way back in 1987 when my son (Nic) was 3, I read him a book called Dinosaurs and all that Rubbish by Michael Foreman. It made me think hard about the way we treat our environment and so I joined Friends of the Earth and started recycling or re-using as much as possible.
When I started the business the environment was still a subject very close to my heart – so since the inception I have been working to and improving my environmental policy.
Where possible I purchase organically certified or traceable yarns. The majority of extract dyes that are used have full organic certification, those that haven’t are GOTS approved. Mordants comply with GOTS standards. Packaging and labels are recycled paper or card, corn starch or cellophane. Polythene is kept to an absolute minimum. We would aim for 100% recyclable or biodegradable, but certain products do require the extra protection that polythene can give so 90% will be the maximum that can be achieved. (but we are constantly on the look out for a viable alternative)
Dyeing practices have been studied and modified carefully over the past 20+ years. When in North Wales it was not possible to harvest rainwater or change anything at the property – it was not our own, since moving we have set up a small rainwater harvesting system this will be built up over time and ideally hope to provide all the dyehouse needs. Where possible dyebaths are started from previously exhausted baths – liquor is rarely thrown away, be it dye or mordant. This operating system is known as “closed loop” .
All yarns whether organic or not are cared for and processed in a similar way. If organic then ONLY organically certified dyes are used, likewise detergents etc, the only thing that is not organically certified is ME! (After much time studying the GOTS standards and discussing with the Soil Association and Organic Farmers and Growers I came to the conclusion that sadly this was not the way forward for the business.) If yarns are not of organic origin then standards are no lower however we will apply the appropriate method to suit the end requirement.
Waste paper is never just thrown away, it is shredded; then either used as packaging or turned into our own handmade paper.
We have held the Green Achiever award since 2009.