Dreams and reality?

Dreams and reality?

I have some fabulous news to tell you!

From Monday 1st November I will be a full time student again, studying at the University of Leeds.

I have dreamed of researching the chemistry of dyeing and in particular the relationship between mordant and dye for more years than I care to mention (and probably bored you at events if you’ve given me an opening!). Science changed so much with the development of synthetic dyes, but unfortunately stopped for natural dyes in the early 1900’s. Now thankfully that is going to change!

My studies are postgraduate research into mordants – the boring part of the process for most people, no colour and no way of knowing whether it’s been done well until the colour has been added. Failure of this stage results in dyes that are neither fast nor level – thus enhancing their “negative” reputation.

Separate to my own dyeing I have also been working as a consultant to industry for quite a few years now. For them to be able to use natural dyes the processes need to be clearly defined. They need energy and natural resource conservation, waste minimalization and of course water pollution and content of effluence must be monitored. The environmental issues and economics of their process are crucial.

Please don’t think we’re going away though!

Just the way we work will change.

Since the business started in the mid ’90’s I have

a) wanted to show how wonderful the natural dye colours are and that they are “fast” if worked with correctly. This has taken years of research and experimentation. I may have started with a 1 day course, but I never put anything up for sale until I was sure of my product nor did I start teaching until I had confidence in my knowledge.

b) Wanted to ensure that I would not be doing anything harmful to the environment. I implemented a circular system that uses only high end products. At the “end of life” they can all be composted to complete the loop of bio-regeneration. Packaging as far as is possible is biodegradable, either cornstarch, cellulose or paper/card (some things unfortunately just need the extra protection that plastic can bring – but that is again changing now, I’m thrilled to say!) Labels have always been produced “in house” from paper or card.

I didn’t go for the full organic certification – sadly not a viable option for me at the time due to the poor standards acceptable to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) – I hope they are now higher! There is no legal requirement for textiles to be certified to carry an organic label (as is the case for food). So – beware you are not fooled, only those that actually carry a GOTS label definitely are.

Teaching about natural dyes is something I have learnt to love – standing out in front of a group is not my comfort zone. Imparting knowledge about my beloved dyes feels a totally different thing! Workshops and talks will still be available, get in touch if you would like to make a booking, or watch out for updates on our own dates.

Times as you can see are changing for the Mulberry Dyer, following having a pacemaker fitted I’ve had to think carefully about how to move forward and this research is so exciting and important.

We will continue to attend a few markets including The Original Reenactors Market and a few demonstrations through the summer – so don’t forget to come and say “Hello”!

Oh and we will of course continue to take Afternoon Tea whenever we have the chance!

2 thoughts on “Dreams and reality?

  1. Congratulations, Deb. What a complete and utter luxury to be able to focus full-time on studies, and on such a fascinating area of research. I can’t wait to hear about the particular focus for your own research, and how it will build on the historic and contemporary peer reviewed research on mordants already out there.

    1. Thank you Mel, although my fees are funded I’m having to take a part time job and carry on with the business, so no rest for the wicked! I sincerely hope that the research I am doing will tell us far more about mordants and how they work than current peer reviewed research available. Fastness testing to ISO standards will be key to the results – crucial if we are to bring natural dyes back into industrial use.

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