After years of dabbling in natural dyeing, we’ve finally got round to running a comprehensive series of colour workshops using plants from the garden and everyday waste : blue, red, yellow and our black hollyhocks. What spurred us was the closure of the garden. We got notice to leave in April but rather than sob into our sleeves we decided to celebrate what we’ve done over the years and provide a legacy of colour, which we are calling The Hackney Colour Wheel. The plan is to get a spectrum of colour dyed on silk. We haven’t decided how to present it so all suggestions welcome. The workshops are supported by The Royal Society of Chemistry and we hope to show how science and craft can easily connect. Here is some of the dyeing we’ve done so far.
Paul Richens, of the renowned Skip Garden led a workshop at Cordwainers looking at what we can grow at this time of year. He gave us a fascinating talk which got us thinking about rainfall, light levels, temperature and local conditions – and the useful seasonal benchmark of Guy Fawkes night (5th November) as the real end of the growing season in London. Still time to put in a crop of radishes. Even then we can still grow microgreens and plants that will survive – or even thrive in – the winter. Brassicas mostly, winter lettuces and ‘oriental’ greens such as mizuna (if you like that mustardy heat). We then went to the garden and took root and stem cuttings from mint and a scented pelargonium.
Our annual woad and indigo harvest and dye workshop was an evening of gentle delight. It involved curiosity, experiment and awe at that magical transformation of plant into colour. We also harvested our flax and ate amazing scones with home-made jams. Sometimes you can imagine that all is right with the world.
We did two pots – one of woad and one of Japanese indigo, which usually gives a stronger colour but we found the woad was just as potent this year. Thanks to Steve for taking the photos.
Sometimes, when we’re setting up a stall for a community event my heart sinks a little. The sky is grey and the wind is whipping round the marquee. We have a long day ahead of us and we must be friendly and active and sometimes that seems too much. But these are the times when you really need that human activity. These are the times that will really lift you.
Some local organisations got together on Saturday at Mabley Green to coincide with a football competition at Hackney Wick FC. Our stall neighbours included Children With Voices, Hackney Quest ,Hackney Pirates and ecoACTIVE– all creative and inspiring outfits which encourage children to be active, curious and inventive – to give them alternatives to the other stuff out there like gangs and slumping on the sofa.
As our contribution we set up to make willow crowns with plants picked from the garden – including ceanothus, ivy, broccoli flowers, dandelions, shepherd’s purse, geraniums, yarrow and red valerian – and seeing the wonderful variety in both the people and their creations lifted our spirits.
And if this video of Michelle talking about the event doesn’t lift your heart, you may need to seek a doctor: Jumping Beans
Visitors from afar…. well outside London. Bicester, Oxfordshire to be exact. Azul, Jason, Kate, Mark and Claudia from Grassroots Bicester and Banbury Community Action were on an awayday to find out about setting up a community growing space. We talked about what Cordwainers has done (and some of the mistakes), did a tour of the garden, spent a lots of time watching the frogs, drank tea and ate cake (of course) and did a quick bundle dye session – a great way to get people interested in plants and growing. In return I found out about their projects which include community orchards and setting up Incredible Edible Bicester – making community-grown fruit and veg available to ANYone who wants it, based on this excellent principle started by Incredible Edible Todmorden – and Jason gave our fruit trees an overdue prune.
I’m Jillian Wieda, a Master’s of Psychology student at University of Westminster, originally from California. I’ve been in the U.K. just over a year and hope to stay longer to train as a therapist or psychologist. Volunteering with Cordwainers Grow is an amazing opportunity to commune with the natural world, learn new skills and meet amazing people. I hope one day soon to grow organic produce of my own!
Enjoying a warm, delicious cup of tea with biscuits is such a treat for many of us. Now imagine drinking a healthy cup of tea that you grew and assembled yourself, using all of your favorite herbs! Cordwainers Grow, in partnership with Sanctuary Housing, recently presented the workshop: Growing Herbal Tea on your Balcony. It was great fun and a group of young children from the community joined our volunteers to give it a go!
This workshop is part of a free series called Herbs in the Home offered at the Morningside Community Centre in Hackney.
Some upcoming fall workshops include; Creating herbal remedies and a First Aid Kit (September 25), Making Body and Home Cleaning Products (October 23) and Making Anti-Bug Herbal Moth Balls (November 20).
The herbal tea workshop started with clipping a few fresh herbs, like rosemary and sage, from the Morningside Community Centre’s own garden. We then learned (as I’m a volunteer as well) how to clip segments of the plants and replant them in small pots. These small, potted herb gardens can grow on balconies and window sills to provide fresh herbs for tea and cooking.
The next step was to create our own customized tea bags from a variety of dried herbs. The children used their sense of smell to select from chamomile, echinacea, lemon balm, lemon verbena, lavender and nettle. The volunteers also shared some of the natural healing qualities, historically linked with the herbs. Some children added hot water to their creations and sipped on them right away, while others crafted ingredient labels and were off to give them to their families.
Corwainers Grow would love for more community members to join us for free fun and education, so please spread the good word!