madder plant

Dyeing threads 2
 Recording the events of September 1066
raven sketch

Find out about the battle of Fulford



The battle of Fulford website


Panel 1 - Scarborough


  Panel 2 - Rampage through Holderness


  Panel 3 - Preparing for battle


Panel 4 -Confrontation


Panel 5 - Outflanking at the ford  


Panel 6 - King Harald enters York

Visiting Fulford

Map York

The project was very lucky to have the help and advice of Jill Godwin who prepared this sample of wools. it was Jill and her daughters who gave me the seeds and plants to grow most of the dyes used for teh Fulford Tapestry..
Various experiments were necessary to obtain the traditional Lincoln Green which has a mix of weld and woad. It was discovered that it worked best to dye a thread mordanted with alum, before dipping into a strong woad bath.

Repeated dipping could intensify the colour but it takes some trial and error as woad does not develop until it has been removed and exposed to the air.

The wool used here was mostly a loose spin that was better suited for weaving - it turned out to be unsuitable for our work and was used to table weaving.

Black is not an easy hue to achieve using natural dyes. The threads on the right were dyed with oak galls on wool that was treated with an iron mordant. However, this had  a side effect of making the wool rather 'brittle'. 

Many experiments were done to overcome this problem and one of the most successful was to take a dark woad thread and then overdye it with oak galls to which some iron salt was added for the last 10 minutes.

It was also found beneficial to rinse out the iron salt as quickly as possible. The final treatment involved adding a minute quantity of fabric softener. In fact it became standard practice to put all wools through a wool-wash cycle in  the washing machine before they were dried.


Madder is a wonderful due, but must not be allowed to go about 60 degrees C to avoid the colour tending towards brown. As the dye bath is exhausted the colour looses its intensity. This was taken as a virtue as it extended the pallet available to the embroiderers.


You can see the plastic ties that were employed to keep several hanks together. With one of these at either end, the wool can be immersed 'unwound' which allowed the dye to penetrate. If the shanks were not opened up in this way there was a tendency  for the tread to be dyed unevenly.

The ties could be quickly withdrawn so that they can be reused. 

You can compare the intense blue of indigo with the grey-blue of woad. 

Read about the battle that inspired the tapestry

Panel 1 from the coloured design

The author of the content is Charles Jones -

Supported with lottery funding from:


launched May 2012

last updated Dec 2012

Panel 6 from the original sketch

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