Hundreds of visitors expected at Colours to Dye For weekend in west Suffolk

Lavenham Guildhall will host its Colours to Dye For weekend Picture: ARCHANT

Lavenham Guildhall will host its Colours to Dye For weekend Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

The medieval art of using plants to dye cloth will be given a revival during a weekend of unique demonstrations in a west Suffolk village.

The National Trust’s Lavenham Guildhall is hosting its Colours to Dye For weekend from 11am-5pm today and tomorrow and visitors will also be able to see spinning wheels being used.

Once one of the richest towns in England thanks to its leading role in the cloth trade, Lavenham is home to stories of great wealth built on the growth of the cloth industry.

The famous Lavenham blue cloth was an expensive and sought-after material, highly prized and exported to the farthest corners of the world nearly 500 years ago.

Woad plants may produce bright yellow flowers, but once the plant leaves have gone through a process to turn them into a dye, the fleece starts to turn a permanent shade of blue.

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Josh Ward, visitor experience office at Lavenham Guildhall, said: “Anyone who has ever tried to remove a beetroot or tomato sauce stain from clothes will know just how powerful plant-based dyes can be.

“Thankfully, the blue dye we get from woad is one that is much more welcome and it’s fascinating to see the process of taking the plants and using them to create blue cloth, seeing it in action really is quite magical.

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“The traditional process took weeks to complete and created a smell that would stink the whole village out, so we’re pleased to say we’ll be working in a way that is quicker and much less smelly.

“The work of dyeing and spinning yarn into cloth is woven into the history of Lavenham Guildhall, so for us to be able to re-create this process for visitors to see up close makes this a very special weekend.”

As well as using woad to create the famous Lavenham blue, the team will also be using other plants to create vibrant yellows, reds and greens from spun and unspun wool.

The dyeing will take place in the Guildhall garden, where a number of dye plants are grown.

Inside, visitors will be able to see spinning wheels being used to turn the dyed fleece into yarn.

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