Foraged Colour collaboration II

My work with the Foraged Colour project from initial ideas to final cloth

Foraged Colour is an Arts Council funded project conceived by seam member Linda Row, which began in February 2020. I was one of four textile artists; seam member Gill Hewitt , Eve Kumari and Frances Westerduin, collaborating with Linda to create unique, handmade textiles from British wool and dyed with foraged colours.

In my first post I described my intial ideas and my decision to create two lengths of fabric, one depicting woods in spring, and the other woods in autumn, all from the same warp.


As well as exploring whether my ideas would work in practice, sampling was about experimenting with British wool. Each weaver on the project had different British wool yarns to try that were new to them.

Left, my first sample warp on the loom looking more like drifting snow! Right I only managed one sample (shown here in loom-state and fluff) with this warp, experimenting with 1:3 and 3:1 twill (top) and broken twill (bottom) blocks.

I had problems with my first sample warp, a worsted yarn, on my eight shaft countermarch loom. The warp quickly became an unmanageable fluff-ball! I tried using spray starch, but it wasn’t enough – perhaps sizing the warp would have helped? A quick search for a new warp yarn was successful, it was thicker, but thankfully, it wove well.

Finished samples. Left to right: the only sample from the first warp, with my first two samples using the second, heavier warp yarn. Central sample 1:3 and 3:1 twill blocks; right sample broken 1:3 and 3:1 twill blocks.

Based on the colours in my photos of autumn and spring trees, Linda dyed a selection of British yarns for the weft, using her store of foraged dyestuffs, and some British-grown madder, indigo and weld. I wanted to suggest the dappled light of a forest, so I experimented with contrasting 3:1, 1:3 twill and broken twill blocks. Linda loved the colour graduation for the main autumn colour way, with the contrast of a broken twill in spring greens. The path idea was jettisoned – too complicated.

The same sample showing how colours dyed with madder can change after washing. On the left loom-state cloth and on the right finished (washed and pinned out). Notice how the lovely bright orange has become a coral.

I was stunned at the range of colours Linda got from madder, from orange to corals, just by adjusting the acid or alkalinity of the dye bath. However, the downside was when finishing my first samples I didn’t realise that I should use a pH neutral soap. All the madder colours became a little bit bluer and my gorgeous oranges changed to coral.

Sample showing the difference that reversing the contrasting 1:3 and 3:1 twills makes. When the diagonals of both twills go in the same direction there are bulges in the warp yarns at the transition (lower half of cloth), reversing one of the twills, as shown in the top half of the cloth stops this happening.

However, I still wasn’t happy. I wanted more contrast between the 3:1 and 1:3 twills – so I widened the warp ends per inch from 21 to 24, to make the cloth more weft facing. I also had to reverse the contrasting 3:1 and 1:3 twills to stop the warp thread movements, the bulges, where the two twills met.

A set of finished samples for Foraged Colour. If you compare the far right sample with the sample two to the left of it, you can see that widening the warp has increased the contrast between the two alternating blocks of twill.

The end of the sample warp. Left: experiments with stripes of different textured and hand-spun British wools, and at the top stripes of waste warp still containing the knots used to tie it on, at the very beginning of the warp. Right: experimenting with extra weft as a path, inspired by Annie Albers.

The end of the sample warp was pure experimentation; making more textural pieces and investigating how I could use waste warp yarn.

The last step was weaving the final cloth with a strict yarn budget that was only just enough! Find out how it went in my final blog post.

Penny Wheeler