Diary of an Urban Dyer

My love of plants began in childhood. As I grew, I acquired an allotment, learnt to forage, and started to make botanical syrups, oil infusions and teas. When I subsequently trained to become a medical herbalist like my great grandfather, I spent hours studying their medicinal properties along with their other uses. I was frequently amazed by how many plants could be used for dyeing or brewing. Or both!

It wasn’t until I travelled to Iceland with my friend, Fu that I realised how many incredible colours could be achieved from plants. Hélène Magnússon, the Icelandic Knitter, took us to visit Hespa who uses both native Icelandic plants and imported non-native varieties to create a rainbow of hues. Fu and I were smitten! A social weekend workshop followed with Jules of Woollenflower and Julia of Black Isle Yarns at Kat Goldin’s farm, Gartur Stitch in Stirlingshire. I delved deeper and attended a number of online dyeing workshops run by Flora of Plants & Colour; and also Maiwa School of Textiles in Vancouver.

Fu and I set up our respective dye studios, occasionally combining them as one in a very well ventilated polytunnel on her farm in East Lothian, Covid restrictions permitting.

And then I had an idea. I wanted to spend a calendar year dyeing small batches of beautiful undyed Uist Wool using either: plants in my garden or within walking distance of my house in Edinburgh; or food waste. And I wanted to use the resulting colourful skeins to knit a single woolly item as a record of the twelve months; plus have enough yarn leftover for other projects. 

Below is a photographic account of my year of urban dyeing. 


January - Ivy leaves


February- Alder cones & twigs


Food Waste - Avocado stones


March - Daffodil flowers

April - Ivy berries

Food Waste - Yellow Onion skins

May - Dandelion flowers


June - Hornbeam (Sorbus) leaves

July - Weld aerial parts

August - Mugwort aerial parts


September - Elder berries

October - Dock leaves


November - Eucalyptus leaves 



December - Dried marigold flowers