Lavenham Blue

We’re getting very excited about Lavenham Blue!  It is a yarn that has been hand dyed using woad and traditional methods and will be in the shop over the Summer.

Let’s go back to the 14th century  when the cloth industry was already well established. The origin of the cloth industry probably had much to do with the high local population of free men not having enough land to make a living from. The cloth industry offered them the opportunity to increase their income. As the years went by the industry became more organised and profitable. 

The prosperity of the trade was such that by 1524 Lavenham was ranked as the fourteenth wealthiest town in England. Cloth was being exported as far as Russia and North Africa. Also, Thomas Spring III, a clothier of Lavenham, was reckoned to be the richest man in England outside the nobility.  Its most renowned cloth was Lavenham Blue Broadcloth, a plain, heavy wool fabric, measuring 28yd 28in long by 5ft 3in wide, and dyed blue with woad.  Woad was a plant growing in abundance in East Anglia and in other parts of Britain and Europe. It’s important to know here that woad was the main go to method of achieving the blue colour until it was gradually replaced by imported indigo from Asia (one of the factors that led to the death of the cloth industry in Lavenham.)

During the late 16th century Lavenham’s industry was badly affected by Dutch refugees that settled in Colchester.  They produced cloth that was cheaper and lighter than Lavenham’s.  Cheaper imports from Europe brought a rapid decline in the industry. and by 1600 Lavenham had lost its reputation as a major trading town.   All this helps explain why most timber-framed buildings here date from about 1460 to 1530. There was no wealth left to build anything of quality later in the century.

What an amazing history!  Such development in a short space of time and such a dramatic downfall too.  As you can imagine, since starting at The Woolpatch all this wonderful history on our doorstep has had a huge impact on us and what we want to do.  So to this end, we just had to do something with wool and woad and re-create Lavenham Blue again.  I don’t think we can make the cloth just yet….but we can certainly get the wool and dye it and have our own Lavenham Blue yarn! With the help of local dyers, spinners and weavers – who knows….maybe with time we can make the bluecloth as well!

As we speak we are currently dyeing the wool.  The lovely Jan is in her workshop doing all sorts of experiments with woad, water, yarn and the sun and is coming up with some excellent results.  We are very very excited indeed!!!!  She has researched all the traditional techniques  of dyeing and using woad and the sun to dye the yarn.  It’s been fascinating to learn all about it.  Remember we are doing this all by hand and as traditionally as possible.  Here a few pics so far

So Lavenham Blue is coming! What a wonderful yarn it shall be for what is a most wonderful history.  You have got to love our wool towns!!!

Stuart

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