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How Would You Dye A Seal Pup?

We had the most interesting enquiry, it read: Can your dye last in sea water for three weeks?

We didn’t know. Nobody did. We wondered why you want a dye that only lasted three weeks as much as anything. What can you do in three weeks? Shoot a film? Shoot an underwater film…? Turns out it’s for dying seal pups on Farne Island, the National Trust rangers and volunteers tag the baby seals to track how the colony is doing. Once you’ve counted the seal, you paint it. I’m not saying all seals look alike, it’s just there are such large numbers.

There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the state of the tide

Wikipedia

Look out for the island’s colony of grey or Atlantic seals hauled up on the rocks or bobbing inquisitively in the sea. The islands have the largest breeding colony in England with some 2,000 pups born here each autumn.

VisitNorthumberland.com

David Attenborough declared Farne Island one of two places in Britain to see nature at its best. Tweeter @BarleySpillman asked “for those who can’t go abroad as easily, where in the UK offers the best opportunity to capture magnificent nature?”

David Attenborough tweet about Farne Island best place to see nature in Britain

Count us in

Seals cub with dye marking
Farne Island seal pups are marked after they have been counted 

The National Trust volunteers count the seal cubs, then mark them to avoid counting them twice. The dye also allows the National Trust to keep track of mortality rates and watch for any trends. The task of the dye is simply to mark them for three weeks until their adult fur comes through. The dye needs to be safe, seawater resistant and to stick to the fur despite the natural oils that help keep the seals warm.

This year the rangers have experimented with our natural Madder Dye and we’ve just sent them some of our natural Turmeric Dye for testing. Like all our dyes they are both just plant material with nothing added or taken away. Both are considered non-toxic, which is a great starting point, however the real test will be whether it can survive in this challenging and unique environment.

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Enjoy Our Stunning New Dyes With 15% Off

Welcome to our new range of vibrant winter colours! Use the coupon code WinterCheer15 to save 15% right across our new (and old) dyes, incenses and perfumed oils. Perfect for you, perfect to give and perfectly priced. Winter is here, and it becomes more important than ever to bring beauty into your home. Our incenses are evocative and peaceful, our perfumed oils are delightful and fun (and at prices you can play around with). But right here I want to introduce you to our new range of natural dyes.

Use the coupon code ‘WinterCheer15’ at the checkout to save 15% on your basket. The discount can be applied to all our natural dyes, incenses and perfumed oils. You’re welcome!

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Unique gifts, for less than you think.

We specialise in unique natural substances, luxury lamb fleece, sacred incenses and perfume oils. We believe that luxury shouldn’t cost the earth. That’s why we source all our products ethically and sustainably. Stuck for a stocking filler? Take a look at our economically priced perfume oils – just £4 a bottle!

Give some unique tea, for free.

Why not give our beautiful colour changing Butterfly Pea Tea, as a present? We offer generous (and very pretty) samples for free, just pay P+P. Adults love the taste, and that it’s loaded with antioxidants, everyone loves the colour! Serve with a slice of lemon for a light refreshing cup of tea, squeeze the lemon to adjust the colour and flavour.

You bring the gold! Our Frankincense, Myrrh and other sacred woods and resins are beautifully evocative. They transform the way a room feels with aromas that fill the senses and delight. Try smudging with Palo Santo to clean a room and calm life down. Use our Copal to restore energy and cheers things up. Burn Frankincense and Myrrh and you’ll see that it is as relevant now as ever. Real incenses make Christmas golden, take a look at our  range of incenses.

For the ultimate in luxury we recommend sheepskin. Used by man for thousands of years (and with very good reason!) Proper Dartmoor Sheepskin costs less than you might think and each one is unique. It is a quality product that will last for generations. Tanned the traditional way on Dartmoor for the utmost in softness and care. Cuddle a sheepskin, for less than you think. See our range here.

We stock a full range of natural dyes, free from petrochemicals, and these can make excellent and economical gifts. From Mimosa Hostilis to marvelous Madder, we even supply dyes for marking seal pups! If you want to keep in touch, sign up below.

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Lucy Lepchani explains how she uses natural mordants.

We have been so lucky to get guest blogger Lucy Lepchani to talk about the use of natural mordants. Mordants are a huge part of determining the colours and final results of your dye projects and if you head over to Lucy’s blog you can see some of the beautiful and varied results she has achieved, check it out here.

“I have stuck with the least toxic and most affordable/accessible ones so far, which are salt, vinegar, tannin from rhubarb/blackberry/oak leaves, alum (bought as a powder) soda ash/washing soda, and iron. Some dyes don’t need mordants: lichens, turmeric and oak.

Wool being dyed purple using natural dye and natural mordants

How I use them: first, make sure the wool is washed of any commercial fastening or detergent. careful not to felt it in the process – heat is OK – agitation makes felt. You can use soda ash but I hate how it makes wool brittle. Iron is my favourite: keep some rusty nails or steel wool in a jar of spirit vinegar. After the wool is washed and rinsed, or, as I do, after the dye is in the pan, add a good sloosh (I am so slapdash, a sloosh is a small wineglass full) of iron mordant and let the wool soak for ages and ages – ages x 2 meaning a few hours or a day.

Using alum must be done in advance – I use it with all kitchen ingredient things (not turmeric) but it must be used in equal parts with cream of tartar or th wool is horribly sticky.

Variety of naturally dyed wool using natural mordants

Iron makes colours slightly murky (I love these) alum makes them quite as-they-are, and I hear that tin and copper make the colours brighter but I haven’t made natural versions of them yet. I want to. That will involve copper in vinegar, and tin likewise. Slooshes are my mainstay of amount, I have yet to discover how they work. I have just ordered a teeny amount of copper sulphate to save time/see if its worth the trouble of using copper in my palette. If so, I will be harassing plumbers for their leftovers forever.

Also – vinegar brings out the red in colours, bicarb accentuates blue. With an alum mordant, you can get a range of pinks, mauves and blues from red cabbage. salt is my go-to if I’m having self doubt about a mordant, I just add a teaspoon or so into the mix.

You can check out Lucy’s blog here, and our range of natural dyes here. Thanks for the inspiration Lucy.