Focus on...COLOURWORKS
The Knitter|Issue 172
Natural dyes are at the heart of ColourWork's ethos. Penny Batchelor speaks to Ginette MacDonald about her Lancaster-based yarn-dyeing business
Ginette MacDonald

WITH AN educational background in textile design, and a history of making and selling knitted, woven and handspun goods during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it's not surprising that Ginette MacDonald's latest business is a crafty one-woman band. Ginette runs Colour Works, a workshop in The Covered Yard, Lancaster in the north of England. "The Covered Yard is such a lovely place to be; it's one of Lancaster's oldest yards, with four workshops in a row of old stone buildings, says Ginette. “I think they were stables initially - the floor slopes down towards the door, which made it easier to clean out the muck!"

A couple of years ago, Ginette went on a five-day dyeing course, on which she caught the yarn-dyeing bug - and in 2020 ColourWorks was born. She designs colour schemes and selects yarns to dye using natural dyes. It's a creative process. “First the yarn is mordanted in alum if it's wool, which makes colours brighter and more colourfast,” she explains. “While this is heating away, I prepare the dyes. Some dyes need little or no preparation, such as madder extract which I buy as powder and only needs mixing with hot water. Other dyes, such as weld, birch bark and walnut husks, need soaking overnight to extract the colour."

Working with nature

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