Crafting in Co. Clare

Crafting in Co. Clare

We catch up with our columnist Jennifer Lienhard of Apple Oak Fibre Works

As usual it’s been a busy few months, with lots of different things happening, including…..

  • We are busy getting ready for the Woollinn yarn festival in Dublin in May.
  • You can find a small collection of our yarns and felting kits in Clonmel at Chou’s Cottage and in Rowlands Castle UK at Handmade Studios
  • We’ve kicked off our step-by-step spring/summer Woad Project. Come and join in.
  • We’ve designed a new pattern collection for spring and summer
  • 25% off many yarns and other items!

Step-by-step dyeing with Woad project

Before I introduce you to our new and exciting Woad project, I would like to write a little note on the safety of using natural dyes. I often hear people talking about natural dyes being unsafe, which worries me because it implies that the chemical dyes are safe… anyway I came across this great article by Chris Dalziel. Are natural dyes safe? So if you have any concerns, this should clear things up.

And now to the exciting part:

Dyeing with Woad

Woad common name: Dyer’s woad, scientific name: Isatis tinctoria

I’ve really wanted to come up with a project, which spanned over a few months, so that you could follow and join the whole process, and growing and dyeing with woad fits the bill perfectly.

This clever plant is very important for the dyer’s garden, yet this is actually my first time growing it, so we will be on this journey together every step of the way. We are growing some of our dye plants, but Woad hasn’t been among them yet – so this is the perfect opportunity for a ‘grow and dye along’!

Woad is actually part of the brassicaceae family (or the Mustard family; better known for its tastier cousins like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) and is a biennial. The small, 4-petaled, bright yellow flowers bloom in mid to late spring, which then change into small lime green pods that turn into a very dark (almost black) purple colour as they mature.

The flowers really only appear the second year. For the first year it is all about the leaves – which is just what we need for its incredible blue dye.

So how can you join?

If you want to take part, you will have to buy the seeds (link below) and plant them in your own garden, cultivate the plant and… dye!

All steps will be listed on our blog as time goes by and/or you can join our Facebook group to share your experiences.

What do you need?

For growing:

Woad Seeds Irish Seed Savers Association

1 litre pots for seedlings or seed tray/plug tray

Garden space in full sun (this plant grows over 3ft tall and up to a 1ft wide and you will need at least 3-5 plants)

Potting soil (look for organic soil for sowing seeds)

Organic chicken pellets (bone meal or similar will do)

For dyeing:

Woad leaves

Fabric or fibre to dye

2 x 10 litre plastic buckets

A sturdy, heat-resistant bucket with a tight fitting lid

PH indicator paper like this one from or order from your local chemist

Hand blender


Kitchen scales

25g soda ash & 25g thiourea dioxide (available here from my shop).

There’s no time like the present, as they say. So in order to keep up with The Woad Project, order your seeds now. Seeds aren’t difficult to grow, and I will go into more detail as time goes by.

Planting time usually coincides with spring – yet early spring can still be bitterly cold and wet and even snowy as we just found out! I enjoy being out in the garden at this time of year, though I need to be wrapped up nice and cozy, because we are living on a hill and the wind seems to be a constant companion up here. Sometimes, there are moments where I like to wear something new or the same but in a new colour and preferably something that doesn’t take too long to knit! We came up with two beautiful cowl designs and one hat design – knitted in chunky Stockholm yarn, which, due to the time of year, among other yarns, is on special offer! Either one of these quick knits is done in a day and are perfect for this time of year. Quickly done – no need to wait.

I also wanted to give you a peep of a couple of our new colourways, which are available in the shop. All of these are plant dyed and are perfect for Fair Isle or other solid colour projects.

I’m wishing you a beautiful and lovely spring!


Jenny works from her home in County Clare with her husband Tristan and three children.  She was formerly trained as a kindergarten teacher and then as a garden designer; before returning to her first love; colour and yarn. Her shop,  Apple Oak Fibre Works can be found here on Etsy.