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Lavenham Blue at The Woolpatch

Lavenham Blue not only celebrates the wonderful history of woad use in East Anglia but also attempts to replicate ancient and local wool traditions. The use of woad (Isatis Tinctoria) also known as dyer’s woad, can be traced back to the blue broadcloth made nearby in Lavenham in the 16th Century and further back to Boudicca and the Iceni Tribe in AD60. 

The History
In the 16th Century Lavenham, Suffolk became known for its blue broadcloth.  This woven cloth was exported as far as Russia. The wool came from Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and sometimes the Cotswolds. The broadcloth was 28 yards 28 inches long and 5 foot 3 inches broad.  It was dyed first (hence the expression dyed in the wool), spun, woven, fulled and finished in Lavenham. In Water Street, where the river runs through underground culverts, the cloth was washed to remove any surplus pigment.  The water then flowed down the street to join the River Brett at the bottom. Lavenham was said to be the fourteenth wealthiest town in England, despite its small size. Its timber-framed buildings and church were built on the success of the wool trade, just like Long Melford and other Suffolk wool towns.

The Colour Blue: The wool was dyed using the plant woad (Isatis tinctoria). Woad is a pigment, not a dye so it makes a 'physical reaction' rather than a chemical one.  It clings to the fibre.  Over time, with wear it will fade, just like your jeans, and this is the charm of dyeing with Woad.

Dyeing the yarn: A fermentation vat is needed to dye with woad.  Urine would have been used in the 16th Century to achieve this.  The Wool is dipped into the vat, left for a few minutes, and then removed. At first the wool is pale yellow, but with exposure to air, the colour gradually turns to green and then to blue.

What is Lavenham Blue in the 21st Century?

There are two main types of Lavenham Blue

Type 1: Non Commercial - Local Fleece and fully traceable: One Collection a year
This is know as the Lavenham Blue Collection and comes with a date and fully traceable yarn.  I will have sourced the fleece myself from a local shepherd and sent it for manufacturing at a Mill in Yorkshire where it's turned into hanks.  But before you get to knit with it, I dye each hank myself using woad to get those lovely blue colours!

My first collection was the 2020 Collection. The fleece for the 2020 Collection came from a small, mixed flock of Bluefaced Leicester and Romney sheep. The flock were from a farm in Newton, Suffolk, 10 minutes from my shop in Long Melford, Suffolk. After sheering, the fleece was sent to The Halifax Spinning Mill in Yorkshire where it was woollen spun into 80 hanks of 4ply/Fingering weight yarn. Each hank has then been hand dyed with woad individually by me; the whole collection taking a number of months to build up as the hanks were dyed one at a time, outside in the garden.

You can see how this is a unique, limited edition yarn.  Watch this space for future collections!

Type 2: Commercial un-dyed Yarn - This can be any type of yarn such as Merino, Bluefaced Leicester, Bamboo etc and can come in different sizes such as 4ply, DK, Aran etc.  This is sourced from the main big yarn undyed yarn companies in the UK such as Chester Wools, Rooster Yarns, Laxtons and World of Wool.  They supply yarn to Independent dyers across the world.  When I use commerical yarn, I try to choose yarn that is produced entirely in the UK, but am finding it increasingly difficult to do as many of these yarns made with British wool but will be sent to Nepal or Italy to be spun. This type of Lavenham Blue is available most of the year whereas the other type is much more seasonal.

Shipping Information

I will use Royal Mail to send out all orders.  They will all be sent out as a 'Small Parcel' due to the size.  You will have two choices of delivery and a flat rate, regardless of weight to try and make it as easy as possible and not so expensive for you.

You will have a choice of the following when you get to the checkout page. Each option below is linked to the specific page on the Royal Mail website so you can find more information on how long your delivery will take.

UK Domestic:
First Class Small Parcel
Second Class Small Parcel
Rush Delivery - Royal Mail Tracked 48 hour

Outside of the UK - International:
International Standard (Not Tracked)
International Express (Tracked but not signed)

Your order will be sent out using new paper packaging rather than plastic parcel bags.