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Appledore Primary School visit Rosemoor for some Weaving and Dyeing

Posted by Rosemoor Garden on 19 Mar 2009 at 12:52 PM

At Rosemoor, we have welcomed school visits since 1993, and now teach thousands of schoolchildren every year about the amazing world of plants. Last week, Appledore Primary School visited to learn about weaving and dyeing with plants.

First of all they looked at the stem of a cotton plant, to see the fluffy white cotton bolls which hide the lumpy seeds inside. We looked at the fibres from flax, soya bean, nettle, hemp, bamboo, mulberry bark, coir, jute, seagrass and sisal. Some of them have been used for centuries, others are much more recent.

Soya silk has to be created from the bean through a variety of processes, as the fibre is not naturally present – this makes it expensive to make and not very environmentally friendly due to the high use of natural resources, it is however incredibly silky.

Nettlecloth was used for everyday wear before the introduction of cotton almost wiped out its production. The last time it was produced in large quantities was during the First World War, when Germany’s cotton army shirts were wearing out. As their ports were blocked and they were unable to import fresh supplies of cotton, their factories had to produce nettlecloth instead.

Bamboo has been made into fabrics by the Chinese for thousands of years, but only available to westerners in the last 10 years or so. It is beautifully soft, very absorbent and has anti-bacterial qualities which make it ideal for making sportswear, socks, underwear, towelling and washable nappies!

After looking at plant fibres, the children were divided into groups to become part of a loom to weave a rush mat. They look at the inside structure of the rush, with its air spaces, xylem tubes – which suck the water from the roots up to the rest of the plant, and the phloem tubes which work in the other direction taking the plant sugars produced in the leaves around the whole system.

Finally, we dye some cotton threads using plants. Onions give rich yellows, madder root - brick reds, and logwood chips – purples, violets and near black. Sometimes the colour of the liquid can be deceiving. The logwood chips look like chocolate flakes and when mixed in water turn it pale pink. Once cooked in a microwave for two minutes, the water turns the rich blood red. Add white cotton threads and they immediately turn purple – it’s just like magic for the children.

We offer over 20 curriculum based topics for schools throughout the year. If your school would like to visit Rosemoor, please telephone our Education Officers, Sarah Chesters and John Hickson, on 01805 626805 to make a booking.

Is your school a member of the RHS Campaign for School Gardening ? Membership is free and there are numerous resources for teachers and children – just visit our website:

Sarah Chesters, Principal Education Officer


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