Ivy as a Natural Dye Material


Ivy; there’s tons of it growing over my yard wall, and Bob had asked what colours we would get with the leaves and berries. So I decided to give it a go.


I had tried this a couple of months ago without the berries. But this time I wanted to include them so I needed to wait until they had ripened. I hadn’t taken any photos last time, but the results were much the same.

I used the same procedure as with the other dyestuffs; twice the weight of dye material to wool. Also I let the twigs, leaves and berries soak for a week to get the maximum amount of dye in the pot.


As usual I had pre-mordanted the wool with Alum. I wanted to dye 300g of Aran weight wool.
When I added the wool initially there was no significant change to the colour.


After an hour, there was a definite change in colour, but not the green I had hoped for. Instead I got a yellow; nice but not what I had wanted.


So I added copper sulphate to the pot (2 teaspoons per 100g wool), and continued to simmer for a further hour. This gave a better result. It’s green, but still not the green I had wanted. In real life it’s a slightly darker; below is a photo I took in natural daylight the following day, after the wool had dried.


Last year using the same ivy plant I got a great green that I used in a hat for Bob. This was a different type of wool, and a different year, so that may account for the difference. My little nettle patch is growing, so I plan on trying those for a green……..

Battle of Clontarf

So next year will be the 1000 year anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf; you know, the one where Brian Boru sorts out the nasty vikings here in Ireland. Ed Mooney has done a lovely blog piece about the battle and the history surrounding it; it is well worth a read.
There is current planning for a re-enactment event here in Ireland from the time that Boru masses his army in Killaloe before the march to Dublin for the battle, extending on through his wake in Swords Castle and burial in Armagh. It should be a truly awesome event. You can check out the current plans here on Facebook.
Thanks again to Ed Mooney’s blog for this original post!

Ed Mooney Photography

On this day 999 years ago, Brian Boru, the King of Munster and  one of the biggest badass warriors in Ireland at the time, knocked 50 shades of S##t out of the Vikings of Dublin at Clontarf. The Vikings and their allies from Leinster, the Orkneys and the Isle of Mann were led by Sitric Silkbeard. The Battle was a result of over two centuries of treachery, failed alliances and treaties between the Celtic Chieftains and the Norsemen whom had taken a strong foothold in Ireland ever since they gave up  plundering the gold, chalices, crosses and manuscripts of the monasteries and the corn harvests of the settled communities. Gradually they established Viking settlements around Ireland and engaged in trade and commerce. However there was a strong opposition to their presence in Ireland from the southern province of Munster. Here Brian had promptly kicked Viking ass on several occasions. Brian’s…

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Versatile Blogger Award Nomination.


Oh my – I’m hoping this isn’t a late April 1st on me, but I’ve been nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award!! I have to say that it is completely unexpected as I’ve only been blogging since January this year!
I have to say that I feel quite honoured to have been nominated for this. So the first thing I have to do is thank Ed Mooney Photography for his kind nomination.

So being me, I checked out the Versatile Blogger Award Blog to see what the story was and found the rules.

‘If you are nominated, you’ve been awarded the Versatile Blogger award.

      •  Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
      •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
      •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
      •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award
      •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So here we go!

The blogs that I would like to nominate are the following;

Little Viking Horse.
A. J. Sefton.
My Shetland.
Jo’s Journal.
Fuzzbee Yarns.
Got Ireland.
Kate Shrewsday.
Vibrant Ireland.
Adventures In History Land.
Ed Mooney Photography.
Ash N. Finn.
Feminist Crusades.

And finally, seven things about me……

  1. I’m not really a full time viking and I do live in a house,
  2. I love the Oseberg Ship finds; they make my re-enactment life much easier.
  3. My dad bought me a Shetland pony when I was four. We called him Hector
    and he was a little devil!!
  4. I love visiting old ruins with my camera in tow,
  5. I read pretty much anything, but particularlyfantasy and historical fiction,
  6. I have two dogs,
  7. I love watching quiz shows.

Swords Castle, Co Dublin.

When we were at the training weekend in Swords, we camped in the grounds of Swords Castle. Those of you that have read my posts before will probably have realised that I like old buildings so I was looking forward to seeing this one.


The castle is in the centre of Swords town, which is about 15 Km north of Dublin City. It’s right beside the airport. The castle is the former residence of the Archbishop of Dublin and is reputed to be the only fortified residence of the Archbishop to survive today. Swords Castle was built over a period of 400 years starting before 1200 AD.
Brian Boru’s body is believed to have been brought here to be waked after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
I found a brief history of the castle here.

The entrance gateway is a beautiful archway and is flanked by two towers. It’s very like the entrance to Corfe Castle in Dorset (and just as narrow!).1-DSCF3327

To the right of the gateway is the restored church, where the stone work and windows  have been repaired as part of a joint project between FAS (the Irish government training organisation) and Swords Council. Hopefully they will continue the restoration project for the rest of the site!

 1-DSCF3328At the north end of the courtyard area is the Constable Tower.


The ruins of a large hall are still visible along the east wall, though they are quite overgrown now. The fruit trees are here from the time that a previous owner used the grounds as an orchard.


This was a lovely place to stay for the weekend. Unfortunately the castle courtyard is not currently open to the public due to issues about the safety of the entrance tower. This is such a pity – there are some beautiful buildings here, and I for one would have loved to have seen the dungeons under the church; been allowed to walk the battlements or even just sit in the restored church.
However it is possible to visit the outside areas of the castle – and peep through the gateway.

I’ve added a selection of the photos I took below. It was quite a dull wet day so they aren’t quite as I had hoped, but I hope you enjoy them.

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Viking Training in Swords.

That sounds like a bit of a quirky title…… but Fingal Living History Society hosted a training weekend in the grounds of Swords Castle, Co Dublin; and yes, some of the training involved sword fighting.
Mind you, there were also spears and axes, and Dane axes and a bill hook if my eyes didn’t deceive me!

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There was a really good attendance for this training weekend. There were around fifty fighters representing groups from Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Downpatrick, Clare and also from England (apologies if I managed to miss anyone out there!).

The re-enactors use the training weekends to brush up on their weapons of choice, and also to learn other fight techniques. The less experienced fighters learn from the more experienced, and they get to practice as well. Here is a small selection of photos of the fighters playing in the castle grounds.

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The training can be one on one, or as a groups of fighters against other groups.

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There is also a huge social aspect to this event as it gives members of different groups to meet and socialise with each other.

But it’s not all about the fighters and their  toys; the crafters also get together for what is sometimes referred to as a ‘stitch and bitch’. I managed to teach some people how to nalbind, and a friend spent some time teaching a few of us how to finger braid with five loops. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos, but I did find this site that has some instructions and pictures. The braids would have been used to decorate hems on garments.

Great weekend away with lots done; looking forward to the next event!

Blackberries………… to dye for!

1-blackberriesSo it’s spring, and like all good 21st century vikings I recently did a quick spring clean; well actually I had to defrost my freezer as it had become very badly iced over!
Anyway, while cleaning out the drawers I came across a box of frozen blackberries. I had bought them with the intention of making a Blackberry Crumble but must have forgotten them. They had passed their sell-by date by quite a long time, and so with the principle of waste not want not, I decided to use them to dye some wool. At the same time I could justify using another fruit as a dye stuff.

I had previously mordanted some wool with Alum.


As in the previous dye experiments, I was so hopeful when I added the wool to the dye-bath; it looked like I was going to get a beautiful rose pink.


But as in the previous experiments, what you initially appear to get is not always what you end up with . This time we got a blue/gray (the photos don’t show the colour exactly)!

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So there we are; another dye experiment completed.
Quite a nice colour, quite similar to the one I got from elderberries, but to be honest I might use the blackberries for the crumble next time………………