For our meet the artist series we engaged 5 talented natural dyers/natural colour artists to naturally dye a pair of our unbleached organic cotton underwear for a unique pair of undies! Whilst inspiring us along the way.
Meet Rebecca Desnos. I am sure many of you have come across her on Instagram with her engaging and beautiful content.
Creating a business from a passion for natural dyeing at home is a dream for a lot of us. Rebecca has made it a reality.
Now an experienced natural dyer, writer, published author, mother and plant lover she is at heart a maker and a story teller.
We want to hear how she got on with her challenge and find out a little more about Rebecca and what makes her tick!
Rebecca thank you for taking on the knicker challenge and letting us learn more about you and your passion for natural dyes.
First of all, as our first artist we gave this challenge to. How did you find dyeing our knickers, what do you think of them?
I really love them! The fabric and shape of the knickers are beautiful. It’s lovely to have unbleached fabric rather than stark white.
…. and tell us most importantly what you did you do with them?!
I hammered sage leaves over them to make a pair of herbal knickers! I felt like making a pattern, and sage leaves print so nicely onto fabric. I pretreated the knickers in soya milk which is a method that I’ve continued to use and love for many years. Then I hammered sage leaves onto the fabric one by one. The leaf goes onto one layer of fabric (make sure the fabric is spread out so there isn’t another layer of fabric behind), then lay spare fabric on top of the leaf. Hammer carefully and methodically so you can see the print of the leaf come through to the surface. Then peel off the leaf. Keep going until you’ve finished the design and allow to dry. Then you can iron to heat-set the dye, or dip into a pot of boiling water, then dry, and iron.
Your work is beautiful. Can you tell us a little about your background? Did you have any creative, artistic experience prior to delving into natural dyes?
I’ve spent my entire life making things with my hands and learning new skills. I spent my childhood and teenage years making a lot of greetings cards and weaving with paper. Then in my 20s I enjoyed collecting men’s shirts from charity shops and turning them into skirts and dresses to wear. I had a very old blog where I shared my step-by-step instructions and people all over the world were making them and following my guides. It was so much fun!! And I loved wearing these simple skirts and dresses so much. They were stitched entirely by hand. A few years later I took some pattern cutting classes to learn the ‘proper’ way of doing things, but I still love doing things intuitively and learning as I go.
How did this journey start for you?
I studied Linguistics at university which was fascinating, but I was always a bit frustrated that I wasn’t doing something more creative… Whilst I was working as a PA in London, I discovered an interior & spatial design course at Chelsea College of Art & Design for graduates who had previously studied different subjects. I was accepted onto this Graduate Diploma course and it felt like a stepping stone into a more creative life. I loved the course and went on to do a Masters in interior & spatial design. Then I got a job the following year as a junior designer, but realised it wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. I didn’t enjoy sitting in an office all day and found it so draining and miserable. I didn’t enjoy the commute into London at all. Around the same time, I was dabbling in natural dyes for the first time and continued to write my blog.
The following year I had a baby and stopped working in London. When I was at home with my baby, I used the nap times each day to make things. My first baby would have really long naps (as he didn’t sleep that well at night) so suddenly I found myself with a big chunk of time each day. This is pretty much how I’ve continued for 9 years now: I do a little bit of creative work every day, squeezing it into the week however I can. Over time, these little chunks of time really add up and I can complete larger projects. The fact that I have such little time makes me extremely focused. I have detailed lists of what I want to do and always have my next task lined up ready. I love crossing things off my lists and then being able to move onto my next project!
Congratulations on all your publications. Our readers might be most familiar with your first book Botanical Colour at your fingertips which was first an e book then published in paperback. Tell us about the self-publishing process? Would you recommend it? If anyone at home wanted to go down this route, have you got any tips?
Thanks! My first eBook was a “nap time” project and I think it took around 3-4 months to complete. My DMs on Instagram were always flooded with questions about how I dye with plants, so it felt natural to put it all into an eBook. The eBook was so popular and I was inundated with requests to print it. I’d never considered it before this! So I looked into how I could turn it into a paperback and had 100 copies printed. They sold during the first week, which was quite a surprise. For a couple of years, I continued ordering them in batches and sending orders to customers. Then eventually I switched to print-on-demand where a customer can order a book on Amazon or Book Depository and the orders are printed and shipped for me. This is the only sustainable way to continue self publishing with children and a busy home life. The other option is to work with a printers and find a fulfilment company, which I did for about a year, but ran into some complications. However, I do plan to look into this again, with a new fulilment company. There are so many pros and cons of each method, so I think it’s just a question of choosing something that works for you. Then keep reassessing things and adapt over time.
There is a rising trend for natural dyeing. How is your style of natural dyeing different to some of the dyers you have come across in the industry?
My focus has always been to create “healthy” fabric.
About 10 years ago, I read the book called Killer Clothes. I learnt how seemingly innocent materials can endanger our health. It connected a lot of dots and was a big wake-up moment.
My take-away point was that I wanted to make my own healthy clothing and fabric. Plant dyes seemed like the perfect choice and I'd been meaning to experiment with them for years. I began with packets of plant dye extracts (madder and indigo) and learnt how to dye in the conventional way by following books.
My focus has always been on creating healthy fabric, and this is why I gradually moved away from using the metallic mordants that are typically used in natural dyeing. I still use alum from time to time, especially with bundle dyeing to get clearer prints, but I much prefer using soya milk as a binder, as it’s a food grade ingredient. This is just my priority as someone who is very health conscious, and also someone who has young children in the kitchen all the time.
Along the way, I fell in love with the rainbow of colours that nature offers us. After the birth of my first baby I started foraging for my own dye plants. We'd return from walks with our pockets stuffed full of alder cones and acorns, and after storms we'd bring back branches of eucalyptus balanced across the hood of the pram. Together, we’d pick dandelions, learn how to identify different tree leaves, and then I’d make the dyes during nap times. Every day I started a new little project, and it gave me something positive to do during those first few sleep-deprived years of motherhood.
What do you love most about the process?
I enjoy working with seasonable plants and exploring my local colour palette. It’s a perfect reason to get outside and explore new places. Natural dyeing has also encouraged me to grow a wider range of plants. It overlaps with so many other hobbies and interests.
What is your favourite natural dye to work with and why?
This changes all the time. I always say that my favourite plant is the last one I dyed with. At the moment I’m still in love with the yellow African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) that I grew last summer. They make the most beautiful green colour on fabric. I can’t wait to grow more next year!
What is coming next?
I’m working on an avocado dye video workshop that I hope to finish off fairly soon. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for me as it’s the first time I’ve worked with long-format video. The file sizes are so big!
Also I have two eBooks in the works that will also be released in paperback, in due course. I just need a few more months to finish them off. They are lovely projects to work on in the evenings when I get a little bit of time to myself! I can’t wait to share the ideas with others. It’s always amazing to see people try out my projects with their own local plants!
On a personal level, I intend to learn more about herbs and herbalism over the next year. I’ve enrolled in an online course to learn how to make really potent oil infusions. I’m going to dip my toes into this next week and make my first oil. I’ve been growing and drying calendula flowers and will use these! There are some similarities with plant dyeing, as we’re essentially infusing plants into a liquid! Also, some of the same herbs can be used in herbalism and natural dyeing. If we go back to the herbal knickers, sage is one of these plants! There’s a lifetime of plants to explore.
At Bedstraw + Madder we have a continual love affair with plants and flowers.
Within their often-delicate petals or leaves plants contain hidden powers. The bright coloured pigments are actually made of anthocyanins which have healing antioxidant qualities.
Colour also has a secondary effect which often goes unnoticed but which studies show is very impactful.
Colour therapy is based on the idea that colours create an electrical impulse in our brain, which stimulates hormonal and biochemical processes in our body. These processes either stimulate or calm us.
Colour influences our energy system by its vibrations, affecting both our physical and emotional well-being.
By using the right colours, we can change our negative aspects into positive ones, be healthier, and acquire a higher level of consciousness and connectedness to our body and nature.
Whilst we can change the colours in our interiors with a lick of paint actually the easiest way to change the colours around you is through your clothing.
Our underwear is brightly coloured with natural plant dyes. As the first point of contact to your most intimate areas on a daily basis, sitting against your skin it enables you to absorb the healing qualities of the natural plant dyes we use.
How our new GMD range of underwear may be of benefit?
These sunshine yellow knickers are dyed with Tacoma flowers.
The plant possesses powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activity due to its content of natural chemicals called flavonoids.
Yellow is associated with the solar plexus chakra which is linked with liver, pancreas, digestive system, gallbladder, empowerment and well-being. The chakra is located between the navel and sternum. Yellow is related to the ego and our sense of self-worth, to how we feel about ourselves and how we are perceived by others.
Our pink knickers are dyed with madder root, a dye that has been used for 2,000 years.
Madder has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for cold deficiency of spleen and stomach. A powerful anti-inflammatory agent it helps with arthritis, joint pain. Studies show it can raise white blood cell counts in chronic dis-ease. It acts as a good expectorant and is a great skin healer for acne.
Embodying nurturing, unconditional love pink calms and reassures our emotional energies, alleviating feelings of anger, aggression, resentment, abandonment and neglect. Studies have confirmed that exposure to large amounts of pink can have a calming effect on the nerves and create physical weakness in people.
Marigold otherwise known as calendula are used to create our orange knickers.
These flowers promote healing. Due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory activity, it helps heal the skin from minor burns and injuries and regenerates new skin cells. It reduces Inflammation and is a great support in chronic skin disease.
The colour orange relates to 'gut reaction' or our gut instincts and stimulates the appetite. It represents endurance, strength, vitality, celebration, self-respect, abundance, joy, openness to others and enthusiasm for life. It supports our creativity.
Our violet underwear is dyed with the bark of the vembalum tree.
The bark is used for skin diseases as it has anti-allergic properties. Vembalum is also known for its use in the healing of cuts and wounds.
Violet links to the crown chakra and is associated with the brain and pineal gland. It is linked with our higher consciousness and can have a calming effect.
Bring some colour to your life in more ways than one.
Start with one pair of knickers at a time.
Love + Knickers
Prim and Ness
the design and manufacture of fashionable clothes to a client's specific requirements and measurements. A word associated with celebrities and red carpets and one we are familiar with in the world of fashion. Hear the word hedgerow and you might be forgiven of thinking of jam.
Well Allan Brown wouldn’t agree. With a passion for the most ethical and sustainable textiles he has made it his mission to explore some of our lost traditions, reviving the cultivation of local plants to make into fibres, fabric and from there to authentically circular clothing.
Allan how did your incredible hedgerow couture journey start?
Hedgerow Couture was just an Instagram name I came up with - a sort of joke – but in a way does capture what I’m about...although I do admit that I’m more Hedgerow than I am couture. It's aspirational – I’m fascinated by clothes and simple ways of clothing oneself, but I seem to spend more time at the other end of the process, with the plants and fibres from which clothes are made.
My textile journey started with playing with nettles and wondering whether it was possible to make clothing out of nettle fibre. In order to answer my wondering, I had to set about doing it myself and on the way learned how to spin and weave.
You work with flax, hemp and nettle. Can you tell us which is your favourite to work with and if one is any easier to convert to fabric than another?
Flax, nettle and hemp are the most wonderful plants, each giving us and numerous other creatures food, fibre and medicine. I’ve mainly worked with nettles and flax, but have spun a lot of hemp and am in collaboration with others to grow it here in East Sussex. They each have their own characteristics and niches they inhabit, but once processed and spun its often difficult to tell them apart.
I really do love the bast fibres and think having all three growing on any given piece of land is the way forward. However, nettle holds a special place in my heart because its what I’ve worked with most. It’s a foraged fibre which makes it unique, it really is the fibre of the landless. With just the simplest of tools one can make an almost immediate start on creating your own yarn and building a direct relationship with your environment and your clothes.
Is it important to return to the use of natural fibres for clothing? If so why?
Yes, I believe it is essential we do so. Textiles and food growing/ farming were traditionally inextricably intertwined. Your clothes and your food would be grown from the land you worked. Oil and coal have afforded us the energy and materials to create a glut of cheap, often plastic clothes, but this is not a sustainable model and the environmental impacts of our reliance on them are wreaking havoc with our ecosystems. Ultimately we will have no choice but return to growing and raising our sources of fibre from the land we live on, in an ecological and regenerative manner. We’re going to have to make much less go a lot further.
Along with growing our fibres, we will need to re-familiarise ourselves with the skills of our ancestors in order to create textiles from them – by hand, with the simplest of equipment. I think, that in the coming years, we will be spending a greater portion of our time gardening, growing our food and fibres and crafting our own clothes .
What is the most challenging thing about working with natural fibres?
As with food growing, both the challenge and the reward of working with natural fibres is nature itself. When working with plants fibres almost every stage, from sowing, growing, harvesting, retting and drying, are weather dependent and you’re trying to time activities to benefit from the changing conditions.
The spinning, dyeing, weaving of the fibres once processed is wonderful. Each step is a celebration of all that you’ve managed to grow and gather. The feeling of creating clothes from your own immediate environment is so enriching and rewarding.
Since lockdown there has been a huge increase in our desires to spend time outside and be more self-sufficient. We think of growing our own food but if someone reading this wants to start growing their own fabrics is it realistic? What advice would you give?
I can’t help but feel that we have a deep yearning for the land, for being embedded in it and sustained by it. Growing – at least some – of our own food and fibre is a deeply rewarding thing to do. Working an allotment or getting involved in community growing spaces is definitely the place to start. Even if you have a garden I’d still recommend trying to do this with other people as you’ll great fun!
As far as fibres go flax is the obvious choice – we have a long tradition of growing it and as well as being a beautiful plant, it will provide you with an amazing fibre. It’s easy to grow and even a modest bed will provide you with enough fibre to keep you busy until the next season’s crop is ready for harvesting. You’ll also soon want to start a little dye garden so you can colour your yarns and cloth.
If you have no garden or land to grow things, begin by foraging nettles or seeing if you can pick up any fleeces from local sheep. Try and hook up with local spinning groups or set up your own. I bet there are spinners and knitters on every allotment site in the country!
Can you tell us what you have growing in your allotment?
A group of us share several allotments that are worked collectively, but we each manage our own areas.
On the food side of things I grow all the usual things, potatoes, leeks, kale, squashes, onions, beans, carrots, beetroot etc.
On the fibre front I grow flax. When the law eventually changes I’d grow hemp too. I also usually process a few sheep fleeces every year, so the waste of that is used as mulch. I also have a dye garden up the allotment and grow madder, woad, weld, coreopsis, French marigold and anything else I can squeeze in. I’m pretty self sufficient in fibre and dye plants, with plenty of room to still grow food.
There was a special screening at the recent Natural Fibres Festival in London of the film – The Nettle Dress. Tell us about your involvement in this project and what the film is about?
The film, The Nettle Dres,s was put together by my good friend Dylan Howitt, an awesome and sensitive film maker. Years ago we shot a short film called ‘Nettle For Textiles’, which went viral and ended up pulling together a large community of nettle lovers from across the world and inspired the facebook group by the same name.
I suggested to Dylan that perhaps he should shoot some footage of my attempt to try and make a dress from local, foraged nettle, as I wasn’t sure if it was something that had ever been captured on film and when it may be attempted again.
We had little idea that it would take years but nevertheless Dylan continued to shoot bits and pieces as the project progressed. I wasn’t even sure if it was possible, so it may have ended up being a complete fool’s errand!
However, in a way that closely resembled the weaving of the cloth, Dylan wove together a beautiful film. He has a nose for the essence of things, for finding the heart of the story and a gentle way of telling it.
What have you loved most about the journey so far and what is your long-term vision for Hedgerow couture?
I’ve loved meeting and interacting with all the people that nettles have brought, and continue to bring into my life. I think spinning has been the greatest discovery for me and I’m almost evangelical about encouraging folk to pick it up. I think it can change the world, Ghandi was on to something!
I’m curious as to where Hedgerow Couture goes myself.
Many thanks Allan.
You can follow Allan and his natural fibre projects @hedgerow.couture
A symbol of love gratitude, generosity, harvest and abundance.
They really are in abundance at the moment. It appears to be a mast year.
From roadside, to field and hanging over the garden walls they bulge with rosy fruit.
If crumbles aren’t your thing and you are all juiced out try our apple puree/sauce recipe. Combined with ginger and turmeric it makes a worthy immune supporter as we roll through Autumn into Winter.
Ginger and turmeric are both potent anti-inflammatories and warming thus promoting qi and blood flow that can become stagnant as the days cool down and your body has a tendency to dampness.
20 large apples
3cm of root ginger
2 fingers of fresh turmeric
Peel and slice the apples
Place in a pan with the juice of a quarter of a lemon
Heat up to a simmer and simmer until all the apple is soft.
Add the peeled piece of ginger and the turmeric.
Blend all together with the apple in a nutribullet until smooth whilst the apple is still hot.
Apple invites us to enjoy the fruits of the earth and be grateful for them.
Enjoy with yogurt, granola or off the spoon on an empty stomach.
When not eating apple. Try dyeing with their leaves.
Fill a pan with apple leaves
Bring to the boil and leave overnight to allow the colour to release.
The next day reheat, leaving the leaves in the dye pot. Add your cotton fabric and leave the fabric in the dye pot overnight. Reheat to reduce the dye water and strengthen the final colour of fabric.
The natural tannins in the leaves mean you don’t require a mordant.
Apple are not the only leaves you can naturally dye with. Others you can try are birch, walnut or alder leaves.
Oh how we love Autumn.
From blackberries, whortle berries and now to sloes and hawthorn. They all have a healing quality to share along with their natural colour.
Sloe was traditionally planted near the house for protection because it was a common belief that evil faeries could not pass through the thorny shrub and that it would keep harm at bay. For anyone who has tried to pick sloe berries, it is easy to understand where this came from.
There is more to sloes that just sloe gin. It is one of the best berries to use as a laxative due to its astringent glucosides. The flowers have the same affect but being gentler are good to use with children, either nibbling or infusing in some milk.
We love sloe for its mesmerising scarlet dye. Although it fades with each wash. Whilst it lasts it is truly stunning and should definitely be experimented with.
Simply fill a pan half full with sloe berries gathered after the first frost.
Cover with water and bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 30 mins. It creates a rich sloe juice that is almost immediately ready for dyeing with.
Pre mordant your cotton fabric. Then add the fabric to the dye bath, submerge and circulate for even colour, then leave for an hour before removing.
Hawthorn equally is one of the most sacred trees in Celtic tradition. Symbolising love and protection.
Like the rest of the plant the hawthorn berries are one of the best heart tonic remedies we have. Strengthening and toning and opening us up with the courage we might need to love.
Its colour is subtler, salmon pink but still very beautiful.
When not dyeing with the berries you can:
Infuse them in olive oil for 4 weeks and use this vitamin C rich oil to nourish your skin.
Infuse them in hot water and drink as a homemade Love Tea, sharing it with those you love.
Share the Love x
Our passion for natural plant dyes was inspired by Ayurvastra, an ancient branch of Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old system of healthcare.
“Ayur” is Sanskrit for health and “vastra” clothing so Ayurvastra is loosely translated to “life cloth”
It uses herb-infused and herb-dyed organic fabrics as healing agents, especially for skin, joint and respiratory conditions.
Ayurvastra functions through the principle of touch: as the skin comes into contact with the herb-infused fabric the body develops increased metabolism and rids itself of toxins. Studies have proven the effectiveness of this*
Turmeric is a wonderful spice to use for creating life cloth at home as it is a spice we hopefully all have in our kitchen cupboard. Utilising its anti-inflammatory and immune boosting qualities to wrap around you at will.
Try it yourself using our recipe, bearing in mind it is not a very colourfast or lightfast dye. If you leave in the sunlight the colour will fade as it will after frequent washes.
Turmeric powder – 3 tablespoons for every 500g of fabric
Scoured Cotton fabric
A large pan full of water.
Fill a pan with water and warm to a simmer on the hob.
Add the turmeric and stir until it is well dispersed.
Wet your fabric. Because of its fugitive colour in sunlight we don’t recommend using mordant when dyeing with turmeric.
Add your fabric to the pan and make sure it is submerged. Move around with your hands to make sure every inch is covered and allow the pot to simmer for 2 hours and then cool stirring and moving the fabric every hour to make sure you get an even coverage. Add a splash of vinegar if you want to brighten the colour.
When you are happy with the colour rinse it in water and hang to dry inside ( not in sunlight)
You can cut out pieces of the cotton to make homemade bandages for cuts or sores, use the sheets to lie on during a massage or meditation or use the material to create eye masks.
As a Naturopath I love to take a holistic approach to health. Why not combine the healing power of turmeric with its friend ginger.
Ginger has many uses in the home remedies department and can be used to help arthritis, diarrhea, flu, headache, heart and menstrual problems, diabetes, stomach upset and motion sickness.
Here are our top home uses for the spice ginger.
Muscle Strains - Apply warm ginger paste with turmeric to the affected area twice a day.
Sore throat - Boil some water and add a dash of cinnamon, a little piece of ginger, 1 tsp honey and drink.
For a persistent cough - Take a half teaspoonful of ginger powder, a pinch of clove with a pinch of cinnamon powder and honey in a cup of boiled water and drink it as tea.
Asthma - A teaspoon of fresh ginger juice mixed with a cup of fenugreek decoction and honey to taste acts as a excellent expectorant in the treatment of asthma.
Headaches - Dilute a paste of ginger powder, about 1/2 a teaspoon, with water and apply to you forehead.
Colds - Boil a teaspoonful of ginger powder in one quart of water and inhale the steam - helps alleviate colds.
Ginger Compress - This method stimulates blood and body fluid circulation, helps loosen and dissolve toxic matter eg. cysts, tumors. Place about a handful of coarsely grated ginger in a cloth and squeeze out the ginger juice into a pot containing 4 liters of hot water (do not boil the water). Dip a towel into the ginger water and wring it out. Apply very hot to the affected area.
Diabetes - Some doctors recommend some drinking ginger in water first thing in the morning to help regulate your glucose level.
Ginger Tea - Make with fresh ginger root. Grate a small piece of ginger, about the size of a nickel, into a mug. Add the juice of a half a lemon. Fill the mug with boiling water. Stir in a teaspoon of organic honey.
For relief of nausea - Ginger is generally taken in doses of 200 mg every 4 hours.
For relief of flatulence - Ginger is generally taken in doses of 250 to 500 mg 2 to 3 times a day.
* In 2006, a trial by the Government Ayurveda College in Thiruvanathapuram in southern India found Ayurvastra cloth to be effective in treating 40 patients with allergies, rheumatism, hypertension, psoriasis and other skin ailments. Despite the history of this practice, Western medicine has not yet recognized the benefits of ayurvastra clothing and products.
Preparing for a healthy winter
As a naturopath I get asked a lot at this time of year what we can do or take to keep ourselves in abundant health through the winter.
As the saying goes “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. Preparing your body for the winter will help you sail through those dark days and cold nights with a vital force that is hopefully able to throw off any germs it comes into contact with.
These are my basic top tips:
Fresh air and exercise
Whilst it might feel less tempting to go for a walk or head to the gym, the importance of having some time out to clear your head, breath in some fresh air and get the blood moving is imperative to keep our immunity strong. Take at least 30 minutes of the day to walk preferably with an incline to really get the blood moving.
Whilst this isn’t one for the vegetarians, the benefits of chicken soup should not be forgotten. It has been a wellness tonic for centuries and for good reason. It contains important minerals that are easily absorbable such as magnesium and calcium and phosphorus. It also contains the amino acid cysteine which can thin the mucus in the lining of the lungs so it can be expectorated more easily. As always supporting our gut improves our immunity which this is good for too.
Try and eat at least once a week.
During the winter months it can be harder to notice when you are dehydrated as you don’t sweat as much. Good hydration flushes out toxins from the body, maintains efficient bodily functions and keeps the body energized. Drink herbal teas containing turmeric, ginger, rosemary and cinnamon as these are warming and help keep the natural fire of your stomach burning and invigorated.
My preference is always to try and get your essential vitamins and minerals from a balanced diet but this can be harder to do these days due to poor soil quality, synthetic inputs and long air miles. Finding a local organic grower for your vegetables is ideal and helps you eat more seasonally, supporting your body with the food it should be eating at that time of year.
When that isn’t available you can incorporate the following supplements:
We are often told to eat lots of garlic during the winter to keep us healthy. By eating garlic all the time its effectiveness at combating colds and flus is reduced.
Ideally you want to be eating it just as you start to feel a little run down and eat a lot of it! Using a raw garlic clove as a suppository is also a quick way to help your body fight back as well as knocking on the head any lingering urinary infections.
You can of course supplement with garlic capsules if you don’t like the garlic breath!
You only have to take a walk in a park or along a country lane and you can see the abundance of berries presenting themselves in September. This year seems like a bumper year indeed.
These are natures immunity larder. Each one is packed with antioxidants that pack a punch against colds and flus.
Pick blackberries and whortleberries for freezing or eat straight away topped on cereal and smoothies. In last week’s blog I shared a recipe for elderberry syrup.
You can of course supplement Vitamin C and my all-time favourite brand is A Vogel chewable tablets made with food source sea buckthorn berries, acerola berries and passion fruit for a complete vitamin. Unlike most Vitamin C on the market which is made with ascorbic acid (a synthesized version) this is food based so more recognizable by your body.
Vitamin C helps our iron absorption which is a bonus too.
That bright circle in a sky, our friend the sun shines less frequently over the winter so we cannot make as much Vitamin D. Vitamin D maintains healthy bones and muscles as well as supporting positive mental health.
If you supplement with about 600iu per day it helps our body maintain the summer levels we are used to.
Zinc has been shown to help reduce viruses replicating so taking it within 24 hours of starting to feel ill can reduce the duration of the cold or flu. About 75mg per day is recommended.
I suggest you use like garlic.
Stay tuned for more health and wellbeing tips and ideas over the next few months.
Stay well x
As the holiday season nears an end and we approach the start of a new school year, it is an excellent time to consider boosting our immunity ahead of the winter months.
In nature’s wisdom, plants grow at the time of year when we need them.
Sharing their virtues for our health and wellbeing in order to support our body through the challenges different seasons bring.
Along the hedgerows you can’t help but notice the bulging bunches of elderberries hanging from the tree, ripening from green to purple.
As natural dye fanatics we loved to discover that the Romans used these berries as a natural hair dye, boiled in wine to make the hair black.
Certainly, it provides an initial bright purple dye on fabrics although being fugitive the colour won’t stay bright for long so enjoy the beauty while it lasts!
Like the bark of the elder tree the berries can have a purging effect on the bowels but their most common use is for our immune system.
These magic clusters our full of Vitamin C and antioxidants something we need most to fend off infection and secure optimum iron absorption. One cup of elderberries contains about 50 mg of Vitamin C with the recommended daily amount being 75mg for women and 90g for men.
There are numerous ways to enjoy elderberries such a drying the berries to make a tea, wine, making them into a jam with other hedgerow favourites like blackberry and hawthorn or adding them to a crumble.
Our favourite is as a syrup which is made from simmering berries and a sugar until it gets to a thick consistency. Whilst you can make it with sugar I prefer to make it with honey so you get the added anti-bacterial immune boosting properties of local honey. If you have a sore throat the consistency means it coats the throat nicely too. Make sure not to boil the honey and render it less potent.
500g of juicy plump destalked elderberries
400g of sugar or honey
1 lemon juiced
You might like to add 3cm of freshly sliced ginger, a cinnamon stick or a star anise if you prefer a depth of flavour.
Place the berries into a saucepan and cover with about 1cm water. Add any spices you desire.
Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 15-20 mins until the berries have softened into a liquid.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve
Measure the liquid and for every 500ml of liquid add 400g of sweetener.
Tip the sweetener and the liquid back into a pan and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Leave to cool and bottle in sterilised jars.
This will keep for about 12 weeks in the fridge or freeze cubes in trays and use as you need until next season!
Are we running out of fresh water?
Whist water is essential for life on earth it is something that most of us in the developed world give little thought to. We expect it to always be there. To quench our thirst and bathe in at will. We can get in on tap, literally.
Yet only a staggering 2.5 % of the Earth’s remaining water is fresh.
The clean water crisis is a hot topic at the moment with so little of it available due to recent droughts, a leaking infrastructure and contamination from sewage overspill causing more of a problem than ever.
Since the start of Bedstraw + Madder, maintaining clean, safe and abundant water has and always will be one of our main objectives.
From our packaging made with waterless ink, to our regenerative organic cotton grown without pesticides. From saving precious water with rain fed irrigation to using only natural inputs in our dyeing process. By removing all synthetic, toxic chemicals we prevent them from polluting fresh water supplies.
That's why the clothing we make is "clean" throughout the entire supply chain; to ensure a positive impact on our water.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin
"When the well is dry, we know the worth of water".
In researching water, we discovered the average person in the UK uses 142 litres every day.
Clearly not only is it essential to use less water, but also to not pollute our water system in order to maintain as much clean healthy drinking water for communities around the world and not contribute to the 20% of global water pollution currently caused by textile processing.
Whilst the UK is known for having one of the cleanest drinking water in the world we are always looking out for ways to improve the quality for our health and wellbeing.
Unless specially filtered your home drinking water will likely contain the following:
Chlorine – a disinfectant.
Fluoride- a controversial mineral added to reduce tooth decay.
Microplastics have been found in 72% if water supplies in the UK
Drugs – a study in 2013 found compounds such as anti-depressants, cocaine bi products and ibuprofen to name a few.
These are our top choices of water filter that eliminate these nasties to one degree or another.
1.Berkey Water filter
This is our favourite due to its ability to remove all fluoride, chlorine, viruses, pathogenic cysts, parasites, pharmaceuticals, harmful chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides, VOCs, detergents, organic solvents, cloudiness, trihalomethanes, silt, sediment, heavy metals.
2. Black and Blum charcoal
The basic option which removes chlorine and puts minerals back into the water.
3. Osmio clarity gravity filter
They are able to filter out chemicals, heavy metals, plastic, hormones, pharmaceuticals and fluoride.
Great health starts with great quality water. Support your body with the best.
With temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in parts of the world, and even England feeling the heat, many people feel physically challenged by it.
Excessive heat can cause energy levels and blood pressure to fall, muscles to cramp, and our mental agility to suffer too.
Traditionally, as hunter-gatherers, we would have made our way to the coast in the summer months to take advantage of the sea breeze, cool water, supportive minerals, and negative ions. Electrolytes in seawater and shellfish would have been beneficial, and seaweed gel would be used to nourish the skin.
With busy lives, it can be hard to get away, take a well-earned break and allow your body to cool down and relax, so how can we best support our body and manage these extremes in temperatures and the stress it afflicts on our body?
Hydration might be obvious, but it is critical. If you are anything like me, water can become dull sometimes, so at Bedstraw + Madder, we love to jazz things up with freshwater infusions and smoothies.
Try our favourite rose and watermelon cooler.
Using the cooling properties of rose water, rose petals and fresh pureed watermelon blended together.
The flesh of 1 x small watermelon, including small pips (kept in the fridge before use)
25 ml of rose water
3 x ice cubes
Mint sprig for decoration
Combine all ingredients in a nutribullet and blend until watermelon is smooth. It doesn’t matter if there are still chunky bits of ice as this will keep it cool.
Serve in a glass and top with mint sprig. Enjoy a very refreshing drink.
When it is hot, we sweat; for many people, it isn’t just a case of drinking more water to replace any lost fluid. It is often time to consider replacing electrolytes.
Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electrical charge and are needed to regulate nerve and muscle function while maintaining fluid balance.
Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes, and you can find them in various foods. Banana is a well-known source of potassium, and honey contains sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Other good sources to incorporate into your diet are:
Spinach, kale, avocados, broccoli, potatoes, beans, almonds, peanuts, and coconut water.
Some herbs have naturally cooling properties in the same way that the vegetable cucumber does. These are mint, chamomile and lavender as a few examples. Try making an iced tea with one of these as an alternative drink.
Rose hydrosol is water distilled with rose petals. It can be a cooling mist spray for the face and neck while nourishing the skin. I always keep it in my handbag. You can buy it from most health food shops.
Whilst maintaining a balanced diet in the heat, it can be helpful to boost your body with a vitamin tonic from supplements.
A combination of Magnesium for temperature regulation, muscle relaxation and adapting to stress
Vitamin C - to boost immunity and for anti-inflammatory effects
Vitamin B complex and B12 – are essential for your nervous system to cope with stress
As a homoeopath, this is often my first choice for health and wellbeing issues. Homoeopathy is a complementary medicine that uses small amounts of a substance that, in normal quantities, would usually produce the symptoms of the ailment. It is always best to consult a professional homoeopath for accurate prescribing, but here are a couple of remedies that can be helpful to keep in our cabinet to help with heat-related symptoms.
Glonoinum: This is often the first remedy for sunstroke. Agonising congestive headache after exposure to sun and heat. Hot face and cold extremities, irritability and confusion. And it was Pounding pain, compared to Belladonna.
Belladonna – This remedy is often used for fever, particularly if flushed with bright red skin and dulled mental activity. The people needing this are generally not thirsty even though their mouths and skin are dry.
Gelsenium – Used with symptoms of drowsiness, headache in the back of the head, no thirst, weakness, comatose, sunstroke symptoms.
Carbo Veg: Collapse from excess heat with clamminess of the skin and stomach complaints. The individual wants to be fanned and needs to feel moving air.
As a parting note, try keeping a wet flannel in a bowl of iced water next to your desk and apply it to the pulse points on the wrists, at the backs of the knees and the back of the neck. Suppose there is more space; place your whole feet in some cool water. These can all help cool you down.
Stay cool this Summer…
Hello Summer and Sunshine Love.
From February onwards we long for sunny Summer days and with good reason.
When the light rays from the sun hits our skin it causes the body to produce vitamin D, our “sunshine vitamin”.
This is a super vitamin boosts immunity, reduces inflammation, relaxes muscles, improves brain function and alleviates depression. In order to optimise this process try not washing your your skin for at least 24 hours before sun exposure, as the natural oils on your skin play a crucial part in increasing the production of these natural vitamins.
Whilst the sun is important for our health there are steps we can take to look after our skin and keep it glowing and healthy.
Our advice for this is:
Hydration – Your skin is made up of millions of cells, which are primarily water. When you are dehydrated your skin will retract (like a piece of fruit does as it dries up) and this will stretch the muscles in the skin leading to wrinkles as well as feeling dry and flaky.
Drinking at least 2 litres of water each day will avoid this happening.
Time - Choose your time carefully. We all know the hottest time of the day is midday when the sun is directly overhead. For two hours either side of this time of the day it is wise to stay out of direct sunlight. So wear a hat, use an umbrella or find some shade. We were not made to cook ourselves.
Sunscreens- Your skin is the largest organ of your body and absorbs what it touches. It’s interesting to notice that in the years since sunscreen use began, skin cancer rates have actually risen. This may be due in part to the fact that many sunscreens contain petrochemicals and endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone, which is a hormone disruptor. These things end up in our body.
When looking for sunscreen it is important to look for ones with pure ingredients like zinc oxide with plant based oils.
Here are our top picks:
Zinc Oxide – Not only does regular sunscreen pollute your body, they increasingly are polluting our sea. If you imagine every time someone on the beach goes swimming sunscreen is washing into the water. With water pollution globally on the increase it’s important to try and make small changes to address it.
Zinc oxide is the most natural of the sun protectors. It forms a whitish coating on the skin that blocks the suns rays and is fully biodegradable.
You can buy this on its own and combine with natural ingredients such as coconut oil or shea butter for application.
After suns like a lot of sunscreens on the market are chemical based and rather ineffective in reducing the trapped heat in the skin.
Essential oils like lavender combined with 100% plant juice of aloe vera and a pure plant oil base such as borage of jojoba is the most effective way to rehydrate your skin and reduce inflammation and redness.
As a homeopath Primrose recommends taking remedies Sol , Urtica urens or Belladonna 30c in potency as these can be effective and worth keeping in the first aid kit.
Oat bath - As a lover of oats I also recommend a soothing oat bath for reducing inflammation and itchiness in the skin.
Upcycle your wardrobe by filling an old pair of tights with some organic oats and leave it in the bath as you run it.
This is a great system for your nervous system too.
Stay safe in the Sun this summer!
Of all the wild flowers growing at the moment Wild Carrot otherwise known as Queen Anne's lace has a beautiful elegance.
A plant of numerous virtues which we will explore, most importantly as a natural dye with its fresh lemony tones.
It makes any wild flower bouquet complete with its dainty up-turned umbrella like flower heads on a delicate stem but what is the history of this beauty?
Believed to originate from Afghanistan and spread through Mediterranean Europe its Latin name is Daucus Carota with common names including Bird's Nest and Queen Anne's lace.
The origin of its name Queen Anne's lace came from Queen Anne of England who was an expert lace maker. The Legend says that whilst she crafted she pricked herself with a needle and a single drop of blood fell from her finger onto the lace leaving a dark purple spot which you find in the central bloom of the flower.
We enjoyed creating a natural dye with this plant.
If you would like to try this at home here are some instructions:
Mordant your silk or cotton fabric. Find instructions here.
Fill a saucepan full with the leaves and stems and a few heads if you are short.
Cover with water at least 2cm above the top of the plant matter.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-2 hours with lid on then leave in to cool. You may need to simmer a little longer to reduce the liquid and strengthen the dye colour depending on what colour you wish to achieve.
Use a pan large enough to allow the fabric some room if you want an even colour.
Keep checking to see how the dye colour is looking and when you are happy strain out the skins and place your material in the dye bath.
Place your pan back on the hob and simmer for 15 minutes before setting aside and allowing to cool.
We found it best to leave the cooled dye pan overnight for maximum colour.
As with all the plant dyes we experiment with we love to take a holistic approach and learn more about their benefits as healing herbs, tonics and food.
The root or "carrot" is edible as a food and in fact grated raw is used historically to dispel worms.
Its main association is with the urinary system, acting as a powerful diuretic helping to remove uric acid and water retention from the system. An infusion of the leaves is a useful treatment for cystitis.
Young first year leaves can be chopped and added to a salad to support liver and kidney.
Enjoy experimenting with this seasonal dye plant.
x Prim and Ness