Salisbury Craft and Heritage Festival

This 3 day event linked the Cathedral’s wonderful Glass Exhibition with the annual Doors Open Day, so a brilliant combination. Arrayed outside the cathedral were a number of potters, wood and stone carvers, weavers and others. One woman combined making and teaching  felt animals with repairing cane seats on chairs. An impressive mixture.

I was fascinated by the weaver who had a large hunk of flax – It felt like horsehair, so I wondered why  flaxen hair seems to have been so popular in the past. I guess with no conditioner everyone had hair like straw, so maybe flaxen was the colour they all aspired to. Here’s a small loom on which she displayed the different types of natural fibres you can use, like strawberry and nettle. They don’t spin and weave their own stuff as it is not cost efficient. I love the different colours and the plants you wouldn’t think could be woven:


Next to this was a woman hand dying a selection of silk and flax. She had to keep moving he hanks about and squeezing them to ensure even uptake, so the water was not as hot as the fire suggests.


She spoke of the plants she grew to provide colours like madder which apparently takes over the garden, and she showed us a packet of cochineal, which is of course tiny beetles she has to crush to create red. she said these caused confusion in ancient times because the grains were called green, so red and green were often confused. She also said glaston as in Glastonbury means blue, the original colour of glass. Early purple dye came from lichen. I’ve mentioned thee incredible dyestuff, logwood from central America. this is what it looks like:


Hard to imagine this was once the most expensive substance in the western world, but then saffron doesn’t look like much either.

In addition to all the wonderful craftmakers and sellers there were some characters wandering round, including St John and his (unnamed) wife. I had no idea what to say to him so just thanked him for coming back to life to chat to us. There were also a few suffragettes with banners who seemed to be having  good time too.


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