This December, Mary Ward House in central London will be transformed into a textile capital for one day only, as the Selvedge Winter Fair gets underway. Today, Jessica Edney talks to Elisabeth Beverley, one of our exhibitors.
What is it like living in rural Berkshire? Does the environment inspire your work?
The environment does not only inspire me; it’s essential. All the hedgerow plants for greens, yellows, browns, greys are here. The colours reflect the landscape and change as the seasons change.
How did you first come across natural dyes?
Fifty years ago my sister-in-law in Gloucestershire was a talented spinner weaver and dyer. I knitted a jersey from her varying wools which arrived in small batches. I lived in North London with an adult education institute nearby and a textile evening class. Curiously I never took to spinning and weaving but I dyed some fleece with ragwort from a building site and was excited ! I had to wait 20 years till a move to the country and plants on the doorstep before picking up where I left off. Ragwort still one of my favourites.
You are also a knitter - what kind of things do you knit?
I’m a plain knitter with no design side so I like knitting unstructured pieces, scarves, throws, cushions in simple stitches, garter, stocking, reverse stocking. I’ve always been drawn to stripes which of course naturally suit the backwards and forwards of knitting.
Are there any places in the world you would like to visit?
Iceland and Finland. Beautiful cold countries with wonderful wool industries!
What are you currently working on/preparing for?
I am slowly preparing for Selvedge winter fair, a year’s worth of colour, nothing can be done last minute. Different years favour different plants, this year an abundance of walnuts, their green coats melting into inky black and dyeing shades of brown and grey.
What is your favourite plant to dye with?
Cow parsley. May is magic anyway; cow parsley is everywhere, the leaves and flowers make a wonderful and (important for me) reliable bright green, which is my most popular colour.
You can get 2 for 1 tickets with the code FAIR2FOR1.