Wool and wildflowers

The connection isn’t obvious but Claire Bennett, Scotland Partnership Manager of Grow Wild, has found a creative avenue to indulge both of her passions.


I am a crochet artist making wearables and botanic-inspired pieces and for the recent Wool Week I set myself the challenge of creating a wildflower a day to celebrate Grow Wild.

This was the perfect opportunity to combine my love of yarn, silk and merino fibres for my art, crochet, with my love of wildflowers that I have gained through my day job with the wonderful initiative Grow Wild. Grow Wild campaigns to get more people sowing and enjoying wildflowers, creating more wild spaces for habitats and people alike.

There were so many links to explore, plants playing a huge part in the dyeing of wool and extracting properties from wildflowers to make natural hand dyed yarns, and the links between sheep and the role they often play in managing land and the maintenance of wildflower areas. Along the way I blogged about some of the UK native wildflowers you may not know about, each having some connection to inspiring yarn dye colours or having uses in the production of hand-dyed yarns, even just having inspiring names.

Day 1: Wild carrot (bird’s nest, Queen Anne’s lace, bishop’s lace)

I started with wild carrot given the name and the lace-like flower heads, this looked a technically easy one to start with!

Wild carrot.

Wild carrot.

Day 2: Wild Teasel

One of my favourite wildflowers is the teasel, featuring at the Grow Wild Scotland flagship site in Barrhead, Water Works. I used high twist purples and added a touch of pink ‘Foxglove’ yarn for the highlighted flowers on the spiky seed head. I used wire ribbon to form the body of the teasel head and crocheted small loop stitches through this, a tad fiddly.

Day 3: Wild tansy, lady’s bedstraw and weld (dyer’s rocket)

This trio of vibrant wildflowers are known to yarn dyers and have their names linked to their purpose through history.

My favourite of these to crochet was the wild tansy, and a very happy name it is too. I used ‘Tansy’ colour hand dyed yarn from Shilasdair yarns (Shilasdair is the Gaelic for the flag iris and ancient dye plant) combined with a bright crochet cotton.

The weld plant (aka dyer’s rocket) is a favourite of amongst yarn dyers in the dyeing process and grows prolifically in derelict and poor-growing-conditioned spaces. The spikes of the weld are architecturally beautiful and no doubt a firm favourite with bees.

I discovered that lady’s bedstraw, as well as being used for dyeing, was used for stuffing mattresses, hence its name; and the coumarin scent helped as a flea repellent and smelt nice too.

Wild tansy, lady’s bedstraw and weld (dyer’s rocket).

Wild tansy, lady’s bedstraw and weld (dyer’s rocket).

Day 4: Sheep’s bit scabious

Also known as devil bit scabious, the common name ‘sheep’s bit’ gets its name due to the fact that sheep like eating it!

Sheep’s bit scabious.

Sheep’s bit scabious.

Day 5: Wild madder root

Ok so technically this part of the madder is not a flower, they are found above ground on the madder, but I loved the colours of the root as have yarn dyers through the ages. The genus name Rubia (Rubia Peregrina) means red, which is exactly the hue it gives to the yarn, unlike the colour of the flowers a pale yellow/green. It is part of the coffee family and provides a wonderful deep rich stain.

Wild madder root.

Wild madder root.

Botanical specimen plate.

Botanical specimen plate.

I was lucky to be donated hand-dyed and plant-based dyed yarns by wonderful producers, whose yarns I love and use regularly in my wearables. A huge thank you to them and to the skilled craftspeople who have perfected their techniques over years, often generations including Ginger Twist Studios based in Edinburgh, Shilasdair Yarns in Skye, Natural Born Dyers in Newcastle and Woollenflower in Glasgow.

My creative venture is called Hook and Teasel and you can see more of my work on my websites: www.hookandteasel.co.uk

Find out more about Grow Wild here: www.growwilduk.com

All images © Hook and Teasel except Barrhead Water Works © Ross Fraser Mclean/STUDIORORO


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