Naturally Dyed. Artisanal. Sustainable.
Naturally Dyed. Artisanal. Sustainable.
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The Organic Baby Nursery: Hand Made with Natural Colours from Locally Foraged Dye Plants

Avocado Dye Baby Blanket Baby Shower Daffodils Dahlias Eco-friendly Ethically Made Foraging Hand Knitted Hand Made Natural Dye New Born Baby Gift Organic Small Batch Production Sustainable Living Woollen Blanket

When we came across Blue Faced Leicester we knew at once that this was Mr Right. He ticked all our boxes, he was local, eco-friendly, amazingly warm, super soft with a gentle touch!  He was perfect for slow living and our Baby Bliss collection was only a matter of time! 
Baby Bliss    
Blue Faced Leicester sheep.

The Wool & The Water

Our first offering to the sustainable and naturally dyed Baby Bliss rage is the Bliss Blanket. It is hand knitted in England using super soft aran weight English Blue Faced Leicester wool, dyed with flowers and rinsed in pure Spring water from the Oare Marshes in East Kent.

Oare Jetty in East Kent near Faversham.   

Jetty at Oare Marshes near Faversham, East Kent.


Natural Spring in Oare Marshes used for natural dyeing by Juniper & Bliss
Natural spring at the bird sanctuary in Oare Marshes, East Kent.

 We chose the wonderful Blue Faced Leicester wool for its soft fine fleece with a count of 24-28 microns, it’s lustrous shine and excellent drape. It was perfect for baby.

The Blue Faced Leicester, an ancient British breed that has evolved from the 1750s breeding schemes, gets its name from its blueish-black face which is scantly covered with white hairs.  Known for being great personalities, inquisitive and friendly, the ewes are renowned as exceptionally protective mothers! We could not ask for more.

Foraging & Gathering

We wanted the blanket to be special for babies born in any season. So we collected dye stuff right round the year. The invitation from Amicia de Moubray to "take what we need" from Doddington Place Gardens with its abundance of dye plants, opened up the wonderful world of an Edwardian historic garden from where every year we have been deadheading daffodils and collecting generous quantities of red, purple and orange dahlias of all varieties. 


For some years now it has become a spring tradition for us to go with various groups of family and friends to deadhead the spent daffodils. There is a collection of at least eighteen varieties in this splendid garden. 

Collecting daffodils at Doddington Place Gardens for natural dye by Juniper & Bliss 
Our niece picking daffodil heads in the Easter holidays 2021.

 A dancing nephew taking a break, 2019. 
Field of Daffodils in Doddington Place Gardens
A sea of daffodils on the grounds of Doddington Place Gardens, 2018.


Deadheaded daffodils for natural dye by Juniper & Bliss

At the end of a morning's pickings we typically collect many baskets  full of delicately fragranced daffodils.           

Drying daffodils for natural dye by Juniper & Bliss
After collecting the daffodils, it is important to make sure that the thousands of little pollinators like aphids, flies, spiders, lady birds, mites as well as the hard shelled black bugs that love to feed on daffodils have the chance to fly away before we start to dye with them. The dried surplus is stored away in our larder for use throughout the year.  It's lovely to dye with fresh flowers but the quality of colour changes as the flowers dry and that is really interesting for us. So with daffodils we can get yellows which range from a bright vibrant gold to a more muted moody mustard dependent on the freshness of the flowers. All are nice and beautifully nuanced.  If you are not a natural dyer it may interest you to know that factors such as cooking temperature, water type (spring water, tap water, rainwater) and the material of the dye pot (copper, aluminium, stainless steel) have a significant influence  on the outcome. As we do not use any additives or minerals in our recipes, we rely on these methods to make different shades of colour. 
Yellow daffodil with tiny bugs and spiders
Tiny hard shelled black bugs and spiders love to feed on the tender petals and delicately scented pollen inside the flower's deep trumpet and corona. Pot of daffodils for natural dyeing by Juniper & Bliss
Dried Daffodils in a copper pot.

Daffodils are a variety of narcissus, notably celebrated in the Greek Myth of the beautiful youth Narcissus and the lovestruck goddess Echo. Theophrastus, the Greek botanist and philosopher recorded many varieties of this flower and the Romans soldiers carried it with them to Britain. It is among the earliest spring flowers and Shakespeare referred to it as the flower that “comes before the swallow dares”. It is the national flower of Wales. 


The dahlia was brought to Europe by the Spanish botanist and explorer Francisco Hernández following his 7 year stay in Mexico where he was sent in 1570 by King Phillip II to explore the natural resources of the conquered lands. In Nova plantarum, animalium et mineralium Mexicanorum historia, published in 1651, Francisco Hernández named his discoveries in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec. The dahlia was then first introduced to Europe as Acocotli and Cocoxochitl. It is thought that the Aztec people used the plant in food and also for medicinal purposes.

Botanical drawing of dahlia by Francisco Hernandez in Nova plantarum, animalium et mineralium Mexicanorum historia

Francisco Hernández, Nova plantarum, animalium et mineralium Mexicanorum historia (Rome, 1651).

Not much was heard of the dahlia until 1789 when it was brought from Mexico to the Botanical Gardens in Madrid by the leading Spanish taxonomic botanist abbé Cavanille, who gave it the name by which we know it today, in honour of the Swedish scientist and environmentalist Andreas Dahl.

The National Dahlia Society tell us that the Genus Dahlia is a native of Mesoamerica, principally of the high plains of Mexico and also that some species can be found in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador & Costa Rica.  It is the national flower of Mexico and grows prolifically throughout South America.

Since the 1800s thousands of new forms were bred, with 14,000 cultivars recognized by 1936. The 50,000 varieties named in the past century, all are thought to be hybridized from at least two, and possibly all three, of the original Dahlia species from Mexico.

The prolific varieties of these wonderful dye yielding flowers means that we are fortunate enough to get what we need from the gardens around us and among them Doddington Place Gardens has been a wonderful source. 

Dahlias growing in Doddington Place Garden
Dahlias in September.
Dahlias in Doddington Place Garden.
Dahlias in the ghost garden at Doddington Place Gardens.
Lucy Adams, head gardener at Doddington Place Gardens
Lucy  Adams, head gardener at Doddington Place Gardens.
Blue Faced Leicester wool dyed with dahlias
Blue Faced Leicester wool dyed with dahlias.


Throughout the year our friends and family as well as local organic restaurants save their avocado skins and stones for us to produce dye for the baby blankets.

It is always nice when we can transform kitchen scraps into something beautiful and are able to extract the last bit of goodness out of them before putting them into the compost heap. Zero-waste is one of our goals and where possible we will try and collaborate to reach this objective. 
Avocados are high in tannin with the stone containing 13.6% of this class of biomolecules which is primarily responsible for producing wonderful shades of reddish pinks in the dye pot.
Hand knitted wool dyed with avocados by Juniper & Bliss
A beautiful shade of pink from avocado stones.

However, the outcome of natural dye is different every time and it is not possible to guarantee consistency as variations in water minerality and pH values affect the shades of plant-based dyes. Hard water, which is full of minerals like calcium and magnesium, can make colours more vibrant, while softer water produces more muted tones. Cellulose fibres  like cotton or linen will typically mellow the dye, while protein fibres like wool or silk yield richer hues, which is why the pink of the baby blankets is so vibrant. The wool comes to us unbleached and takes the dye wonderfully well. 

There are, however, many types of avocados, and many possible shades of avocado pink; the species, part of the laurel family, is generally divided into three botanical races — Mexican, Guatemalan and West Indian — but cross-pollination has resulted in unlimited varieties. For us, using kitchen waste, it is not possible to control what we dye with but as a rule we do always end up with pinks, from bright to more gentle tones. 
dried avocado stones and skins in the Juniper & Bliss studio
Drying avocado stones and skin in the studio for use later on in the year. 
The earliest documentation of avocados comes in 1519 when the conquistador Martin Fernandez de Enciso in a document called Suma de Geographia described this "edible fruit" being “like butter” and “of marvellous flavour, so good and pleasing to the palate that it is a marvellous thing.”
People have cultivated avocados in South America for over 5000 years.  The use of the stone for making inks with which many surviving documents from the Spanish conquest of Central and South America were reportedly written, is discussed in detail in 1964 by the Spanish art historian Santiago Sebastian. 
Blue Faced Leicester wool dyed with avocado stones and skin by Juniper & Bliss
The production of textile dye from avocados is also well documented. The pre-Hispanic Kuna people of northeastern Panama and the neighboring San Blas Islands mention the use of avocados to dye fabrics in their creation story. 
Additionally,    archaeological sites in the Andean highlands where the Aymara and Quechua had lived, revealed traces of alpaca and llama wool dyed with avocado stones.
Today, any discussion on avocados needs to address issues of its fetishisation as a superfood. From a conservational perspective the urgency in reversing consumer trends and increasing awareness of mono-culture, water consumption, large scale deforestation and air miles surrounding avocado cultivation cannot be over emphasised.
For us artisanal dyers, waste or byproduct is a gift. For now, avocados are a widely available organic kitchen waste that we can use and cherish for its beauty, historic interest and also for its longevity as a lightfast and wash fast super dye. But we will not be sorry if this abundant source of pink dries up in the West, because of changes in consumer habit and conservational awareness. 
naturally dyed hand knitted baby blanket made by Juniper & Bliss

Bliss Blanket, hand knitted and plant dyed with daffodils, dahlias and avocados

Swatches of plant dyed hand knitted squares
Blue Faced Leicester swatches dyed with Daffodils, Dahlias and Avocados

Sustainable & Local

Having researched the effects of dye effluent on the soil, we took the decision not use any chemical or mineral additives like iron and copper in our practice as these are harmful to the soil. Instead, we follow an environmentally friendly and organic, albeit lengthy process to extract pigment. This way we can be sure that processes in our control are genuinely environmentally friendly and sustainable, from foraging to making. 

The pastoral provenance of wool from the sheep in the dales, spring water from the  marshes, flowers from elegant herbaceous borders, donations of kitchen waste and a community of local knitters were all the ingredients we needed to launch our sustainable baby range. It is pure and simple. 


Baby with blanket made by Juniper & Bliss
And then it was time to put it to the test!


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