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Bleu de Pastel Dye Workshop in Toulouse

Man and woman holding up cloth pulled from a large vat of blue dye

Toulouse is a colourful city – a place of rose coloured brick buildings under a deep blue sky. It’s always been colourful. In fact, it’s where the dye which coloured the cloth worn by the Kings of France was created. And, to this day, a few artisans have carried on the legacy of those early dyers. They’ve continued to honour the heritage of Toulouse dyers through their work and workshops, some of which are open to the public…

Take a tour of Toulouse’s pastel heritage

Women hang blue dyed cloth on a line in a garden, working to old methods

Woad is a plant in the mustard family – native to parts of Asia and Europe. The leaves of the plant have been used since antiquity to produce a “pastel” blue dye. The ancient Egyptians used woad dyed cloths to wrap their dead for burial, and the Greeks and Romans used it as a medicinal plant.

Until the late 16th century, pastel dye was the only source of blue there was for dyeing cloth. But because it was so expensive it was rarely available to those other than the very wealthy and privileged.

Toulouse was a centre of dyeing, and it was an essential element in the city’s history and economic growth.

“When trade routes to the Indies opened up, indigo dye, extracted from another species of plant, was imported” explains Sue Aran, founder of French Country Adventures. “Both industries eventually declined with the invention of synthetic blue dye. But, here in Toulouse, you can discover the fascinating art of pastel dye, still being worked the old way”.

Join a woad dye workshop Toulouse

Shirts and cloths dyed blue hang on a line in a garden

Sue’s pastel blue tour is an absorbing dip into the past. You’ll learn about the history of woad and of dyeing fabrics. You’ll meet Annette Hardouin a Master Artisan of the Arts and Sciences of Pastel at her studio. And you’ll take a hands-on class with her to learn how to use woad to create an array of deep, richly coloured pieces of cloth.

Complete your tour with a delicious lunch afterward in the sunny city at an authentic bistro in Sue’s little black book of contacts. This is a unique tour, one that takes you to the heart of Toulouse…

Details: French Country Adventures

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