Kitty Doncaster dye notebooks

Scope and Content

5 notebooks of dye recipes and experiments, produced by Kitty Doncaster, probably originally at Bedales School.

Administrative / Biographical History

Kathleen Mary Doncaster was born on 9th February 1904. Her father was Edwin Daniel Doncaster. She attended Bedales School in Hampshire, 1917-1921, after 4 years at the junior school, Dunhurst. She appears to have taken up dyeing at Bedales, where it was quite a popular activity. She then studied at Ethel Mairet's workshop, 'Gospels' at Ditchling, 1922-1924. She had her own weaving workshop at Burley in Hampshire 1924-1942, becoming a Land Girl during the Second World War. She died in 1982.

In the notebooks Kitty Doncaster refers to 'Hill' as the source of some dye recipes and chemical formulas. Robert (known as Robin) Hill was a few years older than Kitty, and in the same school year as Kitty's older brother Eric. Robin in particular, but also Eric, were stalwart members of the Dyeing Society, inspired by the science teacher Mr Heath. It is clear from school records that they engaged in lots of practical dyeing, using both natural and chemical dyes. Robin wrote four lengthy articles on dyeing for the school magazine, two of which were published after he had left school and was doing his military training. Eric also enlisted on leaving school and was killed in 1918. Robin Hill went on to have a distinguished career as a biochemist.
Although later members of the Dyeing Society are not specifically mentioned by name, it seems very likely that Kitty would have been encouraged by her brother and his friends to take part.


KMD/1 Small notebook of handmade paper. 15 pages of recipes for dyeing wool. 2 of the recipes are credited to 'V.K.' and 2 to 'Miss P'. [c.1920?]
KMD/2 Small notebook of handmade paper. 2 pages of recipes for Aluminium acetate (mordant for silk) and 15 pages of recipes for dyeing silk. One of the mordant recipes is credited to 'Hill' and 5 of the dyeing recipes are credited to 'V.K.'. A hank of silk thread is attached to p.10, a recipe for 'Brown with madder & fustic'. [c.1920?]
KMD/3 Commercial notebook of lined paper. 'Dye notes': Notes on dyeing experiments over the course of at least 2 years. [1920s?]
KMD/4 Commercial notebook of lined paper. Record of dye days. 1927-1932
Enclosed: Letter from Elizabeth L. Millar of Tranent, East Lothian, commenting on washing wool. 22 Nov 1930
KMD/5 Commercial notebook of lined paper. Record of dye days (only 9 days recorded). September 1941-August 1943

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This entry was compiled by Shirley Dixon, Crafts Study Centre Archivist, October 2021.

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Catalogue on Crafts Study Centre database. A pdf copy is available on request.

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