Gaywool Dyes Have a Colorful History

When it comes to dyeing alpaca, I love Gaywool Dyes!  From Australia,  no additives are required, the mordant and acidifier are already in the Gaywool dye formula.  They are easy, dependable, colorfast, earth friendly, cost effective, and they come in so many different colors.  Inspired by the colors of Tasmania, the explanation of the Gaywool name is quite interesting.  It starts with some colorful early history and carries through to the present day.

Gaywool…… a colorful History

gaywool dye color inspiration
Bay of Fires
Tasmanian Rain Forests
Tulips in the Northwest Coast

Early History

  • In 1807 John Youl, was sent as a layman  preacher to Tahiti in the Pacific islands to work as a missionary.  During this time many of his companions at the mission had come to an unfortunate end and found themselves in hot water with the native population.  Luckily for him, John Youl was not a very well built man. He was tall and skinny.  He had been observed by the natives shaving every morning with his trusty razor. The native Tahitians gave him a chance of survival if he could shave the chief’s beard and also the other men in the village without spilling any blood. This he managed to achieve and some time later, he made  his way to the new colony of New South Wales (Australia).
  • After settling in Sydney, NSW, John Youl became very good friends with Dr. Thomas Arndell.  Dr. Arndell was appointed as the assistant surgeon to the new settlement of NSW. He was one of seven assistant surgeons to Dr. White  on the first fleet to Australia with Governor Phillip.  He was later appointed as surgeon at Paramatta.  Because of this friendship, the name Arndell, was incorporated into John Youl’s family name.  In 1810,  John Youl married Jane Loder and they named their first son James Arndell Youl.
  • In 1815 John Youl was ordained as an Angligan priest.  In 1818 he was  commissioned by Earl Bathurst to become the first chaplain at Port Darymple, Northern Van Diemens Land (Tasmania). Reverend Youl and his family arrived in Van Diemens Land in 1818 to start work in the new Parish.
  •  James Arndell Youl became a successful grazier but is best remembered for introducing trout and salmon to Australasian waters.  Early attempts in 1841 and 1852 of transporting ova from England to Australia had failed and also shipments in 1860 and 1862 but finally in 1864, with the help of many people, thousands of ova were packed in moss and stored in the ship’s ice-vault, and the living ova arrived safely in Tasmania.

Foreward to the late 1960’s

  • The family connection to Dr. Arndell continued and in 1967 Gillian Arndel Youl (married name Thomas), a farmer and enthusiastic hand spinner of wool started a business specializing in breeding colored sheep for hand spinners and weavers.  To start her flock she initially purchased sheep from other farmers in the district.  She started her breeding program with 10 throwback corriedale ewes.  She then purchased a Border Leicester Ram in order to obtain a long fleece. Over a period of time she built her flock of sheep and her business and also started her own shop.  Her customers were far and wide and the wool was sent to many parts of Australia and also to the United States, Canada and Holland. Gill also became the first distributor of Ashford Spinning wheels in Tasmania.
  • With her family involved in the business her son Chris, suggested that there should be even more color in the business and with the assistance of an Industrial Chemist, Barry Harding from Coats Patons Launceston developed some easy to use, quality dyes for the home dyer. In 1974 the dyes were first packed and distributed in an old shearing shed on the family farm Gayfield, Longford Tasmania.  Years later the dyes were now being sent and distributed to many parts of the world including, the USA, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan.

The  name of the business came from the initials of Gillian Arndell Youl (GAY).  Her husband was Richard Field Thomas and the business was originally called Gayfield Wool and then later changed to Gaywool.

Gaywool Dyes continues to be in the family with the name of Arndell given to some family members.  Gill is now in her 80’s and her enthusiasm and energy for life is admired by her many family and friends.

Check out the original story published in Australian Womens Weekly 1976.

Gaywool Dyes at Alpaca Meadows


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