Tell-Tale Colours by Heather Wastie

Tell-tale colours

In the carpet capital of the world,

Brian is studying the Stour,

today’s mix of colours

from a multitude of dyes.


His dad would make the joke

that if Jellymans dumped a yellow

and Carpet Trades a blue,

Brintons would get green.


Every day the smell of wet wool

would arrive in the kitchen

on his dad’s hessian bag

of weaver’s “bits and bobs”


dumped loudly on the table,

the same scent clinging

to his mother’s coat as she rushed in

to get the dinner on.


Brian is thinking now of Uncle Ted

weighing out powder in the dyehouse

wearing a makeshift hessian apron

to save his clothes.


In Brian’s imagination,

the river is now a steaming wooden vat.

Suspended hanks are lowered in,

boiled and cooled, boiled and cooled


then hauled out with the lifting gear

to be spun in the dryer,

coming out clumped into quarters

like hot, cumbersome cheese.


Dyeing is a man’s job.

When the yarn is dry

women wind it onto bobbins

like the ones in the living room cupboard
brought home in secret by his dad,

a proud weaver who wants his son

to be apprenticed to a tuner,

better paid, looking after the loom.


Brian’s not sure, hears the industry

is dying, walks away, his pullover

telling the tale of his dad’s latest carpet

and his mom’s best knitting.

Large vats in dyehouse,Tomkinsons

Poet, singer/songwriter, keyboard/accordion player, actor, humourist and facilitator Heather Wastie grew up in the Black Country. In 2006 she moved to Kidderminster where In 2013 she was the Museum of Carpet Writer in Residence, turning people’s memories into poems, monologues and songs which she now performs. This work was published in November 2015 by Black Pear Press under the title Weaving Yarns. 

In 2017 she was commissioned to write and perform poems for the popular Nationwide Building Society ad campaign, Voices Nationwide. Heather has also worked as a poet and actor for National Trust property Croome Court in Worcestershire.

Heather has published 5 illustrated poetry collections and has completed commissions for the Canal & River Trust, Black Country Echoes, Birmingham LGBT choir Rainbow Voices, West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust, Apples and Snakes, Rights and Equality Sandwell’s “Where’s Our Spake Gone?” project and BBC local radio.



3 thoughts on “Tell-Tale Colours by Heather Wastie

  1. I very much enjoyed this, really evocative. I’m a Brummie by birth and upcoming and this has opened my eyes to another wonderful place in the West Midlands.


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