Dyeing naturally

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Welcome to my first (proper) attempt at natural dyeing.

My lovely friend came over the other day, and together we delved into the world of fabrics, mordants, botanical alchemy, hot dyeing, ice-flower dye and hapa-zome.

If you’re thinking this sounds a bit like a foreign language, you’re not alone. We sat reading India Flint’s ‘Eco Colour’ (somewhat of a bible for natural dyeing in Australia), exchanging puzzled glances and googling the concepts we struggled to grasp.

Learning the ins and outs of natural dyeing definitely feels like embarking on a completely unknown journey. There is too much to take in all at once, so it seems best to just throw yourself into it and see what happens. Luckily, the deep end was kind to us, and we ended up with some half-decent results. Sadly, a few hours later, much of the magic had faded, so at least we know what to work on next time.

The gallery above shows our attempts. We scoured the garden for anything that could make a dye; trying everything from eucalyptus to jerusalem artichoke leaves. I have to say though, my favourite of those that we tried was the trusty onion skin. I do really want blue though. Remind me to find an indigo plant. Or woad. I don’t even know what woad is! I have much to learn.

I do just have to mention hapa-zome though. It is essentially the process of beating the colour out of plants with a hammer. I can’t believe I didn’t know about this as a child! Such fun!

Here’s how it works:

Find a solid surface; concrete works well.
Lay down some cardboard or thick paper, then your fabric.
Arrange flowers, leaves etc on the fabric, and cover with another piece of fabric.
Lay another piece of cardboard on top.
Hit with a hammer or rubber mallet. I tried a wooden mallet and it didn’t work so well.
When you’ve got a nice print, peel the flowers/leaves off the fabric, and steam iron to keep the colour intact.
Apparently, the print can be washed carefully, but try and avoid it as much as possible. According to ‘Eco Colour’ it may only last a few washes.

So there you go. Hours of entertainment will now be provided via a hammer and some leaves.

The dyeing thing definitely needs some more work. At some stage, I’ll read the book properly and take it all in. For now though, learning by trial and error is suiting me just fine.


3 thoughts on “Dyeing naturally

  1. It’s cool hey?!

    I just checked by book, and Jacaranda isn’t listed for blues. The thing is that often flowers or plants of a particular colour will make a dye of a completely different colour. Which is cool I suppose. Plants that make blue are mostly Indigo plants, but also Red maple bark, Morning glory, Blackcurrant, and a whole bunch of crazy plants I’ve never heard of.

    I think I might need to brush up on my plant identification skills…

  2. I am mostly interested in dyeing wool, but some people are getting a lovely blue from black beans (can you believe it?). They use the broth for dye, then still get to eat the beans.

    Woad grows here in the western U.S. In Salt Lake City, Utah, there’s a Road called Redwood Road. Weaver’s Woad grows there as a weed. There’s the makings of a real tongue twister!

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