This week I had my first proper go at botanical dyeing, and it’s been such fun. One of the things that I’ve noticed about the process is it really is a ‘slow’ craft. You can’t hurry or rush dyeing your own fabric, and the more time you can give to each step of the process the better. It doesn’t take much effort, it’s just a matter of letting the fabric sit at various stages in different pots – the perfect activity to have ticking along in the background.
Natural dyeing is something I’ve wanted to try for a while, and I knew I wanted to start by making a curtain from a piece of muslin for the work room. Back at the beginning of the Summer I bought a copy of Botanical Colour At Your Fingertips by Rebecca Desnos. It’s a brilliant informative e-book available on Etsy here, (you can now also get a paperback version). It’s perfect if you want to dye natural fibres and not use any chemicals, which is exactly what I was after.
Previously, I have had a little play with botanical dyeing. I tried dip dyeing eggs at Easter, (you can read that post here), so I knew that in order to fix the colour of the dye I would have to mordant the piece of fabric first. In Rebecca’s ebook she shares how to do this using soya milk.
It was almost two months ago that I spent a week with my piece of muslin in and out of a several buckets of soya milk, so the fabric has had a nice long time to sit before it made it into the dye bath. I didn’t leave so long purposefully, I’m just not very organised – it took me a while to get hold of an aluminium pot, and then I had to pick something to try dyeing the fabric with.
I had a vague idea about what sort of colour I wanted the fabric to go, but of course when dyeing with nature there are several elements that will alter the outcome, so it’s best to have an open mind. And actually, this part of the process is what makes it such fun. You can follow the instructions, and leave things to sit and soak for as long as possible, but unless you’ve dyed with the same thing over and over (and I bet even then there are variations) there are no guarantees… Waiting to see the final colour revealed is pretty special.
At the weekend Bailey and her friend Asa helped me pick some Bay Leaves from our garden, as I have about three trees scattered around, plus I thought they would get me in the right direction for the sort of colour I was after.
You can see how it turned out below. This shade was made by submerging the fabric in the dye bath and simmering over a gentle heat for one hour. I then left the fabric in the dye bath for a couple more hours whilst it cooled. I think I could have a go at making the colour stronger just by putting the fabric back in the dye bath for a little longer, but I’m just deciding whether I’m happy with the shade that it is now.
If you’ve had go at botanical dyeing, I would love to hear what plants you have tried that have worked well. I think I might be hooked.
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