A few years ago I saw a natural dyeing demonstration of onion skins and turmeric by Greta Menzies. It was an amazing process. Since then I’ve followed a few people on Instagram but haven’t experimented with the process. My friend Teresa and I recently attended a demonstration by Bonnie De Gros aka The Rusty Skillet.
I learnt that natural fibres can only be used for dyeing- cotton, silk, linen and wool are ideal. These fibres need to be prepared prior the process is called mordanting.
With natural dyeing every part of the process can affect the end colour result. The type of pot used, the type of water, the amount of dye goods to fabric ratio and the place where the organic matter comes from.
You need a few dedicated tools for dyeing a metal pot with a lid, a wooden spoon, organic materials aka dye medium – the general rule is 50% dye medium to 50% water.
The basic method for natural dyeing is to heat the water to a gentle simmer, add the dye medium to infuse into the water. Leave the fabric in the water overnight with the lid on the fabric will soak up all the colour from the water.
I decided that natural dyeing isn’t a hobby for me. I decided this based on a few reasons.
– The colours aren’t permanent and the resulting fabrics require special washing and drying.
– Most of the colours produced from natural dyeing aren’t ones that suit me and the result cannot be predicted.
– I don’t have much space to dye fabric or store the dry goods.
Indigo dye is permanent and the fabric doesn’t need special preparation so this may be something I try in the future.
I would love to know if you have tried natural dyeing what the results were like and if it’s something that interests you. Bonnie’s workshop was very inspiring. I recommend a course with her if this is a topic that interests you.
Check out the following links below for supplies and inspiration.
Wild Color- Jenny Dean
The Modern Natural Dyer – Kristine Vejar
Eco Colour – India Flint
Natural Colour – Sasha Dueer
Website and online resources:
Rebecca Desnos e book – using soy milk mordant and plant based fibres
Maiwa Handprints guide to natural dyeing
Bunnings or a Hardware store for Alum (potassium aluminium sulfate)
@Aboubakafofana (indigo dye master)