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  • Writer's pictureViolet Shirran

Natural Dyeing with plants

It's hard to believe that its just over a year since I started dyeing with natural dyes!

It feels like something I've always done.

If you haven't been following me on Instagram You might not know why I became interested in natural dyeing so check out my last Blog to read about #myrepairproject, an Environmentally friendly art project concerned with Environmental repair and Emotional repair.... I'll talk to you about the emotional repair in my next Blog.. let's stick with the Natural dyeing for now.

If your interested in Natural dyeing you've probably seen beautiful pictures on Instagram of vibrant natural colours and thought.. hey I'd love to have a go at that!

Well, I'm not going to lie to you... getting consistent, vibrant, colourfast dyes with natural plants is not always quick and not easy.... but if you pick the right plants you can achieve good results in your own kitchen.

Some plants that are good to start dyeing with are plants rich in Tannins.... Hey Violet, what are tannins,??? you ask. Well lets not get all Sciencey here and just say that tannins help dye stick to your fabric.. lets think of it as a magnet for dyes.

So, we're going to look at plants that you might have in your kitchen.. you don't want to go out buying stuff when you're just starting off..

Have You got White Onions?, Tumeric? Black tea? Avocados? .. well then you're ready to dye at home.

Step one, Choose a natural fabric.

No matter which of these you decide to start with your first step is choosing your fabric... with Natural dyeing we want natural fabrics... Cotton, linen, silk, bamboo.. synthetic fabrics are just not going to work. I'm going to give you advice on Cellulose fabrics ( What???/... OK, fabric made from plants eg. Cotton and Linen .. wool and silk come from animals)

Step two, Scour your fabric

. Put simply this means clean it... really, really well.. this means removing all the coatings that new fabric comes with, starch etc. The cheapest way to do this is with old fashioned washing soda. Yes, like your granny used. Put your fabric in as big a pot as you possibly can and vigorously boil it with washing soda for an hour. If your fabric is new, the water will look brown like tea! Drain out the water ( let it cool first) rinse it and then scour it again in your pot with washing soda for another hour! You want it totally clean and free of chemicals.. if your linen or cotton is old you can probably get away with scouring once . Don't use washing powder that's full of chemicals...

OK.. still with me?? Now your ready to Dye...

Lets start with Onion... the same recipe works for Tumeric, tea, or Avocado though.

Collect about three handfulls of white onion skins... or go to your local supermarket and collect a few handfuls from the bottom of the box!

Half fill a large pot with water, throw in your onion skins and simmer for one hour ( don't boil natural dyes) Turn it off, leave it over night. (I got a really nice colour by mixing onion skins and tumeric. )

Next day, sieve your water and remove all plant material ( If you don't you get an uneven colour)

If you've scoured your fabric a day or two in advance, make sure to soak it for an hour or 2 in water before you dye it. Wet fabric takes dye better, and dyes more evenly.. Put you wet fabric into the dye , simmer for one hour, turn it off and leave it over night... when you take it out, don't be tempted to rinse it out, let it dry naturally outside with the dye still one it and if you have the patience , then leave it to cure for a few days.. your patience will be rewarded!!

When your laundering you natural dyed items , use an eco friendly washing soap.

Ta Da!! Your first Natural dye session.


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