October 09, 2020
Fabric dyeing is a fascinating art. The first recorded mention of textile dyeing
dates back all the way to the Neolithic Period. People would use local plants, barks, or even insects to create dyes, which were then used to colour textiles.
Nowadays, due to high demand, most fabric dyes are synthetic, however there is a growing interest in eco-friendly products, and natural dyes play a part in this.
When experimenting with natural dyes, it is best to start with natural fabrics. For my own experiments I used unbleached cotton calico.
I set out on a hike to collect my materials locally. Gathering wild blackberries and fuchsia blossoms proved easy as they grow in abundance out here. Gorse was equally abundant, but a little more painful to collect. Those barbs are sharp! When I found a patch of dandelions, I picked a few to add in with the yellow gorse petals. Note I did check prior to leaving if any of the plants I had in mind were toxic!
First I thoroughly washed my cotton fabric, leaving it wet. I soaked the pieces I intended to dye in a salt and water mix, and vinegar and water mix, for the berries and plant materials respectively.
While the fabric was soaking I boiled the berries, fuchsia petals, and yellow petals in separate pots, for about an hour. After an hour I strained out the plant materials, keeping just the liquid in the pots. I then soaked each piece of fabric in the dyes, simmering them on a low heat for about an hour.
I air-dried the dyed fabrics outside in the sun to set. The image shows the results of the gorse and dandelion petals (top), wild blackberry (middle) and wild blackberry using the shibori technique which is similar to tie-dyeing. The fuchsia petals resulted in a soft pink shade.
I later used this same natural dyeing technique using blueberries. The result can be seen on this doll jacket.
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