Adventures in Natural Dyeing, Part I

To begin, happy new year everyone! The general consensus among a lot of people I know seems to be that 2011 really could have been better, which is a shame. To all of these people, and indeed to everyone, I hope that 2012 gives you everything you’re looking for and more! As for me, it’s hard to say how I found 2011. It was hard, it was wonderful, it was horrible, it was amazing. It was life lived at double the speed and triple the volume, punctuated by long days in an office with flourescent lighting and over-zealous air conditioning. I still haven’t decided how I feel about it, but I learned a lot, which is something.

One problem I did have with 2011 was that between work and personal life dramas, it didn’t leave me with a whole lot of time for craft-related activities. However, I have had fun getting back into these things over the last few weeks, now that I’m enjoying some down-time. A week or so ago, for example, I tried my hand at some more natural dyeing.

Natural dyeing was something I’d tried before, but only to a very limited extent. I’d dyed some wool yarn with eucalyptus leaves and turmeric and gotten some nice colours, but nothing that filled me with too much enthusiasm. This time, however, I thought I’d try dyeing fabric rather than yarn. A book I love flicking through from time to time is India Flint‘s Eco Colour; the pictures are wonderful, as is the massive amount of information and last but not least, the fact that it’s written with Australian flora and fauna in mind (unlike so many other more northern-hemisphere-centric works on the topic). I defy anyone to read it and not be filled by an urge to give natural dyeing a go. Given my appreciation for this work, I thought it was high time I tried my hand at her eco-printing technique.

I tried dyeing with onion skins, acacia seed pods, eucalyptus leaves and some mulberries. I used two different types of fabric; a scrap length of cotton canvas and the sleeve of an old wool jumper than I’d partially felted in an attempt to salvage some of the material after realising the moths had attacked it beyond the abilities of my darning skills. I used an alum mordant for both of them and after bundling them up with the dyeing materials, steamed them over simmering water for about an hour each.

Unfortunately I don’t really have a better picture of the end results yet (and please ignore the barbeque on the left) but I’m quite happy with how they turned out. Definitely pleasing for a first attempt. I certainly want to try more eco-printing; I didn’t go about this first attempt in a very careful or scientific way so I’m looking forward to seeing the effects I can get with a little more care and different dye plants.

About a week after the above efforts, I also tried my hand at dyeing a whole garment with the eco-print technique. I’m quite pleased with the results, but I’m saving them for another post!

In other news, I’m now in northern New South Wales and loving every minute of it. We’ve been swimming every day and also doing plenty of walking, reading and just generally taking it easy. Our time in Kosciuszko National Park on the way up here was amazing too. Warning: a good chunk of next post will probably be devoted to road-trip photos! In the mean time, I think it’s time to go and take up my position underneath my reading tree. Stay well everyone, and having just seen the weather forecast on the news, stay cool my fellow Melbournians!

This entry was posted in colour, crescent head, fabric, travel, Uncategorized, wanderings, weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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